Wellness Plan Toolbox

The first step in writing my wellness plan is determining the helpful steps I already have in my daily life. When I am healthy, what is it I’m doing to make me that way? What are my day-to-day activities that signify health and wellness for me? “What things do I already do to help myself be well, stay well, and live in the way I want to live?” (reference: WRAP Plan app)

This toolbox of activities is critical to my Wellness Plan, as I’ll draw from this list at different stages along my path from wellness to illness and back again. When I feel stressors, or triggers, that might signify a depressive episode is coming, what can I do to alleviate it? Are there any tools in my toolbox that I can pull out and implement to avert an episode?

If I’m further down the path toward depression, and an episode is imminent, which activities can I use to lessen the severity of the episode?

If I’m on my way out of a depression, which tools will I use first to help me post-crisis?

My initial list was 14 wellness tools:

  • time alone with God in Bible reading and prayer (TAWG)
  • taking my meds
  • journaling
  • eating well
  • good sleep hygiene
  • spending time with friends
  • sufficient down-time
  • seeing my therapist regularly
  • keeping my psych doc appointments
  • blogging or writing
  • taking naps
  • reading
  • watching movies
  • Fresh Hope Support Group

But as I thought about steps I can implement in a pre-crisis, I realized I have several more tools, even though I’m not currently using them. Things like savoring a cup of tea, or coloring, or taking a walk in nature. I certainly need to tell my support team that I’m struggling, so they can help me watch for warning signs.

One thing I’ve learned about depression is that it clouds my thinking. I can have this wellness toolbox, but in the midst of a crisis, I’m paralyzed and don’t know how to get out of it. That’s the reason for writing a wellness plan when I’m mentally healthy: so when I’m not thinking straight, I can look back and see what I recommend to myself.

I intend to share my wellness plan with my support folks (husband, sister, therapist, friend) so that they can help me remember to reach into my toolbox when I need to. As soon as I’m done writing the whole thing, I’ll pass it on to my care team.

Wellness Plan

I started working on a wellness plan for my mental health. It was inspired by a video from Fresh Hope, and I did a little research on WRAP. While it’s not an official WRAP plan, since I’m not in the class (it’s copyrighted), I have the components.

A wellness plan addresses my mental state when I am healthy, what my triggers are, and how I intend to respond if my mood darkens. It’s designed to outline in detail the steps I will take to remain or return to health. It’s to be shared with support people, so there’s accountability to taking those steps when they’re needed.

I was doing fine filling in the blanks until I got to the question about my crisis plan: how I want to be supported if I experience crisis.

I got to this section and felt my heart rate speed up and my breathing become more shallow. I remembered my times of crisis, and a wave of anxiety hit. I suppose that’s natural; reflecting on negative experiences brings back negative feelings. Still, I was caught off guard.

I don’t want to experience crisis again. But considering past ones makes me think I’ll go through it again. This is silly, since the whole point of a wellness plan is to put steps in place to keep a crisis from happening. Yet the possibility always exists that my wellness steps won’t be enough to avert the crisis, and I could find myself in the depths of depression again.

In recent years, any dip in my mood for longer than two weeks – any journey back into depression – has been mild, quickly treatable, and short-lived. But what if I go through a big one? What if grief brings back depression? What if I can’t handle a life transition? What will I do to keep depression at bay?

That’s the point of the wellness plan – to address those “what-ifs.” To have steps in place in the case of triggering events. Which tells me that, as difficult as it may be, I need to write these steps down and share them with my trusted others, so I’m not left without direction, without actionable steps toward mental health.

I’ll finish writing it all down – my health, my triggers, my warning signs, my crisis and post-crisis plans. I’ll share it with my husband, sister, and best friend. I might even blog it, as an example so someone else can write one.

And I’ll pray that I never have to use the crisis portion of the plan.

Beaches

My husband and I went to Virginia Beach this weekend. It’s the third time we’ve been there in three years. We’ve seen dolphins each time!

It feels wonderful to be at the beach. The warm sand, the roaring waves, the blue sky.

In the case of Virginia – the people watching is fantastic! We went Friday evening as many folks were leaving, and the seashore wasn’t too crowded. We went back Saturday morning – got there at about 9:30am – and there were plenty of places to set up our chairs. But as an hour passed, the beach began to fill up. Many people had large canopies, and there were lots of little children digging in the sand and running from the waves. So many people to watch playing in the water, riding surfboards, dogs chasing balls, distant parasailing.

We can’t help but compare Virginia Beach to the beaches we used to frequent in Florida, when we lived there four years ago. Less commercialization. Less crowds. More seashells. More sunsets.

We lived in Fort Myers, and the congested tourist town of Fort Myers Beach was 45 minutes away. It was busy, with one main road going between all of the T-shirt and surf stores, passing the ice cream shops and umbrella-ed picnic tables. But once we got off the main drag, there was plenty of room.

There were other wonderful beaches, too. Delnore-Wiggins Pass State Park. Lover’s Key State Park. The beaches on Sanibel Island. Little Hickory Beach (our favorite).

