The ingredients for Gifted Self-Care have Body, Mind and Spirit aspects.
While they may seem similar to standard Self-Care, we (the Gifted) take it up a notch or two, add a few extra doses of intensity and intention, and generous portions of dedication and consistency.
What is dedication in this scenario? Making it a PRIORITY.
You may be used to being very dedicated to your passion, or your work. (And if you’ve designed your life well, they’re the same thing.) But what about being dedicated to self-care? To make the shift, it is necessary to embrace the idea of “Extreme Self-Care.”
At some point – and I hope this turning point comes very soon for you – when you are able to switch from being overwhelmed by your moderate-to-severe levels of depression, to being able to manage it well, allowing you to function efficiently in your life, and when your extreme self-care has taken root and becomes your second nature, you can make exceptions every now and then – exceptions like allowing work to take over and losing a little sleep for a day or two, or going for a week without kinesthetic movement.
But you probably won’t like these deviations from self-care, because by then, you will be more sensitive to their impact.
The truth is, mental health is total health. The old adage “you are what you eat” is also true.
Hippocrates’ advice to “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” may be challenging if you are not yet used to a clean and healthy diet. It’s not a judgement or contest to see who eats “right” and who doesn’t.
But there is strong evidence, particularly for Gifted Individuals like us, that added sugar, refined sugar, and gluten inevitably cause brain fog, lethargy, irritability, skin allergies, nasal congestion, stomach upset and mood changes. The degree to which you are affected by gluten and sugar depends on your current health and other factors.
The new field of Nutrition Psychiatry offers hope for a potentially refreshing approach to psychiatry. The human gut, with up to 1,000 species of bacteria, is now well-recognized as our “second brain.” One of the many aspects of our physiology that positively affects depression symptoms is serotonin and the other feel-good brain chemicals.
In fact, our gut is the primary site of serotonin production. It stands to reason, then, that a healthier gut producing enough serotonin can help! This opinion has become so mainstream, my previous psychiatrist switched careers, stopped seeing clients, and went to work for a company researching microbiome(s).
While it was disappointing to lose her as a therapist, I was encouraged by her belief in this important principle, and supportive of her transition.
Along with making healthy food choices, it is crucial to keep hydrated with high-quality drinking water. In his book Water: For Health, for Healing, for Life: You’re Not Sick, You’re Thirsty!, Dr. F. Batmanghelidj illustrates the danger and disorders that dehydration causes. While many of us don’t have to worry about commonly known, water-borne diseases, harmful chemicals like chlorine and fluoride, as well as a variety of heavy metals in developed countries, can also exact a heavy cost on our mental and physical health.
Therefore, again, hydration with high-quality water is essential. Please see this post [link] for more on hydration.
The opposite of dehydration is over-hydration. (Check online for symptoms.) Is eight ounces of water a day still the guideline for how much water to drink? I would say yes, though I am probably on the over-hydration side most of the time. I like drinking water (and occasionally a well-made wine.)
Even if you were an A.I., I’d still talk to you about the need for proper sleep and rest, even if for no other reason than to optimize your data storage. The fact that you are a flesh-and-blood human being with a complex brain that consumes more energy than non-Gifted brains do, makes it even more imperative that you increase your level of self-care.
That means proper rest. Sleep helps restore your brain in many ways; one is by flushing out toxins that build up during waking hours.
The quality of sleep is determined by both the quantity and the hour of your “bedtime.” Staying up into the “wee hours” exhausts your organs and causes damage that can’t even be compensated for by eight hours or more in bed. Therefore, you can’t “catch up on sleep.” You must avoid the damage to begin with.
I must admit, not getting enough sleep is my Achilles heel. In fact, I’m looking forward to updating this post when I have optimized this area of self-care. If you are a fellow “night owl”, I would suggest looking into information related to “sleep hygiene” online.
Time must be set aside daily with the Self for Body Movement/Kinesthetic Fun, which can be combined with time in Nature and its immense power for healing and rejuvenation.
An easy way to enjoy nature’s healing power in your life, even if your depression is holding you back from stepping out for a walk in the park or taking a hike, is to simply have a few house plants or herbs.
If you can, consider also having potted plants by the entrance to your home, like friends waiting to greet you. Choose plants that are easy to care for. i.e., brown-thumb friendly!
On a good day in terms of “mental meteorology”, take a walk in nature.
According to a study by Dr. MaryCarol Hunter of the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, even just twenty minutes in nature can do the trick to reduce stress and restore focus.
You don’t need to drive a hundred miles to some wilderness trail. Other studies have shown that even just walking along a tree-lined street or stepping out of a building to get a clear view of the sky can be very therapeutic.
