The Art Of Self-Care: Nurturing Your Mental Well-Being

The art of self-care, nurturing your mental well-being in this day and age is probably even more important than it used to be, and even more so when you are a parent or Carer of a child with Leukemia. There are so many factors that can play a role in causing a person mental health issues that one might find it all a bit hopeless if they let themselves get bogged down with all of them. Understanding the multifaceted nature of mental health can help individuals and families address the issues by promoting protective experiences, and providing support for those coming up against mental health challenges. You can be certain that a sick child will have some measure of mental health issues that crop up, and yourself for sure, may need some support. Being aware of what the problems are or what might be, gives us the chance to develop an armory of defenses to help ensure we are looking after ourselves. I will be doing a separate article on this topic. This article will deliver some examples of how you can nurture your mental health for you to consider in your journey towards overcoming these obstacles and your child’s recovery.

8 Factors Affecting Mental Health

  1. Biological Factors: Genetics, brain chemistry, and hormonal imbalances can all contribute to mental health disorders.
  2. Psychological Factors: Individual personality traits, coping skills, and cognitive patterns can affect mental health. Trauma, abuse, and early life experiences also play a significant role.
  3. Social Factors: Social support networks, relationships, family dynamics, and socioeconomic status can impact mental well-being. Isolation, loneliness, discrimination, and stigma can also negatively affect mental health.
  4. Environmental Factors: Stressful life events such as financial problems, job loss, natural disasters, or chronic illness can contribute to mental health challenges. Access to healthcare, housing, and community resources also influence mental well-being.
  5. Lifestyle Factors: Diet, exercise, sleep patterns, substance use, and recreational activities can all impact mental health. Healthy lifestyle choices can promote resilience and reduce the risk of mental health problems.
  6. Trauma and Adversity: Exposure to traumatic events, including violence, neglect, or loss, can have long-lasting effects on mental health. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have been linked to an increased risk of mental health disorders later in life.
  7. Cultural and Societal Factors: Cultural norms, beliefs, and attitudes toward mental health influence how individuals perceive and seek help for mental health issues. Societal attitudes and policies related to mental health stigma, access to care, and support services also shape mental health outcomes.
  8. Biopsychosocial Model: Which is a fancy way of saying the complex interplay of biological, psychological, and social factors has a role in in shaping mental well-being.

In the case of children with Leukemia, and yes, parents and Carers are also susceptible, you may face a variety of these factors will impact your life.

This is Why it is So Important to Nurture Your Mental Health

To put it more simply, good mental health involves maintaining a healthy mindset, managing stress, and promoting cognitive wellness. Life truly can be a roller coaster ride, with ups and downs, but you can still find the joy and if necessary, the lessons in those. Hold on to the ups and dip into the memories of them to lift your spirits when feeling down. Learn from the downs and build happier moments from them. Find healthy ways to cope with stress, such as deep breathing exercises, journaling, or engaging in creative outlets. There are many, but we’ll touch on a few of them.

Laugh, Have Fun, Enjoy Life When You Can

I find watching a good comedy extremely beneficial, you know, the kind that makes you laugh out loud even when you are on your own. There’s something to be said about the phrase adopted by Camp Quality, an organisation that brought us some wonderful happy times during our years of treatment and beyond, “laughter is the best medicine”. Perhaps even taking yourselves off to an amusement park for some fun and adventure and a real roller coaster ride is a possibility if everyone is well enough to go. I have already mentioned in a previous article about scrapbooking as one of my forms of therapy, but consider art, craft, music, learning to play an instrument, photography, cooking, sewing, knitting, singing, or learning a new sport, all excellent ways to incorporate therapy into your lives. The possibilities are endless.

Effective Time Management!

Set realistic goals and manage your time effectively to reduce overwhelm. This is a big one for many people. Time is fickle and there is the old adage that you can’t get back the time you have already lost. However you can find ways to manage your time better and most of the time you can stick to it. I find I feel I never have enough time in the day to get what I want to get done. Perhaps this means I am not looking at it in a realistic way and need to reassess once again where my time is being spent. But I am also a full-time Carer and sometimes I just need to accept that the days get away from me sometimes, and that I can’t possibly get every task done that I have set myself. It is difficult to do, but definitely worth trying, and I can diffuse an essential oil called Acceptance to help me move through those emotions and find contentment in the situation. If I didn’t do this, I know I would end up feeling resentful of my lot in life and that doesn’t help anyone. Plus, I’m planning on being on this planet for many years to come so I believe there will be time for catching up on those goals. I wrote a book a few years ago about getting more time back in your life for Carers in which I talked about creating blocks of time to get things done. Until I set up my online store, the book is available on the US Amazon site here.

Stress Reducing Activities

Other ways to reduce the stress caused by being a parent or Carer of a child with Leukemia, is to incorporate activities that stimulate your mind, such as reading, doing puzzles, or learning new skills. Sometimes giving yourself a distraction can make the time go faster if sitting in the hospital ward, or take your mind off the worries associated with your child’s prognosis. My Dad was really good at doing Cryptic Crosswords for his entertainment, I do like to try them, but I don’t have the patience so I just like to do the basic style with normal clues. I love it when I go to a waiting room and someone has already started one of the crosswords in the magazines so I never feel bad about grabbing a pen and continuing it. Mind stimulating activities certainly are a great way to break the cycle and give your brain a little holiday from thinking about the things that cause you stress.

