SELF-CARE AND SELF-HELP
Self-care is about the choices we make every day to stay happy and healthy. These include the small things we do like getting enough sleep, to bigger self-care choices, such as going to see a counsellor or going to the gym.
Why is self-care important?
Self-care is an important part of managing difficult feelings and helps us to keep safe when we are struggling and overwhelmed. Lots of young people say that when they feel down, depressed, anxious or suicidal they struggle to do the little things to take care of themselves. This might include brushing our teeth, making sure we get enough sleep, eating regularly or keeping on top of chores. When these things feel so difficult, it’s understandable that bigger self-care tasks, such as schoolwork or even socialising, can be difficult to manage.
How can I make sure I am looking after myself?
_Trying to plan the week by breaking the days down into manageable tasks
_Gradually adding things to the plan, starting with simple actions and moving to more challenging tasks
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
We often can have high expectations of ourselves and feel frustrated or annoyed with ourselves if we don’t meet them. We can also engage in negative self-talk saying things to ourselves that are very unkind. Some days you might feel very productive and capable. Other days you might feel overwhelmed and that you can’t cope. This is OK. It is important to remember that the more kindness you show yourself on the days when you feel overwhelmed, the quicker you can get back to feeling better again. It can be really helpful to write some positive things about yourself on the days where you feel okay and then put them somewhere you can see them for those days where you find it hard to see anything positive.
MINDFULNESS can help you to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and accept them in the moment, rather than trying to fight them or allow them to become overwhelming. It can also help you to focus on the present moment rather than future worries or past memories.
BREATHING EXERCISES can be helpful if you are feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed or experiencing panic. They help to relax you by encouraging your breathing to return to normal, which encourages other body systems to feel more normal too – like a pounding heart, racing thoughts, muscle tension and feeling sick. You can find some of those here.
Alternatives to self-harm
DISTRACTION TECHNIQUES can be helpful in coping with difficult feelings although it can sometimes be hard to do, especially for long periods of time. Finding an activity you enjoy and that will engage your mind can be helpful, like watching TV or playing a game on your phone or computer. If you have a longer period of time you need to cope in, try breaking your distraction periods down into manageable chunks – like 15 minutes – and perhaps alternating activities. If your feelings are too intense to be distracted from, don’t worry - another coping strategy might be more useful at that time. See some ideas for distraction techniques here.
SELF-SOOTHING can also be a part of distress tolerance. This can include doing self-care activities that are soothing or relaxing. For more information on self-soothe and creating a self-soothe or Hope Box then please look here.
EXPRESSING HOW YOU FEEL can be an important part of self-help when you are feeling overwhelmed. This might be creative expression, such as writing poems or music; verbal expression, like practicing what you would to say to someone who has made you feel angry or screaming into a pillow; or physical expression, like tearing up an old newspaper or going for a run.