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Self-Care for Mental Illness

Mental illness is really bloody hard. Unless you’ve been through it, you won’t really have any understanding as to what it’s like. Heck, even when suffering, you have no idea what another person is going through. All you can really do is empathise. But, I’ll try and do a different post on how to help someone with mental… Continue readingMental illness is really bloody hard. Unless you’ve been through it, you won’t really have any understanding as to what it’s like. Heck, even when suffering, you have no idea what another person is going through. All you can really do is empathise. But, I’ll try and do a different post on how to help someone with mental illnesses in the future. For now, I’ll stick to self-care. Obviously, this won’t work for everyone, but in the past eight years, you could say I’ve tried a lot of different things, read a lot of different books and websites, talked to lots of different people and these are what work for me.

1. Rest
Rest is the greatest tool for any type of illness. If you have a common cold, the first thing you’re told is to get as much rest as possible to allow your body to repair itself, that’s what it’s there for. Why should the brain not get the same attention? I recently read a book called ‘Depressive Illness‘ by Dr. Tim Cantopher who recommends rest very strongly, and I wholeheartedly agree.

No one quite knows exactly how the brain works yet, which is why there are so many different treatments for the vast array of mental illnesses, but recuperating in a safe place can’t be the worst thing to do at all. Making sure that I’m safe and well, however long that takes, is the easiest and safest option I have. In basic terms, sleep is a bloody life-saver and will help you so much.

2. Binging Netflix
I’m renowned for watching TV series in a matter of days, often repeatedly. It may seem to an outsider that this is because I bloody love Orange is the New Black (for the record – I do). That’s not the main reason though. It blocks out all the bad stuff that tries to control my life. It helps me to try and focus – albeit not very well, hence the rewatching – on something other than what my brain is telling me, all the insecurities and anxieties and thoughts that may try and enter. I’ll admit, it doesn’t always work at blocking things out, but it serves it’s purpose most of the time. If finding out what happens to Walt White in Season 5 of Breaking Bad blocks out the darkness, even just for 47 minutes, I’m 100% down with that.

3. Reading
Similar to the last point, reading blocks everything out. I’ve always been one of those readers who gets lost in a book and has to finish it the same day (probably why I’ve read more this year than any other year since I was about 10). It’s a method of escapism from your own mind. I literally can’t think of anything else but the book I’m reading and that is excellent, I honestly couldn’t wish for anymore – except obviously when the book finishes and I get that empty void (until the next one). If you want to see what I’m reading at the moment, you can add me on Goodreads. Basically, reading shuts out EVERYTHING and doesn’t allow for anything else – which is great if that’s what you’re aiming for.

4. Music
Now, this is a tricky one. I have a lot of songs that really trigger me, and I’ve learnt that it’s fine to listen them to get out all those emotions that I need to get out at the time. But not all the time. Music can be really helpful though, and I’m trying to focus on the good songs that pull you out of that awful place. Arctic Monkeys (fave band ever!) always seem to get me into a great mood however I’m feeling, they’ve saved my life countless times. *Also recommend 60s Soul for pulling you out of any dark place and feeling like you’re on top of the world.* It doesn’t matter what time of day, where I am, who I’m with – all you need to do is pop in your earphones and everything can change. I guess that’s the whole point of music, to make you feel something, whether it be sadness, happiness or pumped for life.

5. Projects
I don’t care what your project is. When I came out of hospital, I started the #100DaysOfMakeup on Instagram because it meant that for 100 days, I had to do something every single day. It wasn’t to showcase my makeup abilities or anything like that, it was a reason to stay alive. I set myself a challenge and had to accomplish it, because I’m just that stubborn. My new project is going to be painting my bedroom. Your project could be anything, from collecting all the Pokémon on Pokémon Go (gotta catch ’em all and all that) to making sure you brush your teeth twice a day for the next 10 days, it can be literally anything. It gives you a reason to be here, it gives you a reason to persevere against those bad thoughts. Whatever you want to do, go for it, there’s no reason not to and you CAN do it.

