Working On Us Prompt: Self-Care and Personal Hygiene

This week’s prompt on Working On Us is about self-care. I initially thought of self-care as those things we do to pamper ourselves, but then when I read the questions, I realized Beckie means basic self-care. You know, personal hygiene, such as showering or brushing your teeth.

I definitely have always had trouble with this. Part of it may be due to my lack of awareness of my appearance, which may be due to both blindness and autism. However, the fact that I don’t always shower or brush my teeth regularly, certainly isn’t.

I have always had trouble with proper personal care. When I was about fourteen, my high school tutor got complaints from my classmates that I smelled a lot of body odor. He told me I really had to develop a personal hygiene routine, but didn’t explain how to go about it. He was my PE teacher and said that he personally showerd twice a day. So I initially thought I had to do that as well, so the next day, I jumped in the bath at 6AM. My parents were not amused. With my parents, I finally agreed on a routine of baths or showers three days a week, on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings. That way, if I went to school, it’d never be more than 48 hours since I’d had a shower or bath.

My parents still didn’t explain how to wash myself. Honestly, now that I’m 33, I still get told by my husband at times that I don’t do it properly.

The problem of course wasn’t just that my parents didn’t teach me. After all, presumably my sister knows all about hygiene. It was also that I had an aversion against personal hygiene activities. Here is where my mental health is involved. Like, I have executive functioning issues on the best of days, making a “simple” shower very difficult. When I’m depressed, I cannot cope with the stress of having to shower.

My lack of self-care wasn’t even picked on when I was first assessed by a psychiatrist. Maybe he did notice I smelled, or maybe that particular day my body odor wasn’t too bad or I’d had a shower. If he did notice, he didn’t tell me so or write it in the report. Neither did any of the next so many psychiatrists and psychologists I had. I only found out that my psychologist at the resocialization unit in Nijmegen had noticed because it was written in my long-term care application at the time, that I didn’t get to see until we applied again last year.

As for brushing my teeth, I hated toothpaste. I still do, but at age 18, finally forced myself to use it. I never brushed my teeth properly until I got an electric toothbrush for my birthday this year. Now I’m still not sure I do it right, but I at least brush for the required two minutes. Interestingly, the elctric toothbrush is less horrible sensorially than the handheld one.

I find it interesting that, though lack of personal hygiene is part of an assessment of mental functioning, so few mental health practitioners take the time to discuss it with their patients. Like, when I was in the mental hospital, no-one offered to teach me personal hygiene. Not even when the dentist recommended I get help brushing my teeth. They said it was my responsibility. I really hope that, when I’m in a care facility for people with developmental disabilities, that will change.

Self-Care: Doing Absolutely Nothing

Sienna over at Therapy Bits wrote about self-care today. She had a day of doing absolutely nothing, as she worded it. I loved the idea. Too often, my attempts at “self-care” include making all kinds of resolutions to do things for myself and not doing anything at all. Like, I’ve been starting and restarting blog posts for today at least half a dozen times, thinking I needed and wanted to write. However, then I quickly deleted the post again, thinking it was pointless. Maybe it is, but maybe that’s the point.

Self-care, to me, means listening to your own body and mind without judgment. It means not considering what others will think of your attempts to care for yourself (within ethical and legal limits, of course).

I consider writing an important act of self-care, but I also often judge my blogging attempts. I don’t write often enough, or my writing isn’t good enough, or whatever. Today, I am setting these limiting beliefs aside and just taking care of myself.

Besides writing, another good self-care practice is meditation. I often find myself judging myself over not doing it enough too, or not being focused enough when doing it. At other times, when I do successfully meditate, I find that the effect wears off quickly and I end up beating myself up over that.

Today, I have been looking at affirmations and inspirational quotes. I love them, but I still find myself wanting to do something “productive” with them. Like, several of these blog posts I started then deleted, were quote-of-the-day posts that I deleted for being pointless.

Maybe the point of self-care, of this blog and of my life in general is not to fulfill other people’s expectations of me, but to be who I am. To be who we are. There, Sienna’s “doing absolutely nothing” sounds appealing. I do “nothing” much of the time, but then I’m usually beating myself up over it. What if I could stop judging myself and start being in the present?

What I’d Put Into a Self-Care Kit

So I eventually gave up on the #Writ31Days chalenge. I couldn’t cope. It had become too much of a burden. But I still want to write. Today, I am sharing another personal growth-inspired post. I am writing about those things I use to take care of myself. A Dutch blogger posted about using a self-care kit, which is a box with self-care/positive items in it. Here is what I’d put in my self-care kit.

1. My crisis plan. I cannot read print, so I’d have to either type out my plan in Braille, which is too much work, or put a simple reminder on the box lid to read my crisis plan.

2. Stuffed animals. I as well as the inner children love the stuffies! Rainbow/Sofie, the stuffed unicorn we got at our old day activities, is best used for fidgeting. The inner kids prefer our toy sheep. When we’re cold, we prefer the sensory cat, which you can heat in the microwave and then gives off a nice lavender scent.

3. Essential oils and wax melts. I love love love essential oils! I do happen to have some faith in aromatherapy too, even though I know that it’s not scientifically proven. I would still someday like to create my own mmassage products with essential oils, but for now I just diffuse them. I have a box filled with over 20 different oils.

I also love wax melts, althogh my husband often gets a headache from the strong scent. I particularly love fruity and sweet smells.

4. My sensory exercise products. I have an exercise ball, which obviously doesn’t fit into a box, but which I love anyway. My air stepper pad does fit in a box. I’d love to someday get a Flowee spiky mattress too.

5. Soothing music. Nowadays I don’t listen to CDs. I get all my music from Spotify. I have a custom playlist with soothing sounds and peaceful music. I also love a lot of playlists created by Spotify itself.

What would you put into a self-care kit?

Practising Self-Care

Yesterday, carol anne of Therapy Bits asked a question about self-care. This really got me thinking. Is self-care a challenge for us? How do we practise self-care?

Self-care can really be interpreted in several ways. Sometimes, what is self-care one day may be the opposite the next. For example, many people see self-care as pampering yourself. While this is good in moderation, it can become destructive if done too much. For example, we like to buy ourselves comfort food as self-care. However, this used to quickly turn into overeating. Now we recently realized that a small bag of sugar-free candy is just as enjoyable as a large bag of sugary candy and it is a lot less unhealthy.

Remember, any self-care activity can turn destructive if done in excess. We happen to be the classic overindulgent type, but exercise or healthy eating can also become an obsession.

We definitely find self-care a challenge particularly when we feel depressed. Like I said, we’re the overindulgent type, so then we sleep and eat all day. When we aren’t depressed, self-care comes relatively easy.


There are a variety of self-care activities we like. For example, we like to practise yoga and mindfulness. We also love the sensory room at day actvities.

Writing is also a good self-care activity for us. I am happy that we relaunched this blog, so that we can write without the pressure of having to create “good” content, as this was realy holding us back on our other blog.

We also try to take good care of our physical health. We are overweight and have been trying to lose weight over the past fourteen months. Though it’s been somewhat successful, it’s not been as successful as we hoped it’d be. We recently started a food log again, but we can’t keep up with it everyday. We try to exercise regularly too, though over the past few weeks that’s been hard due to the hot weather.

What do you do to practise self-care?