Help you help You: Caring for myself is an act of Survival

I think it is fundamental that people with chronic illness understand they need to take care of themselves first. That they are in fact a priority as well. If they feel good other things will follow from that. If we push through the pain and fatigue to get things done because we feel we should, for our family, for our loved ones, because society demands it… we will suffer for it and feel worse off. It is a lesson we learn over and over again but it never seems to stick because of one simple thing: Guilt.

We feel guilty when we do not live up to our own standards of what we feel we should be doing. What we feel societies standards are. What we believe our loved ones deserve. Guilt does us no good at all.

We are chronically ill. And we need to take care. Just take some Care.

There are two fundamental things I believe we all should do and remember, always.

Rest: Fundamentally chronic pain and chronic illness is exhausting. We need to take more regular breaks. We may need a nap in there. We might add in relaxation breathing or meditation. We should accept when our body says Rest and take care of that need. Exceeding our limits is exactly the opposite of what we should do.

Pacing: Pacing is the most fundamental tip of the chronically ill. We need to moderate our activities and pace ourselves. Any tasks we have we should consider our limits, never exceed them and have enough rest in there between activities and know when to say no to others. In my pain clinic class, we were discussing pacing. We all had stories where we would have a low pain day and as a result, what do you do? You do a crapload of things to compensate because you can get so much more done! And then as a result of That you feel so much worse the next day. You plummet and pay the inevitable price for exceeding your limits. The instructor said we all need to avoid this boom/bust thinking. In other words, good day or bad, we always have to pace. We always have to understand that while we live in a fast-paced society we move to the beat of our own drum, and it is a slower beat. It means you can plan to do a little bit of housework a day, sure, but on a ‘good day’ don’t clean the whole house. Well, that is an exaggeration even on a good day I can’t do that so not sure if others can. But we can do more on a good day, so we push too far. Just remember to always pace yourself in order to avoid the boom/bust in energy which ends up making you feel worse, in the long run, well, actually quite quickly this will make you feel worse than if you remain steady.

If we incorporate consistent pacing and utilize rest when needed we are taking care of ourselves in a way that is necessary. Like the quote says, it is an act of survival. We deserve to take care of ourselves in order to feel the best we possibly can when coping with a chronic illness. I think these two are your fundamental coping tools to start with. If you have them down then you are helping yourself out in the long haul.


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