Self-Care Strategies for Coping with Mental Health Issues #Blogtober20

Today’s prompt in #Blogtober20 is “She Drives Me Crazy”. Many bloggers are using the prompt to inspire posts on organization, decluttering and mental health. So am I.

I’m not feeling too well today. Yesterday, my inner voices started back up with a vengeance. This led to a mini-crisis in the middle of the night. Today I’m feeling a bit low. It may be to blame on my lack of proper sleep last night, or it might just be a bit of the seasonal blues. I hope not, of course.

Anyway, here are some things I do to cope with mental health issues. Some of these are specific to a certain problem, such as depression or anxiety. Others are more general wellbeing tips.

1. Proper sleep and rest. I’ve noticed that, when I don’t sleep well, my mental health goes downhill rapidly. For this reason, I’m trying to get into a better night-time routine. I still use my computer or phone before bed, which I probably shouldn’t do, but I don’t know what else to do in the evening.

I currently am in the process of trying out a weighted blanket, which really helps with relaxation. I mean, even if I don’t sleep, I do rest more when using this. I also use an app called MyNoise, which allows users to customize various mixes of nature sounds or other sensory-friendly sounds. You can set the individual volume for each sound within the mix and there are about 150 mixes to choose from if you have the paid version (which is a one-time purchase of I believe €10,99). Last night, I ultimately fell asleep listening to a soundscape called Patagonia.

I do usually take one hour-long nap during the day. Most days, if I stick to just that after-lunch nap, I sleep pretty well during the night and still feel refreshed the rest of the day.

2. Sensory-friendly activities. I already mentioned the weighted blanket and the MyNoise soundscapes. In addition, I often diffuse essential oil blends into my diffuser. Just today, some new oils arrived, so I’m excited to try them out soon.

3. Staying active. Today is a bad day weather-wise, as it’s been raining most of the day. Still, I managed to squeeze in a walk in the afternoon. I also made sure to stay active and do something in the morning. I made a soap. This is not physically exerting myself, but it definitely gives me joy.

It helps me to stick to a routine as much as possible. Like, I drink coffee in the morning and afternoon, eat my meals at regular times, and do an activity in the morning and afternoon too. I also usually go for a walk in the evening, but today it was raining and the staff were too busy.

4. Mindfulness. I haven’t practised that today, but I find it can help me stay grounded in the moment. I sometimes try a body scan meditation. I also for one love guided visualizations.

How do you take good care of yourself?

For those who are interested, last April, I participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge with the topic of self-care. If you click on the #AtoZChallenge tag in my tag cloud, you’ll find a lot of information.

#Blogtober20

ZZZ: The Role of Sleep in Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the last post in the #AtoZChallenge. For my letter Z post, I have, each year that I got to it, used ZZZ at least among other things. And yes, it’s totally fitting with the self-care theme too. Sleep is so important! Today I’m going to explain a bit about how you can take better care of your sleep hygiene and how sleeping issues can signal other problems.

Most people have some sleeping issues at times. I have had quite a few nights in which I fell asleep late recently.

When I was a child or teen, anxiety would often keep me awake. Since I didn’t get any help for my anxiety then, the issue grew until I had to use sleeping pills for a while at age 20. When I moved into independent living, my insomnia grew worse and it was one contributing factor to my suicidal crisis three months in. The first medication I got, was again a sleeping pill.

Now let me be very clear: sleeping pills are not to be used long-term. When I got my first script in 2006, my GP said to take it no more than two to three times a week. I was taking sleeping pills for a few months early in my psychiatric hospital stay, but I eventually decided less sleep without pills was better than less sleep with pills. I did take sleeping pills on an as-needed basis for a while after that. However, except in extreme cases of severe mental illness keeping you awake a lot, you ultimately need to find other solutions. So learn to practise proper sleep hygiene. I honestly don’t do too well on this now that I write about it.

For example, one tip is to use your bed for sleeping only. Though I do that, I tend to nap a lot too. I am learning to get up after at most an hour, so that I won’t disrupt my night-time sleep.

