Wednesday, 11 March 2020

How to Use a Spreadsheet for Wellness and Self-Care

I rarely feel the need to record my self-care habits, but from time to time I find it helpful to monitor things a little more closely.

For the past ten days Fran has been staying with a friend in Arizona, after which she will visit another friend in Florida. Apart from a few days in between, she will be away from home for almost six weeks.

Although we stay in touch, vacations inevitably mean we are less in contact than usual, which can be hard on us both. I’ve also had a few things going on in my personal life that have affected me deeply. At such times it’s is all too easy to slip into feeling low, so based on my Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) I decided to use a wellness tracker to keep me in touch with healthy practices and activities.

My Wellness Tracker Spreadsheet

I first tried this back in 2013 when Fran took an extended trip around Europe. On that occasion I used a Google Docs spreadsheet and recorded brief notes about what was happening each day, how much exercise (walking) I did, any creative work such as working on our book, any reading I did (what book and for how long), and whether or not I meditated. This time I’m using an Excel spreadsheet to capture the following information on a daily basis: notes, mood, weight, eating, reading, exercise, creativity, water, and vitamins. Let’s look at these in more detail.

Notes

I use the notes column to record key events or feelings from the day.

Mood

I decided to record how I am feeling three times each day: first thing (plotted in blue), midday (orange), and evening (grey) using a six-point scale:

[5] Really good
[4] Baseline / positive
[3] OK
[2] Flat
[1] Low
[0] Struggling

I have written previously about what I mean by feeling flat.

Weight

I weigh at home each evening and track my weight in a separate spreadsheet (Fran and I have tracked our respective weights now for more than seven years) but I decided to include it in my wellness tracker to see how it relates (or doesn’t) to how I’m doing generally.

Eating

I have included two checks to help keep me on track and avoid any tendency to emotional eating (I am aware I tend to eat less if I’m feeling anxious). I record whether I ate healthily during the day; during the week this means yoghurt or porridge for breakfast and soup or a wrap for lunch. (Evening meals at home are generally healthy.) I mostly want to reinforce positive behaviours and activities, but I have a strong tendency to eat supper late at night. This is unhealthy for me and almost guarantees a gain in weight the following day. Including this in my spreadsheet holds me accountable and means I get to “fess up” to myself if I choose to indulge.

Water

This serves as a useful reminder to drink at least one large mug of water (approx 500 ml) each day in addition to my coffee, rooibos tea — and beer!

Vitamins

I take multivitamins plus minerals, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, and vitamin D tablets — when I remember to! Adding them to my tracker spreadsheet encourages me to take them first thing in the morning.

Reading

I enjoy reading but find it hard to settle into it at home. My best time for reading is on my lunch break at work, so this tracker serves as a reminder to do so. I have been reading an excellent book recommended by a friend: I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality, by Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Straus.

Exercise

As I have written elsewhere, walking has played an important role in my life for as long as I can remember, so much so that it was one of the first things I included in the wellness tools section of my Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). I take a walk after dinner most evenings, either to the local store for groceries or a leisurely wander around the neighbourhood.

Creativity

This tracker reminds me to consider some creative pursuit in my day, which usually involves writing or editing posts for our blog. This is in addition to keeping up to date in my personal journal, which I have kept for over four decades.

Observations and Conclusions

I’ve only used the checklist for a few weeks but it’s proving useful in a number of ways. I’m used to exploring my thoughts and feelings in my journal but this is the first time I’ve explicitly tracked my mood over time. I hadn’t realised how variable it can be throughout the day, how rarely it holds steady for more than a couple of days, and how quickly it bounces back after a setback if I don’t get in its way. It’s also interesting to note that my midday mood is much more stable than either morning or evening.

There’s something of a correlation between my mood and my weight, in that my weight came down during the first week when I was struggling a good deal emotionally. I think that’s largely because I’d started the tracker and was paying attention to what I ate, although as I mentioned earlier I tend to eat less when I’m anxious or stressed. As my mood stabilised my weight increased again. I think I allowed myself to overindulge in response to feeling better, especially with my late-night snacks. Not a healthy response!

My mood is closely tied in with what’s happening in my life, especially in my key relationships. This isn’t news to me (or my close friends) but the tracker has brought it into clearer focus. There’s nothing wrong with “feeling what I feel” of course, as long as I don’t take it out on those around me.

All in all, using my wellness tracker spreadsheet has helped keep me on track with healthy behaviours and highlighted areas to focus on in the future.

As I finish this article, Fran is on her way back from Arizona. It will be great to see her for a few days before her next trip, but I find I’m curious to see how things will go — for her and for me — over the next couple of weeks when she is away again. Whatever happens, I will be tracking things closely and paying attention to my self-care.

Do you track your mood and self-care in any way? If you’d like to write about your experiences with wellness tools, check our guest blogger guidelines and get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!

 

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