It is no news to anyone that losing a loved one will have a major impact on your mental health. That is why we have published this article on 12 ways to practice self-care following a bereavement. It is all too easy to get caught up in funeral arrangements, visitors and trying your best to follow simple everyday routines during this time, when truthfully all you need is to take a step back and give yourself a little time, space, love, and attention.
We hope you find comfort in these simple tips and that you do find the time to take for yourself.
1. Make time for a little pamper session and give your body a good cleanse
Take a long hot bubble bath, use scented bath products, wash your hair, and maybe even use a face mask. Feeling clean and refreshed will help relax your mind, body, and soul. A hot bath will also help with physical healing as well as mental. If you lack a bath, then a long steamy shower will also leave you feeling relaxed and cleansed. Give yourself a manicure, not only will this help with the overall health of your hands, it will give your mind something to focus on and can be very therapeutic, it will also leave you with beautiful nails, giving you a sense of accomplishment.
2. Enjoy a hot beverage
Whether you are a tea, coffee, or hot chocolate drinker, take time to sit quietly and enjoy a hot drink. By drinking something hot, you are expanding your blood vessels and improving your overall circulation. By increasing your blood flow, you are helping your muscles to relax. Drinking hot drinks will also release endorphins into your bloodstream, which will improve your sense of overall well–being. Just watch your caffeine intake, too much caffeine can have an adverse effect. Stick with a moderate amount of caffeine, then switch to a decaffeinated option, this is especially important in the later hours of the day.
3. Get yourself comfortable
Wear clothes which make you feel comfortable, warm, and secure. Don’t feel you have to look your best during the grieving period, it is important not to put pressure on yourself to look the part. Visitors will understand and will not expect you to make your usual efforts. When at work, there may be certain dress codes in place in which you must comply with, therefore, to keep as comfortable as possible, wear sensible footwear, ensure you have enough layers to keep warm and opt for a lighter covering of make-up.
4. Read a favourite novel or listen to an audio book
No matter what age you are, or where your interests lie, everyone can appreciate and enjoy a good book. Whether you wish to read inspirational biographies, research topics of interest, or transport yourself into another world all together, there is a book out there for everyone. Not only is reading pleasurable, but it has a similar effect as meditation, in the sense that it provides the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm.
There are also several platforms in which you can use to download audiobooks. These are fantastic for those who struggle to read or keep focus when they are reading. Platforms such as Audible (Amazon), offer a 30day free trial with no commitment to sign up following the trial.
5. Enjoy time outside
No matter what the weather, go outside and appreciate the world around you. It sounds entirely cliché, but simply being outside will help you feel better within yourself. Whether you wish to go for a walk, challenge yourself to a run or simply sit, just being outside can make all the difference to your general well-being. Try practicing breathing exercises, attempt some meditation and most importantly, take in your surroundings. This will help to regulate your heart rate and deeply relax you, as well as filling your lungs with fresh air. Access to natural sunlight each day will improve your mood, enhance your morale, and leave you feeling more energised. Being outside for just 20 minutes per day is single-handedly the best thing you can do for your general wellbeing.
6. Treat your senses
TASTE. It is ok to indulge in a treat every now and again, and what better way to improve your overall mood then to indulge in a favourite drink or snack. Whether you have a favourite chocolate bar, packet of crisps or you enjoy a glass of banana milkshake, it is important to enjoy treats and allow yourself a guilty pleasure. Try not to overindulge, but a ‘pick me up’ treat might be just what is needed. SMELL. Our tastebuds are not the only sense in which we can treat. Why not light a favourite candle and fill the air with a delicious aroma, use a favourite scented body lotion, or add a scent booster to your laundry load. Surrounding yourself in pleasant scents will make you feel overall more relaxed and improve your general mood. TOUCH. Make sure you are comfortable when relaxing, opt for a softer material when lounging, cover yourself in a soft blanket and enjoy the textures in which surround you. HEAR. You can treat yourself by simply closing your eyes and listening. Whether you wish to list to the environment around you, you wish to listen to your own breathing or if you wish to put on some soothing music and take time to just rest, all can help improve your overall mood. SIGHT. Keeping a clean and tidy surrounding will make you feel an inner calm. Having a cluttered, untidy surrounding can be overwhelming for your senses and can leave you feeling tired and agitated. By keeping a calm, tidy surrounding, you will maintain a sense of calm. You can also go for a walk and treat yourself to beautiful views, whether you wish to gaze at the ocean, enjoy the woodland or just sit in your garden, enjoying a pleasant view will always improve your overall mood.
7. Prepare and eat a nutritional meal
Spend time planning, preparing, and cooking a favourite, nutritional meal. Put a little relaxing music on whilst you work. This not only provides you with great health benefits and treats your tastebuds, but it will give you mental stimulation and take your mind off more pressing matters. Baking is also a great alternative to cooking up a meal, take time preparing, baking, and decorating your delicious treats.
8. Talk with family and friends
Make sure you share how you are feeling with your nearest and dearest. Let them know if you are struggling, make them aware of how you are feeling and let them help you. Don’t feel ashamed to ask for help if all gets too much. If you feel you can’t express yourself in person, then send them a message, write down your thoughts and feelings, just don’t keep everything in. Talking about how you feel, sharing your emotions with family and friends will only serve to help you and allow them to support you through this time.
9. Listen to your body
It is rule number one in self-care, listen to what your body is telling you. If you need to sleep, do so. If you need to eat, do so. If you need to exercise, do so. If you need to be alone, it is ok to do so. During the period following a loss, your body goes through an incredible amount of stress, mentally and physically, and it will need to heal in its own way. How one person manages loss, is not the same as how another may cope with loss. It is important to know your bodies limits and to not set high expectations of yourself.
10. Learn to say ‘no’
It is such a simple word, yet so many of us struggle to use it. We hold a feeling of guilt when using this word, which makes us almost always agree to hosting visitors and participating in activities, in which we really do not want to do. It is important when mourning a loss, that you use the word ‘no’ when needed. It is ok to politely refuse a request for visitation if you do not feel up to hosting visitors. It is ok to RSVP ‘no’ to a party invitation if you do not feel in the mood to celebrate. It is important to put yourself first during the mourning period and learning the word ‘no’ will really help you to keep in control.
11. Keep hydrated
No matter how you feel, keeping hydrated is a key part of self-care. Aim to drink a minimum of 1litre of water every day. Keeping hydrated is good for your mind, great for healing, works wonders for your skin and will keep you energised through out the day. Our bodies are made up of 60% water, that is why it is vital to keep on top of your water intake and ensure you are consuming enough to keep your body on top form.
12. Take a break from your phone
It is all too easy to lose hours of your day to your phone. Responding to messages, taking phone calls, scrolling through social media, and browsing the internet. Try to set boundaries for yourself and put your phone away for a set period each day. It can very quickly become overwhelming keeping on top of phone calls, messages, and responses on social channels, therefore make time each day to be free from communication. Take this time for yourself and avoid screens altogether. Not only is this a benefit for your eye health, but it will also work wonders for your mental well-being.
We hope these simple tips will help you through this difficult time. It is always advised for you to seek help from family and friends should you find yourself struggling with your mental health following a bereavement. There are many support groups and forums available online and your GP can also assist should you require support.