Professional Support Network
Therapists, psychiatrists, business coaches, life coaches, mentors, and respected faith counselors can all be part of our professional support network. It’s never too early or too late to start forming one. Gifted people are idealists.
We also need constant inspiration. Top-notch professionals in the above-mentioned fields never stop striving to develop their potentials as humans and to improve their skills, and can offer us a view from higher up. Their wisdom, strength and integrity can help us navigate the varied terrains of our hearts.
Thankfully, after my previous psychiatrist’s departure, I found another competent and compassionate psychiatrist who was willing to “quickly browse” the book I brought to our second appointment. It is titled Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults.
My new psychiatrist is also very knowledgeable about nutritional supplements. Be on the lookout for mentor(s). It can take time to find the right mentor for you who has clarity, wisdom, competency, and uncompromising conscience and integrity. But your patience will pay off.
Personal Support Network
Our family and closest friends provide support we can usually depend on, but not always. There are sometimes things you can’t or just don’t want to tell your family members, and in some cases, you need to cut toxic ties with family members who negatively affect your mental wellbeing and refused to acknowledge it or grow themselves.
It is invaluable to mental health to have or find intelligent, kind and loyal friends one can confide in completely without fear of judgement or criticism, and with confidence that they will respond compassionately.
Another important kind of support everyone should have in life is that provided by assistants, neighbors, and really anyone with whom a good rapport and trusted relationship can be built. For example, I consider the two owners of the business where I rent my P.O. box in my great support circle.
One never knows where kindred souls will be. My conversations with them range from food choices to politics and personal values. Deep conversations like these feed my soul and heart, even if we may not share the same political beliefs.
For me, there’s no substitute for great quiet quality time with myself. As an introvert with “Intellection” as one of my top strengths (per Gallop’s Strength Finder 2.0), I must have personal time to regroup my thoughts, and to recharge my mind and heart energy, even if it’s just five minutes.
When the need arises, a few minutes away from a person or crowd is all I need to restore my sanity and relaxed state.
On any given day, you might see me gazing into a shop window, fixated on the color or design of an outfit, or at an advertisement poster, wondering what the story behind it is. After an hour or two of aimless window shopping or a purposeful purchase mission, I recharge by daydreaming or writing a mental short fiction based on that poster.
As the body sometimes needs to wander serendipitously, so does the mind.
If it has been a while since you last let your creative juices flow, take a “time-out” from the world for creative projects, such as coloring, crafts, “morning pages”, automatic writing (letting the Divine in or your muse go wild on paper), sketching, or water coloring. (Remember to use non-toxic water colors, which are better for the environment.)
Another purpose personal time serves is intellectual nourishment, such as reading, or researching and absorbing information that is interesting to you.
Personal Growth Work
As a Gifted Individual, there’s a high probability that you own more personal development books than anyone else you know. Besides reading, though, it is often more effective to attend live workshops. Variety is the spice of life, and workshops, too!
Different workshops offer different levels of depth in journeying through our minds and hearts. Before deciding on a workshop, consider interviewing or talking to past attendees.
Perhaps find someone who shares your complexity and other Gifted traits, like the need for deep thoughts and true transcendence. Often, extremely energetic or manic events with hundreds of attendees is not what the soul needs. (Then again, occasionally, that different kind of stimulation is exactly what it needs. That’s also another environment to find potential fellow seekers, who value growth.)
Holistic healing could also be spelled whole-istic healing because it aims at healing the whole Being, beyond just treating the body alone like the allopathic approach to “disorders” and dis-eases does. Often, our physical illnesses and symptoms are the manifestation of what’s happening in our emotional world, psyche and energy field.
The body often assumes the mind’s posture, so if the imbalances of the mind and/or spirit are healed, the body often follows. The opposite is also true – the mind assumes the body’s posture. If you heal your body, you will feel better mentally. The two are intrinsically dependent on each other.
Very few people pass through childhood unscathed. Most of us focus only on trauma that has occurred in this life because that’s all we can consciously recall. However, the Law of Karma states that we all have wounds from past lives too, wounds that we bring to this life for healing.
The “extreme” in “Extreme Self-Care” really means No B.S. dedication (which I am going to employ in my aforementioned dysfunctional relationship with sleep!)
While our struggles with symptoms of moderate-to-severe depression may not seem as forceful as volcanic eruptions, torrential floods, or raging wildfires, they are devastating nonetheless. I’ve been there. I’ve spent days, months, and really years feeling that depression simply couldn’t be the story of my life, while simultaneously not having the will to get out of bed.
May you find internal and/or external resources for compassion for yourself, for strength, for the motivation to take the next step, and to revamp your life – because you were not given life only to spend it suffering. You are here for a reason!