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Mental Health & Self-Care: Four Things I Do For Better Wellness

Written by:  Denise Finochiaro

Taking care of our mental health and bodies is an important part of our walk with God.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, "19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." So if we are a temple for the Holy Spirit once we become a Christian, it only makes sense that we do our best to take care of the body that God gave us.  Now that doesn't mean that we won't struggle with disease, illness, physical pain or other types of things that can affect our bodies and well-being.  But we should do our best learn to take care of ourselves everyday.

In 2012, I became chronically ill.  Over a decade later, I still live with chronic illness on an almost daily basis.  I learned early on though that had I two choices.  I could let my chronic illness control me and my daily life or I could do my best to do things that make me feel good everyday. Living with chronic illness means some days I struggle just to get out of bed, brush my teeth and put on clean pajamas.  Some days' are just hard.  Fortunately through life style and diet changes and some prescription medications I am able to better manage my illness now than I was the first few years.

Over the years, I have found that there is a list of things that I need to do every day that helps me to feel better not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.  I feel better about myself, when I take care of myself.  I have learned that there are somethings I must do daily that are not optional if I want to feel good.

1.  Fueling my body with healthy, nutritious foods

This is KING for having a healthier life style for anyone, but especially if you are sick.  For me, part of my chronic illness is severe digestive issues.  This can make eating and drinking extremely difficult some days.  But I have learned that if I eat well on the days I do feel able to do so, I am not so run-down on days when I can't.  I start my day off with a hot cup of or two of herbal tea or coffee.  Next, I make myself a delicious protein shake.  This really helps keep me fueled all morning.  To that I will had some extra supplements like a small serving of a healthy fat like ground flax seed, fruit.  

I also try to eat a well-balanced diet for meals and snacks.  Part of my illness involves fat digestion issues so in the early years I had to steer clear of those.  My naturopath that I have been working with for over a year now put me on a bile salt supplement and that has helped tremendously with my ability to digest fats!  I seriously went TEN YEARS without being able to eat a cheeseburger!  I do aim for smaller servings of healthy fats throughout the day, rather than large portions with meals, even with the supplements.  I have several go-staples that I keep on hand for quick meals. But for lunch and dinner options I love lentil pot roast, easy meal in a pan, my favorite skillet dinner, homemade pizza, a vegan burger and peanut butter waldorf salad.

2.  Drink LOTS of water and healthy fluids

I know, I know, we hear this ALL THE TIME, "You need to drink more water."  "Drink at least half your body weight in fluids." For a LONG time after I got sick I really struggled with drinking enough water or any fluid for that matter.  With my digestive issues raging for several years, most days drinking the "proper" amounts just wasn't going to happen. Fortunately, I have worked my way up to being able drink more water during the day.  My morning teas and protein shake all count towards my daily water in take needs.  I also bought a couple of large tumblers with a lid and built in straw that I refill during the day with fresh water as needed.  I had to learn to be mindful with my fluid in take and really make it a point to drink more.

3.  Get 30 minutes of exercise in at least three days a weeks

Again, this is something that I have and am still working up to.  Chronic pain or illness of any kind can really put a damper on how you feel and sometimes just the thought of moving is painful.  But, exercise really does help.  It improves blood flow and circulation to every part of the body, it increases energy and helps improve sleep.  It also aids in digestion, weight loss and so much more.  The benefits of exercising really out weight the cons of not doing it. You don't have to run a marathon every day in order to get good exercise.  I just put on a pair of walking shoes and use in home videos like walking, light strength training, and yoga.  I aim for 30 minutes 5 days a week.  Sometimes I only feel like doing two or three days a week.  Sometimes I only feel like doing ten minutes.  The key is to stay as consistent as possible and try to get some sort of physical activity in everyday.

4.  Get dressed and ready for the day

This is one of those personal matters.  Like I said earlier, some days I am doing good if I can get out of bed, brush my teeth and put on clean pajamas.  But, I have found that a lot days if I will just take the time to do just a little bit more I will feel better.  Taking a hot shower every day used to be something I would skip because, I just didn't have it in me to make myself do it.   But, I have started making this a priority in my life.  Why?  Because hot, steamy water is like chicken soup for your body when you are sick.  No matter how bad I feel, there is something about a hot shower, some smelly-good soaps, shampoos and bath oils to lift my spirits and make me feel better.  After all cleanliness IS next to Godliness.  Can I get an AMEN?  

My next personal care step is not wearing my grungy shorts and t-shirt all day and actually putting on "real clothes", even if it is just what I call "classy pajamas" and a comfy sports bra.  You know, those super comfortable clothing items that you have that aren't really for going out of the house, but you wouldn't be embarrassed if someone rang the door bell. Brushing my teeth, using mouth wash and combing my hair  are next on the list. Last, but not least is make-up.  Now, I don't do this everyday.  As a matter of fact, the day I took the above pictures for this post, it just wasn't a make-up day.  Some days, I will do full make-up (I only wear foundation, blush, eye shadow, eyeliner and sometimes lip gloss).  Some days, it is just a bit of foundation, blush and lip gloss.  

And finally, before I start working in my home office for the day I like to start diffusing some essential oils in my diffuser.  This makes my office smell amazing and also helps keep me balanced and relaxed.  There are so many blends you can make with essential oils.  You could literally make a new blend everyday and never run out of combinations.  A couple of my favorite combos are Campfire Blend and Rainy Day Blend.

I know, I know some of you are thinking, "Denise, these are things that you should be doing anyway, right?"  YES!  You are absolutely right, but here is the thing with chronic illness, some days you feel great.  Some days you feel okay.  And some days you just don't have it in you to do just the little things. Chronic illness can rob you of your ability to do the things you used to do, the things that made you feel human everyday.  I have found that for my well-being emotionally, physically it is so important to keep striving everyday to do those little things. Even if I can only do one little thing, I have accomplished one more thing that puts me a step closer to feeling better.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF? I'd love to know in the comments below!

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