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Self-care is not being Selfish

By Mike Jacquart

I was struggling what to write about for this blog post, and then it dawned on me. In talking with my therapist, she reminded me that we are not being selfish when we are tuned in to our self-care. It's great to care for others, don't get me wrong, but as a saying goes, how well can we help others if we don't help ourselves first?

Self-care includes not only our physical but also our mental well-being. In fact, the two go hand in hand because, when you think about it, both involve getting enough sleep, regular exercise, and eating healthy foods. (Okay, I need a lot of help on that last one, but two out of three is good, right?)

When I got done writing my new book, Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness (with Marina London LCSW)

I was apprehensive. About what you ask? Going forward, my graphic designer having uploaded the book on Amazon, I was leery of thinking of my journey, like my book, as being finished. Complete. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mental wellness is a work in progress, not a destination! I HAVE learned a lot along the way in my journey, and am confident I am in a much better state mentally than I have been for a good part of my life.

But mental wellness, like physical health, involves being pro-active each day, not something we only commit to occasionally, when we feel like it. My therapist reminded me that mental health is NOT something that we can put on the back burner. While the following should NOT be thought as a substitute for professional advice or consultation, based on my experiences, here are a few suggestions for getting through a tough "mental health day":

Understand your triggers. When we become more in in tune to our feelings and the need for self-care, the easier it becomes to recognize what we're thinking and experiencing when we are "feeling down." Everyone gets listless and lacks motivation on occasion, but these feelings can send us down a rabbit hole when we're not careful. I was in a funk the other day and at first I couldn't figure out why. When situations like these arise, and they will, diagnosis or no, consider what might be different about this particular day. Does the sun lift you up, but it's been cloudy out lately? Does exercise energize you but you've been a coach potato in recent days? In my case, I paid attention to my attentive dog staring at me, put on my jacket, and took her for a walk. It helped!

You can't do anything about the weather, but you can take vitamin D each day. You don't have to train for a marathon to get some exercise. Walk around the block. Go to the grocery store. Wash those dirty dishes that have been sitting in the sink for a day. Anything that involves movement counts as "exercise" you know! Whatever it is, do SOMETHING. That first step can be hard but do it anyway!

What gives you a sense of purpose? Lacking purpose in life can send anyone down a rabbit hole. What are you doing when you feel most alive? Listening to music that you find soothing? Is there a particular aspect of work that you enjoy and could perhaps do more of? Maybe you are happy and content when you're watching a funny TV show or reading a favorite book? Whatever it is, do it!

Remember there are many aspects to your life. I was in a funk because nothing was going on with my book, Climbing out of Darkness. By that I mean, I had not gotten any orders in the mail the last few days and some marketing projects that I thought would have been completed by now have been on hold due to the other party being too busy for the time being.

My therapist reminded me that while taking initiative on my book is a good thing, my book is just "a piece of the pie." I volunteer in a local Lions club. I enjoy being involved in a local church. I like making dinner for my wife, who works full time. (I am semi-retired.) As you can tell, I love writing! Chances are, there are many aspects to your life, too: You're more than a full-time employee who trudges off to XYZ Widget Company each day. You have a loving spouse. Adoring children. Terrific friends. Focus on some of the many positives in your life.

Watch for the upcoming podcast about Mike’s book, developed and distributed by Fresh Hope for Mental Health as well as other upcoming blog posts and podcasts about mental health for men by Fresh Hope for Mental Health.

PHOTO: Me by the Vince Lombardi statue in the Bob Harlan Plaza at Lambeau Field in Green Bay last summer.

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