Personal Needs and Self-Care as Practice
I’m still working out the details of what self-care means for me, and if I’m being honest my idea of self-care and my own personal needs are always changing. There are no rules or restrictions as to what can qualify for self-care, only what works for you.
Of course the first step is accepting self-care into your life, and not simply as a luxury but as a priority. This is especially important for spoonies because stress often has an extreme effect on our bodies, leading to increased pain, fatigue, and disease flare-ups.
One way to think about self-care for spoonies is to include it as part of our healthcare routine. I think prioritizing self-care, whatever that means for you, in the same way I prioritize AS treatment is an effective way of allowing self-care practices into my life.
Self-care for spoonies
Here are a few recommendations for spoonies self-care, based on reflecting on my own experiences and habits (see part 1 of this article here):
1. Find ways to relax your body
This may be exercise, hot baths, mid-day naps, some curling up with a good book in your favorite recliner, light yoga, you name it. I think whatever activity you can find that helps relax your body and ease some pain should have a slot on your daily calendar for sure. For me, this is hiking, hot baths, and watching an hour of mindless TV at night.
2. Make the habits that help common practice
Pencil in your self-care habits and make them part of your normal day. If eating healthy helps control inflammation, make it a daily practice. If five minutes of meditation before bed improves your sleep, then do it every night. I try to prioritize these habits daily (though not always successful), but I know myself and if I don’t make self-care a priority in my mind, then I’ll treat it like a luxury that I can’t always afford.
3. Don’t set unhealthy or unrealistic expectations
Self-care certainly means doing those things that help you relax, refresh, and recharge but it also means avoiding habits that make it necessary to "recharge" all the time. For me, this meant learning how to set healthy expectations and unlearning goal-setting that inevitably leads to disease flares. And I’m continually learning as my disease progresses and changes.
4. Confide in your support network
Many of us spoonies battle with stress, anxiety and depression directly related to our chronic diseases. Therefore I think it’s vital that we lean on members of our support network, whether that be loved ones, friends, fellow spoonies, or licensed professionals. Don’t forget about your mental and emotional well-being when caring for yourself!
5. Leave guilt at the door
The world around us does a good enough job accumulating and reinforcing pressures in our lives that we don’t need to be adding it. So when making time for your own self-care, be sure to leave that guilt of not "being productive" at the door. I tell myself all the time that taking care of myself is being productive. No need to feel guilty about that!
Make self-care a priority
Those of us with a chronic illness know how important it is to manage our health. But taking care of oneself means more than simply taking medications and showing up for doctor’s appointments. It means showing up for your well-being day in and day out.
Self-care is not simply a trend to scoff at as spoonies, but a a daily practice. Or at least it should be since, as one Harvard Health article puts it “we can’t function very well if we aren’t very well." But the only way it can be a daily practice is if you take it seriously and make self-care a priority.
How much about your AS do you share with others?