Being Aware and Taking Care Jess Gibson is a performance artist who has worked with Theatre Deli Sheffield for the past 2 years, making work for International Women’s Day and premiering her new writing for World Mental Health Day in October. Jess’ current solo show Work In Progress is about her struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder, Anxiety and Depression. Through humour and a passion for dance, Jess begins to learn to feel comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Sharing stories of being Scouse, dancing to Britney spears and of hope, Work In Progress is touring throughout the UK in 2019. In this article, Jess talks to Deli about what ‘self-care’ means to her and what has worked for her during more stressful periods. Life is what happens when you make other plans, so the saying goes. You can try all you want to have control over your schedule, your sleep patterns and your workload but there will always be things you can’t prepare for. That’s just how it goes and working to accept that this is a normal part of life has been something of a journey for me and I’m still working on it! During stressful periods when I’ve taken on a little bit too much and I feel swamped with a million things to do, I have to stop and take a step back. I have to purposely find time to stop and reassess my priorities to ensure I’m keeping on top of my health – both physically and mentally. For me, this is self-care at its most simplest; checking in to try and make sure that you are putting your health first. It’s often not so easy to commit to self-care in a culture that almost seems to praise the overworked and encourages a ‘yes’ mentality to every opportunity given. However, sometimes the most productive thing we can do is to say ‘no’ and take time out to have some downtime and re-charge. Here are 5 things that help me to slow down and give myself a re-charge when I’m stressed: Meditation This sounds like such an overwhelming task for me when I’m in the midst of a gigantic workload but in all honesty, it is never as bad as I initially think! The scientific benefits of mediation are said to include an increased volume in areas related to emotion regulation, positive emotions and self control alongside cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention. Worth taking 5 minutes out of your day to go try some quiet time and increase brain functionality?! Exercise Over the past few years, my mental health difficulties have majorly impacted my capacity to access exercise, even though I am a trained dancer. In fact, that may well have something to do with it being so difficult. My undergrad was in dance and I’ve facilitated workshops and movement classes since I was 16, however this has become somewhat of a sore point and the area most difficult for me since struggling with depression. My way around this has been to apply as little pressure to exercise as possible, to ensure I give myself praise when I have attempted even the smallest amount of physical activity and keep my eyes peeled for new activities I can try to expand my choices on ways I can keep fit. I am now in a place where I’ll be putting on my own Fun, Fitness, Sass Class starting January at the U-Mix Centre in Sheffield. This is such a huge milestone for me with exercise. Bath Something as simple as taking time for a hot bath and sticking a funny podcast on or some lo-fi hip-hop playing in the background can ease the tension and make me feel 100 times better. Talk to a friend When I’m overwhelmed I can sometimes get stuck in a bubble and I think I’m the only person in the world with ‘these problems’. Sometimes, talking to a friend helps me to realise that they too have their own stuff to carry and this can help me to feel less alone with stress and makes life in general more manageable! Take notice The bubbles we find ourselves in can be both comforting and confining. When I’m feeling trapped in work, my mind or at home I like to take my thoughts for a walk, elsewhere and ponder on things bigger than myself. Taking the time to stick a documentary on that focuses on another culture or another subject less explored for me, such as science, can really help to see the bigger picture and focus less on my own tiny world.