Cantabs don’t look after themselves enough – this needs to change
Some ways to keep on top of everything
When I was a younger, my mum would always go out of her way to make chicken soup whenever I was ill and, perhaps groundlessly, was convinced it would make me better. It was great for a common cold, not so much, as learnt after a bout of mussel prompted food poisoning, for other ailments. When I was visibly mentally unstable, there was no easy, chicken soup, quick fix solution to help. Instead, over the years, I had to develop some systems and methods of nursing myself when ill, so that I could try and wait out my episodes with a little more ease.
Take a quick shower. Cleanliness really is next to godliness. If you can’t get to the shower, or don’t feel up to it, get some baby wipes and go festival style. Keep them around – they’re a diverse item.
When I am unwell, my instinct is to stay bedbound and to just not move. I have learnt to tell myself “just go outside”. Cambridge winters can be bleak, especially if you lie in, as the time it is light outside is minimal. Going outside for a walk, though it may be cold, can be so helpful. Wrap up, see some life and get some fresh air – it can do some good to the system. You can go and get a coffee or something you enjoy too.
Speaking of bedbound, for me, sleep constitutes self-care. If I don’t sleep, I get ill, which is so rock and roll. For me, eight hours is my sweet spot. Find that and make sure you have it every night. Routine is good for sleep, but if you get those hours in, you’ll find yourself feeling a lot better. Not sleeping can negatively exacerbate how you feel.
If you can, take yourself out of environments that are distressing. If you don’t want to be around people or loud noises, find somewhere quiet. If the quiet is overwhelming, go to a café or anywhere where people are around. Make sure your surroundings are working for you.
Medication, if you are on it, can be helpful in terms of helping you manage your mental health. The key with it, is making sure you keep taking it. Make sure you take your medication each day, preferably at the same time, and that you have an established pattern. Doing this will help you long term.
It always feels patronising when people tell you to exercise. If you’re overweight, it can feel as though somebody is blaming your illness on your weight and, besides, not everybody can exercise. If you can though, or if you can manage to push yourself to do it, it does help. The releasing of endorphins, which even though may not cure anything, can give you a bit of a buzz and some energy. If your college has a gym, maybe take a visit, or if you like doing sport or even going for a walk – make it as enjoyable for yourself as you can.
Most importantly, treat yourself – you might like an album, film, TV show, skincare products – whatever it is, indulge yourself. Let yourself have the time to enjoy these things. I like The X Files. And chocolate fondue. Together.
Though some of these things may seem self-evident, I know how hard it is to remember to do them when I am ill. After doing these things, you won’t necessarily be 'cured', but hopefully the journey to being better will be a little bit easier.