6. A Bath
This is probably the heading that sounds the most boring, I agree. Though, when you’re at your worst, bathing doesn’t seem like the most essential thing. Do it. Have a bath, throw in that Lush bath bomb you were saving for a special occasion, borrow your mother’s bath salts if you have to. You deserve it, your body that’s keeping you going – despite your brain’s attempts to salvage it – deserves it. Whilst soaking your body, you’ll find it does wonders to your mind as a pleasant side-effect.

7. Avoidance
Avoidance isn’t the best tactic in the world, and shouldn’t be the one you turn to for the long term. But it helps me. Avoiding things, places, people, anything that I know will trigger me and keep me safe is one of the most important pieces of self-care I’ve learnt. Would I (my friends, my family, anyone) prefer to be in somewhere they find comfort or somewhere where they know they could relapse/breakdown/not be very comfortable at all? Obviously the former – if you chose the latter, you’re a little daredevil and I very strongly admire you. Taking care of yourself, first and foremost, is the most important thing, because when you get down to it, if you’re not there then there really isn’t any point. Saying this, I regularly push myself out of my comfort zone – even if it’s just to go into town alone and reward myself with a Starbucks sugar-free vanilla soya latte. But, if you know it will cause you harm, just don’t do it. If you need to avoid it because it will make you worse, then avoid it, no point in harming your own recovery.

8. Support Network
For a long time, I didn’t feel like I had any support network at all. I’d barricaded myself in my safe place, my room, for so long that I felt like I’d lost everything, everyone. Slowly, I’m trying to reconnect with the people I’d shut out for so long and that’s making me feel a lot better. You’ll realise that people want to help and care for you. I know that blackness in your mind says that you’re not worth it but if you try, people will understand (except from those who are so ignorant – but you don’t need those in your life anyway). Even if you feel there is no one you can speak to, or that you don’t want anyone to know what you’re feeling, you can email me at or tweet me, no judgement and I’ll try and reply as soon as possible. People do care for you and want to support you as much as possible.


Self-help from a person whose experienced it for years

Depression and anxiety can be one horrible thing to go through. Questioning yourself, putting yourself down, self-sabotaging. You want to help yourself, but the other half of you doesn't and will fight you if you try. Because I've been through it all a lot over the years, I understand it can be a constant battle but have… Continue readingDepression and anxiety can be one horrible thing to go through. Questioning yourself, putting yourself down, self-sabotaging. You want to help yourself, but the other half of you doesn't and will fight you if you try. Because I've been through it all a lot over the years, I understand it can be a constant battle but have picked up techniques to help.

Feelings Of Helplessness/Hopelessness
You feel absolutely useless, worse than anybody else. Nobody could possibly mess up as much as you, right? WRONG. There are many people, just like you struggling through their own problems. Don’t measure yourself against others. Some people are good at putting on an air of success, happiness and confidence, it doesn't mean they are. Most show the world what they want them to see. You're awesome! And you need to tell yourself that a hell of a lot more.

You have 2 sides of your mind. You’re conscious and you’re subconscious. The conscious is the voice in your head telling yourself that you're useless, it feeds your subconscious with whatever you allow it to. The subconscious can be more powerful. Your subconscious is where your actions tend to manifest themselves. So the best way of fighting this is to remember the "voice in your head". We all talk to ourselves whether we realise it or not. Keep telling yourself you're useless, and your subconscious will believe it and manifest it in your life. But if you become more aware of these "voices" or thoughts then you're already on the way to helping yourself. Every time any negativity pops up, you need to pounce on that bad lad before your subconscious gets to it. Tell yourself “NO!” and Combat it with some pre-planned positive thoughts.

If you don't believe it, don’t worry, originally it’s about thinking it anyway. Say it out loud. Write it down. Look at it and think it CONSTANTLY.

Loss of Interest In Daily Activities
You wake up in the morning and just can’t be bothered to interact or do anything. But we both know it’s not good for you. And you aren’t going to let it beat you.

