I will admit that I am a self-proclaimed self-care guru. Why? Because self-care has been so important for my physical and mental health with a chronic illness. And to be honest, self-care is important for everyone. I even did a seminar presentation to my fellow therapists-in-training about the need for therapist self-care. However, we know that Spoonies sometimes encounter problems getting self-care done.
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We often hear self care as the new hot term. The one everyone throws around and says it's important, but no one really gets into it. Self here has come up on the podcast before, but I think we can dive into it a little bit further this week. So what is self care? Why is it important for chronic illness warriors specifically? How can we make sure we're doing it? That's what we're exploring in this week's episode. I'm Kelsey Harris, a chronic illness warrior and a psychotherapist and training on chronically living and how to make the most of it, we're providing tangible ways to improve the well being of spoonies. So get ready to make the most out of your life even with that pesky chronic illness. Okay, so I'm going to start this episode by reading a portion of an article, a research article by Kennedy, Rogers and power back from 2007. So it's a little bit older, but I think it's still very relevant. So self care is defined as the actions individuals take to lead a healthy lifestyle, to meet their social, emotional and psychological needs to care for their long term condition. And to prevent further illness or accidents. The potential benefits of self care are substantial. According to the proponents of the chronic care model, one of the most comprehensive models for care for long term conditions. All patients with chronic illness, make decisions and engage in behaviors that affect their health, self management, disease control, and outcomes depend on the significant degree on the effectiveness of self management. The endless report into NHS resource requirements identified effective self care as an essential part of the fully engaged scenario, which it predicted would bring about the greatest gains to public health. So why did I want to start with that, because I think he gives a really good definition of self care. And B reminds us that we are ultimately in charge of our own self care our own well being. And that's what the shows about is about improving our well being. So if we're not engaging in self care, are we really able to improve our well being because that's a really basic first step. So that being said, I think we should just kind of get into the basics of self care. And I've personally identified four areas that are pretty basic areas, so sleep, nutrition, relaxation, and exercise. So let's start with sleep. This really talks about proper sleep hygiene. I did an episode on this quite a while ago in the first season. So you can always listen to that if you want a lot more details on sleep hygiene. But here's the basic rundown. Your bed is for sleep, or sex, nothing else you're not supposed to read in bed, watch TV in bed, go on your computer in bed. The bed is for sleep, and sex. When you are asleep, you should be in a dark, quiet room. That is a comfortable temperature for you. So not too cold, not too hot. A couple things that you should do before bed is to limit your water intake. Right? So small sips of water instead of Big Gulps. No exercise food or alcohol at least two hours before bed. No caffeine after 2pm. And I think this is really important is no electronics at bedtime. So even just cutting them off a bit before and definitely not using them in the bedroom because that actually can make your sleep worse. Now, obviously, with chronic pain, for example, we know that sometimes sleep is not going to be great anyway, because our pain may keep us awake. But at least if we're controlling the other elements, then if it's just the pain part that might be able to be managed in other ways. Second, we've got nutrition. So are you eating three meals a day that contain all the food groups, and are prepared in a very healthy manner? So rather than frying food? Are we you know, baking food? Are we eating enough vegetables and fruits? Are we not eating fast food, but we're making food at home? That kind of thing? Or if you're not eating all the food groups because you're following a specific type of diet. So keto, paleo, the autoimmune protocol, or anything like that, you know, those are all healthy diets, and they might be really helpful for you. So are you sticking to those or are you binge eating and eating a lot of things that aren't good for you? The next one is the relaxation piece. So this is really doing activities that you find relaxing. So some things that I find relaxing are things like reading, watching movies, meditating, using essential oils taking a bath, right? Those are relaxing activities for me. So are you doing at least one thing in your day that you find relaxing. And then the last part here is about exercise. This is about getting movement throughout the day. And movement can be a lot of things, and really depends on your illness and your mobility and where you're currently at, even with your fitness levels. So there are a lot of aspects of this, that I'm not really going to get into this week. But I want you to start thinking about, like, what kind of movement you're doing during the day? Are you doing any cardio? cardio doesn't mean you have to like, go for a 10k run? I don't run I can't, I can't run okay. But, you know, maybe it's going for a walk. Or even if you can't go for a long walk, can you go for a walk around the block? Are you able