When you’re struggling with mental illness it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed by the simplest things. Everyday tasks seem insurmountable and we end up feeling helpless, useless, and surrounded by chaos. Getting back on top of those runaway trains of thought and feeling can seem impossible, but sometimes a small change can make a big difference. Inspired by Queer Eye (which, by the way, is the feel good show that everyone needs in their life), this blog series will be made up of posts focusing on small things you can do in the areas of space, food, grooming, fashion, and culture, that could make a big difference by helping you feel more in control, or give you a sense of achievement.
Today, I’m channelling Jonathan and thinking about grooming, not just as an act of self care but as a mood booster and something to enjoy.
“It’s OK to have a relationship with yourself.”
I had to use this fabulous quote from the lovely Jonathan himself to kick us off because, honestly, it’s so true. This is the perfect starting point for reframing our thinking about grooming.
When mental illness rears up to cast a shadow on your day, often the last thing we want or feel able to do is get up and shower or do our hair. It feels non-essential. Like: “I can really only do one thing right now and that thing has to be breathing, so everything else can take a seat.” But taking a bit of time to focus on grooming can be a great way to listen to your body and understand what it might be needing. If we try and turn grooming into a meditative act it becomes more than basic self care and starts to contribute to our wider wellbeing.
I’m not saying this is going to be an easy thing to do – don’t get me wrong; I know the crushing weight that says you can’t get out of bed and the malevolent voice that whispers words of worthlessness (and what’s the point in taking care of something worthless, right?!). That weight and those words are lying and hard though it is we need to find every way we can to get those nasty little commentators to sit down, shut up, and let us get on with living our FABULOUS and WORTHY lives. (Yep, that’s you I just shouted fabulous and worthy at. You. And I’m right. You are.)
So what little Jonathan-style grooming things can we be doing?
1. First and most important is to find a way to make a bit of time for yourself. Every day. Even just five minutes. Five minutes where all you are focused on is you and what your body/face/skin/hair needs. How you then spend those five minutes is totally up to you but here are some possibilities: It might be five minutes to really thoroughly brush your teeth. It might be five minutes to wash your face with that lovely stuff you got for Christmas but have never opened. It might be five minutes to dry or brush your hair, to use some moisturiser, to file your nails, to exfoliate – whatever you need.
2. Once you’ve got the ‘essential’ grooming of teeth cleaning and face washing under wraps, try giving yourself a bit more than five minutes. Not necessarily every day but at least once a week. For example, on a Sunday evening I like to use a face mask, have a longer than usual shower, properly dry my hair (and maybe even style it), because that way I feel more refreshed and together come Monday morning when I’ve got to get up and get out to work. It makes that grooming time something to look forward to rather than something that feels like a chore.
3. Grooming doesn’t have to be an expensive business but sometimes it’s really nice to have a fancy face mask/moisturiser/ exfoliator to make that time feel special. If, like me, you feel like you can’t justify or can’t afford an expensive product, there are a few ways I’ve found to make sure I get that little treat without feeling guilty or breaking the bank. A: ask for some fancy products for your birthday or other gift giving occasion. B: save a little bit of money each month (even just a couple of quid) until you have enough to treat yourself. Don’t break into this little fund for anything else – it’s an investment in your self and that’s important! C: look out for bargains on fancy products in the sales (after Christmas in particular). This kind of treat is just that: a treat. It’s not essential. Not everyone will be able to do it. But if you get the chance, it’s a nice thing to do for yourself.
Before we wrap this up, I want to acknowledge one more thing. It can be tempting, when you first try to take an inventory of yourself and what you need, to get stuck in a cycle of thinking disparaging thoughts about yourself. Of telling yourself there’s no point in any of this grooming/self-care malarkey. Of thinking yourself into a negative headspace where it’s easier to not take care of yourself. But there IS a point! Remember those words I shouted at you before? Fabulous. Worthy. That’s you. And please, please remember that grooming is not for anyone else. It’s for you. To make you feel as comfortable and happy in your skin as possible. So be kind to yourself, lovely people. And find those five minutes to focus on you.
Top Tip: for those days when it really is difficult to give time over to grooming, have a little simple grooming self-care kit ready and waiting. Include refreshing face wipes, deodorising wipes, some dental gum, dry shampoo and anything else that will help you freshen up and feel a bit more groomed without becoming overwhelmed – check out the travel size toiletries in your supermarket to help stock your kit.