A distinction is often made between the ‘mind’ and ‘body’, but when thinking about our health they are two sides of the same coin. Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing a mental health problem and similarly poor mental health can negatively impact on our physical health, leading to an increased risk of some conditions. Those of us living with a long-term physical health condition may find it helpful to take steps to actively take care of our mental health and wellbeing. Here are some things that you can do.
Top Tip 1: Accepting you have a long-term health condition
Acceptance can be hard. It does not mean ‘giving-up’, it means acknowledging that you now need to take control and self-manage this aspect of your life. Acceptance takes time, and happens as you start to take control and learn to manage some of the difficult thoughts, emotions and events you may experience.
Top Tip 2: Engaging in peer support
Putting together a support team is vital; this may consist of professionals, family, friends, colleagues and those that have similar experiences. Two heads are better than one, and many heads are even better than two. Others will have ideas and experiences that will be helpful in putting together a self-management plan.
Top Tip 3: Pacing
Have you ever noticed that on a Monday morning, you are full of energy but by Thursday afternoon, it is all you can do to get out of bed? It is common that on a ‘good day’ we may try to do as much as is physically possible; the problem with this is that this level of activity cannot be sustained. The key to pacing is taking a break throughout the day before you need it. This stops the vicious cycle of overdoing it and then having to rest which can affect our mood, self-esteem, fitness and overall physical health.
Top Tip 4: Learn to Prioritise and Plan
Planning and prioritising is an essential tool to staying well and helps you to pace yourself. Start by listing all the things you would like to do; including those tasks that are necessary like vacuuming the house and those that are pleasurable like seeing a friend. Put these into your diary, but remember to not overstretch yourself and allow space to be flexible.
Top Tip 5: Learn to Relax
Relaxation is helpful for tense bodies and minds. Relaxation can look different for everyone and can include things such as; meditation, gentle exercise, breathing exercises, creative endeavours, listening to music.
Top Tip 6: Start to Exercise
Many people will stop exercising fearing it may exacerbate health conditions. In reality, regular exercise and stretching can decrease pain and discomfort and prepare the body for other activities. Think about an exercise program that is right for you; what will strengthen the body and make you feel good? Start slowly and increase as you go.
Top Tip 7: Plan for Set backs
It is unrealistic to expect to never experience a setback with your physical health and wellbeing. Develop a plan can help you manage these times effectively. Make a note of what triggered the setback and what helped at this time. Learn from these experiences.