Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Invisible Challenges: Self-Care

Me- On A "Good Day"
When's the last time you managed your self-care, well?- Today? Yesterday?- Or has it been that long? As a mother, employee, and volunteer, my ideal self-care activities have decreased from one extreme to another. In the past, I had pampering days that included leisure activities and visits to the nail salon, now this "me-time" has turned into tiny acts of self-reflection like maintaining my journal.

My days are filled with rigorous activities I enjoy like working with peers, sharing my recovery story to diverse groups, and caring for my son. Ironically, my job as a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) is to model great self-care for the sake of my mental health. However, that is an ongoing roller coaster that I strive to shut down and to restore balance, but I am moving too fast to take back my control! 

Me- T.I.R.E.D. At the End of the Day
For example, besides my erratic sleep habits,  I frequently skip breakfast and sometimes lunch because I am focused on my work, this does not bother me until later... Dinner, which I usually have but is not the most nutritious, is my only full meal. After dinner and preparing my son for bed I lack energy to dedicate to myself in order to have some sort of stillness and peace, therefore I retire early. However, I get up in the middle of the night to meditate and focus on "me-time," that is- writing in my journal and checking my social media sites for feedback. 

Fortunately, I do take my medication regimen seriously and engage in the practice regularly. No matter how busy I get I always maintain good personal hygiene from my hair, to my body odor, and fresh scented attire. My appearance is not the issue, it's all internal like my mental health--invisible, but I know, if nobody else does, and that's my challenge.

In recognition of "National Recovery Month" (September) I created my "Optimal Wellness Challenge!" I challenged myself to take my medication at the same time each morning, to journal frequently, and to practice 10-minutes of meditation. Thus far, I am doing well with the activities in this order, my medication regimen, journal, and my biggest challenge- 10 minutes of self-reflection and meditation. 

I created this challenge after my sister and peer challenged me in different areas of my life. My sister challenged me to engage in seven days of positivity, which I almost completed except on the last day I had a setback which prevented me from completing the challenge of recording what I was grateful for on my personal facebook page. On the other hand, my peer wanted us to hold each other accountable for our mental health in the areas I challenged myself in- consistent timing of medication intake, journaling, and meditation. I accepted these challenges in hopes of adding on a new healthy habit and overcoming my self-care setbacks. I've engaged in the Optimal Wellness Challenge for most of the month, and Tuesday will be my last day.

Despite my poor self-care reality, I am hopeful I can fulfill the Optimal Wellness Challenge by giving the remaining days of September my final push for the better. Because I prefer to lead by example, I am doing the challenge for my well-being first, and also to encourage peers to do the same, whatever their ideal self-care plan looks like.

Are you managing your self-care, WELL? How so? If not, when will you make that change for YOURSELF?

Monday, September 8, 2014

The "Optimal Wellness Challenge"

Calling All Peers- Are YOU up for the OPTIMAL WELLNESS CHALLENGE?!

I am challenging US to practice a couple of coping tools consistently for National Recovery Month, that you would like to either add or maintain in your wellness routine for 5 consecutive days each week for three weeks. I've heard that if an individual maintains a practice for 21 days it will become a habit.

These practices may include:

1) Diet/nutrition & supplemental enhancement,
2) Spirituality-based,
3) Treatment/medication compliance,
4) Physical activity,
5) Effective communication,
6) Alternative therapy,
7) Creative practice, or
8) Other positive practice...

I would like you to choose two new habit-forming activities you would like to practice and report back at the end of each week by sending me a personal message about your progress.

I will start our "Optimal Wellness Challenge" by journaling more frequently, taking my medication at the same time every day, and to practice meditation for 10 minutes each day, starting tomorrow, September 9th.

I'll keep a personal journal on my progress and shortcomings, and blog about my "wellness outcomes" on my "Overcoming Schizophrenia" blog at the end of this month in recognition of National Recovery Month.

Show your support, and join me on OUR "Optimal Wellness Challenge!"

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Year of the Peer" Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network Conference

A couple of weeks ago I visited St. Simon's Island, Georgia to attend the annual Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, Inc. (GMHCN) conference. The theme of this year's conference was "The Year of the Peer." I enjoyed the three-day conference because of the fellowship with my peers and the honor to be one of the keynote speakers among Georgia's Commissioner Frank Berry and Jana Spalding.

I titled my talk, "I Choose To Live!," which was inspired by Jen's award title. I spoke about my experiences, how I am living a quality life in recovery, and what peer support looks like. My talk encouraged everyone to talk to their neighbor and to create a title for their inspirational book. The experience was amazing because I was able to get each individual to help others with their talents and gifts.

Moreover, every attendee received a copy of my book, which was so exciting! I signed my book for others throughout the remaining days of the conference and made a lot of contacts. I also facilitated a workshop on my book: What's on My Mind? A Collection of Blog Entries from "Overcoming Schizophrenia." I offered a preview of my book by selecting specific sections to focus on  and had a wonderful discussion with the participants in my class. For example, I asked them what their "good days" looked like and what they aspired to do.

The Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, Inc. (GMHCN) facilitates the state's Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) training in addition to several training courses such as Mental Health First Aid, Wellness, Recovery, Action, Plan (WRAP), and the Respect Institute of Georgia. The organization manages a few peer-led respite centers throughout the state. And each year during the month of August they hosts a conference for people living in recovery and who are adding continuing education units for their Certified Peer Specialist certification.

How to Cope with Dark Seasons

I aim to empower those affected by mental illness. However, the truth about recovery is there will be many dark seasons. Still, I hope peopl...