– Lucy Lewis, Dorset Mind Ambassador and Assistant Psychologist
Self-care is vital for physical and mental wellness. When people think of self-care, they often visualise stereotypical images of bubble baths, face packs, and relaxing chimes. While for some people, this can be a relaxing and effective aspect of self-care, there is more to it than simply pampering oneself. Self-care is a broad term that encompasses any action that we take to look after our mental or physical health.
Self-care activities and habits are often disregarded, despite their importance and significant impact on wellbeing. While self-care is unlikely to cure a severe mental illness by itself, engaging in self-care can help to reduce uncomfortable symptoms to make them more manageable, and also prevent mental health conditions occurring or worsening. It can also empower people to maintain their wellness when done regularly. (1)
Self-care activities don’t need to be expensive – there are plenty you can do for free. Self-care activities might include personal care, enjoyable activities, relaxation, healthy routines, exercise, mindfulness, or anything else that benefits your health and wellbeing.
Here are some of our favourite affordable or free self-care activities – and how they benefit your wellbeing…
While this includes any activity you find relaxing (i.e. knitting, pampering, bird-watching, etc), relaxation also refers to techniques that can physically relax your body and reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. These techniques work mostly by slowing your breathing, heart rate, racing thoughts, and by relaxing your muscles. It helps communicate to your body that it is safe – and doesn’t need to be on high alert. This can effectively reduce or prevent the physical symptoms of anxiety and stress. (2)
YouTube has a wealth of free videos that can teach you about relaxation techniques and how to use them. The best videos tend to come from reputable accounts, such as those posted by a healthcare service or university. Search these terms to get started: deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided visualisations.
Make time for you:
Make time to schedule in enjoyable activities for yourself, as you would if you were looking after children. As we grow older and gain more responsibilities, fun can sometimes be completely forgotten!
When treating depression, a technique called ‘behavioural activation” is often used. The participant would be encouraged to fit in activities to their day that trigger positive emotions, and begin to balance out the negative ones. Find the things that give you a mood boost – and consciously make the time for them. (3)
There are many free and affordable mood-boosters, but what will work for you depends on your interests and personalities.
Here’s some ideas for you to get started: go for a walk in green space or a forest, watch silly videos of cats or babies, enjoy arts and crafts (even if you are not skilled, but just for the fun of doing it), have a movie night at home with cosy blankets and friends, watch comedy shows online, call a loved one, follow an online yoga tutorial, look at the clouds while listening to music, start a gratitude journal, or light your favourite candle.
You do not need activities that completely transform your mood or those that might take a lot of time, but instances of small mood-boosters scattered throughout your day.
Look after your body:
Mental and physical health are linked. If you eat well, move your body often, and sleep enough, you are likely to have better mental health than if you don’t. Additionally, taking the time to look after our physical health and hygiene sends an implicit message to ourselves that we are worthy of care and being looked after.
We would make the effort if we were looking after someone else – but often we do not do this for ourselves. For those who enjoy pampering, it can be beneficial to take the extra time for this to further emphasise that you deserve good care. (1)
Further support and Links
Dorset Mind offers group support that can also help with your well-being. The group offers peer support. They help to reduce stigma by normalising conversations about mental health. You can also check out further support for stress and mental health here. You’ll find links for 1-2-1 and groups of mental health support we offer here.
Today’s Guest Blogger
Thank you to our wonderful ambassador Lucy Lewis, for this interesting and valuable advice on how we can continue to look after ourselves even at a low-cost.