7 Acts of Self-Care for Better Mental Health
In this post, I summarise seven more ideas that have helped me to cope with the long summer therapy break. Part 1 can be found here.
1) Read a book that links to therapy
This could be non-fiction, fiction, or poetry; a book about therapy or a novel recommended by your therapist. It could simply be a book on a subject that you have been tackling during recent sessions. I have tried all of these variations, and if you read with therapy in mind, I have found that it can be a very connecting experience. I have also long-believed that there is a ‘right time’ to read every book, and often you only know that time, when it arrives. Listen to your gut feeling, and read the book that you are drawn to. You may not understand why, but you may find it an extraordinarily powerful experience, and at the very least one that you can discuss with your therapist on your return to sessions.
2) Connect one-to-one with others
Before a break starts, I make sure to put a time in my diary to meet up or chat with someone I am close to, who I can open to about my feelings if I want to, and who I know will be caring and supportive. For me, that means arranging a meeting with my vicar’s wife who is a strong, compassionate and encouraging woman, and also making sure I set up a long phone call with my best friend who lives abroad (and luckily has free international calls!).
3) Buy yourself some flowers
As I very rarely have flowers in the house, when I do, I really tend to notice them. Seeing flowers every day in the kitchen, is a constant reminder and connection with therapy, particularly if they are of the colour that I tend to associate with my therapist. They are also a very visible reminder of the fact that I am trying to take care of myself, and that I should try and treat myself with compassion.
4) Engage all your senses
I tend to focus on the sense of sound and sight when it comes to self-care, but during therapy breaks I try to remember to pay attention to my other senses as well. Using scented candles, particularly if the scent connects you to positive memories, can be a good way to do this. Last summer I bought some lotion that my yoga teacher sometimes uses on our feet or shoulders. The smell reminds me of yoga; and as yoga is a time when I try and connect with myself (my ‘inner characters’, my emotions, and my body), it is also a reminder of therapy.
5) Blurt Foundation BuddyBox
These are not cheap (though cheaper than a therapy session, which is what I tell myself when I order them!), but they are a welcome little luxury that you can order before the end of one month, to arrive in the middle of the following month. Each BuddyBox contains a number of treats and self-care items, ranging from notebooks, to candles, to teabags, to stickers, and many more! You can view the content of previous BuddyBoxes, on the website.
6) Vary your phone wallpaper
Strange though it may sound, this is my version of keeping a mood diary or using a mood app! Though it doesn’t track my mood, it helps me to be much more aware of it, and thus better able to cope with changes. I’ve chosen various photos (which I found online, though they could be your own photos) that I feel represent different parts of myself (e.g. vulnerable child, or rebellious teenager), which in turn are associated with different mood states. For me, it works to have photos which are all on a similar theme, for example dancers in different poses, or flowers of different colours, or a forest in different seasons. I look at my phone frequently, and the wallpaper I have chosen connects me with my feelings and reminds me to stay curious about them. I often find that an urge to change the photo to something else, signals a mood change that is coming, even before I’m aware of it at a conscious level.
7) Adopt a transitional object, or several
Transitional objects – objects that provide psychological comfort by reminding me of my therapist – have always been important to me. I have several, acquired at different times. A transitional object can be something you have chosen, or something given to you by your therapist. I have a bracelet with a few lines of poetry that my therapist quoted to me once. I also have a ‘therapy jacket’ which I bought more as a comfort blanket on the day of my first ‘missed session’ during a therapy break a couple of years ago. Last summer, just before our longest break to date, my therapist lent me an interesting stone she had found on a beach years ago, and it reminds me of my therapist daily. An object can be perfectly ordinary, but you can give it significance, if you are drawn to do so – my therapist let me keep the stone and said it had become mine, because I had invested it with meaning.
I have learned that the most important thing about my self-care strategies are that they are my own ideas - personal and meaningful to me. I realised that some of the methods I have adopted (for example, daily tweeting my way through breaks) are variations of others’ ideas that I dismissed because they didn’t appeal to me (such as keeping a gratitude journal). Therefore, though I hope that my tips are interesting and helpful, I think their key value will be in using them as springboards or inspiration for your own therapy break strategies!
Clara blogs at LifeinaBind