Actual Self-Care Tips for People with Chronic Illness
Recently I wrote a blog post highlighting the issue with the growing online trend of self-care, especially from the perspective of someone with disabilities. This prompted me to start looking at how I look after myself, and think more deeply about how I can improve my life quality through real self-care. I’ve decided to create a list of ten things I do to help myself, and hopefully it can help any fellow spoonies too.
1. Take your medication. This seems like the most basic, boring tip anyone could ever give you, but the amount of times I’ve decided to skip a certain dose of meds because I didn’t feel like giving myself an injection, or swallowing a particularly nasty chalky pill, is too many to count. Not only that, but it’s also just easy to forget or get mixed up. Try and have a pill box or a medication journal to keep on track. No matter how you feel about your meds, it is important to take them.
2. Sleep. A lot. If you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, take a nap in the day. Go to bed early when you know you have to get up in the morning. My motto is: sleeping a lot doesn’t make me feel better, but not sleeping enough makes me feel a whole lot worse.
3. Try to keep trigger foods out of your diet. As someone with inflammatory diseases and an over-production of acid, I have to try and avoid certain foods that make this worse. For me, some of these include eggs, bread, milk, and sweet sugary foods. Little tweaks to your diet can do the world of good, but don’t straight-up cut things out. Everything in moderation.
4. On that note, try and research whether the medications you are on can lead to any deficiencies. For example, one of mine can lead to a lack of the vitamin B12 over time. If you know where these ‘deficiencies’ are, you can try and take natural supplements (of course speak to your doctor first) to make up for it.
5. Now a more practical perspective: make a list of your symptoms whenever they appear, in a sort of ‘symptom log’. You should also write down any questions or worries that pop into your head as soon as you think of them. Why? I’m someone who, when I get to a doctor’s appointment, forgets everything that’s been troubling me for the past few months. When you only see your doctor every once in a while, it’s important to make the most of your appointments. Making a note of everything gives you something to present to your doctor when you see them.
6. Never be afraid to use what you have access to/what you have available to you. If you have mobility aids and they help, use them. I always used to leave my crutches at home even when I was in pain, just so I wouldn’t be a burden to the people I was going out to meet, or a hindrance. These days I know better and use them because they take away a large portion of my pain, and it’s done me the world of good.
7. It’s okay to cancel on people, and it’s okay to be flaky. If you can't manage that lunch date, just don't go. While it's important not to develop avoidant behaviour, it very much is important to do what's best for you. If you really feel like certain activities will drain you too much, just reschedule. Listen to your body more than your need to please other people.
8. My final and probably most important tip: Ask people for help, and don't be afraid to do it. You genuinely just can't do everything on your own. The hardest thing I've ever had to learn is that your friends aren't annoyed to help you. The people you love will always be there for you. Use that, don't force yourself to be a solo warrior.