I just learned that September is self-care awareness month, and I’m taking it as a sign that it’s time for to focus wholeheartedly on loving and caring for my body. Self-care is important for everyone, but I think it’s especially beneficial for those navigating their ways through chronic illness, a difficult time, or even and off-day. If you don’t love up on your body in these times of need, who will?
I’ve always been an over-achiever, so I have the tendency to buckle down on my to-do list, even when my energy and focus are lacking. Perhaps especially when my energy and focus are lacking. Having received diagnosis with a severe disease in the middle of one of these period of “mass achievement,” I was literally forced to slow down and take inventory of what my mind, body, and soul need in order to recover.
At time of diagnosis: I was working full-time (with an hour commute each way), drafting out a possible business plan, training (lifting/cardio) six days a week, adhering to a strict meal plan, cooking separate meals for my boyfriend and I at almost every meal, preparing my application package for graduate school, interviewing for jobs and following home sales in the city of my desired graduate program, writing 1,000+ words daily, meditating for 15 minutes daily, reading for at least 30 minutes daily, and making time for friends and family. I was kicking some major booty… but I was averaging about four hours of sleep per night. It’s no wonder my body threw on the brakes!
In the regression from “high-speed” down to “training wheels”, I’ve continually been reminded to check in with myself. I am learning, over and over each day, that self-care needs to remain my top priority. I am discovering that small and sustainable steps are more valuable than leaping haphazardly into the deep end.
I’ve compiled a list of things I plan to implement this month, and every month moving forward, to promote health and wellness. My goal is to practice at least one task from each category daily: body, mind, and soul. Hopefully, some of these items will resonate with you and give you some actionable self-compassion ideas to apply in your own life.
How To Practice Self-Care When You Feel Like Shit
Self-care for your body
- Drink lots of water. The general recommendation is 64 ounces per day. Add electrolytes if you frequently experience dehydration or excessively low blood pressure. I like blending sodium-heavy Trioral with lemon-lime flavored Liquid I.V.
- Get extra rest. Don’t beat yourself up for taking frequent naps or falling asleep early. You body is working hard to recover and the best gift you can offer yourself is the permission to sleep.
- Eat a balanced diet. You might not have much of an appetite, you may feel the urge to stress eat, or you may order take-out because you’re too tired to cook. Regardless of how you feel, make an effort to fuel your body with whole, colorful, and unprocessed foods.
- Practice basic hygiene. When you’re exhausted and foggy, it’s easy to put off showering, brushing your teeth, washing you face, and clipping overgrown nails. Rather than viewing hygiene as a chore, see it as a small opportunity to show your body some tender care.
- Move your body. Whether you walk, run, lift, or stretch, find what feels good. Give yourself a pat on the back for walking to the mailbox or taking a few yoga poses, regardless of how it compares to your previous abilities. Do your best for today, and be proud of your efforts.
Self-care for you mind
- Read a good book. Whether you’re into romance, self-improvement, fantasy, or whatever’s made the top-sellers list, carve out a chunk of time to simulate your brain. Better yet, pair it with your favorite cup of tea.
- Simplify your schedule. Make space for the people and activities that add value to your life, and let go of the rest. If you’re over-committed, opt out of the excess or delegate those tasks to someone else.
- Unplug for an hour. Turn off the computer and your phone. Liberate yourself from the constant dings of social media and email. Eliminate the triggers for FOMO. When you’re sick in bed, that’s the last thing you need.
- Pay complete attention to a task. Most of us function of auto-pilot when eating brushing our teeth, or driving. Take a few moments to focus on the sensation and appreciate the seamless integration of mind and body that allows for these actions.
- Let yourself off the hook. Stop worrying about everything that needs to be done. Seriously, stop. Let grime cake around the sink drain, let dust accumulate on the wood floor, and let those emails wait in your inbox. You are your own top priority.
Self-care for your soul
- Check in with your emotions. Sit quietly and notice what you’re feeling. Name your feelings without judging the emotions. Do you feel sad, anxious, or frustrated? Simply observe. Do you feel hopeful, grateful, or energized? Simply observe.
- Be your own best friend. Imagine you are your best friend. What would you tell yourself right now. Look in the mirror and say it. Note: I am certain your BFF isn’t going to mention the droopy eyes and bald spots. Be kind and gentle with yourself.
- Visualize healing energy. Any time you eat nutritious foods or take medications, imagine the healing elements traveling through your body to repair any damage. Thank everything you consume for helping support your body’s recovery.
- Appreciate your body. Spend a few minutes looking in the mirror, thanking your body and appreciating its beauty. Your body is working so hard function optimally, and it’s doing alright if you’re well enough to be reading this.
- Write in a journal. Whether eloquent poetry or disjointed ideas, spill out your thoughts and pick them apart on paper. Writing can be cathartic, therapeutic, and the catalyst for new realizations. Release whatever is bottled up inside.