Published on: October 6, 2020
By Jess Bowers
Young People’s Practitioner, Compass REACH
As we go through life, there may be an expectation that each day should be constantly sunny. But, just like the Great British weather, in reality we get a mixed bag of rain, cloud, sun, hail, storms with a little sprinkle of snow. There really is no guarantee what the day may hold.
There will be days where the sun shines brighter, the music sounds more vibrant, life feels like a pleasant summer stroll. On these days, the only things we need to think about is applying our sun cream and remembering to wear our hat and shades!
But there will inevitably be days when it seems a cloud is hanging over our heads and it can feel like we are going about our day in a downpour. And that is ok! These are the days where we should dig deep into our ‘Self-Care-Toolkit’ and do what we can to try and lift that cloud, even if just a little.
Self-Care – bringing the sun to our lives, whatever the season, come rain or shine
The online Oxford Reference (Oxford University Press 2020) defines self-care as the practice of activities that are necessary to sustain life and health, normally initiated and carried out by the individual for him- or herself.
A great resource to aid with the introduction of self-care is the free ‘Self-Care Starter Kit’ by The Blurt Foundation, which includes tips and advice on; ‘What is self-care? And why is it so important?’, 5 instant self-care things which can be done from your bed, self-care alphabet – breaking it down into teensy tiny bites, looking after yourself on a budget, caring for yourself from the inside out, and a self-care worksheet – to help you discover what self-care looks like for YOU.
The Self-Care Starter Kit can be accessed here: https://www.blurtitout.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Free-Self-Care-Starter-Kit.pdf
Self-care allows us to give ourselves the valuable time we need and deserve, to replenish our emotional resources and energy stores, keeps us healthy, increases our productivity, all from doing things that we enjoy, that offer us pleasure, and permits time to switch off and just be ‘YOU’ again. And it is absolutely free! As detailed in the Self-Care Starter Kit, there are many ways we can practice self-care. Each person’s version of self-care will differ. And if we can hold off the rain a little by applying self-care, it makes perfect sense to practice this for our own well-being, resilience, and self-esteem.
Self-Care-Toolkit – like having a portable umbrella to shelter you from the rain
If we look to create a ‘Self-Care-Toolkit’ we can tap into the idea of self-care not only when we have time, but when we need to make time, as we cannot always predict when the rain clouds may appear. One suggestion is by creating a handy kit to have with you, so you can practice it wherever you are. You could use an old make-up bag, a pencil case, a jar, a shoe box… you could even have several kits, depending on your location, for example, one for your bag to use out and about, and one for your bedroom.
What Could be Included in your Self-Care-Toolkit? – items for a rainy day
These are some suggestions, which have been shared by those who have created and used Self-Care-Toolkits before. Of course, you can add anything you feel will benefit you and your well-being.
- A picture of your favourite place, people or memory – a welcome reminder of things that make you feel good.
- Some shower gel, bath bomb or bubble bath – consider enjoying a nice refreshing wash or soak.
- Headphones – a reminder to listen to some music that may empower you, lift your mood and give you a little sun in your step, or perhaps a prompt to listen to a guided meditation to help clear the clouds away.
- Your favourite book/poem/motivational quotes – and take time to read them, perhaps in your most relaxing place, or maybe find a new cozy location.
- A snack that you like (favourite chocolate bar or treat) – take some time to sit and enjoy it.
- A tea bag/hot chocolate sachet – make your favourite ‘pick me up’ drink in your best mug. Wrap your hands around the mug and feel the warmth.
- A DVD/names of your favourite films or TV programmes – and watch there and then, or plan time to watch them, alone or with family and loved ones.
- Soothing or mood boosting products, for example, moisturising cream – apply it to your hands and arms (easy when out and about) or apply your brightest lipstick or lip balm – which can be an instant mood booster.
- Something containing your favourite smell – a scent, perfume, essential oil etc.
- A cuddly toy, picture of your pet, hot water bottle – things that bring you comfort.
- A list of people who you can contact/speak to – to remind you who to speak to, as we know it helps to share how we feel, and make time to connect with them via telephone, text, video call, or a socially distanced walk.
- You could write a letter to yourself and store it, for those moments when you need some motivation and inspiration.
- A journal to remind you to check in with yourself and document how you are feeling and/or a gratitude journal to help you to find and note the positives in each day.
- The Action for Happiness action calendar (as below).
- Also, any items that are meaningful to you.
