Self Care for Mental Health
Now this is a topic that I have devoted much thought and energy to over the past year. It was inevitable that it would prompt a blog post at some point, so here you are.
As always, thoughts and feedback much appreciated. <3
What is Self Care, anyway? Is it skipping work on a day that you feel shitty and treating yourself to mani-pedis and chocolate instead? Is it avoiding that social obligation that you just know you don't have the energy for? Is it getting exercise? Eating your vegetables? Seeing a health practitioner?
- Sure, maybe. Yes, and...
And for that matter, what is "mental health"? Mental health exists on a spectrum that varies greatly from individual to individual. Being naturally more quiet, introverted, and withdrawn can look very similar to what depression looks like for a very outgoing, social being. I had a client come in the other week and tell me that her adult son was concerned that she "seemed depressed". He lives in another province and hadn't seen her in awhile, and she obviously took his comment to heart, because she came in asking me if she was depressed. Not really a question I can answer by looking at someone. Only one she could answer through a basic check in - yes, she had a lot on her mind about the pending sale of her home; but she was still really enjoying spending time with her friends multiple times a week, her energy levels were good, she was sleeping well... we decided that she was a little pre-occupied, stressed, but definitely not depressed.
This is why I feel that the "what is self care question?" can really only be answered for each individual once we figure out what is going on in our internal environment. How can you possibly expect to take care of yourself if you don't yet know what you need? And you can only know what you need if you can see what's going on for you right now, in this moment. So what's going on?
For me, answering this question involves taking a quiet couple of minutes, closing my eyes, and doing a bit of check in. This can be asking a few simple questions - Am I too hot or too cold? Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? Have I moved my body today? Do I need to shower or change?... basic, basic things, but easily overlooked when stressed/overwhelmed/depressed/anxious. If I'm in a relatively healthy place - that is, not hypomanic or depressed - I'm good at managing these needs. It's second nature. It takes no extra energy because I'm addressing these necessities automatically as I go about my day. When I'm depressed, that's another story. If managing basic needs is a struggle, and If you haven't played with this piece of internet brilliance, it's a worthwhile starting point for basic self care.
When you're not in crisis, if you're pretty good at meeting your basic physical needs, Self Care can look pretty different. Maybe the closing your eyes and checking in involves questions like - What's going on in my energetic body? Do I feel anxiety or emotional distress? Are these distressing feelings associated with sensations in any part of my physical body? Are uncomfortable sensations in my physical body associated with any emotions or trauma I haven't addressed or acknowledged?
Following this line of questioning does more than address physical needs. These questions begin to address underlying energetic imbalances, to unstick blockages, to resolve trauma. This line of questioning needs to be done with gentleness, self-compassion and patience. Slowly, slowly, gently, gently, with a soft curiosity and no timeline or agenda.
Self Care can look like innumerable things. But the best self-care begins with inquiry. Where am I at? What do I need? How would that thing make me feel? What resources are available to me at this time?
So - what does self care look like for you?
For more help/support/resources, I'm offering these upcoming Self Care for Mental Health Workshops:
And hopefully soon on Salt Spring Island! Details TBD. Check in here for updates.