Whole Self-Care: Are You Guilty Of Neglect?

I’ve written about the basics of self-care before. (See posts here, and here, and here) I’d like to dig a bit deeper today. Self-care in the media tends to be spas, baths, and face masks. There is much more to it. We need to make sure to care for our whole selves. This means we need to make sure we have our physical, mental, and emotional needs met. Whole self-care can make sure no part is neglected.

Neglecting any of these parts will leave you feeling off, drained, or like something is missing. It can be hard to track down just what is wrong when you are applying self-care, just not covering all the bases.

Whole Self-Care: Are You Guilty Of Neglect?

What type of things do you do for self-care already? Write them all down, in the above categories if you can. Look them over. Do you seem to have a shortage of any category? Is there a larger focus on another?

If you are unsure how to define some of your activities, or just short on actions in one or more groups, check below for ideas:

Physical

  • Daily, enjoyable activity
  • Basic hygiene: shower, wash hair, skin care, etc
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat enough and a variety
  • See doctor as needed
  • Take medication as needed
  • Stay hydrated
  • Hug someone
  • Play with a pet

Mental

  • Have quiet time daily – use it to pray, meditate, or what ever quiets your mind
  • Read
  • Learn something new
  • Cultivate your own hobbies
  • Turn of phone notifications for a time period
  • Talk to a therapist
  • Listen to music
  • Do a craft

Emotional

  • Practice mindfulness
  • Have time out with a friend
  • Go on a date
  • Journal
  • Keep a gratitude list
  • Do extra self-care activities that pamper you: spa days, face masks, flowers for yourself, etc
  • Call a family member or friend to talk
  • Cuddle a pet

Of course this is just a small list of suggestions. There are hundreds of different ways to do self-care, and many can go in more than one category.

I hope you have 3-5 ideas written down under each type now. You don’t want to have too many and get overwhelmed. If you already have a routine for some, it won’t be hard to add a few more though.

Whole Self-Care Plan

Now you are going to want to plan a week. Under each day, make sure you have at least one thing from physical, mental and emotional written down.

For example:

Monday- go on a walk, go to painting class, call mom

Tuesday- dance to music, get coffee with BFF (notice the “dance to music” can cover both physical and mental)

By making sure you have at least one out of each category, you are never going to totally neglect any part of your self-care. When you look over your plan for the week, pay attention to the overall balance. Do you tend to focus more on one area over the others? Is it just one kind of self-care that gets left out? If so, try to add a few more activities from that group into your week.

Overtime, practicing whole self-care, or using a more balanced approach, is sure to make you feel better over all. You will notice it isn’t just the area that was neglected that will improve, but every part of your life will feel more balanced and cared for.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments or feel free to email me at leighbryant@flawedmessylife.com . Also, please join us over at Growing in Self-Acceptance! We are a growing Facebook group forming a community meant to support each other as we grow in our acceptance of ourselves.

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

4 Challenges To Body Positivity For Spoonies

Body positivity can be extra tough when you are a spoonie. When your body doesn’t cooperate and you have to fight it all the time, it can be hard to believe that “all bodies are good bodies” or “there’s no wrong way to have a body”. In fact, for some of us it isn’t even true that our bodies are doing all they can to keep us alive! It’s pretty hard to be positive toward something actively trying to kill you.

So, how do you stay body positive as a spoonie? For one, it helps to refocus yourself on what you can do rather than what your body can’t do. Whatever limits you may have, there is still a list you can make of what is possible. Make that list, and see what you can do to add to it. Learn something new, take up a fun hobby, expand that list any way you can. As you see the list grow, it will help you find appreciation for what your body is capable of still.

All Bodies Are Good Bodies

Being self-conscious about weight is a common thing for people with chronic illnesses or mental health issues. People can’t control their weight the way they think they can. (link link)  Spoonies have even less control over it. Between illness symptoms, physical limits, and medicine side effects, weight gain and loss is pretty well out of our hands. Even eating “perfectly” (whatever that may be) and exercising all the time won’t give guaranteed results, so just do what you can to care for yourself, and then let the numbers go. There is no perfect weight, and your body has other concerns anyway. Stressing out by worrying about your weight is more harmful than just letting your body find its natural set point given what you are doing.

Never compare yourself to others and celebrate what makes you, you. -Tess Holliday

We are all told that we should get more exercise. Movement can help our bodies to feel better and help us to feel better about our bodies. There are many reasons a typical exercise routine isn’t reasonable for a spoonie. Some have conditions making them exercise intolerant (link, link), some have injuries or limitations for other reasons. There is usually some way to find movement you can enjoy though. I miss dancing. My P.O.T.S. doesn’t allow it without me getting very winded and light-headed now. So, I’ve adjusted my dancing to less movement or chair moves. There are many resources out there depending on your limits. A physical therapist can help you work something out too.

