For most of us, there is often a point in life when everything feels a little too much. Times when even the smallest of tasks, like making a bowl of cereal, or getting off the couch to get a pen, can seem monstrous. There may be some days, or weeks, even months… and for whatever reason, just getting through the day can feel really really hard.
It may be because you are enduring a long term battle with depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, or some other mental illness. It may be because you have recently been through an emotional or physical trauma. You might have recently lost someone close to you. Maybe you have just had your heart broken. It might be the stress of university weighing you down. Or maybe, for some unknown reason… you just feel a little off.
Believe me, I have these moments and so does almost everyone I know. Would we be human beings if we didn’t? I don’t think so. So whatever the case, I need reading this to help you know that everything will eventually be OK. Whatever is looming ahead is something that you can overcome and achieve, and remember that going through a rough patch never makes you a failure. It does not make you any less loveable or capable. It simply means that you are a human being… and how can we possibly validate making ourselves feel bad for being human right?
At this point in the year, for university students in particular, stress management and practices of self love often fly out the window. Exams are on and you are prioritising your study, you have what seems like five thousand end of trimester assignments due, you may have money, flat, or family troubles… the list goes on. If I am honest, I recently fell victim to being overcome with multiple stresses, and found myself in a tired, overworked and fragile state. I stopped my regular practice of self care and love, I prioritised the wrong things, and I focused my energy in areas by no means more important than prioritising my health.
But I do get it… time management and organisation can be much harder than a regular routine in stressful times. I often feel less inclined to spend time doing the things (I know) will make me happy, because I ‘need’ to put other things in advance. For some reading this, that might be slacking off your regular exercise routine because you just don’t have the time. It might be putting off catching up with a friend or going for a walk… or depriving yourself from your favourite foods or listening to your favourite music. For others, it might even be the seemingly simple task of getting out of bed.
All of these actions are things that we love… yet for some unknown reason, they no longer seem priority right? Our health and wellbeing, our mental state and happiness, our friends and our family, me time… none of which seem to matter anymore.
But I’m going to stop you right there. Because quite frankly, I learnt the hard way that having this approach to stressful times in life does not work. Practices of self love and managing your stress, is crucial to our health and wellbeing.
Because I am personally a huge victim when it comes to letting myself get overtaken by stress, this is most definitely something I am working hard to improve looking ahead. Although I am by no means perfect, I have certainly learnt some helpful things along the way about how to get through these times.
So… if this is you right now, feeling alone, overwhelmed or stressed all ends… please keep reading. Whether it be you, or someone that you love who is going through a bit of a rough patch, here are some simple suggestions for self-care and management to help you through.
Self Care 101
1. Call a friend or family member and talk everything out. This can be super helpful, especially for people living away from home or travelling for university/work. Sometimes you can feel isolated and alone during stressful times – even when there are so many others around you. Its always nice to know someone cares, even from afar, so give them a call and enable an ability to vent everything out to someone that you trust.
2. Get good quality rest and tuck yourself into bed early. Sleep is vital, and essential. Yes there are times where you need to be pulling an all nighter, but in all honesty – you are generally always better off getting a good nights sleep, and being brighter in the morning to perform at your best.
3. While you are at it on the resting front… change your sheets and pillow cases, get a new duvet too. There is no better feeling than hoping into bed with crisp clean sheets, and a little revamp on your bed always helps you climb into bed after a long day.
4. Take some time to focus on your breath. It sounds silly I know, to just sit there and breathe. But seriously… focus on going in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly and deeply (from your stomach not your throat). When breathing in, you need to be pushing your stomach out (this seems opposite to normal at first). Do this consistently for 2 minutes and I guarantee feel a difference in your state of mind and peace.
5. Hydrate yourself. Ask yourself… have you had enough water today? Stress and worry can often leave us prone to more frequent breakouts or hormonal outbursts, and drinking water most definitely helps prevent this process. In order to combat this, have a big bottle of water alongside you consistently, or if you aren’t into drinking plain water… try infusing it with fruits or teas.
6. Eat something. Another question you need to ask yourself is… have you eaten something healthy and nourishing today? Have you fuelled your body with what it needs to get through? Most likely… the answer will be no. I know for me, if I don’t take the time to sit, take time aside from my work, and eat my meals… my whole days schedule is thrown off. Inevitably, my final work results are always much poorer than anticipated. Fuel your body at consistent times, have a break when eating, and be mindful of the way your body is feeling and reacting to what you are putting in. If it needs more nourishment, then don’t be afraid to give it that.
7. Have a nice hot shower. Clean your body and get a good scrub on. Take time to wash your face gently and condition your hair, shave the areas that need it too, if you want too. Once done, dry your hair properly, moisturise areas of your skin that are dry, get into comfortable clothing (these need to be warm if in Wellington), and relax.
