"My name is Jaime. I have autoimmune disease, anxiety, and fatigue. My self-care routine includes regular naps."
When you live with a chronic illness, being your own self-care advocate is just as important as being your own wellness advocate. I’m a firm believer in wellness advocacy whereby the patient stands up for themselves, talks openly about their symptoms, asks clear, concise questions, and requests a second or third opinion if needed.
While getting a medical professional to take you seriously about your illness is not nearly as challenging as it was even a few years ago, advocating for your care is still an essential part of receiving the treatment you need and deserve.
The Importance of Self-Care Advocacy
Whether you’ve just finished going another 10 rounds with your stubborn doctor, your condition is flaring up, or you’re pushing past the fatigue to complete an assignment, there’s a point where you must listen to your body and perform self-care.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am the quintessential ‘Type A’ personality. Even when my health challenges got so bad, I landed in the hospital, it took me a long time to let go of responsibilities outside of myself and turn my attention inward toward healing.
I railed at the idea kicking and screaming, in fact.
I mean, my writing clients were counting on me, they were depending on me, how could I let them down? Thankfully, the people closest to me were able to help me understand that there was nothing I could do to be of benefit to anyone else unless I took care of myself first.
One nurse put it rather perfectly when she said, “You can’t run on broken legs.”
That’s when everything really came into perspective for me. She was right. You can’t run on broken legs, or pour from an empty cup, or get blood from a stone.
If you’re empty, you cannot hope to fill others. If you try, you’ll give away that last precious spark of energy you had to take care of yourself, and you will, in one way or another, collapse under the weight of it all.
From Collapse to Self-Care – A Changing Perspective
Taking care of yourself is not selfish.
Think about what you’re told to do if something should go wrong during a flight. If the air masks drop, you are instructed to put your own on first before securing your child’s. That might seem like a terrible suggestion on the surface, but when you dig deeper, you realize that you cannot help your child if you’re unconscious!
When you make the time for self-care, you are advocating for yourself and your own needs. This is not only a healing and nurturing thing to do, it is also 100 percent necessary, especially if you’re living with a chronic illness.
You wouldn’t deny yourself water if you were thirsty, food if you were hungry, or a warm coat if you were cold. So, why do you think it’s any less detrimental to your health to deny yourself rest and relaxation when you’re fatigued, flaring, or struggling with anxiety?
What I Do for Self-Care
At the ripe old age of 36, I’ve discovered the bliss of napping. Unlike meditation, which, for some reason, doesn’t work for me, slipping in earbuds and listening to ambient music while I drift off for an hour and a half or two refreshes me like nothing else can.
In addition to the music, I sometimes use lavender essential oil. I also make sure my eyes are blocked from the sun, so I can get the deepest rest possible. I make no apologies for turning the ringer off on my phone and shutting out the world. I need this time for myself like I need air, food, or water. It’s a survival must.
Other self-care practices I engage in are yoga, swimming, walking, and being in nature.
Self-care is of the utmost importance in life, whether you’re living with a chronic illness or not. As human beings, we all need time to relax and replenish.
Get Connected to a Self-Care Movement
Sometimes, you need the extra support of being around others experiencing the same struggles. It’s like having ‘permission’ to let go. When you become a part of the self-care movement, you’ll connect with others and learn how technology can help you start a self-care routine or enhance your current one.