Yesterday’s post was a bit deep and dark, and that’s ok as it’s a very real part of being unwell, but today I thought I’d share the more positive things that I do to try and help myself feel better and I’ll put some links at the end about some of the things I mention.
- Getting good quality sleep: this is something I really struggle with at times, I have periods of finding it hard to fall asleep and having very light sleep where I wake up a lot but I’ve been trying to switch off my devices at 9pm, have a sleepy herbal tea, journal, read self help books sometimes and listen to a relaxation recording. After a few weeks I’m definitely seeing an improvement and getting a solid 6 hours sleep, sometimes longer, which is so great and is helping me feel better.
- Journaling: I write a diary at the end of every day to empty my head of thoughts.
- Gratitude journal: I write at least 5 things in a journal at the end of each day that I’m grateful for. This reminds me that there are still lots of positive things in my life. It might be that I heard from a friend or I had a yummy hot chocolate.
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): this is a self-help tool where you tap on certain points on your face and body whilst talking about your feelings/emotions in order to release them. It sounds very strange but it helps me to process my feelings really well. I go from anger to tears to laughing in the space of a few minutes sometimes!
- Writing letters I’ll never send: If the journaling and tapping isn’t enough to get all the feelings out then I write letters. If there’s a load of stuff I want to say to someone but I can’t because I’m not able to talk to them at the moment for whatever reason, or the things I feel inside are too big to communicate appropriately I write letters. Sometimes after a lot of editing I might send that person a letter if I feel it’s appropriate, but mostly they’re just for me.
- Stopping unhelpful thoughts: sometimes thoughts are really unhelpful and they just need to stop. Emotions need to be processed but thoughts can be analysed. Is the thought helpful? What is going to happen if I keep thinking like this? Is there a better way to think that would be more helpful? And always praise yourself for helping yourself. You deserve praise (I give myself a hug and tell myself I’m doing really well…sometimes that makes me cry but that’s ok)
- Eating a healthy diet but not getting obsessive: I follow some healthy eating guidelines for people who have M.E. which avoids some foods that I have some intolerances to, but everything in moderation – I do eat bites of other people’s pizza sometimes…! At the moment I’m focussing on getting lots of protein for my muscles and eating more so I can gain weight. I love getting a medjool date, cracking it in half and filling it with almond butter – it’s sticky and delicious, like a truffle! Yum.
- Going to counselling: this is something that I always find helpful even if it brings up things that are uncomfortable. It’s an important part of my healing process but it is hard so I always try to counter it with some comfort afterwards. This week after counselling I ate chocolate whilst watching Friends.
- Getting medical help: since beginning this relapse at the end of last summer I have been seeking medical help and taking medication for pain relief. My GP has referred me to the M.E. specialist at Bristol but the appointment is not until July. I received a mental health assessment and they were going to offer me therapy but I had to move home to my parents, that’s why I’ve taken up counselling here. They gave me the crisis line number and they were generally fantastic. If you’re struggling with your mental health in any way, please have a chat with your GP and have a look at the Mind website. I’ve also gone back to a private M.E. specialist nutritionist who is running tests and giving me supplements to help with my symptoms.
- Using a crutch: much to my dismay I’ve had to give in and get a crutch. I was being stubborn about it because I worry it’ll make things worse but actually it’ll enable me to do a bit more on days when I feel a little unsteady on my feet. I should probably try to see a physio too because my left leg has suddenly become way shorter than my right! What I’m saying is that it’s ok to need a medical aid or medication and is nothing to be ashamed of.
- Meditation: I am not very good at this but the important thing is to just keep having a go. I listen to Linda Hall meditations on YouTube. She has ones with different lengths and themes. There’s a really nice one when you visualise building a nest surrounded by all your favourite people and things. Every afternoon around 4pm and go to bed for a bit and listen to one to chill out. Relaxing is very important in recovery but often very hard to achieve!
