As February draws to a close, we also round up our month of looking at Self Care. We have had some incredible responses to the pieces published by our guest writers, and all enjoyed the thoughtful yet whimsical illustrations on ‘Boring Self Care’ from artist Hannah Daisy. We’ve welcomed 60 new followers to our Facebook page and have discussed a plethora of topics related to looking after ourselves.
In response to the discussions about our February series in various Facebook groups and online forums, we have compiled a selection of the hundreds of thoughts and comments on Self Care from the chronic and invisible illness community.
What does Self Care mean to you?
‘For me it’s remembering to be nice to myself.’
‘Trying not to get cross when I can’t do things, eating well, and making sure I remember my meds.’
‘Self care means listening to your body. You must listen and allow your body to rest. Pacing yourself allows you to function! 🙂’
‘To me, it means sleeping while my children are at school so that I can be ‘functioning’ when they come home ’
‘Ultimately this means you are hopefully managing your symptoms and taking back control 🙂’
What acts of Self Care do you work into your life?
'Remembering to take my meds! This is something I have really been working on! Some days it works others not so much...'
'Taking a shower every couple of days. More recently I have to be able to handle it from start to finish on my own, but sometimes baby wipes and sponge baths have to fill in.
‘I personally listen to my favourite music, watch a favourite TV show, read a magazine or book, colour in, flick through old photos, spend a while in the shower or bath, play around with makeup, or go somewhere I can have a nice view of the sky and take photos of it. I guess it's about whatever makes you feel more calm, relaxed, at home, happy, etc. when you need it the most, and just taking time out for yourself to do the things you love and enjoy when you need it.’
'When I'm depressed, my self-care falls into a couple of categories: distractions, and beneficial. Because I don't expect to be able to make myself feel better (because: depression), all I can do is get myself through the day and try to feel more in control of my body/ actions because then I feel like the depression isn't winning. So my self-care ends up being a mix of little tasks that build up into a sense of achievement (showering, cleaning dishes, picking up dirty laundry etc) and activities that pass the time (watching cartoons, talking to friends, long bath etc).'
Does exercise feature in your Self Care plan?
'I have started training with a personal trainer. I've been working with him for the past 6 months. It has really improved my physical and mental health. It's all down to the way he trains me. I have complete trust with him. He knows when he can push me but also knows when its getting too much.'
'YES! It keeps me sane. I have functional lower limb weakness and lack of sensation but playing Para Ice Hockey is the one time each week when I get to feel normal and strong. I want to try swimming in the next few weeks because my overall fitness could be better.'
'I got a vibration pad for use in the winter and it has worked really well. Gives your muscles a good workout. I walk mostly and started Tai Chi about a month ago which I highly recommend. I find the exercise helps a lot. Just start slow and work up to it. Swimming is really good. It puts less strain on your body.'
'I made my own program which I've then built upon. Started with small walks which I have built up. Then interval circuit training, using chair gymnastics and after a year I'm now do it with out. I do 40 seconds rest a minute, to start for 15 min now up to half hour. If I have a bad day I do what I can and pat myself on the back 😊'
'Tai Chi and Chi Gung, paced walking and swimming, starting very low all helped me. If you have Chronic Fatigue they say increase no more than 5-10% each week. Meditation and gentle stretching before exercise helps a lot.'
'I log everything, exercise, sleep and symptom wise in a family planner. It helps to build up an overview of where my good days are vs the rougher ones. I include the abbreviations of the type of exercise, how many minutes, comments, and a column for feedback after; and each month do an overall review. It's very motivational and I have improved so much from a very low amount to a moderate level now and other people are noticing the change.'
Do you include other activities in your Self Care Plan?
'30 minutes of morning meditation, Tai Chi for physical therapy, chado and watercolours for occupational therapy, shinrin yoku and sunshine whenever possible. '
'Crafting is the best therapy I have found for myself. It encourages me to be creative, sociable and distracts me from many of my symptoms.'
'I have a craft room and spend as much time in there as I can as I love drawing painting sewing etc. I make memory bears for people who have lost loved ones. I find it very rewarding and distracting.'
'Doing something more interactive than tv, even a computer game. I bought crayons and coloring book and try to do that as often as possible. I used to listen to audio books and crochet. I'd like to get back into that.'
'Reading "classics". A book with both style and substance provides a way for me to get out into the world since I can't do it physically, while also providing my brain the sort of deep stimulation it craves. It's escapism, I suppose, but not exactly a bad one. Also, I volunteer online helping people, or trying to anyway, and that lets me take my focus of myself, which I would argue is definitely self care. I'm excited to read your list. Resources can be so scattered.'
What advice would you give others?
'Stop putting pressure on yourself to be productive all in one go. Divide the chore up and take it slowly. For instance, if the bed needs stripping, strip it, laundry basket, change the pillow cases in the morning, put the sheet on in the afternoon put the duvet cover on in the evening. You might only have made your bed but when you're feeling rotten that's a huge achievement, and you've got a load for the washing machine that just needs turning on ready to dry the day after. Just do a bit, rest, do a bit, rest, take guilt out of the equation. No one dies if stuff doesn't get done today.'
'Be kind to yourself. Chronic illness is real.'
'Self-care also doesn't have to be soothing - it could be doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable in the moment or is just plain boring, but has long term benefits (eg: organising doctors appointments, doing self-analysis on your mental health/ life, little bits of exercise, organising paperwork/ a work space / kitchen cupboards / pet food / books).'
'I like the power of the notion that self-care need to be claimed. We learn to live our lives in the service of others. It should not be necessary to become so ill that you can do little else but care for oneself.'