Even at my lowest points with my mental health, I’ve always known what I “should” be doing to manage my mental it, but I just couldn’t bring myself to follow someone else’s “mental health plan”. These days, I like to call myself care routine a “joy diet” – focusing on self-compassion and realistic goals. Remember, these ideas are what work for me and they may not work for you – it’s all about finding the smallest of strategies that can make you feel safe and content!

If you’re a broke 24-year-old like me who just can’t cope with adulting, self-care unfortunately can’t be all about wine and bubble baths; unless you find a good deal on Groupon! As much as I would like my self-care routine to be very Pinterest-worthy, sometimes just a long shower can do wonders to make me feel grounded.

Meditation and yoga for some reason do not improve my mental health. It was disheartening initially, as 9/10 people told me how important these are to feeling better. Finding alternate options such as Zumba, long walks with music or trying out some new work-out routine on YouTube is a fun way to work on my fitness.

I am a self-proclaimed skincare junkie. The world may turn upside down, but I never miss my morning or night skin-care routine. It’s a common sight for my best friends who FaceTime me at night to see me with a sheet mask popped on. Sometimes, I like to pretend that I’m a beauty vlogger whilst doing my skincare routine. P.S – never forget to apply sunscreen!

If there is something that I have learnt the hard way, is choosing my battles. Not my circus, not my monkeys! I make a mindful effort to not bite off more than I can chew, so I rarely get overwhelmed.

It can be disheartening sometimes to see people on your Facebook or Instagram friend list ticking off their bucket list goals while you feel like you’re falling behind. I try and remind myself that I am enough simply as I am. My journey towards recovery taught me that the grass always seems greener on the other side. Nobody knows my journey. They cannot be in my shoes and understand the set-backs and trauma that I endured over the years – and that’s okay.  I do grieve losing out my youth to mental illness, but I am also proud of the fact that I am now living the life I always longed for.

When the weight on my shoulders gets too heavy to carry, a short nap with a weighted blanket can make me feel more energised and motivated to get through the day.

Over the years, I realized that self-care is not always a bed of roses. It meant holding myself accountable for my ingrained, toxic patterns and thinking of ways to get my tasks or commitments done. Giving yourself a break is essential, but it is also important to work on your uni or work commitments and find methods that work well for you. For example – If I have a to-do list with 10 tasks, I make sure I complete at least the 3 most urgent ones. It can be hard, but that feeling after is so fulfilling!

I make an effort to sit with any uncomfortable feelings and process them, instead of finding ways to run away from them (only to end up with unhealthy coping strategies). It can be messy and confronting, but I feel so much better. Sometimes, it can involve soothing my inner child and reminding her “You’re allowed to feel your feelings!”

When I feel myself disassociating, some of my strategies include chewing gum, drinking cold water, correct my posture and do some stretching. Anything to get myself back into my body!

One big step for me was understanding the power of “and” – I love talking to you AND I’m burnt out, I have gratitude AND experience grief, I love spending time with you AND I need my own space. Most things in life aren’t black and white.

Over the years I’ve worked hard on healthy self-talk and silencing my inner harsh critic. Instead of “I had two weeks to finish, I will never learn, I don’t even know if I am capable” I’ll remind myself “Yes, I had ample time to finish this but my mental health was deteriorating and the last thing I could do was start my assignment. In the future, I will be mindful about my triggers and seek support. I am doing the best I can to keep my head above water”. Be compassionate to yourself!

I have always considered myself to be “high functioning” when it comes to my struggle with mental health, which is not an achievement in any way. I am mindful that just because I can carry my pain and trauma well, it doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy. Getting into the habit of seeking support from friends and family when I need it, being honest about my feelings and taking days off for my mental health have done wonders for me.

Some days, I cut myself some slack and do nothing all day. All I do is binge watch stand-up videos of Carl Barron or Kath and Kim, and laugh at relatable mental health memes on Instagram. I found that somedays it’s okay if I don’t want to take life seriously. My favourite meme has to be – “If I heal my trauma, I wouldn’t be funny anymore!”

I have made conscious efforts for a few years to say yes to positive experiences. I would make up excuses initially and isolate myself because my mental health was debilitating (then sulk if I saw Instagram stories of everyone else having a good time). Now, I enjoy that process of getting ready and having a boogie night with my best friends.

In the past, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror or make eye contact with other people, coupled with not looking after myself physically. Now my make-up routine had become my morning meditation when I have a rough start to the day. I look at myself in the mirror and tell myself – You got this!

This piece was written by one of the ICLA eFriend Peer Support Workers. eFriend is an online platform where you can connect with a trained peer support worker whom has their own lived experience of feeling lonely, isolated, stressed or worried. You can speak to your eFriend Peer via video or phone call. Your eFriend Peer will listen, validate and provide hope. If you like, they can also assist you to identify any other services you may like to try or help you create plans to improve your personal well-being. Or they can simply listen.

To book your first call visit:https://my.efriend.org.au/preregistration/