Why It’s Important if you have Anxiety
Self Care/ ,self’ker/
– The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.
– The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
This lent season I decided to focus on something that I desperately needed: self care to my soul. Self care doesn’t have to be added with a hashtag in front of it as an excuse to burn money you don’t have. Self care is preserving your soul and actually focusing on taking tender care of yourself by actively finding ways to take a break whether mental, physical, emotional or spiritual and come out rejuvenated.
The first ten days of this lent season were by far the easiest. I had planned out 40 total things that I’d be doing over this season and easily picking them off. I started with the easiest of them first, doing a devotional, journaling, and doing a face mask. These took no effort at all, and while doing them I felt like I had finally gotten a fresh breath of air, finally some chance at inner peace. I then tried to challenge myself with some things slightly outside of my comfort zone.
This meant going on a trip, two trips technically. I started off with something that I loved, camping, which was intentionally meant to be a stress free night, but of course anxiety got in the way.
We rolled in around 8pm and it was already pitch black, the security guard for campgrounds was gone and there was a padlock on the gate. Not exactly an easy beginning to this whole self care camping trip. I was panicked for sure and was anxious already bringing our two dogs who had both never stepped onto a campground before. Poor Finn was crying to be let outside after the 2 1/2 hour car drive to the forest and my anxiety was having a freaking party. What if we couldn’t find a place to stay? What if we couldn’t get in? Where would we go? It was 8 o’clock on a Wednesday night, 2 1/2 hours from home with no money for a hotel room, literally all we could afford was this $30 campsite. We tried looking on AirBnb but, of course, no one could accommodate us with such short notice. Everything seemed to be up in flames and I had already made a decision that this was not self care, this was not rejuvenating, this was not #selfcare#selflove. This was freaking stressful and anxiety provoking.
Luckily though I had two of my biggest coping tools with me, Finn (my SDiT), and my beyond amazing boyfriend whose sense of adventure never waivered. He never doubted for a second that we would have nowhere to sleep for the night. He simply helped me calm down enough to realize that I had the code for the padlock all along. Yep, in my phone… the whole time.
So maybe the first ten days were what I thought would be the easiest. But I think that’s a big part of self care, finding out what works for you. Spontaneity? Definitely not my type of self care. But now I know, and I can find new ways to do the things I love, like camping, but in a way that doesn’t hinder finding a break from my anxiety and focusing on my soul.
Halfway through my self care journey I really started to notice a difference. I began planning out what each day would hold for me during this lent season. I tried something I never thought I would like- listening to a podcast.
Okay I’ll be honest, the thought of listening to a podcast makes me want to just take a nap and spend my time more wisely. But I was lucky enough to stumble upon one of my favorite speakers, Sadie Robertson and her podcast “WHOA That’s Good.” Within these roughly 20 minutes, she interviews someone and asks them about things like the best advice they’ve ever gotten or questions relevant to their faith and work. I don’t know how she did it –wizardry maybe- but I found myself listening to one after another. Trying something new doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, in fact it can turn out to be your new hobby (Yes- I now have my notifications turned on for when a new episode comes out). The point is- try it! See what new thing you can branch out to that’s either slightly out of your comfort zone, like camping, or maybe just something you’d never thought you could get into.
I found the end of lent to be the hardest part of my self care journey. In the beginning I was eagerly awaiting everyday to do a new self care project, put on some worship and feed my soul. But I found that when it came down to the last few weeks, I was having to do all the things on my list that I had been avoiding the longest. One that I surprisingly struggled with was a love letter to myself.
I’ve heard the mantras of body confidence and the recent advocates for invisible illnesses, but I often feel as though it gets harder for me to love myself the tougher of a time I’m going through. It started as my anxiety was telling me that I was so broken that I didn’t deserve anything. I convinced myself that because my brain couldn’t cooperate, because I was now a second time mental health drop out, because I couldn’t sit in class, because I couldn’t go onto campus any longer- that I was broken beyond repair and nothing was going to help or fix me and this was my inevitable future.
During my letter to myself, pen in hand, empty piece of paper in front of me, Finn came up and gently rested his chin on my thigh. I know dogs can’t talk, but I could swear to you that he was saying more than mere silence. That touch of comfort brought me this feeling that I wasn’t really alone in all of this. I wasn’t in a corner, crying by myself while I’m waiting for the panic to stop. I had Finn, my good boy, right there with me. He showed me with those loving kisses he gives, that I’m not broken because I’m still here- alive- as I’m meant to be. My heart is beating, although too fast sometimes, and I am okay even in the midst of times when I feel like I could be anything but.
And so I etched out this letter to myself and I found the biggest thing that I mentioned over and over was that I was enough. I wasn’t half empty, because I was filled with God’s grace. I wasn’t broken into pieces permanently because I had people (and pups) who loved me unconditionally and would put me back together.
Yes, self care can be #amazing and a great way to wind down and relax. But it also is a great way to connect with yourself again. Sometimes I feel with all of this anxiety, that I lose the true me- my authentic self. But by having time with myself I become so much more aware of my mental illness and what I truly need to feel relief and to continue my journey to getting better. Because as Finn reminded me, this is only a temporary feeling.
I also would love to highlight a new partner that I recently got in touch with! Star Sign Studios is an amazing organization that puts it’s available proceeds towards organizations advocating for and providing services for mental illness. Each month they find a new organization to partner with, this month being the UK’s Mental Health Foundation. I especially love that they have such an awesome, colorful collection to choose from, plus it all goes to a good cause for an invisible illness? That’s a win-win. They’ve even been generous enough to give me a code for 30% off your order by using the code LOVE30. Check them out and let me know which one you choose! I’m in love with their two piece matte sets!