It seems like everybody uses the word self-care to refer to pretty much everything they do for enjoyment. It is a little different when we are chronically ill. Self-care is necessary for wellbeing, yes, but for emotional, mental, and physical quality of life and for even better functionality.

Right now we all need to focus on that more than usual I would say.

Modes of self-care

I find there are levels, for me, for Self-Care.

I refer to it generally in three different ways when I use the word, all of which are important for managing chronic illness and chronic pain.

Emergency Self-Care

It is the self-care we use for immediate needs. Like for a High Pain Day, it is the things you do to manage the pain and get through it. For a high pain migraine for me, that is: ice packs, darkness, rest, migraine balms, relaxation breathing and medication. For High Pain, it is usually pain rubs, heat or cold, medication, or cannabis. For severe dizziness, it is definitely laying down and resting and sometimes a few naps in there.

This can change depending on the pain levels and the things I do regarding those pain levels. And I have different PLANS OF ACTION for different pain levels and different types of pain. A good plan of action is necessary so that you know what you will do in certain scenarios to help you manage specific levels of pain and specific types of pain.

It is what we have a Plan for when symptoms are Severe to manage them as best we can when nothing else will do.

Mood Management Self-Care

Mood management has been very important to me over time since I have had Major Depressive Disorder for over a decade. Part of that is medication and part of that is therapy. However, some of that is utilizing the therapy I learned and also doing things I know boost and manage my mood when I am in a slump

Socializing– helps with my depression management

Listening to good tunes– is always a good mood boost

Journaling– I love this one for getting out your feelings and thinking about why you feel that way. You can work through a lot. I use a computer journal these days.

Things to reduce stress:

  1. Let’s get physical: Yep, exercise. It does help. Every little bit helps. Which for us may not be much at all. But even a few minutes can be a stress buster.
  2. Relaxation strategies: whatever floats your relaxation groove. Meditation. Yoga. Relaxation breathing. Massage therapy. And others.
  3. The body relaxation exercise: lay down. Get comfy. Tense your toes and release. And then following every muscle, tighten, hold and release until your whole body is all loose and relaxed.
  4. Keeping your awesome sense of humour. Check!
  5. Socialize with friends and family: socializing is good for well-being in many varied ways. And reducing isolation is quite important for us.
  6. Specifically set aside time for hobbies: Yes, set some time for You to do what You are passionate about because You love to do it. Listen to music. Read. Write. Draw. Knit. I could name 1000 ways.
  7. Do a gratitude journal recording 3 things you are thankful for every day. Or a regular journal that can get out thoughts and ideas on your day… can be reflective and cathartic to get it down.
  8.  Try art therapy which can reduce stress behaviour and symptoms: I draw or write or do poetry but there are a whole lot of ways to creative that can be used as art therapy.

11 ways to boost your mood

Maintenance Self-Care

There are many things we do to maintain our wellbeing; emotional, mental and physical. These are any of the things we do every single day to manage our illness.

Distraction: is a technique I use for a lot of things to just get out of my head-space for a bit and anything we focus on from TV, music, to reading, movies, Audio-books, podcasts, will help distract us from symptoms.

Hobbies: Hobbies help us feel productive and satisfied and give us something to do that makes us happy.

Meditation– Is one thing I do day to day that helps de-stress myself. But you may do other things to de-stress.

Taking my medications and vitamins regularly: Keeping to this routine is essential

Routine: keeping to a daily routine of small activities, rest, and mild exercise. Routines help us feel productive and stay consistent with the main things we want to do from day to day. Your routine will be different from mine.

Healthy habits Maintenance: These are all the things we regularly do to help maintain our health regularly and can include anything and everything we feel helps manage our chronic illness in any way at all. It could be mild exercise, like going for walks, to physiotherapy, to therapy, to acupuncture, to maintaining a regular sleep routine, to a specific food diet… all the things we Maintain for our Overall Health Maintenance.

Pacing my activities

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The main tenets of self-care

The main factor of self-care overall, aside from emergency management, are:
  • Emotional well-being: How your mood is during the day. And emotional satisfaction in life. What we do to manage mood fluctuations.
  • Physical well-being: Including level of stress management, level of exercise, level of physical well-being. All the things we do to manage our physical well-being during the day as it fluctuates. Assess our physical well-being every day to plan our self-care.
  • Intellectual well-being: Are we adequately intellectually stimulated in life day to day and what we do to resolve that if we are not.
  • Spiritual well-being: This can be religious or our peace and balance in life. Our mean and life purpose. Our personal growth.
  • Occupational well-being: This is usually our satisfaction with work life but for some of us it involves our feeling of being productive. If work, what we enjoy or do not enjoy about work and what changes we can make to alter those factors we do not enjoy. What we can do for accommodation. What we can do to reduce work stresses.
  • Social well-being: what our social life is like and how we can increase it if it is not to the level we want it to be.

An exercise to do is rank these in your life as of today, in satisfaction. And make small achievable goals for the ones that are lowest in satisfaction.

Basically, that is self-care for me. Daily efforts that focus on my well-being factors. And my daily efforts to manage symptoms and pain as well as daily coping strategies.

See more on self-care

Self-care when you are in a funk
Chronic pain and self-compassion
Living with chronic pain: discovering gratitude

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