- Warm bath: add in some Epsom salts for muscle aches, essential oils and a relaxation recording. Lovely. A morning bath is a great luxury/what I have to do when I’m having a really bad day because I can’t do much else! But I pretend its luxury, like a posh lady at a day spa!
- Getting creative: I’ve been doing a pottery class over the past few weeks to get me out the house and do something different. Going on the wheel turned out to be too physically demanding but sitting and concentrating on forming a pot with my hands is such a great mindfulness practice and very calming. I’m going to start drawing again too, as the close concentration helps silence the unhelpful thoughts and can be a way to express things.
- Talking to a friend: getting your feelings out, talking about nice things other than being ill or being able to support someone else like they support you can all help. However sometimes this can be a bit too much and I have to let my friends know that I can’t meet up with them or listen to their problems because I haven’t got enough energy. It’s hard letting people down but a true friend understands.
- Singing: when I’m well enough to drive you can be certain that I am belting out some Aretha Franklin at the top of my lungs completely off key. No one can hear me so I don’t care. I probably look very weird to other drivers though! I sing in the kitchen a lot too. Singing is a joyous release of energy when you’ve got some to spare.
- Crying and screaming: not dissimilar to my singing (hahaha) but properly letting out tears is so important. I never used to do the screaming thing as I’ve never been one for shouting and screaming but I’ve found myself wanting to scream into a pillow sometimes and it does help.
- Yoga: at the moment I’m too ill to do a proper yoga routine but just some really gentle stretching and breathing helps to prevent further stiffening of the muscles and joints. Yoga, my bed and M.E. on YouTube is a great place for very gentle, short routines you can do in bed.
- Laughing: it just makes everything better. That’s why sometimes it’s worth using up some energy to go see some friends that you know will make you laugh. I watch a lot of comedy too. People have cured themselves of serious illnesses through laughter; it really is the best medicine.
- Happy TV: I don’t watch the news anymore or gritty dramas because I feel things so deeply that it’s not helpful for me. Instead I watch happy, ‘safe’ shows like Bobs Burgers or Star Trek or something nostalgic like Gilmore Girls or an old musical like Singing in the Rain.
- Nature: whether I can only look at indoor plants, sit in the garden or going for a short walk, looking at nature helps. I can’t really explain it; I guess it’s the mindfulness of looking at a flower really closely or listening to birdsong or feeling the breeze. Some fresh air and moving your body a little helps too.
- Warming things: comfy clothes, hot water bottles, heat up neck pillows and toys, dressing gowns, onesies, blankets, scarves, hats, hot drinks etc. All just makes me feel better. I’m always giving my friends presents that are warming and comforting and they do the same for me! Hugs are also wonderful, we all need more please!
- Little reminders: I stick post-it notes around my mirror with positive statements and reminders so that I see them every day
- Make yourself smile: How often do you look in the mirror and frown? I try to smile at myself now as much as I can – even pull silly faces at myself! Forcing yourself to smile releases happy chemicals just like laughter and hugs do.
- Listen to your instincts: if something feels wrong, stop doing it. Whether that’s a physical activity or something you’re watching, social media or being in a particular situation. Stop pushing for something if it feels wrong and instead go do one of the things above that’s positive instead. If you feel like drawing, then draw! If you feel like eating, then eat! If you feel like just going to bed that’s ok too! Your body is there to protect you, listen to it and have a dialogue with it – it’s the most important and long-lasting relationship you’ll ever have.
I hope some of these suggestions have been helpful. ‘Self-care’ can get a bit of negative press for being commoditised or self-indulgent but that’s rubbish. Self-care is just about looking after yourself because if you feel better you’ll make others feel better too so it’s really not selfish. Plus the things I’ve mentioned above really don’t cost much money either and plenty of them are free! Check in with yourself and do something helpful for yourself this Mental Health Awareness Week.
Linda Hall meditations:
Yoga, my bed and M.E.