IBS: Daily Maintenance Skills

Let me explain what I mean by ‘Daily Maintenance Skills.’ I work with folks who are mentally ill and/or have substance abuse issues. When we first meet, I go through something called a ‘Strengths Assessment’ with them. The ‘Strengths Assessment’ looks at all the basic aspects of our lives pertaining to our ability to be well. We look at health, both mental and physical. We look the individual’s living arrangement, financial and employments situation, leisure activities, social support and any connections to the community. It might not be a bad idea to do your own ‘Strengths Assessment.’ It is good, basic tool to help you get a clear picture about where you stand with the fundamental aspects of living. However, today I would like to talk about the last section of the ‘Strengths Assessment,’ which is called Daily Living Skills. In the case of many people with illness (of any kind) sometimes things like brushing one’s teeth, showering, shaving, clean clothes, clean bedding and a variety of other ‘daily maintenance’ issues come up. These things are so important to our overall wellness and when you aren’t feeling very well, whether it’s from anxiety, depression or the overwhelming pain from the symptoms of your illness, sometimes daily maintenance can become a chore or an afterthought.

Applying daily maintenance skills to IBS

First, let me say that I am not going to approach this from a strictly mental health perspective. I would like to talk about how this relates to IBS. That said, if you aren’t brushing your teeth, cleaning your clothes or bathing regularly, I would suggest that you try to find a professional that might be able to help you with these issues. These are all indicators that you are not doing well psychologically and you may need extra support. The point I would like to make directly relating to IBS is that the symptoms that we deal with have a tendency to mess with our self-image and confidence. I think with IBS it can be very, very helpful to simply pamper yourself a bit. Not only should you be showering every day, brushing your teeth etc., but get your hair cut regularly. It feels good, you feel better about yourself for a minute. Get a massage, buy some scent or creams that make you feel just that little bit better. Be specific about the shampoo, soap, toothpaste, fragrance that you buy…I suppose we’re talking a bit about aromatherapy here, but it can make all the difference if it makes you feel BETTER.

Last week I simply got my hair cut, bought a new outfit and got a massage. I found that my IBS symptoms were not as overwhelming for me…not as degrading. I think that this type of self-care can sometimes be just as important as diet, exercise and medical attention. I really do believe in a holistic approach to recovery with IBS. Doing just one thing is probably not going to do it. I just thought I would share my thoughts on this subject with you today. I hope you all are well.

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