Self care isn’t selfish

Self care might have become somewhat of a buzzword, but that’s not without good cause. It can mean something different to everyone and that’s part of what makes it so important. We spend a lot of our time, energy and resources looking out for other people, trying to be kind and supportive to our friends and to provide for our families, and it’s all too easy to leave yourself behind.

As someone living with chronic and mental illness self care comes in many shapes and forms. For me, self care can mean taking my medication, or seeking out new treatments. It means keeping up with my physical therapy exercises, but also knowing when to back off and not giving myself a hard time about it. It can look like hair dye and heavy metal, or a bath and a book. It can mean finding the time to do something that makes me smile, even when I don’t want to.

Self care can even be as simple as looking after yourself, the things you don’t think about until you’re not doing them. Eating right, sleeping well, getting outside and interacting with others; on your worst day you might not want to do any of these things, but if you keep putting them off you’re only going to feel worse. For some people, taking time away from social media is crucial to their mental health, for others reaching out to a support group online could be the self care they need. What’s important is to listen to your own body and pay attention to what it needs.

Plan ahead

When you’re in a good place, take a moment to appreciate the things that are making you feel better. What put a smile on your face today? What gave you the courage to face the day? What do you really want to do right now, that you wouldn’t even consider on a bad day? Take all of these ideas and suggestions and make yourself a self-care list. That way when you’re stuck in a downward spiral and need something to break the cycle, the hard work has been done for you. Pull out your list and choose something that seems manageable and enjoyable at that moment. You could even have a self-care kit to open in times of need, filled with ready to go activities and things you might need.

Start small

Go into self-care mode with the right mindset. Clear your head and remember that you are worthy and you deserve this. Nobody should feel guilty for giving themselves the time and care they need, and nobody should be judged on what that looks like for them. No matter how small, or silly, or insignificant your self care seems, if it’s enough for you then that’s what matters.

I’m 100% guilty of pushing myself too hard and overdoing it, forcing my body into a flare and only stopping when I no longer have a choice. I’m trying to be better at going easy on myself and monitoring my limitations, I won’t always get it right but there’s comfort in knowing I have an action plan in place for those rest and recovery days.

Putting myself first puts me in control of my own wellbeing, and if you can’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of anybody else?

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