“BE THERE FOR OTHERS, BUT NEVER LEAVE YOURSELF BEHIND” Dodinsky
These days we hear a lot about the importance of practicing self-care, but what does that really mean? Self-care is consciously taking steps to protect your well-being. It’s taking a little time every day to do something that nourishes you. It’s taking responsibility for your own health and happiness. We all need to find ways to be kind to ourselves; to decompress, relax, and re-charge. Self-care is a form of self-love.
Self-love is a reflection of how you see yourself. Show yourself that you matter; that you are worth it. Put yourself at the top of your to-do list instead of taking care of yourself last. We are all so busy trying to be everything for everyone, that we leave nothing for ourselves. We feel guilty for thinking of our needs first. We put constant mental and physical stress on ourselves until our bodies rebel and we get sick. Self- care is not indulgent, but rather a form of self-preservation.
Many people living with acute stress or chronic illness, start each day already feeling depleted and exhausted. They look at the schedule for the day and wonder where they’re going to find the energy to get through it all. As the day goes on, they may lose focus and forget things. Patience begins to wear thin. Daily obligations and goals can seem unattainable and overwhelming. Practicing self-care enables your mind and body to rest and gives you the chance to approach life from a place of clarity and calm. This can leave you better equipped to deal with daily stressors and adversity and help you make better decisions.
Nurture your mind and body so that you are better prepared to face any challenge. Set yourself up to thrive. Practicing self-care allows you to give yourself the gift of self-compassion.
Self-compassion helps you to build a healthy relationship with yourself and teaches you to treat yourself kindly. This boosts self-esteem and confidence and lets you take part in guiding your own happiness. Trust what your body is trying to tell you. Listen to your body and give it what it needs.
When living with a chronic illness, it’s sometimes hard to accept your body when you feel it’s betrayed you. Symptoms like fatigue, pain, loss of balance and weakness may make you feel less confident, or just,’ less.’ Don’t let yourself become indifferent to what’s happening with your body or mind. Don’t undermine yourself with negative self-talk and a defeatist attitude. Encourage yourself. Value who you are as a person; not by accomplishments. Don’t think about what you can’t do, but rather what you can do. Think of your achievements as a testament to your capabilities. Celebrate all wins. Be confident. You are strong, competent, and worthy.
MAKE PEACE WITH YOURSELF-
It’s important to acknowledge your feelings about living with an illness so that suppressed emotions don’t control the way you live your life. There is no right or wrong way to feel. If you need to talk to someone, don’t be afraid to reach out to family or friends. Self-acceptance will allow you to see possibilities in life, instead of obstacles.
LEARN YOUR BOUNDARIES-
Set realistic goals for yourself. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses so that you don’t set yourself up to fail. Don’t be a ‘people-pleaser,’ and allow yourself to get talked into things that you know will make you anxious or deplete you. Learn to say ‘no,’ and stick to it. Don’t worry about getting things done perfectly, just get them done as best you can.
Decide who you want in your life. Stress is said to be a possible trigger for MS exacerbations. Try to limit time with people who always argue, complain, and have a negative attitude; this can cause you stress and anxiety. Instead, surround yourself with people who lift you up, encourage, and inspire you.
Be responsible for your own happiness. Stop comparing yourself to others. Don’t worry about what others are doing or what they think. We have no way of knowing what other people’s lives are really like, concentrate on your own.
LEARN TO COMMUNICATE–
Tell your family, friends, and doctors what you need and how you feel. If you don’t speak up, people won’t know how they can help you. Accept the support of your loved ones and people involved in your care. Borrow strength from other people when you need it.
QUIET YOUR MIND-
Stress hormones can trigger muscle tension that can cause headaches and pain. Practice stress-management and find activities you like that relax you and help to ease any anxiety.
EXERCISE YOUR BRAIN-
Brain stimulating activities can strengthen our neurons. Neurons are cells that process and transmit information. They are a key component of our central nervous system. When messages are transmitted across different areas of the brain, our neural circuits become stronger. Certain games and activities help to promote this kind of mental exercise and can help to improve cognitive abilities such as problem-solving, attention, and memory. Do crossword puzzles. Play Solitaire, Scrabble, or Concentration. Learn a new language. Read or paint. Basically, do anything that will challenge your mind.1
Self-care means different things to different people. Keep a journal. Get a massage. Practice yoga, tai chi, or deep breathing exercises. Meditate. Take a bath. Take a walk. Enjoy nature. Listen to music. Personally, I like to take walks whenever possible and explore new places. (See photo above) Do whatever takes you to your happy place.
Build a strong foundation from the inside out for your mind, body, and soul. A good balance of nutrition, hydration, exercise, and sleep are vital for good health. Know your limits. Treat your body well and it will serve you.
How do you practice self-care?
1 Small, Gary M.D., Vorgan, Gigi, “ 2 Weeks to a Better Brain. An Innovative Program for a Better Memory and Sharper Mind.” Chap. 4, Get smart with Brain Games, pp. 86-87.