Self-care in times of distress


Lovely to see you here again.

Now when thinking about this blog I came up with loads of ideas and now I sit down to write it’s more challenging than I thought it would be!

Writing about distress, in whatever form it takes is hard. As these experiences are not pleasant and sometimes can be excruciating, gut-wrenching and heart breaking…

Now I don’t know what type of distress you have and what has drawn you to reading this blog post. My only hope is that you may be able to draw some inspiration from some of the words that I write and the activities suggested. Maybe you may be drawn to seeking the help and support of others – if this is what is needed to help pull you through a dark and challenging time.

I can only write from my own experience on this one, as distress, pain and suffering are as unique as we are and is a universal human experience.




I have had periods of darkness through grief and through my chronic health condition, especially when I first developed chronic pain and struggled to get my symptoms validated by the medical profession and struggled to get the correct treatments.

I have had periods of anxiety and depression and excruciating physical pain that led me to be bed-bound. I share these things to show that I have been there and through these challenging periods of my life I have learnt the absolute necessity of self-care:

Like a car needs petrol to go, we need energy to get us through our day. Self-care is like refuelling your tank - each activity is a deposit in your energy bank!

Now self-care comes in many, many forms. If you have read my blog posts before you are likely to have come across this self-care wheel many times:


The key point I would like to make about self-care is that stress is an unavoidable part of life. If we can focus on refuelling our energy reserves with self-care activities, we are more likely to have the reserves in our tank to handle the inevitable curve balls that life throws with more ease. We become more resilient and bounce back more easily.

Another image that can be helpful when thinking about self-care is the image of a cup. Self-care activities fill up our cup so that we have more to give. As the saying goes you can’t pour from an empty cup!

If it feels selfish to look after yourself, believe me it felt selfish to me when I was first introduced to self-care. Maybe it might help you to turn it around and tell yourself that by replenishing yourself is the only way of ensuring your continued ability to keep giving to others. The advice given on planes is to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others!




Now all this about self-care might sound absolutely wonderful and you may be doing some of these activities already to look after your physical and mental well-being. But what about when you are hit by a severe flare up of pain, or hit by a bout of stress, anxiety, or depression?

It can be very debilitating when in this place and very hard to gather the motivation to do anything. Getting out of bed can seem impossible, so it is very easy for self-care to fall down your list of priorities, or even to disappear off of your radar completely!

Now this is what I wanted to write this blog. What do we do in an emergency situation for self-care? 

self care basics

The best advice that I can give in times of distress is to strip your self-care right down to basics when in times of distress and rebuild yourself and your reserves gradually.

There are two areas I want to focus on with this. Grounding yourself when in a panic attack, anxious state and creating a self-care toolbox when in a pain flare up, or more depressed state.

1: Panic attacks

Firstly let’s start with what panic attacks are:



Whatever form your panic attack takes, it can be extremely distressing and you may have this sense of impending doom, feelings of not being able to breath, chest pains etc…

All caused by the fight-or flight response of the body, a body that is reacting to a perceived dangerous, or life-threatening situation. Useful if you are being chased by a tiger, but not so useful when waiting in the queue at Tesco’s whilst waiting to pay for your food shopping!

The big Bengal tiger

So what can you do to best look after yourself when having a panic attack?

Grounding practices seem to be a key practice here, anything that brings you back to the here-and-now and calms mind and body, typically engaging your senses to what you can see, hear, touch, feel and taste:


5 senses



Now I know that it can feel difficult to gain control of your breathing, so try and get somewhere quiet and safe and when you feel able to try the following breathing technique:


This can also be a key to shifting your nervous system from that heightened state, to the calmer rest and digest system (parasympathetic nervous system).

2: Self-care toolbox

Now I was inspired to include this section after investing in a weighted blanket for myself to aid in stress reduction and sleep.

Your self-care toolbox is something that you can put together when you are feeling okay in order to be your emergency go-to resources for times when you are feeling low, or in one of the distressed places that we have been talking about, e.g. pain flare-up depression.

Here are some pictures to get you started thinking about what you might include in your own self-care toolbox:






For me some of my favourite things are:

  • Soft teddy
  • Blanket
  • Music
  • Mindful colouring
  • Audiobooks
  • My favourite films
  • Scented candles

I will leave you today with a couple of clips from my favourite films. Cheesy yes, but guaranteed to help me feel better if I am having a bad day!

I realise that the subject of this blog has been a challenging one. If you are having a bad time and can’t see a way forward, I would recommend speaking to a trusted friend, or family member if possible.

If you are in crisis and need someone to talk to, I can’t recommend the Samaritans highly enough. They are there 24/7 every day of the year and the number is free to phone:


As ever if you have any questions, or want to get in touch with me please do via the comments section, or my Facebook page Flourishing MK.

Until next time,


Mary 🙂



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