6 Concrete Ways to Practice Self-Care

Self-care is a huge buzzword right now, but it’s a vital aspect of mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. It isn’t a trend and it’s not all soft, easy aesthetic.

There are listicles everywhere that give you tips on self-care, and I’m going to add to that huge amount of content with my own six ways to conduct self-care right now.

1: Clean something in your space

Do your laundry, make your bed, or arrange your desk. Pick one area in your space, big or small, to tidy and freshen up. You can choose however deeply you want to clean. I start off my day by making my bed. I finish my day by tidying my desk so it’s a clear space for the morning.

2: Clean something on your body

Brush your teeth, wash your face, have a shower, or put a wet cloth on your skin. If you’re up to it, a bubble bath can be a great treat and way to care for yourself. But something as simple or routine as washing your face can be all the self-care you need. You don’t have to go through a whole pampering routine to show some love to your body.

3: Freewrite in a journal

Use a prompt from online, focus on one feeling you have, set a timer and write. You can do this for yourself, for a writing project, or for a writing exercise itself. I love doing this for my feelings and emotions.

4: Exercise, stretch, or do physical therapy

Go for a walk or a jog, lift some weights, do yoga, do some gentle stretching, lie down and rest your body. Show your physical self some love! Sometimes that may be moving it through exercise. Other times that may be giving it a time for ease through rest and gentle stretch. If you have a physical disability or chronic illness, you may have some individual physical therapy to help with your body.

If the only thing you can do for your body is sit up straight, gently move your neck, and take a deep breath, that’s caring.

5: Play a game

I love certain gaming apps for winding down and stimulating my brain. Puzzle apps and games are the best for getting some mental stimulation if you’re stuck in a social media refreshing cycle. Video games and card games are good too. Sometimes, when I’m really stuck, I’ll play a game of solitaire with a deck of cards.

6: Finish something on your to do list

This is the best self-care you can do for yourself. Getting something done will free up your time in the future a well as get something off your plate right now. What’s something small you can check off for today? If you have an errand to run, now is a good time to do it.

Self-care is anything you do to make your life easier without falling back on coping mechanisms like avoidance.

You can claim “this is self-care” to lie in bed all day, and sometimes it is. But if it’s a way to avoid laundry, feeding yourself, or personal hygiene, it’s not self-care.

You’re worthy of being cared about, so take some time to show yourself and your environment some love.

Bullet Journal Mental Health Tracking

The largest feature of my monthly spreads for September is my mental health tracking! I have two pages devoted to tracking my mental health, and with me, that’s a lot of space to devote to a single topic in my notebook.

Being on medication or going to therapy aren’t the only ways that we can take charge of our mental health and work on managing mental illness. They can help, but they aren’t the only resources. Self-awareness through my trackers has given me an edge to being on top of my management that I never had before I started doing it.

This month, I have three separate spreads: unhealthy habits and triggers; healthy habits and self-care; and symptoms and side effects. I also track my moods within these, and how they fluctuate over the day. My friends and family have commented that my moods can change very quickly in a day, so that’s something I’ve looked at and attempted to balance out. This month, I haven’t tracked my sleeping, but my sleeping has been fairly regular due to the sedative portion of my medication.

I like recording some of my “unhealthy” behaviours. They’re unhealthy in the sense that I have a suspicion they can interfere with my wellbeing that day—hence why I have caffeine and nightmares in the same section. Yesterday I had an awful dream and the rest of my day felt off because it kept intruding my thoughts, so I checked off “nightmare” for that day.

My self-care and unhealthy habits are side-by-side so I can see if I’m balancing out the two, or doing one more than the other, and how that affects my mood. I contemplated putting everything into one table, but I wanted to be able to compare my “good” and “bad” activities at a quick glance.

I started doing the “bubble” list last month to track some symptoms, and I’ve tweaked it to get more information tracked. I started doing the bubbles because they reminded me of material equipping in Final Fantasy VII. That’s really it. I wanted to have a “scale” of sorts to gage how I was feeling.

I’m not sure how much this has helped this month. My medication doubled a few days ago (thankfully), so I’m still adjusting to that. But these layouts are definitely the most eye-pleasing I’ve done. They’re both pragmatic and nice to look at.

Since I’ve only posted the blank spreads here, it’s hard to see how they look nice. However, I will have some pictures on my Instagram by the end of the month!

These spreads are some I’ll definitely repeat in the future.

Bullet Journal for Mental and Chronic Illness

I’ve been using my bullet journal as a way of managing and being more aware of my mental illness. If I had a chronic physical illness, I’d be doing some similar things to see if there are trends and to overall manage it.