On all of these beaches, we enjoyed watching the various birds instead of people.

And there was a huge advantage of facing the Gulf of Mexico – those western sunsets. We’d try to catch the notorious green flash as the sun hit the horizon. And everyone on the beach waited for the sun to go down. I was surprised the first time when all the people began to clap as the sun dipped past the ocean, but I quickly learned to join in. And I marveled at how God gave us this show every night!

I think we prefer Florida, but any beach – including a crowded one – is a good place to be!

Living far away

I live 1,188 miles away from my parents. 1,142 miles from my daughter. 1,576 miles from my son.

I live 6 states away from my lifelong Wisconsin friends and my in-laws, and 5 states away from my sister.

I’m not living in the wilderness by any means, but I’m far from family and friends (not counting those I have here, of course). I live in Virginia – the furthest East and South of anyone in our immediate families.

This is especially difficulty when someone is sick or in need. Like my mom, or one of my lifelong friends. I want to be with them, but there’s no easy way to do so. I have to plan way in advance to be able to afford the plane ticket. And I need to be there for several days – so I’m at my destination longer than it takes me to travel to and from there.

I wish I could just stop by my daughter’s for the weekend. Or plan a 3-day holiday at my son’s. But it’s cost-prohibitive.

Don’t get me wrong. I live in a beautiful part of the country – in the valley of the Shenandoah Mountains, and the views are spectacular. Our town is small, but near a couple of larger cities with college campuses, and 45 minutes from an airport, which connects us to the rest of the country within a day’s travel. We have easy access to concerts and breweries and museums.

I’ve lived further away. When my husband and I were first married, we lived in Utah, far from our families in the Midwest. And more recently, we lived in Florida for a little over a year. But Florida is a vacation destination, so we saw family and some friends while we lived there, with the promise of many others to come visit.

It’s hard to live so far from family and friends. Thank goodness for instant messaging and texting and FaceTime and Facebook. For phone calls and video chats. For vacations and an understanding husband, who tells me, “Go,” when I need it.

Over the course of the years we’ve been married, we’ve talked about living overseas. Now that’s far away! And quite honestly, I think now would be the time, before the kids settle down and have families of their own. I don’t want to be far away when there are grandbabies to hold!

All this means that we probably have another move in us, sometime in the not-too-distant future. And maybe a move after that, to wherever we’d like to retire and live out the rest of our lives. That’s hard to decide, because while we long for the western mountains, we loved the beach. But neither of those are close to family! I guess our biggest deciding factor will be access to a national airport, for easy travel to all the places we’d like to visit!

National Best Friend Day

June 8th is National Best Friend Day.

According to whom, I’m not sure – either greeting card or calendar companies. “Best friend” implies exclusivity, which I don’t want to do. No matter, as this day gives me a chance to reflect on wonderful women friendships.

Female friendships are a beautiful thing, and I’ve had the privilege of having many of them over my life. Here are a few, tho’ I’m leaving off names so as not to miss anyone. Still, I’ll throw in some pictures for fun.

In high school, I had two best friends but I had many others who were very important to me. And I’ve reconnected with a few of those, thanks to Facebook! It’s fun to see these old friends’ families and celebrations via photos and posts, and even catch up with the rare phone call.

In college, I had great friends – one I met at Freshman Orientation, and we still text regularly and our families have been together a handful of times. Another I’ve seen over the years for a few visits, and one I just exchange Christmas cards with. A couple I’ve lost track of, unless I look them up specifically on Facebook – they don’t show up on my feed, but I remember them fondly.

I’ve been very blessed in my adult life with amazing relationships. My husband and I are lifelong friends with one of the first couples we ever hung out with as adults – we’ve been camping together for over 25 years and even travelled in France together!

We stay in touch with other couple friends from those days of early family life, though we don’t get out West to see them since we moved to Wisconsin 23 years ago.

When we first moved back to the Midwest, we met another couple and instantly connected with them – more lifelong friends.

I had the opportunity to form close relationships with women at Bible Study at my church – in leadership and ministry and doing life together. I talk with one woman from that time every week! Lifelong friend! I formed special relationships in my neighborhood – by the garden or by the backyard swing set. I became friends with women who were my kids’ friends’ moms. I made close bonds with women I prayed with through my years of Moms In Touch. And I’ve mentioned before the amazing women I worked with in my jobs at the Church and the Children’s Museum.

We moved south, and I formed all new relationships. And it took time, but even the short year we lived in Florida brought several close friendships with marvelous women.

And now I live in the East – in Virginia – and I have more women influencers in my life.

Most of these women have been incredibly encouraging to me as I’ve walked through depression over the past 12 years. So many friends I’m thinking of as I write these words! Perhaps I should buy a stack of cards and send them to all these amazing women. This blog post is certainly a “Thank you!” to them!

I’m very lucky to have a best friend through all of these years – my sister. She’s amazing – a great mom, a talented writer, a hard worker, a generous woman, a fabulous friend. I’m proud to have her as my bestie.

Happy National Best Friend Day, Stace!