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We all engage in self care when life gets stressful. Some of us have an after work routine. Some of us shop, do yoga, play music, have a drink, or read a book. Anything can be a self care de-stressing mechanism for someone, and most self care mechanisms are healthy and help lower the stress level of the individual.

For me, personally, my favorite self care is to take a nap. I am a professional napper and have been since I was a teenager. Now that I run my own business as an attorney, if I have a particularly stressful mid-day hearing, I will take a 2:00 pm nap before emails and returning calls so that I am my best self when I do. There is nothing more refreshing for me than to come home and take an hour nap to let my brain shut down. It is something I have always needed and something that is my way of feeling better.

But, sometimes these life saving naps start to become a sign of my depression. The once hour-long refreshing nap begins to extend. Eventually I stop setting alarms and sleep from when I get home until 7:00 or 8:00 in the evening only to turn around and go go bed at 11:00. On the weekends I will stay in bed longer and longer and doze all day. That’s when I know my depression has reared it’s head again.

This example isn’t the only one. A person who goes out for a drink after work to unwind may slowly begin to drink more and more until that self care time is a sign of something else. Someone who likes to shop as a pick me up may begin spending out of control with no limits in sight.

So how do we combat this? How do we know when we are sinking back into our mental illnesses rather than taking care of ourselves? Below are some suggestions that have worked for me:

1) Monitor your self care
Keep a journal of sleep habits, write down your spending, or monitor the number of drinks you drink or cakes you eat, etc. By having a written visual representation you can keep track of habits over time and begin to see when they are out of control.

2) Check in with your therapist
If this has been a problem for you in the past, alert your therapist or other medical provider as they will be ready to help. Check in with them regularly. Feel comfortable enough with them to go to them if something gets out of control.

3) Have a close friend/family member be on alert
This is awesome when you have someone living with you that you trust and see daily. A person like this will likely notice the changes long before you do. A friend or family member can say “Hey I am concerned you are sleeping a lot is everything okay?” This must be a person you trust and that understands your mental health; otherwise> a conversation of this nature could turn negative and accusatory very quickly.

4) Be honest with yourself about your habits and your own feelings
Make sure your habits are still healthy for you. If they aren’t, then finding a new self care mechanism may be the way to go. Returning to a long term care plan may be as well. Only you and a medical provider can decide that.

With all this being said, continue your self care in a positive, forward-thinking way well into 2019 because it is most important to take care of yourself!

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