Currently, I’m looking at the mood aspect of my mental illness. In my monthly tracker—which you can see in my October 2016 monthly spreads—I’m looking at the following:

  • Overall “quality” of the day, with a legend
  • Binge-eating
  • Self-harm or thoughts of self-harm (including suicide idealisation)
  • Self-care
    • Washing face in the morning and evening
    • Brushing teeth in the morning and evening
    • Yoga
    • Meditation
    • Exercise

On the daily pages this month, I’ve been looking at my energy levels throughout the day. I use a bar graph with the time on the X/horizontal axis, and a 0 – 5 scale for the energy on the Y/vertical axis. Here’s the long-form description of those numbers:

  • 0 = asleep
  • 1 = very low energy; sluggish; desire to lie down or sleep
  • 2 = low energy; begrudgingly doing things; not very aware of surroundings; habitual tasks
  • 3 = normal energy; doing things; not really leaning toward laziness or excitement
  • 4 = good energy; feeling a bit peppy and not feeling tired in the slightest
  • 5 = high energy; I’m hyper and excited and playful

I also have a weekly tracker that repeats some of the self-care aspects. I’m very bad at taking care of myself, so having the boxes to fill in give me some motivation outside of “I need to take care of myself.”

Other Ways to Manage Your Illness

Your illness is unique to you. You could be suffering from multiple illnesses and need something more intense. Like the post mentioned later, something could show up and you need to figure out what triggers the pain or fatigue or migraines. Here are a few more suggestions of what to include in your bullet journal for your health. Something here might be relevant to your situation!

  • Fill a page with affirmations.
  • Fill a page of self-care ideas and activities.
  • Write journal entries before and after appointments with doctors, therapists, etc.
  • Create a calendar to show your appointments, or when you need to schedule them in the future.
  • Log eating habits, such as when and what you eat. You can also track blood sugar levels and your feelings of energy.
  • Track medication to make sure you’re taking them all at the right times; or, to see what happens if you miss a dose so you aren’t thrown for a complete loop if you do.
  • Track symptoms and their intensity, like headaches, migraines, fatigue, pain (generalised or localised), anxiety, other moods. Like my energy levels, these might be easier to track on an hourly rate, or if you create a table to note the start and end times of certain-intensity symptoms.
  • Track activites and their duration, such as commuting and driving, sitting, walking, standing, or more vigorous activities.
  • Track quantity and quality of your sleep, as well as when you wake up and fall asleep.
  • Track sunrise and sunset times, the hours of daylight, and your energy (for seasonal affective disorder, or to check into your circadian rhythm).

These are just a few ideas for what you can consider in your bullet journal. One of the posts that inspired me was from Ruth at Delightful Planner. She started using the bullet journal after suffering intense back pain. She used the bujo to track the pain, various activities, and medications. Her post is incredibly thorough and was an eye-opening for how I could become more aware of my own health.

Hopefully this helps inspire you!

Your mental health and your physical health are important, and there are so many ways you can manage it. Use this information for your own direction, to help doctors with diagnoses and management plans, or to create more awareness in your mind and body. You’re worth the effort.

Social Media Break

A person holding various pieces of technology featuring photographs of the background landscape.

I’m taking a break from social media. If you follow me on social media, I posted about this earlier the week.

My posts for the rest of October are pre-written (including this post), and I won’t be responding to comments on the blog.

I’ve noticed myself becoming quite habitual with my social media involvement. And it isn’t a good thing. On Tuesday morning, I woke up, checked the time, and immediately went to check social media. I removed the apps the night before, so I didn’t open anything. But that was my first reaction: check Twitter, check Instagram, check Snapchat. I’m exhausted by it.

I love social media, but only when I choose to include it, and not when it’s a ritual I use to start, end, and punctuate my days.

For the rest of October, I’ll be focusing on my health—physical and mental—as well as my novel. When I get near the end of a project, I feel much less motivated. I’m 15,000 – 20,000 words away from finishing, so I can’t let social media become a distraction or a means for procrastination. I can’t let myself get lazy and self-destructive. It’s happened too many times before.

Since I’m going to continue writing, I’ll be over on myWriteClub occasionally participating in sprints. Feel free to add me—or join the beta!—if you want to write with me. I’m still not sure if I’ll do Nanowrimo. I want to have THE PILGRIMAGE drafted before November so I can edit it during November. But I think I might do a fast-draft novel? We’ll see—you can add me as a buddy if you’re participating.

Anyway. I won’t be on Twitter and all that. The earliest I’ll be tweeting and snapping and instagramming again would be November 1—but I’ll take as long a break as I need to. The latest I’ll be back is December, that’s for sure. (There’s a Twitter pitch party I’m aiming to participate in.)

*salutes*

Thanks for respecting this. I’m sure there are oodles of you tempted to take a break like this—do it if you think it’ll help!