Voices: Are You a Self-Care Slacker?
Q. Are you a slacker when it comes to self-care?
Taking care of yourself is so important, but who hasn’t dealt with the self-care burnout that comes with having a chronic condition?
For the first in a new series featuring some of the leading social media voices on life with arthritis, we asked these bloggers about their struggles with self-care.
Making self-care a priority can often be a real challenge – especially if you are also a mom! Children are dependent on their parents, so it’s really easy to feel like their needs are more important. But, in my experience, when I put the needs of my boys far above my own, there ends up being a negative impact on the whole family. So I have a phrase I use to remind myself about the importance of self-care: You can’t pour from an empty cup. If your cup is empty, you have to take the time and make the effort to fill it up before you can possibly share with anyone else. So I make time for an Epsom salt bath, or I ask my mom to come over so I can go for a swim, or my husband and I spring for a babysitter so we can eat a meal that doesn’t involve mac and cheese. And I try to remember that taking care of myself is taking care of my family!
Self-care. That means being a compliant patient, right? Taking your medications, going to doctor appointments and eating right and exercising. Sure, I was great at self-care, if it just meant being a good patient.
But the truth is, self-care means more than just following doctor’s orders. It also means doing the things you love and being happy.
It used to be that when someone mentioned self-care, I responded, “How’? I can’t go to the gym. I can’t drive, so I can’t visit friends. I can’t play my guitars. I can’t eat chocolates or cheese or pizza because I have multiple food allergies. I can’t hike my favorite trail and take photos.” I had every excuse for why I couldn’t enjoy life, and eventually I broke down.
Finally, I saw that I had to find new things to love and new ways to do the things I love.
It wasn’t easy. I put some light weights, a bench and an exercise ball in my garage. I can’t run, but I can hold some yoga poses. I bought a used macro lens to explore a closer world of photography. I can’t play my guitars, but there’s a world of music to discover for free on YouTube.
Is it the same? No. But possibly the most important form of self-care I employ now is to not allow myself to dwell on the past. This is who I am now, and I am still capable of being happy and giving love, even to myself.
As part of managing my symptoms and coping with the emotional stress created by my RA, I rely heavily on exercise, including strength training, yoga and cycling. But I am guilty of not taking adequate rest days – and I mean real rest and self-care. In October 2016, I was training hard in preparation for wrist surgery, and I dropped a 45-pound weight on my foot! Luckily, I escaped without injury (just a big bruise and even bigger embarrassment), but it was a huge wakeup call that trying to push through my pain and fatigue was putting me at risk for serious injury. Since then, I schedule at least one rest day every weekend so I can spend the whole day on the couch if I want! I make sure this day includes a long, hot Epsom salt bath, Netflix (Veep is my current obsession!) and ice cream. It took me a while to let go of the guilt of “feeling lazy,” but now I look forward to those days all week!