What is a wellness plan?
If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, you may have heard the term “wellness plan” and wondered what that meant. What is a wellness plan? According to Mental Health Action, it is ” a map to leading a healthier, more balanced life.”
Though wellness plans were designed to help those will mental illness cope with the challenges their particular disease brings, I believe a wellness plan can help anyone achieve more balance and success in life.
How do you craft one?
The most important thing to remember is that a wellness plan is unique to you. Don’t expect it to look exactly like anyone else’s. That being said, it just requires a little intentional thought. You can probably put one together in half an hour or so.
In order to make it as simple as possible, I have found an article on PsychCentral.com on crafting a wellness plan you can read and then I will walk through my wellness plan, so you can see the possibilities. Their process is rather different from mine, but quite good.
Mine starts by considering all the different areas of health: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social, and then plugging in healthy behaviors and activities to keep each area in balance.
Your physical health can have a direct impact on your mental health. First, get enough rest and get it on a regular basis. This is especially important if, like me, you have bi-polar disorder. Lack of rest can trigger a bout of mania. I struggle with this one.
Second, control your diet. Eat regular meals at regular times to keep your blood sugar stable. Fluctuating blood sugar causes mood swings.
Third, exercise. Regular exercise has been show to improve mood and increase the endorphins, or feel-good chemicals in your brain. I walk 30 minutes a day, 4-5 days a week. When I skip it, I can see the difference.
Fourth, get plenty of fresh air and sunshine. Sunshine produces Vitamin D, which is vital to your good health. And a daily dose of sunshine will lift your mood. Get at least 20 minutes a day.
If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, chances are part of your wellness plan is going to include medication. Mine does. Take it as directed, and don’t stop without discussing it with your doctor. It is okay to switch doctors if yours doesn’t listen to your concerns, but don’t play with your medication. It can make things ten times worse and more difficult to recover.
Journaling is a helpful activity. You can see patterns you may have otherwise missed. You can also process your emotions. I admit I am not a good journaler. But I know it works for others, so it may be worth a try.
Another good resource is a counselor. They can help you process difficult events, teach you new ways of thinking and help you recognize when you are having an episode.
Don’t, however, leave everything to your counselor or doctor. Educate yourself about your illness. Learn the warning signs. Know what your medications do. Be an informed consumer. Take charge of your mental health.
Life is hectic and stressful. Stress can cause all kinds of unpleasant physical and mental effects. But there are ways to counter life’s stresses and keep an emotional equilibrium, even with a mental illness.
Taking time to relax is so important, yet we frequently neglect this area of our lives. I specifically set aside time every couple of days to knit, crochet or color. These are like meditation moments for me. Make time for your favorite form of relaxation.
Having a pet can also help your emotional well being. According to WebMD, animals can reduce tension and improve mood. I know I feel better after some puppy cuddles with my little dog. Petting an animal also releases those feel-good endorphins. We can always use more of those.
A good support system is also vital to our emotional health. I am blessed to have my three adult boys. They make me laugh, notice when I’m running high or low and encourage me in pursuing healthy activities. I realize not every family is supportive. But you can find friends or a support group to fill the gap if need be. Whatever you choose, be active in seeking out people who support your well-being.
This overlaps a little with emotional health, but even if you have a super supportive family, you need friends, too. Otherwise, your emotional support team may become overwhelmed with trying to support you. Friends also give you an outside perspective and can introduce you to new people and new ideas.
Getting out of the house for recreational activities with others can be highly beneficial. This is another area I struggle with, mostly because of finances, but I am working to find creative solutions. One opportunity is MeetUp.com. It’s not a dating site, its a way for you to find people with common interests, like knitting, art or books. Find something fun to do outside the house. It will boost your mood for days.
Giving back to the community is another great way to support your social health. Volunteer at a food bank, for a mental health advocacy group or at your church. There are hundreds of opportunities to serve, while spending time with others.
Sometimes it is easy to forget to take care of our spirit. According to Health Communities, a growing body of research suggests that religion and spirituality may help some people better cope with illness, depression and stress.
Corporate worship, or sharing spiritual time with like-minded individuals can give you that important sense of community it is easy to miss out on when you have a mental illness.
Prayer or meditation can bring a sense of calm and purpose, can relieve stress and can help fight depression.
The exact reasons are still a mystery, but the scientific evidence for practicing spirituality or religion is solid. This is one area I have left neglected for too long.
Life is a balancing act. When we just bounce from one reaction to the next, we get out of balance. By considering the full spectrum of life and planning healthy activities for each, we can help to keep our equilibrium, even when the world is spinning out of control.
A wellness plan takes a little thought and planning, but it can definitely help maintain a healthy life. If you’d like a free worksheet to help you craft your own Wellness Plan, just sign up in the box to your right.