If you went to climb a mountain, you’re aware you're not superman and can't just jump to the top. Don't expect too much from yourself from day one. A doctor once told my dad when he was suffering with depression, "even if you just clean a cup that day, do it, do it well and be happy you've done it". So even if you just get up and do something small, if it’s more than you would have done, its progress. Set your own "tiny targets" to begin with, and each thing you achieve, be proud, its progress! Well done you! I hope you've got long arms because you need to pat yourself on the back. YOU'RE AWESOME! Eventually your subconscious believes whatever you tell it, the same way liars can convince themselves that they're telling the truth, only you will be!

Appetite And Weight Changes
One that I personally am struggling with the most at the moment. No appetite most of the time, so don't eat as much as I should. For some it will be the opposite. It is very common when you're low for your appetite to change. You're not alone but don't allow this to go on long term because your health will suffer.
If you're losing weight and have no appetite, try to have something small, not long after waking up. This should help your appetite later on in the day. If it doesn't, go for more manageable meals and commit to getting through what you're eating. Exercise could help build your appetite so by all means do some sports, but not too much if you’re calorie intake is low. If you're eating too much, don't beat yourself up about it, it just leads to a circle of destruction. Look at what you're eating and see if there are healthier versions of that product or replace it with something else that you like and is better for you. Keep good food in the house. The harder it is to get to, the less likely you are to have it. Same as before exercise can also help with weight, physical and mental health.

Sleep Changes
You’ve barely slept, and it’s affecting your mood, energy, appetite etc. Exercise again can help, but make sure it's a while before bed and quite strenuous if you can. Try not to eat for the last few hours before bed, definitely nothing sugary or with too many carbohydrates. Try not to think you NEED to sleep, it will just anger you and turn the whole process into something you associate with negative connotations. Worrying does nothing.
For at least an hour before bed, make sure your alarms are set and you've said your good-nights to people. Now PUT THAT PHONE AWAY! Turn the TV off. Maybe play a motivational podcast, audio book or some chilled music and make sure the bedroom is a nice temperature. White noise apps can be great.

Anger Or Irritability
It can jeopardize a lot and you don't tend to always realise how you're acting or the damage is done. Most people will understand if you explain to them when you're calm and apologise. Once anger is there, it's usually too late and emotions can take over. Try and recognise when you're starting to feel flustered. If you feel it building, try to get out the situation, even temporarily or put something into place that you know calms you down. Whether it's breathing exercises, stress ball, an image in your head, you need to start counteracting it before it reaches terminal velocity. It will also dissipate quicker because you've caught it early. While it’s an issue, cut down caffeine and high levels of sugar as they can give you big highs and lows mentally and physically.

Loss Of Energy
For some people chucking on their favourite energetic song can help. Or motivational video. But exercise again can be your friend. Now, I get it "no energy and you're telling me to do exercise, get lost!” But if you force yourself to do 10/15 minutes it can make a major difference. I was in a bad place a few years ago and the gym was my absolute saviour then. Because you start hitting targets, you finally start to believe you can achieve more in other parts of your life too. Make sure you’re eating good food and enough, you're sleeping enough and if not then focus on this first.

Self Loathing
You hate yourself! Everything you touch turns to dirt. Does it really though? You're just in a negative spiral and need to regain control. How? You need to feed your mind the positive thoughts. The moment you notice that you're thinking negatively about yourself, you need to replace it with something positive. Anything at all that makes you proud and confident. Write the positives down in advance to come back to when you need them. Next time one of the negative thoughts comes along, get the ammo out and shoot it down. YOU’RE the boss here! And....YOU’RE AWESOME!

Reckless Behaviour
You’ve been feeding your subconscious for a long time with destructive and negative thoughts. Now, it’s manifesting itself like discussed earlier. The only way around this is to fight back, replace the thoughts and keep at it. Ask family and friends to help you notice this behaviour so you can work on it. Learn your triggers and when you feel it coming keep saying positive things to yourself, then they’ll plant in your mind. If you want them to stay there you have to keep at it.


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