I have been doing a lot more self-care recently with having more free time to do so. My self-care has been focusing mainly on making self-improvements. For the past few weeks I have been improving on what I already know or have and it has been interesting to see how it has helped considering what everyone is going through at the moment.
On the 1st April I decided to use my free time more productively (I know how cliché that sounds but bare with me) so I started with social media. Up until 29th April I had deleted my Instagram app (it was my intention to re-install just before the 1st May). I chose Instagram because it is usually my go to app. You know, the app you use when you’re waiting for a friend in a public place and want to seem ‘occupied’, the app you use out of pure boredom or even the app you enjoy. I enjoy Instagram more than Facebook or Snapchat but I over used it and I had tried to reduce my screen time on my phone but I was able to switch that off if I wanted to. Overall my screen time was reduced, but not as much as I would have liked it to be. However, re-installing an app takes a bit more effort to do so I just deleted it. My break from Instagram has helped me realise how much time I spent just scrolling through due to either my anxiety or boredom. I haven’t had the Facebook app on my phone for a while now but if I wanted to access Facebook I just used my browser. I was still spending more time on it than I wanted so I closed the tabs and deleted it from my search history which again helped, but there were times where it was a bit frustrating as my phone is sometimes my go to, (especially if I’m in an anxious situation) but I had less reasons to use my phone (which actually resulted in me making more improvements). I have always tried to reduce my phone time and sometimes I have failed, sometimes I have succeeded for a couples days/weeks but I’m actually really happy with how easy it has been recently to not be stuck on my phone. I reached a point about just over a month ago where all the negativity people were expressing via social media was getting too much for me. It became harder to prevent the negativity from my phone spilling into my personal life or my mindset which is the main reason why I wanted to reduce my phone time and I am happy with the results.
Exercise is of course included. Having a physical job allows me to get some form of exercise a day. I’d say for the past month or so now I have been making sure I still exercise in my free time, not just for my physical health but mental health to. I’ve always been an active person in some way and someone who prefers being outside. I guess I’m lucky to still have a job that gets me out of the house, moving around and more free time to be even more active at the moment. It has all had a huge improvement on my health, especially my mental health. I’ve been more clear minded, focused on my writing (which I will mention a bit further down), cooking (also mentioned further down) and I have never felt as comfortable with my body as I am at the moment. Work allows me to get out of the house and moving around but as I am not doing as much work as I used to, I have been going for a run every few days and a walk on the others. There are some beautiful walking tracks around where I live that provide a nice sunset view, perfect if you need some head space!
I usually go for a run on days where I feel like I have excess energy and need to get a good sweat on. Running is my go to for that. Then for about 45minutes-1hour a day I do some home workouts as well as stretches/yoga. These were usually done either in the middle of the day before I went back to work in the afternoon or as soon as I got home from work in the afternoons. Again, it depends on how much energy I have on that day. I found it easier to workout Monday-Friday and then go for a run over the weekend but on the days where I had more energy than normal, I’d mix them both together on the day. Weekend days are usually more easy going at work, so I do sometimes prefer to go for a walk/run and be in my own company, especially during my weekends off. It has been all about finding what works for me on that day. My energy levels fluctuate daily so I listen to what my body is saying. I differentiate between low energy and low motivation. If I’m not feeling very motivated to exercise I can usually talk myself into at least going for a walk and getting out of the house. If I’m low on energy then I usually give myself the day off, or end the day with some stretches. Listen to what your body is telling you.
Home workouts can be done literally anywhere around your home. You don’t have to have any equipment and you don’t even have to try and find exercise videos online. Try doing squats as you brush your teeth or push ups from your kitchen work top. You don’t have to do 10 sets with 30 reps each, even if you just do some push ups whilst the kettle is boiling or you’re waiting for the microwave to ping, at least it is something to stimulate your mind and body. Cradle your dog/cat as you do lunges, even organise a household exercise sesh if you want to. Exercise has helped me more with my mental health than my physical which for me, is very important during these times. But I have days where I nap or watch Netflix (or both), I just listen to what my body is telling me on that day. Just try and recognise the difference between low energy levels and low motivation (because there is a huge difference).
