Self-care | The Healing Process.
Look, I've been there, I know what it's like to have your soul so stripped of energy that things, like taking a shower and brushing your teeth and making a phone call, become matters of doubt and decision and no longer tasks you do on auto-pilot.
I know what it's like when words like should and must and deadline can become an easy trigger for relapsing and drowning a little deeper again.
In times like this, self-care can sound counter-intuitive, because you feel like a barely there, barely functioning human who doesn't deserve to be cared for. It feels like your condition is playing a game on you, first draining from the power to do and be present and then blaming your for that and drenching you in a guilt and shame so deep you despise yourself and avoid looking at your face in the mirror... let alone... self-care!
But if there's anything I learned about mental ruts, is that they are above all a red sign that your soul sends you when you've been neglecting its needs for too long. When I understood that and believed that there was a way out, I slowly persuaded myself to give self-care a try as it seemed like the less demanding way to give my soul the space it needs to recover and regain its forces.
Below are the things I kept inviting myself to do, not as a rigid duty but rather as a « trial », as a « maybe I might enjoy this », « maybe this may help » and it did it.
Taking it slooooow!
It took me a while to finally decide to take it slow and to stop expecting myself to hustle and achieve at the same pace I’m used to. I finally did when I understood that depression is an illness and just as you can’t « just run » when your leg is broken, you really can’t « just feel and be happy » when your brain is broken.
When I understood this, I took my condition as a free ticket to slow down the pace of my life and to drop all expectations regarding my productivity and progress. So I stopped overplanning my days and took it one day at a time and did what I felt like doing, whether that’s studying all day or spending the whole week binge-watching a series or devoting all my mornings to taking pictures for Instagram and coming up with captions for them, just because that’s what my soul felt like doing and it is too hurt for me to not give it what it wants.
Get back to the basics:
Whether that’s sleeping more than usual, spending more time in choosing your food or trying to take your showers regularly, sticking with your basic human needs is the best thing you can do to yourself when your mental health is on the edge. Poor sleep or poor hygiene can quickly become a trigger to bad mental health days, trust me I’ve been there.
So make these basic needs a priority and don’t be ashamed to get help with them if they feel like too much, get your friend to remind you to take a shower every 2 days, plan a skin care day with your cousins, tell your mom to help you with your meals so that you eat on time and eat what will nourish your soul. Just give it a go and stop if it feels too much.
One of the things my depression made me hate is working out, it just stopped being the enjoyable and empowering activity I used to love and it turned into a nightmare I didn’t want to get near.
But thankfully, Yoga was still something my body craved and my mind found peace in. So I got addicted to it, sometimes I would even practice it twice a day but other times I wouldn’t feel like getting on the mat for a week, and yes I just flowed with it, doing it whenever I felt like it and it never failed to bring me a sense of calmness and clarity.
I created 2 playlists:
1. a morning yoga playlist
2. an evening serenity toga playlist
Slowly it became something I look forward to because it literally feels like a gift to my muscles and also to my mind, as it gives it the mental break from being constantly stimulated. Plus, Adriene has her own way with words that make you thank yourself for « showing up to the mat » as she says!
I never had a relationship to walking and always saw it only as a way to get from place to place when you don’t have a car. But we recently moved to this nice and safe neighborhood and I instantly felt the urge to try this thing called « going for a walk » after I heard that it was good for both mental and physical health and especially for depression.
And so I started going every day for a 15 to 20 mins walk around the block, saying hi to the security guards, or having a phone call or just…walking and breathing and looking at greenery and the blueness of the sky.
Besides the therapeutic power of nature, seeing little beautiful details also made me want to take pictures again (because yes I even lost the desire and joy of photography -sorry to disappoint you).
I bet you didn't expect this one here but another thing depression made me despise was reading after I've been an avid reader my whole life. But then I discovered Makoto Shinkai's anime and they offered me the same soul-soothing that reading used to give me. They're so whimsical and nostalgic that they succeeded in distracting me for a little while and lifted my spirits up.
Here are some of my faves:
- Whisper of the heart;
- Your name;
- The Garden of words;
- 5 centimeters per second.
Journaling and emotional tracking.
Speaking of therapeutic effects, one of the assignments my therapist gave me was tracking my emotions. So for 2 weeks or so, I had to notice and jot down what I was feeling once in the morning and once in the evening.
One thing this made me realise is that there are so many emotions that I had a tendency to ignore and silence instead of listening to them and what ignoring usually leads to is an accumulation of negative emotions day after day until they catch up with you after a month or so and you instantly fall into a dark whole unable to pinpoint what is going on with you.
And journaling is one of the best ways to prevent that because it enables you to first notice what is wrong, listen to it and process it in a way that serves you instead of letting it become a burden later on.
Make the sound of your healing louder than that of your shattering