Today is February the 1st, which means it’s time to talk.
Time to Talk Day: as the name suggests, it’s a day for talking, sharing, and opening up the silence which exists around mental health. It’s about raising awareness of resources for support and advice as much as it is about de-stigmatising conditions like depression, finding solidarity by sharing personal experiences, and generally reflecting on the ways we can be kinder, both to others and to ourselves.
A brilliant memoir and guide which has added to this conversation is Emily Reynolds’ A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Your Mind. It’s a road map to everything: dating, working, the internet, as well as how to support a loved one whose mental health has taken a knock. Above all it’s refreshingly practical, full of realistic tips that anyone can use to make life slightly easier for themselves when their mind has turned into their worst enemy. And a key part of doing that is self-care.
But what is self-care? This term has exploded over the media in the last few years, popping up in discussions about food, skincare, fitness, cosmetics and mental health. Consequently, it’s done what every over-used word does and turned into a bit of a ‘buzzword’, a term we use without really considering its meaning. For anyone else who’s mystified about what self-care really, actually means, read on.
‘Self-care is anything that can make you feel good, or at least better, in an emotional or physical sense…I like to think of self-care as a means of reclaiming yourself and discovering your capacity for pleasure as well as basic acts of fulfilment.’ – Emily Reynolds
Emily also makes a crucial point about how a lot of self-care advice out there can be rather over-ambitious and, truth be told, pretty downright irrelevant:
‘Maybe when you’re stable and settled and feeling OK you can start training for that 10k, or totally overhauling your diet and making complicated, fifteen-ingredient quinoa recipes or whatever. But often, you’re not going to be able to do that when you’re profoundly depressed.’
Enter Self-Care 101: an achievable list of things you can do to pull yourself out of the swamp when you haven’t left your bed in days, the heap of dirty clothes by your window is so high it’s beginning to block out the sun, and the only thing you’ve eaten in 72 hours is a stale digestive. It’s the kind of advice your mum might give you: practical, kind, completely in your best interests, and no mention of quinoa. (No offence to quinoa!)
Without further ado, here is an abridged version of Emily Reynolds’ Self Care 101:
1. Open your curtains
2. Get some air
3. Have a shower or bath
4. Wash your face
5. Get dressed
6. Drink a glass of water
8. Write a to-do list
9. Tidy your immediate surroundings
10. Fill a bag with rubbish
11. Smell something good
12. Eat something
14. Talk to someone
15. Do some breathing exercises