Mental Health, It’s a WRAP! Something Extra for Self-Care

A colorful image with a photo on the left side of the image with a Light green background Image of a graphic of a the side profile of a head with the top cut off and releasing colorful flowers that cover the top part of the image. There are also small flowers on the left top side of the head and two white flowers on the left of the image and 3 white flowers on the right. Text centered at the bottom of the head figure says, "Mental Health Self-Care WRAP® I Matter." On the far right of the image is the TDMHSAS logo and the WRAP Wellness Plan logo on top of a gradient purple background.

As someone who lives a life of grateful recovery from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), I get to practice managing my own self-care every day. But like many of you, I live a life that is indeed very full with a job I love, a family I adore, two fluffy dogs I spoil, and a lovely home to attend. We hear messages about the need to take care of ourselves but some of us can barely get through our day because it is jam-packed with things to do: tending to other’s needs, carting family to appointments, getting groceries for dinner, and remembering to feed the dog. It’s a lot! And yes, we are grateful, but sometimes, it’s exhausting.

How do you know when your regular self-care routine is not cutting it? You do have a regular self-care routine, right? Okay, when I say “regular self-care routine,” I mean doing those things every day that you need to do in order to be you at your best. So first, think about what you are like when you are at your best. For me, I’m relaxed, flexible, affectionate, and maybe making jokes. And know that this is not about reaching for perfection but rather just you being you, and what you are like when you are your best you. My personal self-care routine usually includes a good night’s sleep, yoga in the morning, limited caffeine, breaks throughout the day, and dinner with my family. Pretty basic, right? But part of my mental health journey included learning about myself and how to be kind to myself, how to take care of myself first so that I have something to give the world.

Then consider what it looks like for you when things are just slightly awry. What is one of the first, small signs that you are not quite at your best, and maybe the stress is building up and it’s becoming too much? One of the first small signs for me is that I will skip flossing my teeth at night. I’ll start to think, “Oh, I’m just sooooo tired, I can’t possibly floss my teeth!” Which is really nonsense because flossing takes very little time. Another small sign for me might be that I’ll be a little snippy with my family. Ideally, at some point, these small signs get my attention and I’ll say to myself, “Okay, it’s time to add something extra.”

To find that “something extra” I go to my WRAP® plan. WRAP® is the Wellness Recovery Action Plan and it is designed to help you identify you at your best, develop your self-care routine, and think about what you need when things go awry. I have a list of things I can do for extra self-care. My list includes watching a movie (probably a rom-com), taking a mental health day off from work, scheduling a session with my acupuncturist, or maybe even seeing my therapist. What’s so great about having a list ready is that sometimes when that stress is building up, it’s harder for our brains to think clearly. With this list of something extra, I don’t have to think, I just select something and do it.

I don’t mean to make this sound easy because sometimes, it’s really not. Sometimes I’m frustrated that the stress has built up and I feel like I don’t have TIME for something extra, but I’ve made a commitment to my own health and wellness, a commitment I make every morning, and that keeps me grounded in self-care, even when it feels like I don’t have the time. What about you? What is something extra you can do for self-care tonight?

About the Author

Lisa Ragan is the Director of Consumer Affairs and Peer Recovery Services for Tennessee’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Ms. Ragan joined the Department in 2005 and now manages more than $9 million in state contracts for peer support programs, oversees the state certification program for Certified Peer Recovery Specialists, and supervises a staff of peer advocates who operate the Department’s Helpline. As a person living a life of wellness and recovery from mental health challenges, Ms. Ragan says that she did not know life without depression and anxiety until she began her own healing journey in her late twenties. A volunteer experience on a suicide hotline inspired her to abandon a career in publishing to pursue a master’s degree in social work. Upon graduating from the University of Tennessee’s College of Social Work, she received the Chancellor’s Award for Professional Promise. Her passion and vision for the future of Certified Peer Recovery Specialists in Tennessee fuels her work every day.