Other self-care tips (perhaps could be written as reminders and placed in your Self-Care-Toolkit for ‘those days’, or more embedded as part of a daily routine, as part of the 5 Ways of Well-Being):
- Connect – try to connect with others as much as possible. Social distancing doesn’t always make this easy, but can you consider setting up an online event with friends/family every now and again? Could you video chat or have a telephone call with people who are important to you? Could you go on a socially distanced walk with friends and crunch in the autumn leaves and observe the autumnal colours? Could you write a note or a letter to send to someone? Could you enjoy some ‘hygge’ and snuggle up and watch a film with family/loved ones? An important element here is to schedule it! Put it in your dairy so you have already dedicated that time to connecting with others – and give them your undivided attention.
- Be active – a walk on an autumnal day, a run, an online work out class, take a relaxing yoga class, whatever it is, make time to keep your body moving, get the endorphins flowing, to help you to feel good. This is particularly important in recent times, and in the pending colder months. Our bodies still need movement, activity and crave time outdoors. Again, it is important to try and schedule this time.
- Take notice – stop and notice what is going on around you, activate your senses and ground yourself. What can you smell, hear, see, and touch? Can you take a look outside, or step outdoors for a few minutes? Notice how that makes you feel. You could do this whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, or when needing a few minutes to yourself. Perhaps committing to this time without the need for technology, phones and distractions. Could you plan a day a week or month without screen time to really allow yourself to take notice? If you can, schedule it.
- Keep learning – could you challenge yourself to learn a new skill or hobby? This could be something you go to when needing some time for self-care, which will also aid your development. Could you learn to knit a hat or scarf? Or make pumpkin soup? Thanks to e-learning and tutorials online, the possibilities are endless.
- Give – Is there anything you can do to help others, that may, in turn, help you and boost your well-being? Having awareness of your own boundaries is important here, as you can’t pour from an empty cup. But, if you can, could you help a neighbour with their shopping, or give a supportive compliment to friends or family? or a simple smile to someone who may need it, adding a little sunshine to their day.
These things, in addition to the basic needs we have such as ensuring we have a regular sleep routine, eating a balanced diet throughout the day and maintaining a good level of hydration, will help to keep our health and well-being balanced.
Just as we do with the weather, we need to expect changes in the forecast. We have experienced the subtle hints that Autumn is here; leaves turning golden and starting to fall off the trees, the desire to wrap up in the cool, crisp air and the night’s drawing in. Then we experience reminders of summer sun once again, with glorious hot and sunny days, which can play havoc with our sense of direction. We need to apply this same theory to our moods, which are not set to be one specific type of weather day to day, or even hour to hour. As we do the forecast, we need to keep a check on our mood and identify those little indicators that we might need to spend some time on self-care.
The aim here is to not wait for the storm to arrive, but to give yourself some sun via self-care often enough that the storm stays at bay or feels more like a light rain shower. Here are a few indicators that a little more self-care time is needed:
- You’re feeling physically or mentally drained.
- You are not sleeping well and/or not eating as often as you usually do or eating more often than usual.
- Things are getting to you more than they usually would leaving you feeling irritable, emotional, or simply exhausted.
- Friendships and relationships seem strained.
- You are spending less time doing things that make you, you!
The most important message is to make time for self-care – schedule some time in your diary for 10 minutes a day, or 1 hour, or 1 day a week dedicated to all things that mean self-care to you. Keep a look out for the indicators that you might need to make self-care a priority, and make it happen.
And remember – It’s ok not to be ok!
Action for Happiness offer free monthly calendars which focus on different topics. This month’s theme is Optimistic October
‘Life is far from perfect, but there are lots of reasons for optimism. Setting positive goals for the future gives our lives a sense of direction and purpose. And although we face many challenges there are also lots of reasons to stay hopeful. By consciously choosing our priorities we can overcome issues, make progress and focus on what really matters.’ Quote from the Action for Happiness Website: https://www.actionforhappiness.org/optimistic-october
As we welcome a new season, and a new month, could you revisit past goals and/or set some goals for the months ahead? Can you clear out your summer wardrobe ready for Autumn to begin? Can you make YOU! the priority, as you would for others in need?
‘I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival’ Audre Lorde
Have a fantastic Autumn and take care.
If you become concerned about how you are feeling, or you feel that those cloudy days are becoming more frequent, even when applying time for self-care, please look to speak to someone you trust and consider contacting your GP for advice.
Action for Happiness – Optimistic October https://www.actionforhappiness.org/optimistic-october
Oxford Reference (Oxford University Press 2020) https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100453172#:~:text=the%20practice%20of%20activities%20that,in%20A%20Dictionary%20of%20Nursing%20%C2%BB
The Blurt Foundation – Free Self-Care Starter Kit: https://www.blurtitout.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Free-Self-Care-Starter-Kit.pdf