By Lois Caniglia
I’ve been unconsciously making efforts with taking care of my own well-being. I may have received some subliminal messages from reading social networking posts on topics like medicinal herbs, holistic self-care, and healthy foods. Or maybe it is because my husband has become ill and I am looking to find ways of being a more effective caregiver. Perhaps, I am feeling encouraged by my own treatment experts and their recommendations on self-care. It’s probably, a combination of some or all of these motives.
Let me start with our daughter, who is in college, still calls her Mom on a weekly basis. Sometimes she may call a few times a week. I love that she cares about us enough to stay close by, even if it is by digital communication devices. In the past several months I can hear that she is not taking her own medications for bipolar. Both my husband and I were getting concerned. Almost every conversation, I would tactfully ask if she was taking her meds. I heard the familiar replies as “yes, I am”, “I ran out”, “I haven’t had time to see my doctor”…. I knew these excuses all too well as I said them myself.
It’s difficult dealing with a bipolar treatment plan while trying to keep up with the busy schedule of “life”. College, work, stress of the towering student loans, keeping up with classwork, and on and on, as the world turns our college student must endure. Trying to offer suggestions for effective coping skills, takes a creative mind.
Elaine Aron, author of her book “The Highly Sensitive Person” describes the characteristics of anxiety as:
“Being easily overwhelmed by environmental factors.
Getting rattled by having too much to do in too short of time. The nervous system is easily overly stimulated and overworked-leading to more vulnerable conditions such as anxiety and depression or any genetic condition inherited within the family.”
Suggestions to improve coping skills
I can be unconventional in my approach yet, effective when given the optimal permission to do so. This usually occurs when my daughter feels completely overwhelmed and is open to receive my consummate conversation which reiterates my inspiring force to nurture with empathy. Rather than the “I told you so’s.” I recommended finding time to withdraw into peace and quiet. Enjoy a delicate or fine scents, taste, sounds, or work of art. A 20-minute meditation focused on a rich and complex inner life. Shut the cell phone; take a week break from gaming, the marathon movie nights, and a night of D&D. Take time for a nice long bath. Do a facial mask. Burn some soothing scented oils and play instrumental sounds from her iPhone.
As for my own self care of indulgence, I started out by reading all I can about my own illness. As a nurse, I have a general knowledge on mental illness from studies and clinical experiences. I didn’t have an in-depth understanding and technical skills to improve my own thinking.
I gave a local support group a try. Although we all had a mental illness in common, I found we were all in different levels of our cognitive process. Finding the support I needed seemed limited and a waste of time. It took me sometime to get over my disappointment and pathetic pity party before I turned to the online support groups. I was surprised to learn the wealth of support and knowledge I have gained from this venue.
The daily routine for my own self-care didn’t come from a book or even recommended by my therapist. These are just some ideas from a lifetime of things I’ve tried and found soothing in any given situation. Most have been the influence from the hippy era. The homegrown herbs for a holistic adventure, sipping herbal teas, taking a dip in fresh water and using homemade soaps, a smooth massage with scented oils, spending time with friends of similar interests, or what I like to call “feeling the earth” of the outdoors. Even a slow stroll through an art museum has me returned home enlightened and enriched. All these interventions have been a conglomerate of a few of my favorite things that help to not make me feel so bad.
Obviously, I am unable to incorporate these ideas as a daily routine. What I can do daily is start off my day with a lemon, cinnamon, and honey water. Drink 8 glasses of water a day makes me feel cleansed and flushed from the inside out.
Washing my face with coconut oil and doing a facial. Most of my days I spend without any makeup. I’m not going anywhere, so it works. A final touch of coconut body lotion softens the skin and tames the nerve endings. Sounds pretty routine for most women but this is quite an achievement for someone who spent days in bed during her dark hours.
I attempt to add a warm cup of herbal tea daily. I would really like to accomplish this 3 times/day.
In an effort to achieve a sense of wellness/metta, a meditation routine on a daily basis helps to apply “principles of ethics, kindness, compassion, peace”, and so on.
Adding a touch of mind and body awareness by using the Hopi crystal healing to energize my mind and improve my thinking. If it’s nothing more than a placebo effect, it works for me.
I write. I am a horrible writer and my years spent doing nursing notes certainly hasn’t helped. It feels good to be creative especially when its something I feel passionate about. Still, I’m a horrible writer but I do have something to say. I’ve lived a life my daughter has learned from. I have struggled through a mental illness that my husband is awed how I made it to the other side. I’ve shared my story with friends who have come back with gratitude and shared their own illness. My goal was simple, if I reached out to one person, just one, I am making a difference. I’ve reestablished purpose. If I do this long enough, I just might find my possibilities are endless.
Believe me I have my weaknesses and I’m not always capable of achieving the daily routine I’ve set out for myself. None-the-less, I am setting goals, I’m moving forward, and I’m planning a purpose in my life with a mental illness. My disorder may have knocked me down but I am strong enough to get up and move on.
That’s my bottom line. It sounds good, anyway. Let’s see if the forecast keeps my salon in the black.