Mental Health, Instant Gratification and the Longevity of Self Care

Date: July 24, 2017 Author: Communications Coordinator Categories: Adoptees | Events | Guest Blogger | Mental Health
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Written by Wendy Hayes, Communications Coordinator for International Self-Care Day.@_wendyhayes

07-july-24-selcare.pngPersonally, self-care has been a journey of healing trauma and managing my anxiety. When people used to say the words ‘self-care’ I immediately would call to mind images of pampering. Going to the spa, getting massages, buying a brownie. Though these are not exempt from the list of things we can do to take care of ourselves, I needed something more.

Recently, I read a blog about sustainable self-care that really resonated with me. Though sometimes it’s nice to ‘treat yoself’ it’s not always practical or accessible and it won’t always help with long term mental health challenges like mine. Going to the spa isn’t an option for someone who is struggling financially. A one day stress induced shopping spree is not going to allay the anxious thoughts and feelings I have every day.

What does this have to do with adoption?

Staying in the same line of thought, eating a chocolate bar is not going to resolve conflicting emotions around your kids’ openness arrangements. For young people who have traumatic histories, sustainable self-care techniques can help us heal.

Taking self-care seriously, and practicing it intentionally cannot only help parents fill their own cup first, but it is also something you can teach to your kids. Having healthy coping mechanisms are going to be invaluable when we are navigating emotions that relate to our experiences with foster care and/or adoption. A lot of times, because of the trauma that we have experienced, we are unable to regulate our emotional state. As we begin to learn positive self-care, we begin to understand how to use these skills. 

What does sustainable self-care look like?

When the bad days hit, I need to accept what I am capable of accomplishing that day and forgive myself for whatever I wasn’t able to.

I’m not an expert, but I have personal experience and lessons learned from trial and error. There is no one thing or process that will work for everyone. Sustainable health care goes beyond instant gratification to practices that help us to support our ability to deal in the long term.

Here are some strategies that I have integrated into my routine that I would like to share.

Reflection

Life gets busy, really busy. It’s difficult to find the time to sit down and just reflect. Make time. Reflect with family and friends. Reflect alone. Use a tool to help initiate reflection like a journal, or family dinner. Difficult things happen in life, reflecting on them is part of processing them and can help us to gain perspective. It also helps us to gain emotional intelligence.

Difficult But Worth It

Sometimes self-care is not something that immediately feels good or is easy. Creating boundaries and/or cutting people out of your life that have a negative effect on your mental health can help. I struggle with anxiety, caffeine is an aggravator of anxiety and so despite that my love of coffee and the comfort it brings me I have done my best to cut back on how much I drink. This has been an important part of managing that anxiety.

Therapy

So I am trying to provide suggestions here that are cost effective because sometimes the reality is financial constraints. Sometimes spending money now will have a more negative impact on you later. But based on my own experiences, I would be remiss not to mention it here. Therapy has helped me process traumatic experiences and learn how to navigate difficult relationships. It has added to my ability to be reflective and to process. It’s been a huge part of my journey of self-care.

Empathy

Really, earnestly trying to understand where people are coming from has helped me a lot as well. One thing I learned in therapy was that I only have control of how I deal with the people in my life. Even if they are not receptive or open to meeting my needs, understanding where they are coming from has helped me to manage people in my life that cause me stress. Knowing that (usually) the root of their behaviour is not to intentionally cause me grief (even though it might feel that way) has given me the opportunity to be more positive about those difficult people.

Physical Activity

Go for a walk. Walking has been proven to alleviate stress. If it’s in your capacity or ability try other physical activities. Try yoga, running or alternative fitness. I have really enjoyed exploring the world of circus. You don’t have to start hitting the gym every day if you are not already a physically active person, but some sort of exercise is key to taking care of your physical self.

Forgiveness

Meeting myself where I am at today and what I can accomplish now has been a huge part of my self-care. Managing a mental health challenge means that I have good days, bad days, and days in between. When the bad days hit, I need to accept what I am capable of accomplishing that day and forgive myself for whatever I wasn’t able to. Incorporating all the aforementioned techniques has certainly helped me manage my mental health overall. The bad days are less and less. But self-care is not about curing yourself of your challenges but learning to manage them.

Learn more about Forgiveness: Why You Should Consider It and How to Forgive 

Full disclosure, I am not a parent. But the journey I have taken to get where I am has been a long and arduous one. Healing from trauma is important, self-care helps us do that. The earlier you can start teaching your kids positive coping methods, and live by example, the sooner they will be able to learn the skills they need to navigate complicated feelings. We know that adoption comes with A LOT of complicated feelings.

I still eat cookies from time to time!

What long-term, sustainable strategies do you use to take care of yourself?

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