On Self-Care: Monitoring our ADLs

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This article seeks to highlight the unquestionable importance of self-care in everyday life. Self-care is paramount to survival, and this article will review the essential skills necessary to continue and maintain basic to complex life functions. While each of us individually has different job functions and carries out different life operations, there are certain Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) that must be nurtured and maintained to continue living without running into medical and psychiatric problems that can be avoided by adhering to the care of the self. As always, be sure to review these self-care skills with your PCP (Primary Care Physician), psychiatrist, and mental health professional bore implementing them in your living environment.

The most simple basic measure for caring for the self with a mental health diagnosis is your nutrition. Poor nutrition is often overlooked by people carrying a mental health diagnosis as a reason for mood dysregulation and a litany of other diagnoses including ADHD, and other behavioral problems in children & adolescents. For example, dysregulation of diabetes in adolescents can cause behavioral problems, acting out, and other oppositional features associated with many conduct disorders. Be sure to consult with a nutritionist at the onset of any mental health diagnosis to rule out medical conditions exacerbating your condition.

A more moderate skill or technique to promote self-care with a mental health diagnosis is daily exercise. There are many disorders and medication therapies that increase lethargy and the propensity for obesity. Sometimes, if you are taking enough medications that have sedative side effects, you may not want to get out of bed to do anything. Laying in bed all day is the worst thing you can do to begin to re-balance your metabolism again and maintain a healthy weight which, if not taken seriously, can become a further complication for the medication management of your mental health condition. Some psychotropic medication therapies have side effects that promote weight gain. If you cannot care for yourself and maintain a healthy weight, certain medication therapies will be restricted or not considered appropriate for you given your evidence of difficulty monitoring your weight.

An even more complex activity of daily living, maintaining socially acceptable hygiene is something that requires self-awareness and practice if you have a mental health diagnosis limiting your insight into how to effectively care for yourself. There is no question getting into the shower, remembering to use deodorant, and keeping clean is even more challenging when you are carrying specific diagnoses which decrease your motivation to stay on top of your daily functions and increase other functions which complicate ongoing self-care activities. So, if you can’t get your hygiene taken care of in the morning, remember to complete minor tasks during the day. Keep travel-size hygiene supplies with you at all times so when you are up to completing your ADLs, you can, anywhere, and be ready for any activity clean-shaven and odor-free.

The most difficult self-care strategy for those carrying a mental health diagnosis is tuning-in to yourself. Are you tired? Overworked? Are you taking time for pleasurable activities? Are you having effective sessions with your therapist or psychiatrist? Monitor your moods and thoughts regularly to check-in with yourself often and identify if you need to do some work or time spent in therapy around cultivating mood regulation techniques or for learning skills to re-frame negative thought patterns into more positive associations.

Future blog posts will review these more advanced skills in further detail. Check back here soon for regular self-care updates.

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Edited: Autumn Tompkins

About the Author

J. Peters

J. Peters is the Editor-in-Chief of Mental Health Affairs.

Award-winning book author and Bold 10 Under ten award recipient J. Peters, LCSW. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Mental health therapist and disability rights advocate Mr. Peters fights for those without a voice in various care systems, such as the New York City Department of Social Services, the New York State Office of Mental Health, or the city's Department of Corrections.

Mr. Peter's battle with Schizophrenia began at New London University in his last semester of college. Discharged from Greater Liberty State Hospital Center in July 2008, Jacque's recovery was swift but not painless and indeed brutal after spending six months there.

He has published several journal articles on recovery and mental health and three books: University on Watch, Small Fingernails, and Wales High School. He is also a board member of the newspaper City Voices. Mr. Peters currently sits on the CAB committee (Consumer Advisory Board) for the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene in NYC and the Office of Mental Health (OMH) as a peer advocate.

Owner of Recovery Now in New York, a private psychotherapy practice, Mr. Peter's approach is rooted in a foundation of evidence-based practices (EBP). Jacques earned a master's degree in Social Work from Binghamton University and worked as a field instructor for master's and bachelor's level students in NYC.

He is blogging daily on his site mentalhealthaffairs.blog, Mr. Peters regularly writes articles relating to his lived experience with a mental health diagnosis.

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