8. Get some vitamin D and get outside in the sun. During the winter months in particular, getting sunshine can seem a bit of a mission. Even worse, is when you are sitting inside smashing out an assignment while the sun streams in on you. If this is the case, take a 30 minute break from whatever it is you are doing and go outside. Feel the warmth on your skin, feel it warm your body and your soul.
9. While on the topic of getting outside, go ahead and make sure you move that gorgeous body of yours. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise, just move it gently in ways that feel good. Aim for 30 minutes everyday. It could be a walk, some yoga, a kick ass bootcamp style workout… whatever it is that makes you feel good. I also guarantee you, that even if you are feeling a bit sluggish at the time, gentle exercise and movement will almost always make you feel more energised.
10. Grab a journal and write it out. Get everything on your mind out and vent to yourself, feelings, emotions, worries or future plans.
11. Write a list and create a plan. This always helps me when I am feeling overwhelmed. List everything that you need to do to address whatever you’re facing, and make this a daily ritual that you can tick off each time. Remember to make it realistic, don’t go setting yourself one million things to do in one day. Seperate your things to do into manageable tasks, and tick them off as you go. Start small, even if your first thing listed is to get up and out of bed.
12. Light a candle or incense and sniff familiar scents and smells that bring you joy. My favourites are my vanilla and caramel candle, or lighting the lime and coconut candle that mum gave me.
13. Clean up your environment, and stay organised. As human beings, we naturally like things to remain in order. Sometimes tidying things up can help calm our minds, so start with your desk, or organising your notes into sections that are going to help you stay on top of things.
14. Change your environment if one isn’t working for you. If you are not happy or being productive where you are, take a break and move somewhere else. I love working in cafes or the public library, and sometimes find staying in one space extremely isolating and unproductive. Move and change, and over time you will find what works for you.
15. Create a playlist of top notch songs that make you feel great and remind you of happier times. If its study that you are needing to prioritise, chuck on a playlist of some chill beats that make the atmosphere a little less boring.
16. Create a list of things you are grateful for in life. I find this helps me a lot when I am stressed, and draws attention to the things I have almost always forgotten when overwhelmed. While you are at it, make a list of things to look forward too, such as plans after exams or the things upcoming that make you excited to be alive!! If you don’t have any… make some!
17. Remember to stay in touch with the present, and remember that your only job right now is to put one foot in front of the other, and keep moving forward. Don’t think about facing entire weeks ahead if that seems too scary, take each moment one step at a time.
18. Put in your earphones or crank the speakers nice and loud, and DANCE. Dance for five or ten minutes like an absolute idiot, get a friend, and sing out the lyrics at the top of your lungs.
19. Seek expert help with whatever you need; if you are struggling mentally – remember you do not have to do it alone. This could be through seeking therapy, psychiatry, seeing a doctor… but remember to let those trained to support you through this. If its health related, work with your doctor, naturopath or nutritionist in order to develop a regime that will support whatever you’re facing right now.
20. Aim to establish a manageable routine and stick to it. Routines bring me a lot of comfort, and in times when I am stressed out, often help me to feel grounded.
21. Recognise your hard work and treat yourself on your achievements. Don’t save special things for special occasions, make the occasion special! Brighten your mood by attempting to make a moment more positive. Go for lunch with a friend, when you finish an assignment go ahead and treat yourself to your favourite chocolate bar, whatever it is that will make you happy.
22. Reach out to family and friends and talk. I said it earlier, but I can almost guarantee you that your friends might be going through a similar phase in life. Even if it isn’t the same reasons you are stressed out or worried, sometimes talking to others helps. Listening to others problems also helps to remind you that you are not alone, so enable yourself the opportunity to interact with others and have human connection. Isolation never helps.
23. Stay centred, and try not to not compare your daily experiences to another’s. Nothing will steal your joy as fast as comparing your journey to someone else’s. Social media can be a terrible influence for this, and can be a terrible way to judge how you are doing (especially when it comes to mental illnesses). Be you, and trust your instincts.
24. Get up early and watch the sunset. Take a friend or go alone, and watch the beautiful earth change in front of you. If mornings are not your thing, try this in the afternoon and watch the sunset.
25. My favourite… get in the kitchen and experiment with something new. Make yourself a nourishing breakfast/lunch/dinner, or bake up a sweet treat that you have never tried before. There is nothing more satisfying than creating good food, and don’t worry if you fail, at least you will have something to laugh about!!
26. Remember to trust the process, and that what you’re going through right now is only going to be temporary. It may not feel like that right now, but this period shall pass and you will be feeling much better about things if you choose to take things at your own pace, one step at a time. Have faith in yourself and your own abilities.
Much Love, A x