How to keep busy and improve your mental health while on disability leave

For the past few months, I’ve struggled with the reality that I’m living with a permanent disability. I’m still waiting for medical appointments to determine the right treatments for me. Luckily, I’ve been at home for almost two years and have adjusted to being on my own. I thought I would share some advice for those living alone with a disability. Specifically, for people on disability or medical leave from their jobs.

DISCLAIMER

I’m not going to regurgitate all the advice your own doctors have probably given you. Instead, I’m going to share what has worked for me and why I’ve chosen the methods I have. Do check with your doctors before making major lifestyle changes and do make sure to follow the rules of your benefit plan to avoid losing disability benefits. If you are retired and on pension, then you have a little more freedom.

I write on good days. It’s been a decent week. That doesn’t mean I’m ready to work. I don’t think I can ever work again. There are months where I have 15 or more sick days with migraines or pain. I’m here to support others like me.


Establish a daily routine

This is the most crucial piece of advice that I have learned. Getting a regular sleep schedule is the only thing that helps with my insomnia. If I aim to get into bed around 11 pm and read for a while, then I’ll fall asleep (usually) by 1 am. Any later than that, and I’m fighting the bed and my brain. Then I wake up feeling even crappier the next day.

This morning for example, I woke up at 6 am. Lazed around in bed until 7 and took my time with a nice healthy breakfast. This is a great way to start the day. It’s harder in winter months as it’s still dark outside. But it gets easier when spring hits.

This was followed by some writing – I got three blog posts done today including this one. I followed that up with a 45 minute strength workout, did some weights, resistance training, and actually was able to kneel without pain. This allowed me to do planks which are fantastic for weight loss.

Planning some activities definitely helps to keep the mind and body active too. I try and schedule a time for reading blogs and catching up on current events via YouTube channels.

Coffee, Magazine, Newspaper, Read
Pixabay

Personal grooming

This is something I have sadly neglected. For me, the pain has become unbearable some days and I struggle to climb in the shower. But the more that I work on strength exercises in the morning, the more confident I feel enough to climb into the shower. I’m considering getting a shower chair just in case but they are expensive.

Even if I don’t wash my hair daily, I try to at least hop in the shower after a morning workout and rinse myself off. I’ve started doing this in the morning. Then I’ll sit and brush my hair and take care of my skin regime. This is important because I’m prone to breakouts. The less makeup I wear, the better. I’ll use my facewash and put on some cream to keep it from drying out.

Aim for at least 3 showers each week. A hot bath can do wonders for sore muscles and joints – if you can get in safely on your own. Not only will this boost your mental health a little, but hygiene is important when you live with chronic illnesses.

Plus looking good can also make you FEEL good about yourself. You don’t have to go out if you don’t want to. But making yourself look good and putting on clothes can definitely be a mood booster. Don’t do it for someone else. Do it because it makes you feel better.

Woman, Hair Drying, Girl, Female, Model

Practice daily cleaning to avoid clutter

In addition to keeping your body clean, keeping your home clean can really help improve your overall mood. I find that I stress out when my bedroom is out of order or if dishes are piled up in the sink. What I’ve started doing is keeping my living room space clean. This is where my desk and television are. I’ll take my dishes to the kitchen every night put them into the dishwasher right away. I will also wipe down the counters and cutting board too.

Cleaning a little bit each day will help to make things not so overwhelming for you. I’m trying to break free of bad habits like leaving clothes on the floor or not washing floors. I’m getting better at this.

I don’t keep food or garbage out on the counter anymore after the mouse infestation in my last place. I’m getting better at cleaning the bathrooms once a week and washing the floors. I struggle with that because of back pain. Spot cleaning is also difficult and I am looking to hire help for spring cleaning.

Here are some simple tips to help keep your home cleaner. Being organized helps me to reduce the anxiety . I can’t concentrate if I’m surrounded by chaos.

  • Put away your dishes into the dishwasher each night or at least clean the food and rinse the plates off before leaving them in your sink.
  • Discard food scraps or put leftovers in the fridge. Keep your baking ingredients safe by using cannisters or glass containers with lids.
  • Get a $35 Bissell Vac-stick – this has helped me keep food bits off the floor. I keep the vacuum in my kitchen for easier handling.
  • If you can’t spot clean because of an injury or from chronic pain, consider hiring help or asking friends to help you clean. Check out supports in your area too. Some people like volunteering for fun.
  • When you shop for food, wash all the produce right away and do your food prep early. Store the food in glass containers in your fridge for longer keeping. You can also use glass jars. Reuse where possible!
  • Take out your garbage every few days. Use smaller bags or a bin. This will also help to keep rodents and pests away. Don’t let recycling pile up. Have a dedicated spot for recycling each week.
  • Create a cleaning schedule and use a task list for your daily chores.

Blogging or journaling

Blogging keeps me sane. I won’t apologize for writing so much. The more that I write and post, the more ideas that come to me for future blog posts. I go through spurts. Sometimes I can’t think of anything to write. Other months, I’m writing three posts daily. You should see my draft folder.

I also turn to the internet for writing prompts and ideas for short stories. Even if I don’t share these stories with people, it’s fun for me to create characters and fictional worlds. It’s a good way to spend a few hours. It helps keep the mind active and it’s a welcome distraction from the doom and gloom of the world.

