Mini MH series – post 2: Mental wellness & mental illness

Define mental wellness

Mental wellness is not necessarily just to do with not having a mental illness. It is to do with a largely positive thinking mind and one that knows how to use resilience in order to function in an individual’s best interests. It is being able to go about our lives and make decisions that will positively impact our lives, where possible.

Define mental illness

Mental illness is a general term, usually used to define disorders that negatively impact your health, down to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Mental illnesses are influenced by a number of factors, but having one usually means that our daily lives are negatively impacted in one form or another. Whether that impact is something that someone else can see or not is a huge aspect of mental illness, as it can be classed as an invisibility disability, which I will be taking about later in this mini Mental Health series.

Mental health with an ostomy

This is a topic that could be deeply explored and discussed on so many levels. At some point, having an ostomy will affect you in some way mentally, whether it be before, soon after surgery or years down the line. The main thing to remember is that it is perfectly okay to struggle with different “plumbing” in the body & to go gentle on yourself. Some of the following tips below can help promote mental wellness, but if you feel worried or notice things are becoming hard to manage, then please try & reach out to someone you trust. This could be a stoma nurse, a family member or even someone else with an ostomy.

Promoting mental wellness

Diet

tray-of-smoothies-and-berries

This can be a tough one, especially with an ostomy. Not everyone who has a stoma has to avoid the same foods and there are people I know with a stoma who don’t avoid any food at all. When I eat I eat healthily, but my problem is I find it hard to get & keep an appetite especially when I am struggling mentally. I try to eat more little and often, and if my enthusiasm for food isn’t there then I try to change what I’m eating even if it’s as simple as adding different fruit to porridge. There has been scientific research to prove that foods such as oily fish, leafy greens, berries, wholegrains & lean proteins (to name a selection) can all contribute towards promoting good mental health. This is for various reasons, but for example, with leafy greens, they are high in folate which can help prevent forming deficiencies that can lead to fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Do you find it hard being able to process leafy greens or certain foods with a stoma? Mix it up a little & try blending into smoothies or soup! There are also various supplements you can get. I am currently taking Vitamin B12, but haven’t been taking it long enough to see a difference. As always, consult a medical professional or someone who is clued up on nutrition if you are unsure.

Self-care

Looking after YOU is super important, but a lot of people understandably struggle in today’s hectic society with finding time out for themselves and knowing how to wind down when they do find that time for themselves. Self care isn’t always about resting however. It can be about just taking some time out to do something you enjoy, such as go for a walk with some happy music to listen to, draw, do photography or read a book to name a few things. Self care can also be about knowing when to rest & making sure you plan time into your schedule (where possible!) when you need to take time out to have a relaxing bath & rest in bed cuddled up with a blanket. Alone time is something a lot of people with mental illness can struggle with and that’s okay, but I have found pushing through these times can help me to achieve a bit of headspace, even if I don’t always succeed. To check out this topic a little further, check out a blog topic I wrote for my own blog a while ago on self care tips here.

 

bath-salts-and-scrub

Exercise

I’m sure a lot of us get extremely frustrated (I know I do sometimes) when exercise is rammed down your throat about being the solution to everything! As annoying as it can be, I have found that it does actually help me, but I do struggle knowing when to push myself and when to listen to my body. I struggle at the moment with feeling weak & shaky during a higher intensity level of exercise so this is something my IBD team are looking into as it appears to link into my struggle with fatigue. Even on the days where my energy is low (seems like a daily occurrence at the moment!), I try and push myself to get out for a walk even if this is only short. I feel the change of scenery & fresh air does help my mental well-being, even if before it it felt like the last thing I felt like doing. Exercising releases serotonin, which is known as the ‘happy chemical’ & it’s safe to say that my mood always lifts after exercise. For me, it is about managing everything else that comes with exercise (where I can!) to ensure I don’t suffer in other ways, which is really hard.

Know when to talk

two-women-talking-at-a-table

This can be a hard one, especially if you easily feel like a burden. I have stopped myself talking in the past for this reason and it is really hard to push past, especially when in a bad patch mentally. My advice would be to talk to someone close to you that you can trust, and if that seems impossible then reach out to a GP who will be able to advise how to help further. Sometimes having a cup of tea and a chat with a friend (even if you don’t go into great detail & cover everything that’s on your mind) can be so beneficial and help to remind you that there are nice people out there who want to be in our company and want to make us smile. Just being around others can sometimes be the lift that we need, although I find it super easy myself to shut myself away & avoid social situations when I’m struggling for a multitude of reasons. I am learning to work past this, & to focus on trying to get the rest that I need so that I feel more able to approach these situations.

Other things

The points I’ve listed are not exhaustive to promote mental wellness, with or without an ostomy. You may have things that work for you which I haven’t mentioned, which is great! If you want to share any tips you feel may help others, please e-mail me at: hashtagstomabags@gmail.com & I can hopefully do a post in the future with other people’s ideas and what works for them.

In my next post…

I will be looking into mental illness a little more, & sharing some useful tips & links that may help if you are struggling mentally or are worried about someone you know.

To view my first post in the series, please follow the below link:

  1. Mini MH series – post 1: What is mental health & what does it mean to different people?