• Alexa Dione Francis

A Brief Guide To Self-Care

Welcome one and all to this piece that I have been saying I will write for probably a year now. I've been absent because the last few months have been a bit up and down and I haven't wanted to fill this space with how negative and sad I was feeling. I like to wait until I come out the other side and acknowledge I've not been doing so great but that after looking after myself I'm on the mend.

At the beginning of 2019, I swore to myself this would be the year I prioritise me and look after myself more. It has not gone to plan at all. A few weeks in to me feeling good about myself, going back to fitness classes, settling in at my new job and so on, I ended up subconsciously putting that all on hold for someone that ultimately did not deserve it. You live and you learn, even if you think you've learned that one already.

On the bright side, I'm getting back to feeling more like myself and concentrating on the things that matter to me. I definitely couldn't have managed through without the help and love of some of my pals so Naomi, Elle, Bryony and Ellie thank you for watching me ignore your advice, repeat mistakes and pick me up afterwards anyway. Love you long time.

Also, while we're being honest, this title is slightly misleading because I am a work-in-progress Self-Care Queen. Anyway, with that being said, I would like to share some resources I have either found or been introduced to that I am going to share below!

Right, let's chat about mental health and self-care. These two are frenemies so you need to try and keep them both in check as best you can.

In my experience, I found that as soon as you start to learn to understand it, you can begin to manage it in a proactive way. I think I'm quite open about my own mental health and the relationship I have with my anxiety so therefore I am keen to share my experiences in the hope that it makes others feel that they are not the only one.

Self-care is definitely one of those things that is easier said than done; unfortunately you can't slap on a clay face mask and be cured of insecurity, low mood, anxiety or general crappyness. It's about finding what works for you, your own definition of self-care. To me, self-care means to look after the holy trinity; emotional, mental and physical health. Remember though, what works for me may not work for you so these are just recommendations!


- 'The Anxiety Journal' by Corinne Sweet

This book is practical and uplifting as well as being beautifully illustrated. Anxiety can lead you into a spiral of stress and worry which can interfere with daily life. 'The Anxiety Journal' is not a typical journal in the sense that you're not writing a daily entry about how you feel. Instead, it's a sort of guide that encourages you to use CBT techniques (cognitive behavioural therapy) and mindfulness exercises that can help you understand your anxiety better, whatever form of it you have. A personal favourite for me is that there are little interactive pages but not so much where it feels like a great big task weighing on you. I also love the occasional quote pages included too.

Through this, I found my new favourite slightly cheesy but positive quote: 'Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you' - Walt Whitman.

- 'Notes On A Nervous Planet' by Matt Haig

Bought for me on my 20th birthday by my wonderful mum (thank you, Kelly) this book is wonderful and I'm only a few pages in. I know, I've had it for all this time and still not managed to read it. I carried it around in my rucksack every time I went to work with the idea I would read it on my break or on the train home but never did and for some reason, I couldn't take it out of my bag. I know it will be like a bible for me and I can't wait to carry on reading it. In the current climate we are seemingly encouraged to worry about absolutely everything which leads to a pretty nervous existence.

Haig shares his experiences which I think is the foundation of talking about mental health and has been fab to follow on Twitter although currently, he has backed off from the platform for a while after finding himself too easily annoyed at the things on there and feels the medium is bad for him at the moment. Really I think he's got the right idea. Social media is also discussed in 'Notes On A Nervous Planet' but not in a naggy or preachy way.

- 'The Self-Care Project' by Jayne Hardy

Jayne Hardy is the Founder and CEO of 'The Blurt Foundation' which I will talk about a bit later in this post. Not only is this book a lovely size to pop in your bag, its contents are just simply what you need to hear if you've been neglecting yourself. 'The Self-Care Project' is aimed at those who haven't been feeling themselves for a while but can't seem to figure out why. This book walks you through what self-care is, what it means, why it's so bloody important and not selfish all while helping you define what self-care means for you. Self-care is not a cure but rather the best preventative measure before you hit the burn out or get beyond overwhelmed which is very quick in easy to do in this day and age.

I'm all for a guide to help me let go of feeling frazzled and learning to make time for myself before I reach my low point.


- Teen Breathe

Teen Breathe was a little gem that my fab Mum found for me when I was having a big ol' anxiety dip last year. Don't let the name of the magazine throw you off, it really isn't just for teens.

Usually, for women, we're used to seeing fashion magazines telling us the type of clothes we should wear based on our shape and size in order to be attractive, quick fix dieting tips and all that archaic, outdated rubbish. The illustrations are so beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, the writing in the magazine has such a good tone to it in that it isn't patronising at all and the content is really helpful, interactive and enjoyable. It's around £4-5 I think but given the quality, I think it's worth it.

And finally, if you've made it this far, I thank you because now I'd like to talk about my absolute favourite thing that I can't take credit for discovering. A year ago when I was researching mental health resources for my final college project, my wonderful tutor Frankie introduced me to The Blurt Foundation.

The Blurt Foundation:

Blurt Homepage - https://www.blurtitout.org/

BuddyBoxes - https://www.blurtitout.org/buddybox/

So, The Blurt Foundation is a social enterprise and they focus on helping those with depression. As I mentioned earlier, I have a book called The Self-Care Journal written by Jayne Hardy who is also the founder and CEO of The Blurt Foundation and it is such good idea. The website is incredibly helpful, easy to navigate and full of brilliant resources. As well as a blog feed, there are some brilliant pieces on understanding depression, taking care of yourself at university, all about self-care as well as supporting someone you know who has depression too along with a few others.

There's endless amounts of content on Blurt but my favourite part has to be their BuddyBoxes. Although I'm yet to order one myself, I have seen one and the quality really is amazing. Blurt describes the BuddyBoxes as a hug in a box, it's such a nice treat for either yourself or for someone else who needs a pick-me-up. While Blurt is an organisation that focuses on helping people with their depression, these boxes are for anyone in need of a boost or a smack in the face with the self-care stick. You can either buy a one-off BuddyBox for £21.50 or you can get a monthly subscription for £21.50 a month which sounds like a lot but when I think about the clothes I order from fast fashion websites for almost £30 I think I'd rather treat myself with a secret box of goodies.

There is a theme to each box and their contents remain a closely guarded secret, obvious really when the whole idea is that it is a surprise. June's theme is 'When Life Stinks' with a cute skunk image on the website. These boxes are packed full of thoughtful, mood-lifting treats aiming to nourish and comfort you, while encouraging self-care because we really all just let that go to shit sometimes don't we?

This is not an #ad although maybe one day it might be. Anyway, you can read more about BuddyBoxes and The Blurt foundation by clicking on the two links below the title. In an upcoming blog post I will have a review up on the BuddyBox as I'm going to give myself something to look forward to as well as reassure anyone who isn't sure if I know what I'm talking about. Once I've ordered it and it gets here, I'll update you all on how good they are!

Enough waffling, if you've read this far I truly thank you, I know this post discusses a serious topic but I just like to keep the conversation around mental health open and try and help show it's not as scary as it may seem sometimes.

I really wanted to give a good piece of writing to anyone who reads my blog given that I've been absent for a good three months now so hopefully this does it. I've got a variety of content in the mix so hopefully you'll find something you like.

So, all my love,