Then there comes the plenty of free time spent at home. The first way I thought of filling this time was via cooking/baking. For the past month or so now I have been improving on my cooking and baking but also expanding my recipes. I get a lot of anxiety whilst in the kitchen for different reasons (this will be explained in another article soon) so this was also more of a challenge for me therefore to stop me from avoiding making the improvements I needed to keep things simple and interesting. I love healthy food (I do not however restrict myself) and I have been experimenting more with vegetarian and vegan foods. My favourite has to be a tofu stir fry in a honey and garlic soy sauce. Fuck it’s good. But for someone who survived off baked beans, bread and milk as a child and teenager, I am bloody impressed with the improvements I have made, not just in the past month but this year so far.
I try and eat according to the amount of physical activity I have done or am going to do that day, my only bad habit though is…I am a boredom eater. Terrible boredom eater. This is has been a challenging one to improve on so I started with snacks. I stopped buying ready made snacks and started making my own using mostly:
- Protein Powders
- Peanut Butter (or almond butter)
I genuinely wasn’t expecting the snacks as good as they do. It did take a few muffins/cookies for my tastebuds to get used to (it was mostly the taste of honey I needed to get used to). I then began to switch on when I was boredom eating, so instead I would go for a cup of tea or drink some water instead or on the days where I was home for the majority of the time, I would eat little and often to spread out my eating time and it would give me not only something to do (especially if I needed to make the food from scratch) but something for me to look forward to as well.
Meal prepping is also a great way of filling in your spare time. I have Wednesdays and Sundays as my meal prepping days (which means I occupy the kitchen on those days for most of the day). I usually make 1 large evening meal and divide into 3 smaller evening meals. I then make a shit load of snacks which can be anything from banana muffins, banana bites (this is mashed banana covered in desiccated coconut and then half dipped in dark chocolate, one of my faves!), peanut butter fudge, banana bread (yes I love bananas), honey oat cookies and so on. For breakfast I am quite fond of oatmeal with some granola and fruit. I usually soak the oats in a mason jar overnight then I can tuck straight into it the following morning. Then for my meals during the middle of the day, I like to leave my options open then I don’t feel too restricted. I love meal prepping as it can take 1-4 hours up of my day as well as providing me with mental stimulation and trust me there is nothing more satisfying when you have food that you made ready for you to demolish.
And then there was writing. Late in the evening on April 9th I challenged myself. It had been a while since I last posted on my blog and I had a couple of posts written and some ready to be posted but I just never got round to it. I think this is for a couple of reasons. The pressure of writing was getting to me and I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I once did because it began to feel like something I had to do, rather than want to do. I was struggling with mind fog and people kept throwing ideas at me (which doesn’t work for me), work would tire me out and my writing got pushed aside as exercise and cooking (and other recreational activities) took more of a priority. Then I got some more free time and began to use it wisely. I wanted to get back into writing, I really wanted to but I didn’t want the added pressures around me. So I made the right changes and I started this challenge which I kept between me and me only (to the people in my life, you have no fucking idea how hard it was for me not to blab my mouth off about this challenge). I’m one of those that challenges myself, will then tell myself to not tell others but I always end up telling others and then usually I don’t complete to challenge or it gets pushed further and further back as I lose motivation/dedication. This was a challenge that I have deeply wanted to complete. Writing is something that I love and has helped me to help you along the way. My blog means the absolute world to me and this seemed like a good way to get back into writing for the right reasons. My challenge was to post an article for every single day in May for mental health. The articles all vary in some shape or form but they are all centred around the one subject, mental health, which is a subject that I hold very close to my heart.
Self-care is just as important now than ever before. Put yourself first, do what benefits you and think about what you could do right now to improve on your mental, physical or emotional health.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy will be posted tomorrow for day two of Mental Health May.
Thank you for reading,
Sending my love to you all,