Self care is Not a Buzzword, It’s a Necessity

I wanted to write a post to end this year on a positive note. There are changemakers worthy to be named and revolutions we must remember. Yet, one thing keeps coming to mind – the ever so important practice of self care. As we fight the good fight and tackle human rights abuses in conflict zones, gender based violence or the climate crisis – we need to be our best selves. That’s why “self care” is not a buzzword – it’s a necessity.

This year has been a tricky year for me. Personally, I have battled my inner demands on myself as a mother and entrepreneur – and just as a woman of my generation. I’ve struggled with my hopes and dreams. I’ve faced setbacks and disappointments. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Here are some of the most important lessons I’ve learnt this year.

Results vs. Capacity

In the #livingthebestlife world of millennials today, it’s difficult to not compare yourself with others. Other women have achieved so many great things. Everyone else seems to be managing so much more. Other people seem to have it all together.

That in combination with the #changetheworld mentality that many of us have – it is difficult to not feel overwhelmed. I’ve heard that my generation believe in the power they hold. That’s amazing. If so, we will take more responsibility for our planet and our fellow inhabitants of this world. Millennials seem to believe that they really can make a difference. If only they recycle more, eat less meat, fly less planes – they’ll literally help save the planet.

Yet things aren’t always so simple. One person alone can make a huge difference but she can’t save the world. We need each other. The pressures we put on ourselves can build and build and build until they’re too much to handle.

Self care lesson 1: I can’t achieve my desired results if they don’t match the capacity I have to get things done.

If my toddler is keeping me up at night I won’t be able to achieve what I would have if I’d slept well. The same can be applied to almost anything. If I keep staring at my goals, ambitions and desired outcomes, rather understanding my capacity – it’s constraints and possibilities – I know I will not get to where I want to be. That means I need to evaluate all aspects of my life. I need to understand how I can be more at peace and have the energy, tools and support I need to move in the right direction.

Sometimes you may need to reevaluate what it is you’re trying to achieve. And sometimes you just have to limit your expectations for a while.

There’s strength in your every breath

This year I’ve experienced enhanced stress and anxiety. My symptoms have been both physical and mental. It escalated in September with my heart skipping beats. quickness of breath, and a pressure over my chest. I had a very low mood and it affected all parts of my life. I knew that it was not sustainable to think I could manage everything on my own – so I asked for help.

Now, I don’t tear up as soon as someone asks me how I’m doing. Instead, I’ve understood that I had way too much on my plate and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. I’ve also understood that as I delight in dreaming, planning and scheming for the future, I also anticipate negative future outcomes more than I need to. This is a fierce driver of stress.

Self care lesson 2: I need to tame my monkey mind and live here and now.

Although I’ve often heard (and said it myself) that it’s important to live in the present – it’s harder said than done. It takes practice. That’s why I’ve taken on mindfulness meditation. There’s a great little series on Netflix on the mind right now, which was an eye-opener for me. It’s amazing how calm I feel after 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation. It is a self care practice to be done on a regular basis to reap the short and long-term benefits of living in the now.

We’re stronger together

We continuously need this reminder. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. I truly believe that humans are meant to live in relationships with one another. That’s why loneliness is one of our biggest threats and killers today. Isolation and polarization are both demons in our society and something we must actively work against.

Self care lesson 3: There is strength in asking for help

As soon as I picked up the phone to ask for real help, a big weight was removed from my shoulders. If you’re in a bad place – ask for help. Sometimes that is finding a healthcare professional and sometimes it is a friend or a family member. We all need help and that’s part of the beauty of life.

A fresh start here and now

For me, self care is not about taking baths and painting my nails. It’s about an awareness of my mind and body and making nurturing decisions every day.

Now as the new year approaches, I’m quite happy for this year to be over. I’m a sucker for fresh starts and new beginnings. The best part is that I’ve realized that it applies not only to a new year, but to every moment, every encounter, and every breath I take. I can (and must) choose how I want to live my life over and over and over again. That includes choosing self care as a necessity to not only survive, but to live fully.

Self Care by Laiza Onofre

Illustration for Girls’ Globe by Laiza Onofre.

