Its amazing to see such an increased promotion of articles discussing the importance of self care and taking steps to look after our mental health. Especially in 2020 where we've seen unprecedented challenges affecting our day to day routines, but what does self care really mean?
Something I'm learning through my treatment for CPTSD is there isn't a one size solution for everyone, and it takes a great deal of constant effort to find some form of balance and inner happiness to really recognise what's important.
Do you love yourself?
I don't mean in the self absorbed sense, but have you ever taken a minute to stop and think about how you really feel about you? Can you look in the mirror and smile and proud of who you are and how much you've achieved?
Sound a bit weird? It isn't at far fetched as you might think.
Imagine a scenario where you've given a friend, a loved one or a work colleague genuine praise for something they've done. You would have done it for all sorts of reasons but you can remember how good it felt at the time to give a little kindness. Have you ever given the same level of kindness to yourself? Maybe, maybe not, but its actually quite easy.
Being grateful of the things you have around you, the things you've succeeded with and vocally telling yourself "well done" can be incredibly uplifting, raising self awareness of how far you've come and perhaps you're better than you think you are. After all, how can we take care of the ones we love if we're unable to truly look after ourselves?
I would point out this isn't a try once and see if it works thing. Repetition is key here and the continual drumming home of the facts is required. So give it a try for a week and after every task you complete, congratulate yourself vocally of a good job, for example; you've cooked a nice dinner for your partner, or you've completed a tricky piece of work that had an urgent deadline. Don't wait for the other person to acknowledge your success but take ownership and give yourself that buzz of happiness you so muchly deserve.
Putting time aside for your well being is absolutely critical, but again incredibly challenging in these current times. We often hear the phrase "look after number 1", but doing it in a non-narcissistic manner is definitely a challenge and takes dedication.
Waiting for New Year's Resolutions or "I'll do it Monday" is a complete no no here. That voice in your head needs to be put down a peg or two and realise who's boss here. So decide on something you'd like to start and get on with it. If you want to get fitter, set yourself 5 or 10 minutes daily to develop a new routine and build on it. You'll be surprised how quickly it becomes the norm, allowing you to tweak things and improve yourself. But most importantly after each session, vocally congratulate yourself again for winning the battle and becoming the person you want to be.
On the days you can't be bothered or feel it's a waste of time, those are without doubt the best days for pushing through and telling that inner voice to shut it, "I'm in charge now"!
Be Kind to Yourself
Remember perfection doesn't exist. There will be times that things go wrong or you're unable to do something and that's ok. You must acknowledge to yourself that its just a blip and you'll get through it. I've got the t-shirt and wardrobe on self loathing and shame, so know all too well how overwhelming things can get when life goes south. I'm still learning how to be kind to myself, and fully understand how difficult this one can be, but I think I'm getting there.
Not to get confused with your comfort zone, boundaries are incredibly important to each and everyone of us in that they set personal guides against our core values. There are hundreds of core values which of course makes us all different and can add complexity to situations where we feel our need is more important or we have a conflict of opinion. One of your core values maybe that you're incredibly helpful to others, but if boundaries are over stepped and those people start to abuse your helpfulness, things start to go south very quickly. It's imperative to our own wellbeing that boundaries are understood and respected by all parties involved. For those who sadly don't set boundaries or who've experienced some form of trauma, the continual breaches can trigger additional responses (Fight, Flight, Freezing & Fawning) which then spiral to anger, hate, depression, shame, self harm etc.
If this sounds familiar, the difficulty of setting new boundaries to those around you will seem alien and may cause new challenges for all involved. But you're fully entitled to do this and live your life the way its intended. Remember, if someone has a problem with your boundary, that's their problem, not yours.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope it helps someone out there.