Strategies to Support Mental Wellness: What’s in Your Toolbox?
By Laura Hamilton
Developing a Wellness Plan
In the past, I was working in Human Services helping people with disabilities in the community. Through the connections that I had from learning about psychology, I found out about a 10-week certificate class learning about recovery concepts and how to stay well. I was struggling with anxiety and intrusive thoughts from past traumas, and worried at that point in my life. I wanted to learn about what this class was teaching about recovery and how to achieve health and wellness. It ended up being a class teaching WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) development.
A WRAP Plan is a plan that you can work on that is a health and wellness plan individualized for yourself. It can be very helpful and change your attitude towards health and wellness. Mary Ellen Copeland at the Copeland Center created WRAP in 1997 and wrote books about it to help people overcome mental health issues. You will need a 3-ring binder and tabs for different sections to write your plan down in. The different sections are: Wellness Toolbox, Daily Maintenance Plan, Stressors/Triggers/Action Plan, Early Warning Signs/Action Plan, “When Things are Breaking Down”/Action Plan, Crisis Plan, and Post Crisis Plan.
Finding The Right Tools
In this article, I will be focusing on the element of the plan called the Wellness Toolbox. I find the Toolbox extremely helpful because it gives me lots of opportunities and choices to pick from to stay healthy and get to a better place where I could be happier. I brainstormed and came up with choices to decide of what I could do to be the way that I wanted myself to be. I wanted to be calmer, focused, and pay attention more to what I was feeling. I have found that this WRAP Plan can also help with improving my thoughts and mood. I have also found this helpful in sorting out through my feelings and doing an activity to try to stay in the moment, be present, and more at peace. I used adjectives such as happy, friendly, shy, polite, to describe myself when I am well. I ended up coming up with a plan of actions that I could do to stay well when times were getting difficult for me.
I have found that coming up with a Toolbox of tools that I can use to stay well is extremely helpful. It is the first step to identifying strategies to stay well. It will be a list of things that you have done in the past, or could do, to help yourself to stay well, or new things and ideas to help yourself feel better when you are not doing well. A person can refer to their list to overcome some stressors or life challenges and come up with a plan to get past those obstacles. These ideas can also help improve and maintain a person’s health and wellness by aiding with emotional, mental, and physical challenges that a person wants to work on.
The goal is to have simple, safe, effective ways of getting through hard times. A Toolbox can help a person with any difficult feelings or difficult behaviors that the person might be experiencing, and can help increase your overall quality of life. It teaches you to get well, stay well, and come up with a plan to use to move forward goals that are important to you.
Different Strategies For Your Toolbox
This is a list of coping strategies that are in my Toolbox, and have helped me:
- Reaching out for help. For me I can call my therapist, call a warm line, attend a support group, or talk to a friend on the phone.
- Engage in Self Care. This is what self-care could be. I can take a warm bath or a cool shower. Deep breathing is helpful, using belly breathing. I put one hand on my chest, and another hand on my belly to focus on this breathing method. I can take a walk outside and get fresh air.
- Good Sleep Habits. Pay attention to your sleep cycle. You will need to have a scheduled sleep routine by trying to go to bed and wake up every day. It is important to get improved sleep by listening to guided meditation as you fall asleep. Make sure you get enough sleep and getting extra rest by napping sometimes.
- Spirituality. I will take care of my spirit by seeking knowledge related to my spirituality. I might read a spiritual book, or an article about my faith. I will also take time out of the day for mindful prayer and be focusing on my spirituality by reading the Bible.
- Engage in a physical activity. Exercising, such as walking on the treadmill, lifting weights, practicing yoga, meditation, physical therapy exercises, stretching, dancing to dance videos exercising, playing basketball, or playing tennis are good ways to get engaged in physical activity.
- Engage in hobbies. Some other activities can be crocheting, making jewelry, journaling, reading, listening to an audio book, learning another language, doing crossword puzzles, doing Suduko puzzles, cooking, playing a card game, playing a game on my phone for entertainment, or throwing darts on a dartboard.
- Using your senses. I will use a diffuser and smelling scented oils, such as peppermint or jasmine, and focus on the oil scent. I also do guided imagery – looking on a website such as youtube.com for guided imagery. I also use playdoh for the sense of touch to express my feelings.
- Being creative. Some things that you can do to be creative are: You can play an instrument, sing, listen to music, dance, or compose music. You can paint on canvas with acrylic paints, oil paints, or watercolor paints. You can also draw in a sketchbook or adult coloring book, using colored pencils, watercolor pencils, markers, watercolor markers, charcoal, or colored pastels. One other thing is that you can paint art on wood, or painting ceramics.
- Using the sense of touch. I will use the sense of touch with stress balls, play dough, silly putty, slime, kinetic sand, smooth stones, rocks, and shells. I might put water in a zip lock bag in the freezer, then hold it and focus on the coldness. Hold onto and touch and pull a piece of felt or soft material, to feel softness and focus on the sense of touch to calm down.
Adapting Your Plan To Your Needs
Once you create your list, you will need to go back and refer to it in the future when needed. This list can be a great valuable tool to you, and you will have picked out the things that can help you in a hard time. Feel free to use examples of how to stay well from my list written up above. However, your list should be individualized to your unique needs.
Toolboxes can be used as the first step in developing your own personal Wellness Recovery Action Plan. Mary Ellen Copeland has different books for different kinds of WRAP Plans, such as WRAP for Trauma, and WRAP for Veterans, Active Service Members, and Military in Transition, WRAP for Addictions, Finding Freedom from Unwanted Problems. Once a person has their Toolbox created, this is the start to help them through their daily life with learning how to be happier and healthier.
Laura Hamilton in a self-advocate for neurodiversity from Massachusetts. She was a graduate from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education and Western Music, Magna cum Laude. She was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder as a young child. She is a Certified Peer Specialist, a Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioner, and a Certified Professional Life Coach. She is passionate about music education, advocating for people with disabilities and special needs.