If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from having chronic illnesses is that self-care isn’t a luxury, it’s necessary. We’re often so busy with work or looking down at our phones that actually we forget to take time for ourselves and I know I’m guilty of overdoing it and then burning myself out.
Whilst I’ve lived with horrendous periods since I started them at age 11 and have tried my best to look after myself, the importance of self-care became even more important to me after receiving a diagnosis of endometriosis in 2016. If I don’t take the time to relax and allow my mental and physical health to recover, my endometriosis gains the upper hand in my body and makes my life hell. It’s taken some time to find what self-care approaches work best for me and I hope that they work for you too!
Listen to your body!
This goes without saying, too often we push ourselves too far which exasperates how we’re feeling. If your body is telling you to rest, then rest. This might mean taking twenty minutes to go for a walk, having a power nap or making yourself a cup of tea. Regardless of what works for you, listening and responding to what your body needs is the single most important thing you can do for yourself.
Have a bath.
I have to admit that I’m not really that into baths but when I do decide to have one, I always feel better afterwards. If my body is flaring or I have a lot of aching muscles, then I know it’s time to fill up the tub. There’s something incredibly relaxing about putting on some soothing music, lighting a few candles and letting the hot water ease your pain (and troubles away). If my body is really hating me then I’ll use some Epsom salts or a CBD bath bomb rather than bubble bath.
Spend some time outside.
There’s so much research about how spending time in the great outdoors can improve your mood and help to relax you. This doesn’t necessarily mean going on a huge expedition (unless you’re into that…) but rather taking the opportunity to breathe in some fresh air, listen to the sounds of nature and allowing yourself to just soak it all in. Spending time in nature reduces your stress levels, inflammation and generally makes you feel good, plus it’s free!
Hear me out with this one because I know that exercising with a chronic illness can be difficult! It took me a long time to work out what I enjoyed doing and to get over the guilt of when I couldn’t but for me, even if I put ten minutes aside a day to do some stretches, my mood immediately improves and my body thanks me for it. The key thing is to find something that works for you because then you’re more likely to do it and I guarantee you’ll feel better for doing it.
Hobbies, hobbies, hobbies.
Again, this is finding something you love to do and then doing it. I absolutely love to cross-stitch and putting aside time to do this always makes me feel better especially if I’ve had a long or tricky day. For me it just allows my brain to relax and gets me to focus on something other than how I’m feeling. More often than not, I’ll always feel calmer and better afterwards.
For me this means slapping on a face mask, lighting some candles and putting the radio one whilst I eat some ice cream. But essentially, it’s about putting aside some time to make yourself feel indulged and pampered; think of it like a date night with yourself!
Switch off your phone.
I know that some of you might think this impossible but how many times do you aimlessly check your phone simply because you’re bored? I’m guilty of doing this all the time but I know it doesn’t bring me any gratification, it’s just passing the time. What you could do with your time if it was switched off for half an hour? This is a great thing to do in combination with some of the things above because it allows you to really focus on yourself rather than checking what everyone else is doing.
Get some sleep!
It’s okay to admit that you need an early night because you’re shattered regardless of whether you have a chronic illness or not. In terms of self-care, sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, if not the most important. So get yourself some nice, pyjamas and tuck yourself in.
When it comes to self-care, there’s no right or wrong way to go about it, just remember that it’s okay to put yourself first and your mind and body (and chronic illnesses) will thank you for it.
The Endo Monologues! My instagram is a satirical diary from the point of my uterus as I deal with endometriosis, adenomyosis, vaginusmus and vulvodynia. Most recently I've also started a blog which includes more in-depth recommendations, reviews and guidance on how to make living with chronic and invisible illnesses easier.
I would love you to be a part of my journey on instagram: @theendomonologues and via my blog: www.theendomonologues.com