Saturday 23 November 2019

Self-Care When You're Chronically Ill or Have a Disability // Self-Care Week 2019


Self-care can be more difficult in some ways when you're chronic illness/disabled as 
A) we get so wrapped up in prioritising in dealing with our health and getting through the day and the demands our of our minds and bodies
B) some things like going for a walk or meeting up with friends may be more of a challenge for some people

Sometimes we're so busy trying to keep afloat with managing our health and all that come with it (phone calls, emails, attending appointments etc) that self-care doesn't become a priority and it can be hard to find a space to take time-out. However, self-care when you're chronically ill/disabled is even more important as it supports our all-round welding. But even if you can find 5 minutes each day to do something like for a mindfulness exercise, do some stretches or put on a face mask.

Self-care, even the small things count

Even though we may not be able to do some of the 'big' self-care things, we can sell engage in self-care in smaller and more manageable ways.

Even the small simple things count for example:

  • Drinking plenty and eating healthily
  • Ensuring you remember to take the right medication
  • Going and sitting out in your garden or local park -  you don't need to walk or wheel to enjoy nature
  • Take up new things, like find a mindfulness app that works for you
  • Do some simple easy yoga at home or get out your physio exercise sheets and put that into your day
  • Pick up a new manageable hobby
  • Invite a friend or two round for coffee or a pamper session
  • Have a movie night
  • Take time out from social media
Even if you can't make it out the house or your are bed bound there are plenty of simple low-energy self-care activities you can.

Self-care is very individual, what might be helpful to one person might not necessarily work for someone else. It's all a case of trial-end-error to find what works for you and try not to get frustrated if you keep trying things and they're not for you. You'll find something eventually. It's important to listen your your mind and body and what it needs and what your limits and and it's a forever learning and evolving process. 

Even I'm still trying to figure out what works for me and trying to get into a daily routine of self-care.

So, how do we practise self-care when you're chronic illness/disabled?

1. Recognising and monitoring your own boundaries

Setting and monitoring blundering and learning to say 'no' when needed is an important part of self-care when living with a chronic illness/disability. You can't prioritise if you don't self clear boundaries.

Make it clear to other people around you - friends, family, carers what you can do and when you need help with; for some people this may change day-to-day. Making this clear to others helps others to know your boundaries so they can give you some independence but support you were and when needed to take the pressure off, and also so you don't get pushed beyond your boundaries. 

2. Reviewing our self-image

Having a chronic illness/disability can often come with a lot of negative feelings which can make it difficult to make self-care a priority as we don't feel we deserve it or it's not a priority.

But it's important to try and challenge ourselves and review how we feel about ourselves and try and achieve inner peace and be happy with our inner selves as well as our external selves and be accepting of the things we cannot change and think of all the things we can do and celebrate those achievements which make up feel more positive about ourselves. It's important to celebrate those achievements, no matter how small they are because you you they are the big victories.

Reviewing how we view ourselves can help us to feel more happy with ourselves and our bodies/minds despite it's flaws. We also need to find ways to value ourselves instead of valuing the things we do.

3. Connecting with ourselves 

When we have a chronic illness/disability we become experts at looking after our physical bodies - attending appointments, taking our medication, doing our physio exercises etc. However, it can be harder to nurture our inner self. As mentioned before, this may be because we feel inadequate or have a poor self-image of ourselves or we may feel that we have little value or that you may never be "good enough". It may also be because we are so wrapped up in looking after our physical selves that looking after other aspects of our holistic self don't become a priority.

It can be good to take time-out to connect with ourselves and try not to feel guilty about this. If you're going through a rough patch, whether it be physically or emotionally it's important to recognise that, connect with ourselves and ask ourself what we need. This may be doing something like prioritising our diary, rescheduling to a later date non-urgent medical appointments, planning a free day/week off of nothing in your diary to rest and recharge and reconnect with ourselves.

To try and connect with yourself you need to try and not hide your feelings from yourself. Try and find way to take care of your mind like creating a positivity jar or journal/scrapbook, notice and name your feelings, accept thoughts and emotions, practice self-compassion and being kind to ourselves and enjoy activities that just involve yourself such as arts and crafts, meditation or mindfulness, yoga/pilates, doing a jigsaw puzzle or activity book like sticker-by-numbers, dot-to-dot or colouring books, or sitting in the garden or local park or green space. Here's a blog post I did yesterday on 30 Things to Put into a Self-Care Box and tomorrow I'm publishing 30 Self-Care Ideas.

4. Pacing, planning, prioritising and rest

Often, and I'm guilty of this, when we're having a good moment we often use that moment to get things done, but then we push ourselves too much until we're running on empty adrenaline leaving us feeling utterly crashed which can for some of us set us back hours, days or even weeks. And then we do the same and we get stuck in a 'boom and bust' cycle.
This cycle is both damaging to our physical, intellectual/cognitive, mental and emotional states. But, great news, this cycle can be avoided with the practise of self-care and pacing.
I did a whole blog post on Pacing, Activity Management and Rest which you might find helpful if you want to read more.