20% of the population has an autoimmune condition in North America. If you're part of that 20% you know the toll it can take on your day to day life. Self care is important for everyone, but even more so when you're living with a chronic illness. Even if your disease is in remission or falls on the mild spectrum it's still important to take care of your well being.
What does self care mean? Self care is care provided “for you, by you.” It’s about identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them. It is taking the time to do some of the activities that nurture you. Self care is about taking proper care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others.
When you have a chronic health condition you often need to take more time for self care. Don't let that make you feel inferior or guilty. When you take care of yourself first it makes you a more joyful, happy and healthy person and everyone around you will love to see you feeling your best.
1. Pamper Yourself
Whether you like getting a massage to help with the stress or pain of your illness or like taking hot baths pampering yourself a little bit can reduce your stress. Having a spa day (save money by doing it at home!) may sound frivolous, but a little fun, face masks and nail polish (non toxic of course) is a fun way to relax.
2. Plan ahead
If you need to schedule self care then so be it! Find a time of day that isn't busy and take that time everyday to do something that makes you happy.
3. Stop with the guilt
True self-care is about honoring ourselves, caring for ourselves, nurturing ourselves, and loving ourselves — both for our own benefit and for the benefit of everyone around us. When you're feeling better and taking care of your own needs and health then you can be your best self with others. If you're putting everyone else's needs above yours all while trying to deal with chronic illness symptoms that can feel overwhelming. For myself I would feel guilty in the past that others were having to accommodate their lives around my illness and that I should push myself past my limits to counteract for what limitations I was putting on the relationship. I realize now that was doing nothing but hurt both myself and them.
4. Surround yourself with loving people
Those in your life that are loving and supportive will understand that you need to take time for yourself. Positivity is contagious, so spend time with people who make you feel your happiest.
5. Love your body just how it is
It can feel as though your body has betrayed you when you have an autoimmune condition. I love that quote that says "the only thing strong enough to fight me is my own body" . This frustration and angry towards your body happens to many of us with chronic conditions. Getting into the mindset of acceptance can help you move forward.
6. Avoid the rabbit hole
Questions and uncertainty pop up when you think of your autoimmune condition. What will my future look like? Will I get another autoimmune disease? Will I be able to feel good as I grow older? It can be so overwhelming. I remember obsessing about how when I was in a care home as an old lady that they would cross contaminate my food. Adding stress about the future isn't what you need. Those toxic thoughts fill your day with worry and learning to let them go will release so much stress.
7. Make a unwind playlist
Pick some music that calms you or lifts your spirits and play it while cooking or relaxing. I love to play music when I cook, it makes the process more enjoyable!
8. Walk Outdoors
I've found that even just trying to get out for a short walk everyday helps me feel better on days when my symptoms are bothering me. If the weather permits it walking outside and getting fresh air and being out in nature helps reduce my stress levels.
9. Have fun with scents
Try using essential oils to help relax or reduce pain. Lavender essential oil can reduce stress, clary sage can reduce muscle pain and chamomile can help you relax. Remember to always mix with a carrier oil like coconut before putting on your skin. I like putting lavender and vanilla in my essential oil diffuser at night.
*avoid any Essential Oil that might boost the immune system. For this reason, it is a good idea to avoid Essential Oils such as Palmarosa, Rosalina, and Thyme.
10. Reach out and help someone with your illness
Whether it's a kind comment on social media or helping someone in your hometown, showing some love to someone with your condition can lead to a wonderful connection.
11. Get a cuddly pet
It's been proven that spending time with animals can reduce stress. Get a cat or dog or visit someone who owns one. Have a cuddle to help unwind.
12. Ask for help
Trying to prove to yourself and others that you can do it all despite your illness isn't helping anyone. Allow yourself to get help and take that time to care for yourself.
13. Let it all out every once in a while
Sometimes it feels nice to let it out and have a good cry or vent. Let the negativity out and then move on. Letting fester inside just increases long term stress.
14. Learn what's best for your body
Learning what's best for you is one of the most important things you can do for your health. With so much information out there is can be confusing on what to do to feel healthy. Learning what makes you feel your best is a process but well worth it in the end.
15. Self love
This is an important and most often overlooked component of treating any chronic health issue, including autoimmune disease. Loving yourself means making a deep commitment to heal any part of you that is wounded or broken. This includes toxic emotions (like anger, grief, and shame), unforgiveness toward yourself and others, and negative, self-destructive thoughts, feelings or behaviors.
What are some ways you like to show yourself some self care?