How Self-Care Can Save the Day

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I wanted to mark it before its end with a talk about my personal self-care journey. It’s been a bumpy ride for the past year and a half when it comes to my physical and emotional well-being! I haven’t shared too much about how I manage my bipolar disorder, and want to talk about the importance of self-care when external (and unexpected) circumstances can knock you off your equilibrium. For me, last year’s knee surgery with some recovery complications coupled with some pretty intense back issues led to less inactivity and the exhaustion of chronic pain. It also made me depressed, something I hadn’t experienced in many, many years, since my bipolar recovery. The depression felt sort of clinical, but it was situational and sort of made sense. However, just when I sought help from my doctor, I also started experiencing a mixed mood upswing and overriding the medications that had given me stability for over a decade. I was also a 53-year-old woman in the throes of perimenopause, with a now increased hypo manic appetite and a body that wasn’t moving like it used to (meaning more weight gain). Add in a March case of COVID and a major bipolar medication shift into the mix and you can see how vital it would be for me to implement a solid self-care plan.

Now, we all have our stuff, and mine just happens to be managing a chronic health condition. Outside of my professional well-being expertise, my personal daily vigilance has made me my own self-care expert, and I encourage you to become your own. Below, I distilled seven self-care practices I used to get back on my feet (physically, mentally, and emotionally). You may have heard them before, but even implementing one small aspect of each can make a big impact on your day-to-day well-being. As I love to say, “it all counts!”

  • Slow the “eff “down. I knew that recovering from Covid and getting used to new medication was going to be a process. While the law firm returned to the office part-time, I asked my boss if I could still work from home for the month. I needed rest, recovery, and sleep. I had never asked for an accommodation before, and I am glad that I did. I paid close attention to my energy levels and was able to build them back up on my own terms.
  • Sleep rules. If you are finding that you have sleep disturbances, try to take healthy action immediately by assessing and practicing sleep hygiene. See your doctor if chronic sleep issues persist.
  • Perimenopause is no joke. There is still a stigma around this topic that I didn’t fully understand until I entered my 50s. I am grateful that I’m pretty loud-mouthed in general, so I was going to take this head-on. No woman needs to suffer. See your gynecologist, research hormonal treatment options, clean up your lifestyle, and reach out for support.
  • Eat well and move more. The decreased ability to exercise last year and letting my emotions rule my eating didn’t help my waistline. I put on more weight than I had in two decades. I am finding the weight loss journey challenging and still searching for what works best for me. I encourage healthy food choices on a micro level and accountability such as tracking or joining a support group (whatever works for you). Getting more physical activity throughout the day is as important as dedicated exercise. Listen to your body for what it wants and needs. Try a short daily walk outside (and a great way to take a mental break during the day!).
  • Stay connected. Think about all the ways in which you can reach out to others. It can be a simple phone call or video chat with a close friend or family member, attending an activity with your spiritual community, volunteering your time, having coffee with a colleague, or connecting on social media (like this blog!). The important thing is to get outside of yourself and remember that you have a much bigger impact on people than you may think. One of my favorite activities is the virtual “Kibbitz and Crafting” Sundays with my cousin Kassy where we carve out time to work on our sewing and hobbies together for hours on end.
  • Practice self-compassion. This perhaps, is the most challenging one for me, although I am getting better with practice! We can be terribly mean to ourselves when we think we aren’t meeting our expectations (which may be unrealistic from the start). Pay attention to your self-talk and see if you can quell the chatter and even flip the script. Try one of these self-compassion mindfulness practices from self-compassion expert Dr. Kristin Neff.

Life is a process and it’s the day-to-day where we can make the most difference. While the suggestions above are not new, together they can buffer against struggles big and small. Try an aspect of one or all of the suggestions above and share your comments and practices with me!

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s