You can use a free online blog like WordPress or Blogger with a penname. Or you can make a private site and invite your close friends or trust online friends to read it. I like WordPress because the community at large is pretty supportive. I’ve only had to block two creepy guys since joining in 2019.

You could also blog the old fashion way using a journal. Read through to the end of the post for your free download today. Making digital products is a hobby of mine.

Don’t write what your audience expects you to write. Write what you want to write and your audience will find you.

Laptop, Workstaion, Office, Work

Take up a new hobby or learn a new skill

This is something I say in all my selfcare posts. I think it’s really important to try and fill your day with something you love to do. This is especially important for people like me who are alone most of the time. It’s too easy to get lost in your head and stay deep down in that depression hole.

I’ve developed a lot of new hobbies over the past few years. Mostly to help fill the time since I stopped dating. I’ve learned a lot of new skills – and that can be a hobby too. You can take online courses or hit sites like Skillshare or YouTube tutorials to learn just about anything these days.

If you aren’t working but plan on returning to work someday, learning a new skill that you can put on your resume is key. Or if you want to branch out into a new career, now is the time to try new things.

Here are some things I’ve learned in the past five years that have bettered my life:

  • Cooking and creating healthy recipes of my own
  • Crafting – scrapbooks, making jewelry, handmade crafts, pottery, etc
  • Digital art – using programs like Canva and Corel Painter
  • Marketing and networking – it never hurts to connect with people
  • Music composition and video editing – because it’s fun!
  • Making playlists on Spotify or Apple Music and watching them grow
  • Join an activity group based on your interests like photography, nature walks, or animals – there are all kinds of groups
  • Joining a sports team or picking up a physical activity like walking, hiking, swimming – something fun that you enjoy
  • Brush up on language skills – this is useful if you ever get to travel
  • Volunteer – find an organization in your area that you can devote time to weekly. It’s a great way to meet new people too.

The options are endless. It’s true that hobbies cost money. Work with what you can afford. Look for online sales or hit the Dollar stores for cheap stuff to use. Or check your local Marketplace for freebies.

At one point I even learned how to perform basic maintenance on my new computer in 2019 because I was tired of paying for help. I learned to reformat, backup and partition hard drives. It’s a must have skill for anyone who works with digital media!


Spend some time outdoors

This is advice that I used to roll my eyes out. If my mother was still here, she’d say, “I told you so.” But honestly, a little fresh air every day helps. It’s been a little too cold and windy here today to get outside but once the wind dies I plan on getting out on my balcony.

Even on really cold days, like -25c, I would bundle up in my winter coat and a blanket and spend a few minutes outside on my balcony. I’m really looking forward to spring so I can venture out and explore this neighbourhood. It’s a little too icy right now.

Even just standing on your front porch or sitting on your balcony for 10-15 minutes daily can really help – especially in winter time. Our days are so short that any little bit of sun helps.

If you are a nature kind of person, find some local trails and go on a nature walk.

  • Find a friend with a dog and accompany them to the local dog park.
  • Join a walking group and make new friends that way. Safety in numbers!
  • Grab a book or your Kindle reader and head to the park to read
  • Grab your camera and take some nature photos or find some chic urban spots and take pictures of graffiti or local artwork.
  • If you drive, get your car and head out to the country for a picnic.

There are lots of activities you can do outside that don’t have to be overly physical. Find what works for you and that fits with your favorite hobbies or interests.

woman sitting on grass and touching her hat during day

Summary

I’m not saying that these tips are going to cure your depression. What I am saying is that these have helped me SURVIVE my bouts with depression. There’s a difference. I don’t think you can really cure depression. But you can do things to help make you feel better about life, and yourself.

Depending on your disability or illness, you may want to check with your doctor before taking up a physical activity. For me, I’m looking forward to getting back into the pool this summer. I hope there will be classes near me that I can afford. I’m also hoping to explore the nature trails near me.

If you are in Canada and you are struggling with your depression, or you can’t snap out of a funk, please utilize your local resources. Here are some links you may find useful.

There is no shame in asking for help. Life is tough right now. Find someone you trust that you can talk to or join a support group. Do make sure those people have your best interest at heart and learn to avoid toxic behaviours. Most of all, learn to be your own advocate so that your doctors are taking your health seriously.


What helps you snap out of a funk? Let me know in the comments.

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FREE DOWNLOAD – printable worksheets

This document can be downloaded in PDF format or you can edit it using your Canva account. Note: some features may not be available with free accounts. I love Canva for ease of designing high quality prints. This is for personal use only. Please consider donating using Paypal to show support. This PDF file contains 9 pages of worksheets to help you keep on top of cleaning or plan your day.

Copyright (c) wendyseditables

To download your copy – just click on the image. You will need a free version of Canva to edit.



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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Routine really helps, and it’s the single most effective thing that helps me get things done. It’s also great because I don’t need to waste my mental energy thinking of what to do. I just do it—provided I’ve made it a habit. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the comment! I go through spurts where I hit a funk for a week or two. Then slowly climb out of it. I think the hardest thing for people is finding purpose. But you are right about the schedule. It is definitely helping a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

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