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Self Care by Holly Bourne
Posted by SANE
28th Aug 2018

I wrote ‘Are We All Lemmings And Snowflakes?’ because I wanted to write a book that could change the conversation about mental illness.

For so long, we’ve been separating mental health problems from the lives we live, and how they might contribute to our brains playing up.

I know from speaking with people who suffer with mental illness, that so much of the pain comes from the internal narrative that surrounds the illness itself - why did it have to be me? Why am I so weak? Why is everyone else so much better at coping?

It’s hard enough living a life with anxiety, or depression, without the added pain of being anxious about being anxious and depressed about being depressed. So I wanted to write a book that looks at the world in which mental illness inhabits, so readers may start to realise that what happened to them isn’t their fault. So often, a mental illness is a completely natural response to the life you have had.

Because the world isn’t fair. Terrible things happen to good people, and anyone who went through through what you’ve been through would be exactly the same.

I spent a lot of time researching Compassion Focused Therapy for my book, and wanted this idea of kindness to be the backbone of the story.

We’re often so hard on ourselves, when we’re actually usually doing really well under pretty dire circumstances. The world isn’t as kind as it should be, and yet we internalize this cruelty and use it to harm ourselves.

There’s a lot of talk about kindness and ‘self care’ around at the moment, but often it amounts to little, consumeristic, things you can do to perk yourself up rather than using real compassion to heal yourself from within.

You’re not going to mend a lifetime of distorted thinking with a face mask. A bathbomb is not going to erase your childhood pain.

So what is true self-care? True compassion? Here’s what it means to me.

  • True compassion takes bravery. It takes real courage and real patience to truly be compassionate towards yourself and others. It’s about understanding why someone is the way they are, and powering through your natural instincts to judge, dismiss, and diminish. Kindness is not the easiest option, but it is the most worthwhile.
  • See yourself as fully as you see others. Here’s a simple exercise. Picture a loved one - a friend, family member, or even a pet. Imagine them sitting across from you and focus on the feelings of warmth and kindness you feel for them. Think about how much you want them to have a safe and peaceful life. Now, despite this, I’m bet you’re aware of their faults too. This person you love and care about isn’t perfect. They’re complicated and mess up sometimes. Maybe they’re chronically late, or a little bit neurotic, or bossy, or their farts smell really bad (the pet). However, you still believe that they’re of worth, and you still accept them and want them to be happy. You know that no human is perfect...so why don’t you feel this way about yourself? Know that you also deserve a safe and peaceful life, even though you’re not perfect.
  • Nurture a compassionate inner voice. Now you’re more in touch with this kinder part of yourself, work on building it up stronger so it can soothe you during times of mental anguish. I often write out my problems, and then reply to myself using a different pen. Sounds crazy, but it really does help calm me down. Write down what’s bothering you, and then reply to yourself from the part of you that knows you’re trying your best, that believes in you, and that always has your back. We all do have a tiny part of us in there. Get into a penpal relationship with them.  I feel a bit weird, but I’m quite often able to calm myself down using this method. And, over time, this kinder inner voice is getting louder and comes to me even without using a pen.
  • Do the boring stuff that you know works. We know meditation really helps your mental health, so do it. We know going outside for a walk really helps, so do it. We know eating right and looking after ourselves helps, so do it. I know how hard it is to find the energy to do ANYTHING on a down day, but, if you’re possibly able to, put the boring work in. It’s not as exciting as fancy luxury self-care stuff, but it’s the scientifically proven methods that work. Every day that you can, do a little bit of the dull stuff to try and dial down the bad days. However, on the days you really can’t, remember to be kind to yourself about that :)
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