2 posts tagged “self care strategies”

Treat yourself: 6 self-care tips for the hectic holiday season

Posted 9 months ago by

The holidays are stressful enough for people living without illness. When you have a health condition, or care for someone who does, the hustle and bustle of this time of year – plus the sky-high expectations for a magical time – can be physically and emotionally draining. We’ve rounded up self-care tips to help you tend to your mental and physical health.

1. Take stock of your feelings. If you’ve experienced a lot of losses or changes in your life since last holiday season, it’s natural to feel grief or some extra stress this year. Acknowledge and express your feelings. “You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season,” Mayo Clinic points out.

2. Connect with others if you’re lonely. If you’re feeling isolated, talk with a friend or family member, or find a local event to attend (such as a holiday concert or a volunteer/charity event, if you’re able). Also, touch base with your community on PatientsLikeMe and look for live-streamed concerts and events online (check out these 12 live-streaming apps) if your condition is keeping you at home these days.

3. Dial back expectations and plans. Be realistic about what’s possible for you this year. Sure, do the things that make you happy, but try to edit your usual holiday decorating, gift-giving, social and travel plans if you already have a sense that you can’t keep up (physically or financially) because of your condition. Talk with your most understanding loved one(s) and ask them to share with others that your plans and abilities might be a little bit different this year. Maybe a low-key gift swap or a holiday movie/takeout night is more your speed than your usual traditions involving travel or all-day cooking and entertaining.

4. Stick to a normal, healthy routine. As much as you can, try to keep your usual schedule, aiming for 8+ hours of sleep, regular physical activity (if that’s part of your routine) and a healthy eating plan (hint: avoid excessive alcohol and eat healthy snacks before parties and events so you aren’t as tempted to overindulge).

5. Take things one step at a time. Make a to-do list and stay in the moment to finish the task at hand. “If you’re making dessert for a work potluck, focus solely on that task,” Mental Health America advises. “Don’t think about what you need to do after, or what you have to do tomorrow. Just focus on the good smells coming from your cooking, and maybe even sneak a bite if it feels right. Trying to consider everything at once will only make you feel overwhelmed and stressed.” If you know that you feel better at certain times of the day, try to complete your tasks then.

6. Build in time for R&R. “Take time for yourself, but don’t isolate yourself,” the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says. “Spend time with supportive, caring people … Listen to music or find other ways to relax.” Don’t feel guilty about taking naps and squeezing in activities that make you feel happy, such as these sensory ideas member Laura (thisdiva99) shared earlier this year.

Holiday blues stats and facts

If you’re experiencing the holiday blues, you’re not alone. A NAMI survey found that 64% of people say they experience the holiday blues and 24% say the holidays affect them a lot.

NAMI defines the holiday blues as “temporary feelings of anxiety or depression during the holidays that can be associated with extra stress, unrealistic expectations or even memories that accompany the season.” Additional factors may include less sunlight, changes in your diet or routine, and even over-commercialization.

If signs of the holiday blues – such as feelings of loneliness, sadness, fatigue, tension and a sense of loss – extend beyond the holiday season or make your existing clinical anxiety or depression worse, talk with your doctor or a mental health professional. “However, short-term problems must still be taken seriously,” NAMI says.

How do you deal with the holiday blues or seasonal stress? Join PatientsLikeMe today to discuss ideas with the community!

 

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5 tips for practicing self-care when your chronic illness is trying to take over

Posted August 14th, 2017 by

As a woman with bipolar disorder I and PTSD, I can pretty safely say that no two days are the same. There are days when the world is sunshine and roses; life is grand! Then there are days when the inside of my brain is trying to run the show without me, and it’s leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. There are floundering relationships, self-harm incidents, and half-hatched big plans laying strewn about, and I stand in the middle of it all, trying very hard not to let the illness win.

When I can really stand back and take stock of things, I find that self-care is paramount to my feeling better, or simply not getting worse. The following are some of my “go-to” self-care strategies.

1. Coloring. I know, I know. You’re already rolling your eyes at the screen, wondering what the heck I’m even talking about. But coloring has turned out to be a Zen activity in my life. My manias are not euphoric, but angry and aggressive, and I have found the act of coloring to bring me down in the moment.

It’s also extremely helpful with my anxiety and PTSD symptoms. We’re lucky that the adult coloring movement is upon us, so you can go anywhere and find books and pencils and markers for very little money.

2. Singing. This strategy is actually backed by science. More and more studies show that the act of singing (in the shower, in the car, on a stage) helps to bring a person calm and joy. Non-judgment is the key: find an album or song list you like (vinyl or online), throw it on, and start singing. It can be of any genre of music, any artist, any arrangement. All that matters is that you sing with abandon!

3. Massage. This is a once-in-awhile self-care treat for me. If I had the money, I’d get a massage every week. But I don’t, so I try to do this for myself once every few months. Massage has been used as a relaxation and health treatment for thousands of years, and there are myriad reasons why — but the bottom line is, it makes you feel good! I know many people with chronic illness of all kinds who make sure they put time aside for massage on a regular basis.

4. Journaling… outside. Anyone who’s been treated for a chronic illness for a while probably wants to scream every time someone says “Have you tried journaling?” No, I’ve never heard of this. What is it? Ugh.

All sarcasm aside, though, journaling in the outdoors when I can, or if I’m really not feeling well, has been incredibly helpful for me. The outdoors make you feel like you’re a part of something more, if you want to, or that you’re the only person in the world, if you want to. It’s really all about how you want to take the best care of yourself at that time.

Also, just like in coloring, the actual physical act of writing can help to bring calm and focus. Write a journal entry, write a thank you note to a friend, or write your grocery list for next week. Content matters less than the fact that you’re writing for yourself in the great outdoors. Put a lawn chair out in the backyard, find a nice park with lovely-smelling flowers, or float in your pool with a trusty notebook and pen! (If you’re from the Boston area like me, I’d suggest this activity be taken indoors December-March, unless you really like snow.)

5. An ingestible treat. Self-care is really about utilizing the five senses in an attempt to make you feel better, or at least to bring you to a more manageable spot until you can talk with a doctor or therapist. I have a short list of things that smell and taste good that I make myself (or ask for). Really good coffee or a chai latte are at the top of the list. Being able to hold a warm cup, smell something wonderful, and then take time to taste that wonderful thing involves three senses in a matter of seconds.

These are just a few tools that anyone can use to help make things a little better in the moment, or to be consistently good to oneself. Sometimes one tool on its own is enough, sometimes a few need to be combined. I have a little list on my refrigerator so that when things get bad, I have it in front of me and can start caring for myself.

What’s on your list? How might you practice self-care today?

On PatientsLikeMe

Thousands of members are sharing what helps them manage their mental health and other conditions – from coloring and journaling and to massage and outdoor time. Join today to learn more about self-care and treatments!

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