Maintaining Mental Health When Under The Weather

Dear Friend,

Hello! I hope this entry finds you well. On a personal level, I recently dealth with a major asthma flare for over four weeks, flirting between my yellow and red zones even with following my action plan, which understandably made day-to-day living a little rough. I’m doing much better now and have stayed in my green zone most days for the last two weeks. In chatting with my counselor, she pointed out that I was doing a good job of managing my mental health and self care while dealing with the fatigue and pain from the ongoing asthma attack. I guess I found that a little surprising because…well, it’s just asthma? I’ve dealt with long attacks before and they suck, but they don’t usually impact my mental health much. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I definitely felt absolutely awful physically, but mentally I was just slightly frustrated at how long it took to get back to normal. That said, there are definitely tools I use to take care of myself when I’m feeling under the weather that I also use to manage my mental health, so that’s a fair point.

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned over the years is to offer myself far, FAR more grace and care when I’m low on spoons or otherwise not at my best (asthma, migraine, high anxiety, etc.). How?

Firstly, I still make my “to do” list for the day, but I remind myself at the start and end of the day that if I don’t check off ANYTHING other than basic self care (take my meds, eat, hydrate, hygiene), that’s okay. If I’m doing the best I’m capable of doing at the time, well then I clearly can’t ask for more from myself. I remind myself not to worry about what I “should” be able to do, and instead I focus on what I’m ~actually~ able to do.

Secondly, I make sure I make a gratitude list. I like to set a timer for at least a minute and write out all the things I’m grateful to have in my life, which usually starts with “I had coffee today, I got to pet Gunny…” and grows from there. Every little thing counts!

Thirdly, I let myself rest when needed, which often shows up as napping more frequently or going to bed really early. When I’m run down, I know if I’m not getting quality rest, I’m more likely to slip in keeping my mental health stable. So sleep is a big priority. If I’m struggling with sleep (hello insomnia), then I focus on resting my eyes – I like using my frozen eye mask until it isn’t cold anymore. I turn on some soothing background noise, like waves or an ASMR video. I give myself time to simply be. This may look like meditating for 15-20 minutes or more, or it may look like just letting my mind drift to whatever comes up, taking notes on anything I need to deal with later and going back to drifting.

For my fellow Spoonies and mental health journey buddies, do you find it more difficult to keep up your mental health and self care practices when you are sick for a day or so? What about when you are sick for a week or more? Or when you are dealing with a long-term or chronic condition?

Regardless of what battles you are facing with physical or mental health, I wish you an easier journey ahead (as much as possible) and comfort when you most need it. Rooting for you always!

Love,

Katie

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