Tuesday 15 April 2014

Don't forget to look after yourself too!

~ Lauren Gasser

Just like any physical illness, a mental health condition can leave you feeling weak, exhausted and detached from the world around you. Unlike physical illness, mental health problems often cause sufferers to blame or punish themselves, adding anger, guilt and self-loathing to all the other symptoms they are already experiencing. The phrase “look after yourself” has somewhat lost its true meaning in recent years, but these simple words are so often forgotten or underestimated. We all have people we care about, people we care for, so why not apply the same care and kindness to ourselves? Here are a few very simple ways that you might care for yourself when you are feeling unwell:

A pampering evening: both men and women can benefit from a few hours of pampering. For men: a hot bath, a shave, clipping your nails, all the things that you might neglect to do, but that make you feel a little more human. For women: a face-mask, painting your nails, putting on some sweet-smelling moisturiser and other small ‘treats’. For those with forms of body dysmorphia, the physical process of being gentle and kind to your body, the act of rubbing in cream or brushing oil through your hair, can encourage a sense of connection with yourself that is often lost. You may find that these small actions are harder than they sound, but just spending five minutes being kind to your body each day can help that uncomfortable feeling ease.

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Gentle exercise: if getting out of bed is a struggle, the last thing you want to be told is to go for a run, yet it is an undeniable truth that movement and deep breathing are very important ways of maintaining well being. As a first step, try some gentle stretching: lying on the floor and stretching your arms and legs until you are as long as possible; sitting cross-legged and leaning forwards until you feel a stretch. Each time you get into position, take a deep breath in through the nose and as you breath out sink gently into your stretch. If you have access to the internet, Youtube has some great yoga and mindfulness videos you can follow. You can even download guided meditations for free and use these to help you relax.

A special meal: for many, eating and appetite can be hugely affected by a mental health condition and meal times can become stressful. It can be hard to remember what food you even enjoyed before you started to feel unwell, but if you can, go to a supermarket or grocers and buy two or three items that you really like to eat. This may be beautiful ripe strawberries, or some fancy cheese, or some special dark chocolate - something that you can savour and enjoy. Eating little and often can help take some of the strain off meal times, and prevent your day being broken-up into breakfast-lunch-dinner.

So this week, remember to take some time to yourself to relax and unwind. Do you have any tips of your own? Comment below or send an email to rosanna@studentminds.org.uk.

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