These Tools are Helping Me Handle Depression

Ok everyone, I have never ever said it publicly but here it is: I have depression.

I want to share a little bit of my story. I want to focus on the positive and contribute in my own little way to fighting stigma and promoting mental health awareness.

In recent months, I have tried every possible tool I could find to feel better. Counselling, medication, exercising, yoga, hillwalking, travelling, journaling, meditation and mindfulness, etc.… The good news is that some of it is working. Slowly, very slowly, but every step forward counts. Getting better is a journey.

First, you have to make the difficult first step: becoming conscious of how you are feeling, accepting it and making a decision to try to change it – to grow out of the pain and find balance again. After that you need many, many more little steps, time, trial and error, endurance and faith in yourself.

None of this is easy, I know. I am still trying and learning myself, but here are a few tools and tips I would like to share. Remember that depression is a very subjective experience, you need to find what works for you.

Commit to yourself. 

Choose to invest time, effort and maybe even money in your recovery. It will be worth it, I promise. Maybe instead of burying your pain in a pile of brand new clothes, use that money for a therapy session if you can? Make choices that will help you feel better inside.

Remember that you and only you can make the necessary internal journey to get better.

Not your medication, not your therapist, not your friends, YOU. I know you might feel totally unworthy, meaningless and discouraged, but remember you are not broken. Nothing in you wants to hurt you.

Be a friend to yourself.

Remember when your best friend last had a heartbreak and cried in front of you? Did you shout at her and tell her to be stronger? Did you blame her for being so miserable? No (at least I hope not!). Use that same kindness and compassion you can show others and show it to yourself.

Go online.

There are plenty of great professional or community groups that can support you out there, you are not alone. Fill your social media feeds with accounts that make you feel good.

Read books, listen to podcast or TED Talks, watch videos about mental health.

The more you understand about what’s happening to you, the less ‘unusual’ and alone you will feel.

Don’t keep pain to yourself.

One of the hardest thing for me was to open up and talk about how I was feeling. Informing a few trustworthy friends made things a tiny bit more bearable. Choose people that make you feel comfortable, people who can listen and respect you even when you cannot be your most ‘fun’ or ‘happy’ self.

You don’t have to tell them everything and you don’t have to talk about it all the time. But trust me, on a day when you feel like bursting into tears, it makes it so much better to feel safe and able to express your feeling instead of trying hard to hide them. There’s also the option of professional help, like a doctor or a therapist.

Try new things.

Surprise yourself and explore things you have never done before. It doesn’t have to be something big. Maybe you can choose an interesting documentary on Netflix instead of your favourite romantic movie? Maybe you can try some crafts? Dance alone, sing in the shower? Maybe it will make you feel a bit better for a few hours and create new interests and new curiosities in you? (Maybe it won’t, and that’s ok too.)

Make lists.

Lists are cool. They help clarify things a bit and are easy to read. For instance, write a list of things that help you when you are down. Break it down into different categories (e.g. Physical: keeping a healthy body, doing yoga…; Social: the friends you trust, online communities; Spiritual: your meditation and mindfulness practice; Material: your bed, essential oils, anti-depressant medication, etc.).

Next time your mind hurts, check your list and find your best helper in that situation. Maybe you need a warm shower, a good cry and your bed. Maybe you need to call a friend and get some fresh air. Maybe you need to arrange a new appointment with your therapist. A list can remind you that you have plenty of options to support you – just pick one that suits you best in that moment.

Be patient with yourself.

There will be times where you get angry and disappointed at yourself. Days where you feel like you are not progressing at all, where you are backsliding. You will wonder if you will always be depressed, if there is really a way out, if this is who you are forever. Maybe you will even start thinking that this life is not worth living and wish to stop everything for good. That’s ok. The pain can be truly unbearable and overwhelming, so it makes sense to think these things. But please, don’t give up on yourself. You are a unique and beautiful person, trust and be kind to yourself. You are so worth it.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, or if you know someone who is, please reach out for help immediately. Suicide Stop has a list of suicide hotlines worldwide, which you can find here

Opinions and experiences published on girlsglobe.org are not medical advice. If you are struggling with your mental health, please seek professional help from a doctor.