Some days are harder to me to stay body positive, when I focus on things I can’t do anymore. When finding new things to do isn’t enough, sometimes I rethink new ways to do what I’ve lost. Cooking is much harder for me now that I can’t stand as long. I really miss it sometimes, so now, on my good days, we have a chair in the kitchen I can sit on as I cook. I can’t garden like I used to, so we went smaller and have a few container plants now. Many things can be rethought and adjusted like that.

Just like most things for spoonies, body positivity is possible with adjustments. Do you have other challenges to body positivity you would like to see discussed? Please share in the comments!

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

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How Can I Find Self-Acceptance With Chronic or Mental Illness?

I’ve previously been covering self-acceptance from a very general direction. I want to focus in a little more now. Personally, I have found self-acceptance extra hard due to my chronic illnesses and mental illnesses. It only makes sense that other people have the same problems, so I want to share my thoughts and solutions.

Accepting Limits

One struggle I have is accepting my limits. Whether you compare yourself to what society expects, or to what you could do “before”, it is hard to accept that you can’t just do whatever you “set your mind to”. Before I got sick, I knew that if I decided I was going to do something, it was going to happen. Now I find myself limited by pain and fatigue; if not by depression and anxiety.

I have found it important to accept that these things will happen. It isn’t my fault, and there is no reason for, or benefit to, me to blame myself. Just like the weather can mess with your outdoor plans, my illnesses and mental health can interrupt my daily plans. In accepting this, I can “go with the flow” more and not simply give up.

If I continue to define myself by what I can't do, or what normal people do, I will destroy myself." Quote from LauraChamberlain.co.uk

Self-Worth

I used to base my worth on what I could do. My grades, my work, my housework, my caring for the kids, etc., all affected my self-esteem. Then I couldn’t do any of it. Brain fog took my “smarts”, and pain and fatigue took my ability to do housework and mother the way I had been. Anxiety never allowed me to work outside of the house for very long. I was left with nothing and felt I was worthless. My husband and kids showed me I was wrong.

They showed me, but this is true even without them. I am worthy, just by being me. The fact that I exist makes me worthy and valuable. This applies to everyone! You too are valuable and worthy just by existing. You don’t need to earn the right to like yourself.

Taking a Second Look at Limits

So, if we are worthy, just by being alive, our limits don’t take anything away from our value. Physical limits are just a line drawn by our body telling us where we need to stop. Respecting those limits are a part of self-care. Rather than fight them and suffering the consequences, most of the time we need to listen to our bodies.

Your value isn't in your doing or saying. It's in your being.

Now, that isn’t to say never push the limits. Some things we may find “worth it”. An occasional special outing with friends or family can be worth feeling worse for a week or two. Repeatedly pushing ourselves will only worsen our health long-term though. You deserve to be treated better than that.

Our ideal may be being able to do everything for everyone each time, and then we feel guilt, anger, failure, etc when we can’t do it. Changing our outlook and seeing it as a way our loved ones can be there for us is helpful. We have a different situation that does not lead to the “typical” expectations. It is fine to expect a change from others, rather than them expect the same or “normal” from us.

Boundaries are a function of self-respect and self-love. -quote by Brene Brown

Boundaries

This is where boundaries come in handy. Boundaries show others how to treat us. They are a line drawn in the sand. By setting boundaries, we let others know who we are, what we allow, and what is not tolerated.

Chronically ill people and those with mental health issues may have to be extra tough when it comes to boundaries. Healthy people do not always understand our limits and may forcefully push us to surpass them. We must be stubborn at enforcing those boundaries to care for ourselves. People in our life must understand that we mean business, and crossing our boundaries is not okay. They are just as valid as anyone else’s. So many times, people think that just because they don’t understand our various struggles, the struggles are not legitimate when that is the furthest thing from the truth.

Boundaries can be hard to set. If you need some help figuring out which ones to set, and how to do so, I prepared a free “Setting Boundaries Workbook” for you to download.

It is not your responsibility to convince anyone to respect your boundaries. You set the boundary, it is their place to accept it. Be firm, and your loved ones will catch on.

Rethinking Goals and Dreams

The last way I want to talk about limits has to do with goals and dreams. Having a chronic or mental illness can affect what dreams and goals are possible. That doesn’t mean you should give up on them though. you have a few possibilities. First it is possible that you can find a way to use modifications to make it happen. For instance, someone who wants to be an author, but loses the ability to type, can use voice recognition software to write still. If your dream job seems un-achievable, perhaps there is still something in the same or similar field that you can do.