Also, it is recommended to turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime. I’ve heard this is because the blue light of your smartphone or computer screen can stimulate the brain to stay awake. As I always keep my screen curtain on, this isn’t an issue for me and it may not be with dark mode either. However, I do experience that keeping very busy shortly before bedtime keeps my brain awake.

Some people find that hearing some white noise or soft music can help them sleep. I usually turn on calming music when I’m struggling to fall asleep, but eventually turn it back off as it seems to lead to a more restless sleep.

Having a soft toy in bed does help me too. Occasionally, I diffuse some lavender essential oil. There’s no scientific proof that it works, but it may help.

In addition to insomnia, sleeping too much is also an issue. I find that I sleep way too much when I’m depressed. This, of course, in turn worsens my depression.

Lastly, waking up unrefreshed can happen even when you get the right amount of sleep for you. This can be caused by a number of factors, including medications you may be taking or sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. If this happens a lot, it may be time to see your doctor. Then again, doctors can be incredibly dismissive where it comes to fatigue.

Yoga and Other Movement-Based Self-Care Practices #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day 25 in the #AtoZChallenge. Wowah, can you believe after today there’s just one more day in April? Time does seem to fly.

Today I want to write about yoga and other movement-based approaches to self-care. I know, I already discussed exercise briefly a few weeks ago. However, there are other benefits to yoga too.

If you are not a yoga person, that’s totally okay. Maybe you think it’s a little too alternative for you. Or maybe, like me, you believe you don’t have the physical flexibility or balance to do it. Well, let me tell you (and myself!) that yoga truly has some benefits that aren’t spiritual at all and that anyone can do it. You may need to modify the poses. For example, when I go into tree pose (putting one leg up to your other thigh), I always touch a wall with one hand. I just don’t have the balance to do the “proper” pose and never will.

Yoga is good for both your mind and body. As well as being good for flexibility and balance, it helps you develop deep breathing, calms the mind and can even help with pain relief.

There are many kinds of yoga. Hatha yoga is what most people in the western world see as the regular kind of yoga. Maybe I didn’t do it properly but it never quite felt like a workout except for my flexibility. There are however also types of yoga that are actually a real workout, such as power yoga. However, I don’t recommend you try those if you’re a beginner or starting back freshly after a while. No matter how eager you are to get moving in these times of lockdown, you’d much better start slow.

In addition to yoga, there are other types of movement that will help you get in physical shape. For example, pilates is a way of working your muscles. Dancing (even just hopping with music on) counts as well.

How do you get moving?

Weighted Blankets: Sensory Activities for Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my 23rd post in the #AtoZChallenge. For the letter W, I choose to write about weighted blankets and other sensory equipment that can help you take good care of you.

I don’t own a wweighted blanket myself. At my old day activities, a staff member made one for use in the sensory room though. It wasn’t ideal, as the weighted compartments wouldn’t stay in place. I loved it though.

I remember clearly how I discovered the good deep pressure can do for me. I was at the first day center I went to after leaving the psych hospital in 2017 and the staff were talking deep pressure as it related to another client. I was at the time already struggling seriously at this day center and at a point where I was looking for another place, but the staff were still trying to be helpful. I asked them whether I could try some weighted products. They handed me a weighted turtoise soft toy. From then on, I’d often have it in my lap during mealtimes and when I was stressed.

Later, once already at my previous day center, I got a weighted unicorn soft toy for Christmas. It was probably originally intended as a door stopper that keeps a door from accidentally banging shut. This one is filled with sand rather than pebbles and it is not wide enough to cover my entire lap. However, it’s cool.

Other sensory products can help with stress relief too. I have a wobbly pad (not sure that’s the correct word) to sit on. I also have a fitness ball that I generally just sit or lie on.

A few months ago, I discovered fidget toys. I think the hype about them a few years ago was exaggerated, but they do help some.

There are tons of other sensory products that can help you calm down or relieve stress. I’m pretty sure I haven’t discovered all that is available.