The kids keep on screaming. Cousin so and so just got arrested. I lost my job two days before rent was due. Mr. Fine in his mind won’t stop harassing me. My alternator busted. Someone broke into my dorm room and stole my laptop. Dad can’t take care of mom’s dementia. I keep having nightmares about that secret I’m too ashamed to tell. No one listens to a damn thing I say. The tension headaches have gotten so bad, 1200 mg of extra strength Tylenol no longer does the trick. I have to be strong for my family. They depend on me. One day I’ll finish school and have enough money to last the whole month. I’m behind on my light bill. I think I’m pregnant. My boss said I’m doing a piss poor job. I can’t remember. I can’t focus. I can handle this. Asking for help is weak on my part. Only bottom feeders accept handouts.
Guess what? Life happens. Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month has now come to a close, but issues centered on mental health are still pressing. I spent the month of September blogging and posting articles about mental illness, the case for mental wellness, current happenings in the news and on Capitol Hill, family dysfunction, cultural complexities, medication myths, etc. Yet, I still have to ask, when did it become acceptable to take on the free world with one hand tied behind your back and wallow in guilt for admitting that you could use a little help? Well to this question, I have uncovered 4 Self-care Solutions that really work.
- Understand what your breaking point is and recognize when you’re tipping the scale. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. If you know you can only mentally withstand a minimal amount of stress, divide your time between priorities.
- Learn to be content with saying “no.” Naturally, all genders have tremendous responsibilities both personally and professionally. This should make it easier to enlist the help of those you’re always bending over backwards for. Whether it’s a job deadline (okay, use judgment on this one), chores, an ailing parent, kids, etc., delegate responsibilities.
- Develop a wellness plan. If stress has taken a physical toll, such as excessive worrying, racing thoughts, insomnia, appetite/weight changes and migraines, establish a “To Do” list of things that will calm you down or practices that will prevent you from climbing walls to begin with. I realize this is near impossible some days, but it can be done. If you are unsure of your likes or favs, initiate trial and error. You can use affirmations, exercise, deep breathing, and many more calming techniques.
- Lastly, share your care plan with others. My friends are fully aware of my short-term memory loss and know they have permission to tell me to write things down before calling them. I don’t feel inadequate or less intelligent. My “other mother” knows to cut me off midsentence (gently) and begin breathing exercises with me. Even my ex has gotten pretty good at squeezing both of my clenched fists to keep me from shaking and to back off (we’re still good friends) until I calm down. He’ll ask “Where are your meds AJ?” instead of barking “Take your effing meds girl!”
Of course, communication is the essential key in any human interaction. So while some measure of stress is unavoidable, having a good self-care plan in place that you can share with others is a great start to avoiding another crisis.
About the Author: Agyei Ekundayo (a.k.a. “AJ”), a Mental Wellness Advocate, has worked as an infant Mortality Case Manager at the Portsmouth Health Department in Portsmouth, VA where she counseled mostly young girls about self-care, nutrition, pregnancy complications, premature birth, and repeat pregnancy prevention. Agyei studied Biology at Clark Atlanta University and graduated with a Bachelor of Sicence degree in Health Promotion from Weber State University. She is a three time guest speaker for the Durham County Crisis Intervention Team training consumer panel. She has also facilitated discussion for the North Carolina Mental Health Consumers Organization’s 2014 annual conference. You can read more about Agyei at: ajhindsight.tumblr.com. #ajwritemental