I didn’t think there was any career available for me. Between high pain days, bad fatigue, and my depression or anxiety acting up, I’m not exactly the epitome of a reliable employee. This limits job/career choices quite a lot. Now, I didn’t have any certain job in mind to begin with. In fact, I chose to not go to college (and use my scholarship), because I didn’t have any goal in mind. Nothing has ever grabbed my attention.

After being diagnosed, it didn’t seem likely I would ever be employable. Well, maybe I’m not, but I’ve found a way to employ myself. Being a blogger allows me to work within my limits, and it is a way for me to help people, which I’ve always felt a pull toward. I share this personal bit to show how limits don’t have to limit you, but can actually open up previously unseen chances. To see how I work with my limits as a blogger, check out my monthly series, Confessions of a Chronically Ill Blogger.

There are a variety of ways that someone with either a chronic illness or mental health issues will find their journey to self-acceptance a different challenge than a healthy person. I’m going to stop here, but I’ll address other points soon.

Are there any particular concerns you would like me to write about? Let me know in the comments! You can email me anytime also at leighbryant@flawedmessylife.com .

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

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My Depression Peeks Its Head Out Now and Again

I actually had another post planned for today. I’ve been trying to finish it for days, and last night I had to concede that it wasn’t going to happen. My depression has acted up, and that makes writing hard. My brain just won’t cooperate. So I was lying in bed trying to figure out how I was going to have a post for today, and I remembered what I wrote at the end of February.

The last time my depression surfaced, I got up in the middle of the night and wrote about it. It was a way for me to work through my thoughts. I’m sharing it with you today.

 

My Mental Health

If I remember right, this is my third time being on medication for mental health. I really think this is the best I’ve ever felt while medicated. (My mental health seems to be at the very best when I’m pregnant.) Yet, I still find myself randomly spiraling down into depression. It will come out of nowhere and surprise me. I don’t usually see it coming. Suddenly I get irritable for no reason, or I abruptly lose interest in what I’m doing. Sometimes there is no other clue, but no matter what I find myself curled up in bed unable to care about anything.

Depression

“Oh, hi there old friend. I recognize you. Why are you back? Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

All I can do is ride it out. Fighting the negative thoughts used to be too exhausting. I just let myself wallow in them. If they got too overwhelming, I would tell the worst to my husband. He is my best friend and my rock. I trust him to tell me the truth, and so I can believe him when he argues with my dark thoughts.

Negative Thoughts

I’ve practiced countering negative thoughts long enough, that I try to not wallow now. I can’t make the feelings go away, but I do my best to interrupt each dark train of thought. I don’t let my mind meander down those paths unsupervised. Instead, I take my own hand and gently lead myself back toward the bright reminders I have stored for just these times. I also try to distract myself. I’ll play games on my phone, scroll through Pinterest, watch Netflix, or rewatch some favorite YouTube videos. I now have some playlists of helpful songs on YouTube too.

Thankfully, since my most recent increase in my medicine, these spirals only last a few hours now. They used to last a few days. This one has been about 8 hours so far. It probably doesn’t help that it started around suppertime. It helps to have some length of day ahead to try to do something. I tried to sleep for awhile at bedtime, but I took an hour nap and that was apparently all my body wanted. So, for now, I find myself awake, moved into the living room, eating a poptart and writing this at 2:30 am. I’m hoping that getting it all out will clear my head, and it will let me sleep.

Hopefully I’ll be able to sleep soon.

When I first started on meds, I hoped to not need them someday. I was 22. Now, at 37, I accept I will likely be on meds the rest of my life. It honestly doesn’t bother me. My brain needs something to help it function, the same as my mom needs insulin, and I need to stay on medication to keep my inflammatory arthritis from progressing.

How do I know the medicine is working if I still find myself in this condition occasionally? I finally am able to feel happy; happier than I remember feeling for years. I actually have fun doing things. I laugh louder, longer, and more than ever. I want to make plans. I’m writing this blog. 😀

I wrote this as my own therapy to get out of my funk, but why post it? To be real, for one. Also, I want people to know that recovery from mental illness is not a straight line. There are ups and downs. The important bit is that we keep going. Progress is progress, even if it is slow. So I had a setback. It will pass. It always does.

I hope this post can make a difference for even one person. If I can make anyone feel less alone, more understood, or help in anyway, then it was worth it. Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment. I’d love to connect on Twitter or Instagram too! 

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