Learning, Always Learning!

I’m a lifelong learner, a developed habit from our struggles, I wanted to know how my daughter got sick, how could it have been prevented if at all, were there genetic factors, environmental reasons, can I protect her in the future, what alternative remedies could we look into, how to reduce toxic products in our lives, etc.? So learning new skills or increasing the information banks in my head are nearly always top of my list before I do any therapeutic activities, even though it is still a form of therapy for me. It might not be your cup of tea, but you will find other forms of stimulation that suit you. For me, anything I can learn or do to try to improve our life is paramount to me. To keep stress down, I’d probably consider choosing courses or subjects that don’t have exams, tests or assignments though. Unless you thrive on that kind of thing. I went and tackled a university degree because of my newfound heavy interest in how the body works and how can it work better, but I wouldn’t recommend everyone doing something like this as it was probably one of the most stressful times of my life that wasn’t out of my control. There were other stressful issues I was facing, but I actually chose the stress of Uni. I look back and wonder how the heck I ever got through and with high grades to boot.

Anyone For a Jigsaw Puzzle or Fancy a Bit of Colouring In?

My mother was a jigsaw puzzle fan and thanks to her, I also enjoy doing them and it’s been passed on to my daughter and my grandkids too. Although at the moment we don’t quite have the space to lay a puzzle out so I haven’t been able to do one lately. Not so easy to take to the hospital with you, or do there when there isn’t really anywhere you can do one, but plenty of enjoyment when stuck at home. Its also not so easy with a 1.5 year old roaming around where we need to keep puzzle pieces that could be choking hazards out of reach. That problem can be solved with a jigsaw puzzle mat but space is still the issue. When we move, we should have more space to work with and set things up better. A second table would be ideal.

We also enjoy colouring in, as a family. I have had a set of 72 Derwent pencils for many years that just last and last, except for the black pencil, it has shrunk down through being the most used pencil in the set. Luckily there are places where you can buy individual colours that need replacing. If you don’t have colouring books, you can always find some great free pictures to print out and colour on the internet, but we prefer colouring books, especially country scenes, landscapes and Christmas scenes. Although we often have to photocopy a picture from one because more than one of us might like the same picture so it gets photocopied. Keeping up with the amount of paper, ink and a good, working printer are vital for this.

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Rejuvenate In Nature

Disconnecting from technology and spending time in nature can also have a rejuvenating effect on mental health. I love going for walks in bushland, or a beach headland, or along tracks leading to waterfalls. Just the other night I took my eldest granddaughter and youngest grandchild, my grandson, for a walk along the pathway on the beachfront. I had to drive there first because we are about 15 mins from the beaches here but I don’t mind. When my own daughter was younger, we often went to the beach and did doodling in the sand, like the old Mr. Squiggle TV show, where I would start a picture with a few lines or shapes, then she would do some, and we would take turns until we saw something in the picture and turned it into a proper picture.

My granddaughter loves to continue our tradition of drawing pictures in the wet sand with a stick but I couldn’t join her on the sand this time due to having the baby in a pram. But we found a great spot where she could be close to me and I could sit and watch from a landing. She wasn’t disconnecting from technology fully because she was using her phone to video or take photos or use the torch. But at least she wasn’t sitting on technology to scroll through social media, or play a game, or make any phone calls, and I was only using my own phone for the camera. She was out getting fresh air and doing something that she enjoys, art, in a natural setting and I was enjoying the sea breeze, being in the natural surroundings and happy that my grandson was also able to be enjoying those too. It was refreshing for both of us, and we will do it again and again.

Get Professional Support if Things are Getting Too Much

I’ll say this over and over again, if you are finding things a bit much, you need to seek professional help. I can suggest many alternative ways to deal with your mental health, but sometimes, you just need to take that step and get help. Energy work, essential oils, emotional clearing techniques are wonderful and work for many occasions, but they can’t always work for everything, so having a professional support can be very beneficial.

I will say though, that sometimes even the professionals brush things off if they are not familiar with the long term side effects for a child with Leukemia. We had many encounters with people just thinking I was being a neurotic mother but you know your child and keep looking until you find someone who is right for you. These days there is a lot more research into the after effects and side effects of how Leukemia and the treatment itself affects kids, and in turn, these things also affect the parents and Carers because they are the ones picking up the pieces. So hopefully you don’t come across the same barriers that I did when trying to get mental health support for my daughter.

In Conclusion

There are three main areas to consider when looking after yourselves and this article pertains to the art of self care, nurturing your mental well-being and it’s importance in a successful and well adjusted life. I’ve written 2 other articles on the aspects of emotional well being and physical well being which you will find if you click on the links associated with each topic. Examples of how you can care for you own, or your child’s mental well-being, fall into the categories of laughter, time management, stress reducing activities, becoming a lifelong learner, spending time in nature, activities to stimulate the brain, and getting professional help.

I wish you all the best on your journey through this challenging part of your lives. If you have any questions you can comment on this post or reach out to me on my dedicated Facebook page and I will get in touch.

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