Feeling Great

Posted by Nurse Linda in Life After Paralysis on December 16, 2021 # Health

Opened laptop on a white fuzzy rug. The screen says, "Mental Health"In this series of overlooked body parts, one of the most overlooked issues is mental health. This topic is a hot button for so many as mental health is typically thought of as mental illness, which is a different topic. Mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain that can be treated with medication and therapy. Mental health has a lot to do with your general everyday mental wellbeing. It has to do with your day-to-day interactions, specifically your general outlook on life.

This time of year, with multiple holidays, can bring up times of sadness, loneliness, and what-ifs. The weather is generally overcast, which adds to dreary feelings. These feelings are normal for everyone if you have a health condition or not. The issue is if you are stuck in your thoughts or if they stick around and permeate the rest of your life. If you feel really down and cannot resolve them, call your healthcare professional, therapist, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or text GO to 741741.

Otherwise, take stock of your life by asking a few simple questions. This list is certainly not inclusive and may bring up thoughts that you did not want to consider, but it is a start to review your life to make a plan for improvement or just find out that life is pretty good.

Think about your general view of life. Are you happy inside your body? This does not mean jumping around or being giddy; those are not daily, ongoing emotions. But if you really, deeply think about your life, are you generally pleased with your current situation.

This can be a loaded question for individuals with healthcare issues. Of course, we all want to be free of illness or issues for ourselves and our loved ones. However, are you adapting to your way of life? Most will probably say yes, others not so much. If this is an area that you feel can be improved, what is your plan of action? Doing your daily routines by incorporating them into your normal and working toward maintaining your current state of health can be goals.

Think about individuals that you interact with frequently. Do you find these relationships satisfactory? Remember that a relationship is a reciprocal situation. Both individuals and families must give of themselves. That can mean providing physical assistance but also, and more often, it is providing comfort and security. This can include lending a listening ear, providing parental advice or not too often, some direction. A kind word goes a long way when it is sincerely given.

What if you find yourself not having much success in a relationship with a family member or caregiver? This is a particularly tricky situation, especially if you are dependent on this person for physical care. Often individuals stay in non-healthy relationships if they are relying on physical help or financial assistance. There are several ways to deal with this that range from simple conversation to more drastic measures.

A friend of mine uses a good strategy with her significant other. Every year, around the time of their anniversary, the couple will come together and ‘reopen negotiations.’ They had some rules that included no personal attacks, keeping calm, and carefully listening. Then they would discuss what was bothering them in their relationship. Not everyone would be interested or willing to do this process. But if there is one thing that is really bugging you, bring it up in a calm, direct way. You could even start by saying, “it might be easier if you…” That starter lets the person know you are looking out for the other’s best interests.

If you are having difficulty with a home care provider, you can call the agency for a replacement or begin the search for a new person. Remember, not everyone clicks together immediately. There is some time needed to learn to work together as a team. However, it is your body, so you are always in charge of what is being done to you. Do not delegate your thinking to someone else.

In more serious situations, you should not have anyone berating you, cursing, mentally or physically abusing you. If you do, you can contact your state’s Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of the Elderly and Disabled Hotline. Each state has its own number, or you can call 911 to get connected. They will step in for emergency situations. That might mean temporary placement until someone else can be found to provide care.

Think about your substance intake. How much are you drinking, smoking, inhaling, gambling, or using other substances to alter your mood? If you are relying on substances or activities despite harm to yourself or others, you have an issue with addiction. Individuals who are addiction compromised might not be able to think about the consequences of their behavior. Be frank with your healthcare provider about what you are doing. It is important to ensure you are not creating more health issues by combinations of drugs but also to receive treatment to stop the harmful behavior.

It is not unusual for individuals with health issues to try to mask their feelings by using substances. In doing so, not only do you have a substance abuse issue, but you are also harming your mental wellbeing by dulling or ignoring the underlying issue. It is very difficult to admit that there might be a problem. It is also very difficult to make the change. But it is done every day by individuals. You may falter but start again. Success is possible.

Think about your behaviors. When a person feels they have little control over their body, they may choose to control what they can. This might include overeating, undereating, doing activities of daily living or not doing them, verbally abusing those around them. There are many ways individuals control others. Those with health care issues are not immune to alternate forms of control.

Review your day by thinking about events that happened. They can be events that were upsetting or even events that were great. Try to think of ways you could have responded more effectively. Think about how you made others feel. Did you help others to feel good about themselves? Could you have responded differently in a bad situation, or did you do nothing at all?

Mindfulness is one method of thinking about your own behavior. In the present, calmly think about your own feelings, thoughts, and body sensations. This can help you become aware of situations that are great or difficult. You can use this acquired knowledge about yourself to improve your relationships in the future.

This is just a rough start are the evaluation of your mental health and wellbeing. There are a variety of tips to help improve your mental health. The National Institute of Mental Health and the Mental Health Alliance has information and tips on mental health.

Just about all of the information concerning improving mental health starts with an inventory of gratitude. This may sound old-fashioned, but there is actual science behind making a list of what things you are grateful for. It can be helpful to write them out and post the list where you can see it as a reminder.

Paying back or forward is an activity that will improve mental health. Volunteering for a project or at a shelter or with other individuals who are looking for a connection is a great way to start. You can use the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis website as a place to meet and connect with others. Be careful not to randomly connect with others in person or on the internet, as these can be scammers. Your safety needs to be a priority. Connect through reliable organizations within your community or on safe websites sponsored by organizations. Nurse Linda

Pediatric Consideration:

If you are the parent or guardian of a child, you have both your own mental wellness and your child to guide. Allow time for yourself to review your own mental health. It can become very easy to slip into the super parent role or to get lost in the challenges. Take time to enjoy your child, just letting them be themselves and you being you. Build the memories of childhood. Incorporate care into the daily scheme as this is normal for your child.

Children are very resilient. Their normal is how they view the world. It is the other people who are different—what a great attitude. Start with the basics, a good night’s sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise. Provide an opportunity for friendships within their own age group. In other words, be a parent and incorporate daily care into the regular routine. You have this. Nurse Linda

Linda Schultz is a leader, teacher, and provider of rehabilitation nursing for over 30 years. In fact, Nurse Linda worked closely with Christopher Reeve on his recovery and has been advocating for the Reeve Foundation ever since.

In our community, Nurse Linda is a blogger where she focuses on contributing functional advice, providing the "how-to" on integrating various healthcare improvements into daily life, and answering your specific questions. Read her blogs here.

And if you want more Nurse Linda, sign up for her monthly webinars here. Don’t worry, we archive her answers so you can refer back and sift through her advice. Consider it Nurse Linda on-demand!

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.