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.

Body Image

I’m turning 55 this year, and my body shows it.  I’m definitely in shape – round is a shape, right?!

I’m apple-shaped – the worst design for heart health, with all the weight around the middle part of my body. As far as I know, my heart is strong, but this place of carrying pounds is not recommended by health experts.

I like my face and neck, and I like my legs. It’s the mid-section that causes me grief, from boobs to butt!

Of course, I can’t really complain about it, because I’m not doing anything about it.  I’m still eating frozen pizza once a week, still daily eating dark chocolate pieces (healthy, right?!), and drinking wine. I have increased my vegetable intake, which is healthy. And I readily reach for fruit, but those of course have sugars in them, which is probably why I prefer them to veggies.

I do want to walk more – my goal is 3x/week, or more if I get my headphones on and listen to podcasts. I want to be ready, endurance-wise, for a trip to Europe in the Fall. But I’m not going to the gym; I’m not even doing my stretching exercises anymore, which I had done nightly for many weeks, faithfully.  Funny how quickly I can get out of a habit.

So, age 55. At what point do I accept my body? Not to say that I give up walking, but at what stage – or age – do I say that I am okay with how I look?

I’ve recently found a website with clothes that compliment me, and I’ve purchased several things from them which flatter my body. But I weigh more now than I ever have, and while my weight isn’t increasing, it’s not going down either. How do I look in the mirror and say I’m okay with what I see?

God looks at the inner part of me (“…The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7b, NLT), which is definitely growing in closeness to Him. He sees my heart, which is full of love for Him, and gratitude for His gifts of eternal life, for the Holy Spirit, for His Word, for His faithfulness to me.

So while God wants me to take care of my body (Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your bodyI Cor. 6:19-20, NLT), He’s not angry with me about my body shape. He loves me just the way I am.

Now, to love myself – and my body – the same way that God does.

 

 

Again?

Yesterday, I took the PHQ-9, which is the short questionnaire that doctors and psych docs give to determine if depression is present. I scored a 6, which means mild.

I’ve felt it for a little over a week. The downward pull towards feeling flat. So far, it’s just been moments each day, not all day every day. It’s actually depression if the symptoms are over the course of two weeks. So maybe I overestimated and my score is less than 6. But even 4 indicates mild depression. And the fact that I took the quiz in the first place is a red flag to me that I’m concerned about my mental health. I’m noticing that something is “off.”

In church this morning, I was wondering “Why?” I’m doing all the right things. I’ve been replacing negative thoughts with God’s truth. I know I’m deeply loved. I’m using my blue-light lamp. I’m writing daily in my gratitude journal. I’m in God’s Word every morning. I’m trying to make healthy food choices, mostly. So what caused this change? Why would it come back?

Maybe it’s that time of year – mid-winter. Even in VA, with warmer weather and more sunshine than in the Midwest, it’s still clearly winter, with all the naked trees and cold winds.

I just read an article that says that January 24th is the hardest day of the year. That’s right around the time I admitted to my husband and best friend that I was struggling.

My first psych doc told me that February is a very hard mental health month. Maybe I’m anticipating that. February has traditionally been a tough month for me. So maybe it’s “mental muscle memory.”

But for whatever reason, I’m fighting depression again. It’s not bad, not yet anyway. I promise not to wait too long, to call my psych doc if it continues. But he’ll just up one of my meds, which I don’t want to do!

I see a new therapist in two days, a Christian counselor. Maybe he’ll be able to help.

In the meantime, I’ll be honest with my husband about how I’m feeling. I’ll keep doing what I’m supposed to be doing to fight it off. I’ll work up the courage to ask others to pray for me, combatting my own feelings of stigma and failure that I didn’t keep it away. I’ll remind myself that I didn’t fail – it’s just something I have to deal with, my cross to bear.

“This, too, shall pass.”

What to Expect in 2019

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I tried a few times over my 50+ years, but they never stuck. Why set myself up for failure?!

