Self care for the chronically sick

In the past, I’ve always related self care to “selfish” things. Just doing things that you want to do but never have time for. Taking bubble baths, doing your nails, going out for a haircut or manicure. When I made self care a priority for the new year I was still thinking along these lines. And while I enjoyed the Epsom salt baths I treated myself to those two times, I’m starting to learn that there is way more to this than a half hour of sitting in hot water.

When you suffer through chronic illness, disability, mental illness, whatever, taking care of yourself is more needed than ever, but it is hard. I’m not going to pretend that any of this is easy, but the things we live with aren’t easy either. And taking the time for you might be hard at first, but it’s so worth it in the long run. You are worth the effort. So if you’re like me and can’t seem to look past manicures and bubble baths, don’t worry, I’ve got some ideas.

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  1. Ask for help. Life can get overwhelming fast and no matter what it is holding you back, it’s tough to move past a bad spot when you don’t have the energy to do it. But over the years I’ve learned to ask when I need something. It helps me regroup to see something get done, and when I can check something off my mental to do list, my OCD chills out a bit. In turn my anxiety calms down just a bit and when all of that is chill, the depression doesn’t have as much fuel.

  2. Meal prep. I know. This doesn’t sound fun at all! But we all know that diet can play a huge part in how we feel. If you aren’t feeling well, you’ll be more likely to reach for food that doesn’t take long to make, or worse, something that’s prepackaged and not very good for you in the long run. Instead, try to get ahead of the game. Personally, I’ve found a diet that not only helps my PMDD, but it also combats my arthritis and helps me stay at a good weight so my back pain stays manageable. (Read about the keto diet and it’s role in mental health here.) It’s important for me to stick to this way of eating, so whenever I am having a good day, I plan ahead. Chop veggies to prep for the week or cook a huge dinner and put a bunch of leftovers in the freezer for a rainy day. Even if all you do is make a healthy dessert to lift your spirits when you’re down. On bad days, it’s nice to reach in the freezer for a good meal or a pick me up in the form of chocolate that won’t break your scale.
  3. Taking care of business. I know first hand how hard it is to make a phone call when anxiety levels are at an all time high. Or realize that your home is a mess when you are in too much pain to do much about it. Believe me, making a dreaded phone call on the wrong day has ended in panic attacks more than a few times. It’s not pretty. But the trick, which I’m admittedly still working on, is to take care of things when you can. When I’m having a good mental health day, I try to tackle one thing that I know will be too much to handle on a bad day. Likewise with pain. When I’m having a day where I feel good, I try to pick a job that I can’t handle when I’m hurting. This way, when the bad days strike, the stress may still be there, but at least that one thing isn’t lingering in the back of your mind. At least your living room is clean, so lounging on the couch doesn’t feel so horrible.
  4. Find yourself a hobby. Ok, this one sounds like the self care that I talked about in the beginning. But having something all to yourself, that can benefit you and your own mental health, can help in all areas of your life. I freely admit that I am terrible with this. This blog is a hobby, along with Twitter, but I’m on the hunt for something away from the computer.
  5. Keep up with your therapies. Whether you take meds, do yoga, pet all the dogs or go to actual therapy, make sure you keep at it. Go out with friends if it helps, volunteer, talk with strangers on the internet, hit the gym, do anything that helps you feel good.
  6. Reach out. Talking to someone who understands your struggles is so important and can really help. There are so many great places to look for support. I recommend browsing The Mighty for articles from real people with real conditions, writing about their personal experiences. Also, check out Facebook groups and search hash tags on Twitter to find likeminded new friends.
  7. Space out. Sometimes life can be too stressful all around and I totally get that. Diving into a good book or putting on a movie can help you get out of your head for a little while and calm your mind. You could do meditation, yoga, browse social media or get lost in a YouTube rabbit trail of videos. Even just going for a drive on some back roads with no destination or time constraints. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something positive that won’t bring your stress back to the forefront of your mind.

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No matter what it is you’re going through, you need the self care. You deserve it. Now go on, get off my page and go do something. Or stay and hang out, whatever works. I’m here.

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