Self-care. Words that get a lot of airtime, but aren’t always fully appreciated. Self-care goes beyond bubble baths and “me” time. Those are great, but there’s more to it than that. It’s about caring for yourself mentally and physically, taking responsibility for your well-being and being your own advocate. It’s about knowing that you’re worth doing it all for.
With chronic illness and chronic pain, self-care can slip by the wayside when we feel particularly low or guilty or “less than” because of the limitations we find have been put on our lives. With that said, here are five alternative thoughts on practicing self-care.
1. Stop the comparison game.
It’s easy to compare yourself and your situation to that of others, whether they’re friends, colleagues, acquaintances on social media or random strangers. We can be our own worst enemy when we pick ourselves apart, weighing ourselves against others and feeling like we never measure up. We can compare anything and everything: how we look, our financial situation, living arrangements, social life and even our level of happiness. When we compare, we’re comparing assumptions and perceptions. But things aren’t always as they seem because people only show you want they want you to see. We’re never good enough when we play the comparison game. It’s time to celebrate yourself and your life, as perfectly imperfect as it is. There’s only one you, and that is always going to be good enough.
2. Be assertive.
Be your own advocate for your needs. Learn to be OK with asking for what you want, and stand up for yourself. Learn to say no. You owe it to yourself to use your freedom of speech and choice.
3. Focus on what you can do.
There are plenty of things in life we can’t control, including other people. But you can control how you respond, and how you deal with what life throws your way. Don’t fall into the trap of focusing on the things you can’t change, or the things you can’t do for whatever reason; focus on what you can do.
4. Ditch the guilt and forgive.
Guilt can be pervasive and incredibly damaging, sneaking in at every opportunity. Dig a little deeper to see where this guilt is coming from. Don’t apologize for being you, and don’t feel bad for taking care of your own needs. When life gets overwhelming, cut yourself some slack; you’re doing your best, so take a step back, breathe and rest, without feeling guilty about it. Many of us also find it easier to forgive others than ourselves, but it’s an important step to healing hurt, nourishing ourselves and ditching the guilt.
5. Write your own rules.
There seem to be unwritten rules and guidelines in society about how your life “should” look and what you “should” achieve by certain points in your life. It assumes that these are things you want, but do you really even want them? It can be a heavy weight on your shoulders with the pressures and expectations, but do these “rules” even apply to you?
Re-evaluate what your values and goals are. Decide for yourself what you want and what makes you happy. Furthermore, we don’t always get a choice when our life takes a detour, such as if we struggle with ill health. Our lives don’t always look the way we’d expected, but that’s OK. It doesn’t mean you can’t carve out a new path and enjoy a scenic route, making the most of your journey as best you can. Forget about what others think. Live your own life by your own rules.
Remember: Self-care is not self-indulgent and it is not selfish. It’s vital to your mental & physical health, helping you to live your best life and to be there for those around you, too. Without self-care, we can easily become more exhausted, overwhelmed, utterly frazzled, frustrated and even resentful.
Self-care is about taking responsibility for ourselves. It’s about making sure our basic needs are met first, then going beyond those to treat ourselves with more kindness and compassion.
Follow this journey on the author’s blog.