Three Self-Care Lessons My Chronic Illness has Taught Me

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Hi, my name is Arica, and I suffer from a chronic illness that affects my daily life. As someone with endometriosis and PMDD, as well as friends who suffer from other chronic illnesses (my bestie has fibromyalgia and a few other chronic conditions), pain and fatigue are common topics of discussion and thought in my life.

That being said, I consider my chronic illness a (very small) blessing. Without it, I definitely would not have learned some life lessons (such as patience and perseverance) as well as some nifty tricks that can make anyone's life easier. 

Since becoming aware of my chronic illnesses, I've been better about responding to my body in a kinder manner, especially in terms of self-care. Here are a few of the lessons I've learned (the hard way).

1. Always go back to the basics first.

To quote my friend Molly's constant advice to me when I experience a bad pain day: "Heat, food, hydrate, distractions and rest." While some things don't apply to self-care (for instance, a heating pad isn't a cure for anxiety), the concept is the same: when in doubt, go back to the basics.

Self-care is more successful if you're actually meeting needs. Sure, putting on a face mask is nice, but if you're feeling down because you're tired or hungry, skincare won't solve that. Before you reach for the special self-care items, look towards the more mundane things that are possibly hindering you.

2. Seek comfort when you need it. 

Whether you're comforting yourself or finding it in friends and family (or pets), make sure that your method is soothing you and not stressing you. A bad day can manifest for many reasons, and just being aware and prepared to deal with the reasons can help you when seeking comfort.

For instance, if I'm more in pain and want cuddles without feeling like I owe anyone anything, I'm more likely to cuddle with my dog than my friends. If I need someone to pull me out of a slump and help me take care of myself, I turn to my friends and family. There's no shame in asking for help, especially if it can soothe and ease your issues that day.

3. Find what works for you and don't apologize. 

In the realms of chronic illness and mental health, there is some overlap, mainly in that there are no definite cures, since everyone is different. Because of that, how you manage your self-care will always differ from other people. Don't apologize for that!

For instance, some people swear that essential oils are essentially, well, snake oil and that they don't actually work, while others swear by them as part of their self-care routine. (I'm one of them -- catch me outside with my lavender scented everything, how bout that?) 

Everyone will have methods of treatment that are just right for them, and once you find yours, don't apologize for it -- keep doing it to take care of yourself!

What do you think?

Do you suffer from a chronic illness? Are you looking for new ways to revamp your self-care? What are challenges in your daily life -- and how can CF help? Let us know in the comments!

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