“On Self Care” by S. Whispers

Sakhile Whispers is a book blogger, graphic designer, sensitivity reader, feminist and mental health advocate from South Africa. You can find her on Twitter and at her blog. I love Sakhile’s helpful reminder that self care is something that can be more than personal pampering and comes down to taking care of your body and self by meeting your basic needs and the resources at your disposal.

Self-care is generally perceived to be something one does to pamper themselves. The caring part of self-care is so often limited to lighting a scented candle, taking a bubble bath or treating yourself to an expensive item. Don’t get me wrong, all those are valid forms of self-care but I want to focus on what self-care is for people with severe mental illnesses.

For me, on my worst days, on my worst weeks or months, self-care is the bare minimum. It’s forcing myself to take a shower after two days because I simply don’t have the mental energy. It’s setting an alarm to remind myself to take my medication. It’s eating two slices of plain bread because I haven’t had the energy to cook and haven’t eaten all day.

When you suffer from a mental illness and also happen to be poor, you don’t have the luxury for what a lot of media tells us is self-care. Yes, a nice smelling candle would be nice right now, a bath bomb would be amazing after a horrible mental health day, but we don’t always have the money for indulgences like that.

Realistic ways to practice self-care:

  • Rereading an old favourite book that you own.
  • Watching your favourite TV show that always makes you laugh. I’m a big K-drama fan so I watch a lot of those.
  • If you live in an unsafe area where it’s not possible to take a walk, I suggest going to the rooftop of your apartment building (if it’s accessible) and taking a breath.
  • Eat something, a fruit, a slice of bread, just eat something.
  • If you have a hobby you like doing then do that. Don’t feel pressured to monetise it. I know society keeps pushing for us to use every bit of spare time doing something to make you money, but stresses me out even more because there’s no room for mistakes. I do a bit of art journaling and crocheting.

If you have more cost-effective self-care ideas, please feel free to share them.

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