In recognition of National Wellness Month, we are exploring the many facets of wellness and the ALS community, shining a spotlight on the act of practicing healthy habits to attain better physical and mental health outcomes.
Practicing wellness and self-care is key to improving your ability to live a longer, healthier life. Making a concerted effort to keep your mind healthy is just as important as keeping your body healthy, particularly for people living with ALS and their caregivers.
“Wellness for a person with ALS (is) being able to find joy in their life regardless of their disease. For family and caregivers (it is) trying to balance providing care for their loved one to allow them to be well, while also taking care of themselves and their wellness,” says Dr. Elyse Everett, a neuropalliative care physician at the ALS Center at Washington University in St. Louis.
But even using that as a definition, the specifics of wellness means different things to different people. And maybe part of focusing on wellness is being okay with that. For one person, part of ‘wellness’ might mean finding alone time for solitary meditation and mindfulness. For others ‘wellness’ might mean seeking out a support group where they can discuss their feelings or finding ways to participate in a favorite hobby or pastime.
On a recent Connecting ALS podcast episode, Melissa Enfinger, an ALS Association care services director, shared an inspiring story about a couple she worked closely with in Alabama. Upon retiring, a gentleman and his wife moved to Orange Beach, Alabama and built their dream house where they planned to live out their days enjoying the beach they loved. Shortly after their move, he was diagnosed with ALS.
“His thought was, ‘All right, I'm not going to have this amazing beach house and not be able to enjoy it,’” Melissa shared. Determined to not let his diagnosis get in the way, he set out to build a beach-safe power wheelchair. “So, he pulled together his own team of people and they had many iterations to where they got to this amazing power beach chair that they then turned into a business and rent out to people when they visit the beach.”
Regardless of how you chose to approach wellness, making a concerted effort to keep your mind healthy is just as important as keeping your body healthy, particularly for people living with ALS and their caregivers.
This month, we will be taking a deeper dive into various resources and tips to consider as you reflect on your own self-care and identify ways to manage stress and cultivate healthy routines. We hope you’ll follow along and find something helpful or inspiring as you chart your own wellness path.
And if you’d like to share your own wellness month stories and ideas, we’d love to hear about them! Just share them in the comments below if you are comfortable or reach out to us via email HERE.