At the same time, there are things I’d like to see in my life in the upcoming year. So call them resolutions if you must, but I’m giving myself lots of grace, and no deadlines.

I’d like my morning time with God to be more consistent. It has been in recent months, so I don’t see any reason why it can’t continue to be a priority. I get several daily devotionals, but I’m not counting those. I’m talking about me in God’s Word each day. I just purchased a Lectio Divina devotional, and am looking forward to using that as my devotional tool.

I want to be more intentional about the friendships that matter most to me. I intend to make more phone calls, send more texts, stay more connected. I want to plan a trip back to my old hometown to see those people in person, to hug them and tell them how much they mean to me, even over the miles and years. I need to get that on the calendar!

I can’t say that I’ll exercise, because I am physically-active-averse. But there’s no reason that I can’t walk around the block several times per week. Just the block – no commitment to anything more. (Though I’m hoping that once I get out there, with headphones on, I’ll keep going.)

I plan to send more care packages to my kids. They’re no longer in school, so it’s really just “thinking of you” boxes. And I want to shop locally for the items in those boxes. I want to do a better job of supporting local small businesses.

I’ll try to eat more vegetables. Thank goodness for the vegetarian choice of Hello Fresh! I’ll use my new instant pot to put healthier meals on the table. I’ll learn to cook for two, instead of just reaching for the frozen pizza.

I’ll read more books. Goodness knows that I have plenty of them on my shelf that I haven’t even started yet! And that doesn’t count the books on my to-read list. Not just good-for-you books; I want to read for fun, not only for personal development. I used to read lots of fiction but got away from it in recent years. I want to get back to good ole stories.

There are activities I’ll continue in the new year: the library book club (which encourages me to read books I might not otherwise choose), volunteering (I want to get back to 2x/week), serving at church (leading a new mental health support group starting January 8th!), work, developing local friendships, taking weekend adventures with my husband (this requires spontaneity that I have to work at).

So I see myself growing and improving in 2019. If I do any of these things, even a little bit, I’ll be better for it. Resolutions, no. Aspirations, yes.

Happy New Year! Wishing you God’s blessings and a growing closeness to Him in 2019!

Gray Areas, and Loving like Christ

  • Yield…
  • One Way…
  • No cell phones…
  • Wait your turn…
  • Thou shall not kill…
  • Stand in a straight line…
  • Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only…

All kinds of rules, directions, restrictions, limitations. Some are really clear. Some as defined by societal laws. And God’s Word gives clear boundaries on many things, but there are gray areas, too.

What do we do about these unclear places?

I think this is where love comes in. Respecting the other person. Putting them first, before self.

There are many laws in God’s Word, where He says “Do” and “Do not.” Where the verse reads, “This is God’s will.” Those are pretty clear!

And Christ came to fulfill all of those. Not just what the Old Testament verse says, but the meaning behind the verse – where “Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”” Matthew‬ ‭22:37-40‬ ‭NIV‬

And in the Sermon on the Mount, where He says, “But I tell you,…” and raises the bar on the original law, calling for a deeper attitude of obedience, a heart-change.

In some ways, it’s easier to just follow the written rules. When we know what the rules are, we simply obey, and expect everybody else to do so, too. That’s what makes the four-way stop signs work!

But if we live only by rules, including our own version of the rules, without regard to respecting the other person, we run the risk of becoming legalistic and judgemental.

The problem comes when the rules are not clear. When societal norms go against God’s Word, then it’s critical to remember that God’s Word is Truth. “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32. But what about those places where truth is not clear? Where God’s Word doesn’t say definitively?

Honoring God and honoring fellow man.

It’s about respect. Respect for the other person, as an individual created in God’s image and deeply loved by Him.

That’s when we chose to live as Christ lived, and to love as Christ loved. Respecting the person. Loving them. Praying for wisdom. And letting God be the judge.

Casting Crowns: Jesus, Friend of Sinners: https://youtu.be/BY6VAy9y_iQ