Tuesday, February 7, 2017

5 Ways to Balance Mental and Physical Health



I've been extremely open about my struggles and reality of life with my physical disability. What I haven't talked as much about are my mental health struggles. While many of these struggles I have had and dealt with the majority of my life, they were highly compounded after the trauma that I experienced last year and the constant stress of managing my physical disability. As such, it's often times a huge struggle just to maintain stability.

So how do I balance it? How do I balance the need for constant vigilance for my physical health, while also doing the things I need to do for my mental health?

It's hard. It takes work. Many days I don't feel strong enough, but I make myself handle it.

Here are a few things that I do to manage the balance that I need:

1. Have a very supportive tribe.

It is imperative that I have a strong tribe. People in my life who understand the struggles that I have and understand the balance of knowing that I will sometimes not be a good friend, I will sometimes not text or call anyone for days at a time, but also know how to support me when I reach out for support. My tribe is small, my tribe is loyal, and a good portion of my tribe also deals with their own need for balancing mental health struggles with real life, which make each of us far more empathetic and understanding of how to support each other. 

2. Prioritize what is necessary from what should get done.

Using the "Keep" app by Google, I have an alerting list of reminders of things that NEED to get done (appointments that need to be made, errands that need to be run, etc.) as well as lists for what I *must* do every day (eat, take meds, shower, take care of Jaxson, etc.) as well as things that I should do my best to get done (daily household chores, etc.) from what I should try to get done (writing, exercise, etc.). I also have a daily task list which I fill in every night before bed on what I need to do that next day.

3. Organize and manage medications.
 In addition to having "take meds" on my daily must do list, I also have alerts on my phone and computer at the time of day my meds are to be taken. I keep my meds organized in an AM/PM med organizer, and I have all of them on auto refill so that a few days before I will be out, I get a call from the pharmacy to come pick up my meds. If you are not one of the many Americans who take anxiety and/or depression medications everyday, you may not realize this, but they must be taken like clockwork at the same times every day or it can completely throw off the balance of serotonin levels in your brain which can wreak absolute havoc on your mental health, ability to cope, ability to function, appetite, and more. Realistically, managing and being responsible for making sure my meds are taken exactly when necessary is probably my most important tool at balancing my mental health.

4. Be extremely self-aware.

I remain vigilant in extreme self awareness. I have to know at all times what my needs are. If I am in a high stress or triggering situation, I have to recognize that quickly so that I can remove myself from that situation immediately. I have to be aware enough of my anxiety to recognize when I am perhaps not thinking rationally, and immediately begin practicing coping skills to calm down the extreme anxiety I feel before it escalates into panic. If I wake up and recognize that I feel lethargic and depressed, I have to immediately acknowledge that so I know that today I only need to focus on my "What I MUST do" list. 

5. Practice self-love and self-care every day.

I say affirmations of self love every single day. On bad days, sometimes it's multiple times a day. I forgive myself without apology when I have to shut out everything for the day. I love myself WITH my disorders, not despite it.
I practice self care every day. I have a list on "Keep" of self care activities so that even if I'm having a very low day, I know I can look at that list and come up with a self care plan.
I never, ever, ever apologize if my needs dictate that my entire day is being spent on relaxing TV shows, comfy pajamas, and coloring. I do occasionally struggle with guilt for those things, but I push through that guilt and remind myself that I can't serve from an empty vessel, and that my day of self care is just as valid and important as a day of working.  

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