Prioritize your wellness.

Sometimes it only takes reading a few words to shift your focus. So when I came across this quote, what struck me is that I was stuck in a pattern of bad habits.

A permanent ileostomy changed my life forever. Negative body image and low self-esteem led to sadness and depression. I didn't feel like myself, I wasn't acting like myself, and I didn't take care of myself. I had to make a conscious effort to change my old ways and what I believed about myself. Below are five daily habits that have truly worked wonders for me.

I STARTED DRINKING MORE WATER

Staying hydrated is a challenge with an ileostomy. If I’m the least bit dehydrated, it affects everything; I'm irritable, food doesn’t digest well, I get headaches, my energy is low, and the list goes on. When I ended up in the ER from dehydration, I knew something needed to change. So, the very first thing I do each morning is have two cups of water — directly out of a measuring cup! That way I know it's at least two cups or I’d probably drink less. Once I started doing this, drinking more water during the day became a regular habit too.

I SET ASIDE TIME TO MEDITATE

This one wasn't easy in the beginning because I have a very active mind, so I signed up for a yoga class for guidance. I've learned that meditation can be done with eyes open or closed, silently or guided. It can be done lying down, sitting, or walking mindfully. It's about focusing on your breath. The best app on my phone is Headspace. Sometimes I meditate for just 5-10 minutes, but the longer the better. It's made a huge difference to me and to the people around me. I really wish I knew about meditation 25 years ago when I first had surgery because I know it would've helped me with stress and anxiety.

More posts by Christine:

Being an ostomate for 25 years taught me that life means feeling fully alive

I TAKE A 30-MINUTE WALK

Don't feel like working out? Go for a long walk instead. I try to for at least 30-minutes every day and call it "me time." I know it's exercise but I don't view it that way. Sometimes what I need is to be outside, walking or hiking in nature. Taking that period to be outside by myself allows me to quiet my mind and find ways to approach situations more objectively. There's something about a simple walk that gives your brain time to sort through and resolve problems.

I MAKE AN EFFORT TO EAT HEALTHY

The biggest change I made is food. I used to follow a strict “convenience diet" which meant I didn’t cook and ate fast food. The highly processed and high-fat junk I was eating had very little (if any) nutritional value. I actually felt like taking a nap after meals. Now my body welcomes healthy organic food. For me, fresh food always digests better than processed food. Eating healthy is one of the quickest ways to start feeling good.

I HAVE A GRATITUDE JOURNAL

Each night I write down a few things I'm grateful for and why. The daily practice of writing down what I have to be grateful for helps me rewire my brain and improve my happiness. Happiness is a habit. Here's what I wrote the other day: I am grateful for having ostomy supplies because I know there are people in the world who don't have any.

How are you feeling right now? Could you feel better? Because if you don't like something, you have the power to change it. We need to remember that it isn’t selfish to look after yourself. Prioritize your wellness.