Life can be hectic, especially after limb loss when you have all of the usual responsibilities on top of focusing on your recovery.
When you become an amputee, people often think of the physical journey because it’s what we see – but many find the mental journey more challenging to face. We hope that by reading some of these tips you’ll be able to approach your days with more peace of mind.
Get enough sleep
Try to get enough rest each night. Lack of sleep can contribute to anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges.
You can start by aiming to keep consistent wake up and going to bed times as this helps your body learn your pattern and know when it’s time to go to sleep. It may not work straightaway, but keep at it.
As an amputee, you could well be using more energy than other people might, so getting enough rest to help keep you going through the day can be very beneficial.
Exercise is an excellent way to boost mood and reduce stress. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
We know keeping physically fit is a constant challenge, and that isn’t made any easier following limb loss. However, exercise doesn’t have to be intensive or take place at a gym. A walk, or roll, instead of taking the car or using public transport will do you good. Stretches and light resistance training around the house will work, too.
Whether it’s fitness regimes and classes or something much simpler, make sure you dedicate some time to moving around.
Mindfulness and meditation have been proven to be a great benefit to both our physical and mental health.
Often this sounds like a difficult practice to begin – but if you break it down into smaller steps, it can be much more manageable.
Try to start with only meditating for a few minutes at a time, focusing on your breathing. You can then slowly build up the time as you feel more comfortable with longer sessions. There are plenty of online tutorials to get you started.
Connect with others
Social support is important for mental health, and it can be achieved by connecting with friends, family, or a likeminded group.
Having said that, when we spend a lot of time on our own, especially following limb loss, it can be hard to break out of our shell to socialise with others.
We understand how much better it feels when we do, and we almost never regret seeing our close ones, but as with many things in life, the first step is the hardest one to take. Start small by sending a message, ringing a friend, or joining FYF’s private online groups.
Focusing on the positive aspects of life can help improve mood and mental well-being.
When we practice gratitude daily, we keep ourselves grounded in the present and able to focus on what we have as opposed to what we don’t – which can be an easy trap to fall into. Take a couple of minutes out of your day to sit and think about what you’re grateful for in your life.
This can be as simple as reminding yourself about your health, your loved ones around you, or having access to food and clean water.
Limit your screen time
Excessive screen time can negatively impact mental health. Only in the last number of years has screen time increased for us – before this, we didn’t have access to the technology we do now.
This means that, although we can sit in front of a screen all day, it’s not our natural way of being and can be difficult for your mind and body to cope with.
Try to set boundaries for yourself, take breaks from technology and consider getting out in nature, even just in the garden or your local park for a little time through the week. Your messages or favourite show can wait a while.
Learn to manage stress
Stress is a part of life that’s unlikely to go away, but learning to manage it effectively can help improve mental health.
Take a deep breath when you’re overly stressed and remember that it’s normal to feel that way. We can’t always prevent it, but we can work towards feeling better by taking a step back and looking at our situation with a fresh set of eyes.
Using this kind of perspective along with the other tips in this booklet might help you feel more relaxed when going about your day-to-day life. Remember – it will pass.
Eat a healthy diet
A balanced diet can help improve your mood and general health.
We all know the feeling of eating a great takeaway but then feeling awful for many hours later… Well, the opposite is true for eating healthily, and your body will thank you for it.
As you eat healthier foods with a varied diet more consistently, you’ll notice your energy levels rise and you can even consider those takeouts as a wee reward every now and then for sticking with your aims. Healthy body, healthy mind and all that!
If you’re keen for more tips about balanced diets, exercise and more, check out our previous blog on fitness here.
Taking breaks throughout the day can help reduce stress and improve focus.
It’s important to take some time out for yourself, especially when you’re busy as otherwise it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
This can be as simple as taking a step away from whatever you’re doing – whether it’s working, chores or anything else – to do something you enjoy or even just get some space.
Breaks don’t need to be specifically from things you don’t enjoy – see the screen time tip for a good example.
Practice self care
Taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally, is important for overall well-being.
We all know the difference between days where we have spent some time taking care of those bits and bobs on our to-do list and days where we can never seem to manage to get around to doing them.
We tell ourselves we’re too tired to wash our clothes, take a shower or make the bed, but what we often find is that not only do we feel better for having done them, but we also feel more energised too. Make that extra effort.
Learn new skills
Learning new skills or hobbies can help improve mental well-being and provide a sense of accomplishment.
There are many different types of courses online, often free on platforms like YouTube, that can help you get started in your quest to try something new.
Because these are often in bite-size pieces, you can take a little time out a few days per week to spend some time on your new skill. Managing it in small periods can make it feel more achievable and enjoyable. Who knows, it could turn into something more than a hobby.
Be kind to yourself
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Practice self-compassion and treat yourself with kindness and understanding.
You wouldn’t speak harshly to a friend who was going through a difficult time, so why act like that internally? Mistakes happen, some days aren’t for you, and there can be longer periods of time in which we can feel like nothing is going our way.
The important thing to remember is that the way to get through all of the above is be on your own side.
Spend time in nature
Spending time in nature, such as taking a walk in the park or going for a hike, has been shown to improve mental health by reducing stress and improving mood. Getting outside will help you access calmness, joy, creativity and concentration.
Try to incorporate outdoor activities into your routine whenever possible. This doesn’t mean that you have to climb a mountain or swim into the middle of a loch – nature is all around us, and even a bit of fresh air will do some good.
Combine this tip with exercise, reducing screen time or learning a new skill.
Seek professional help
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional.
The tips within this booklet are designed to provide general information for effective ways to manage stress and improve how you’re feeling, but they are by no means a fix-all.
As soon as you feel that your situation is out of your control, please seek the appropriate professional services to assist, with the first point of contact being your GP.
We hope that you managed to take away a tip or two that can fit into your daily life without it feeling like a hassle to commit to. Mental health isn’t a linear journey and we all go through ups and downs, no matter what walk of life we come from. If you’re having a down day, allowing yourself some space just to get through it without being too hard on yourself can be the best remedy.
The important thing is to go easy on yourself when you feel like you’ve failed. Days become much easier to get through, good and bad, when we approach them with more self-compassion.