to do something to kind of get your heart rate up a little bit? Same thing with strength training. I know that a lot of people want to start integrating strength training, but they're worried about pain and did a great episode also back in season one about this. But at the end of the day, are you doing some kind of strength training bodyweight is a great way to start or really lightweights. Working with someone who can help you with your fitness is essential. So whether that's a personal trainer or physical therapist, or disproving your doctor, if they're kind of open to helping you out with that aspect. Absolutely, you know, involve them and involve them in any nutrition decisions. And, and all that as well. We want to do this smartly. But this is really important part of self care is are you doing this exercise thing. So cardio strength training. And then the third aspect being stretching, indoor yoga. So I know like I love yin yoga, because it's a very slow stretching type of movement. But I also do just stretches throughout the day, do them in the morning after I do a bit of a strength workout. And then I do them throughout my day throughout my workday, actually. So if I'm between clients, I get up and I stretch one part of my body between every client. Okay, so those are kind of the basics of self care. But what else do we need to do? So the next area I think we should focus on are activities of daily living or ADLs. And I tried to look up online to see if I could get like a really succinct outline of like the main ADLs. And it really depends on who is giving the information. So there are a lot that could be included in this list. So I've kind of narrowed down to some that I think makes sense, and are a little bit more specific. So the first one is bathing and grooming. This is did you take a shower bath today? Did you brush your teeth? Did you brush your hair Did you shave if you're a guy of basic grooming type things. And then if you're struggling with those, I think it's really important to determine whether that's because of your physical health or your mental health, right? Because it could be either reason and that's with all these ADLs, they are impacted as much by things like depression and anxiety as they are by our chronic illnesses. So really being able to determine where that disconnect is happening is, I think part of being able to start doing it again. And we're going to get into more on like how to start doing some of the stuff later in the episode. But first ADL bathing, grooming, shower, bath, brush your teeth, brush your hair, you know, wash your face, do all that kind of basic stuff. Second is dressing and undressing. So did you put on fresh clothes today? How often during the week? Are you changing your clothes? Are you getting out of your pajamas and putting on clothes during the day or you can enter clothes and put it on pajamas at night? The next one is meal preparation and feeding. So are you cooking your food? Are you able to cook your food are you eating again properly kind of ties into that nutrition part that we talked about before. The next one is functional transfer. So this is things like getting out of bed and are off the couch. Obviously, if you have severe mobility issues, you may need assistance in doing that. But for the people who do not have severe issues, you know, are you doing that throughout the day? And the next one is using the restroom. I think that's pretty standard if we all kind of know what it means to use the restroom. And then we get into some other ones. So things like are you able to care for other people, any pets that you have children? Like are you able to do the things that you need to do for others during the day and are you doing them not only can you but are you actually going to do these things or are you know some of these things being a bit neglected? I know I'm not talking about like neglect and abuse. I I'm talking about just not to the standards, it should be another one be communicating? Are you able to ask for things that you need? talked with your doctors, talk with your spouse, talk with your children? Are you able to communicate? Then we have mobility. So this is walking, right? So this kind of ties back into the exercise piece. Are you getting up to walk stretch? Again, depending on your actual mobility, right is important to remember. But if you can, are you doing it? Are you getting out of the house? I think ties into that as well. You know, are you not just getting up and walking around the house? But are you able to go out for a walk down the street around the block? That kind of thing as well. The next one is your health management and maintenance. So are you taking care of your health? Are you taking your medications? Are you doing any prescribed exercises, I know, one thing that physical therapists often struggle with is they give the their clients these exercises that will help them but in their clients actually don't practice the exercises on their own. And then the exercises don't do anything if you don't practice, right. Same thing with mental health. By the way, if you go to therapy, and your therapist suggests you do something outside of that therapy between sessions, that's helpful like that will make a big impact for you. So are you doing those kinds of things? Are you taking care of your physical health needs your illness? Are you doing the things that you were supposed to do that you that has been recommended to you or directed to you to do? The next one is home establishment and maintenance? So this is things like cleaning? Is your house clean? Are you able to clean? Did you clean your bedroom? Are you doing any other chores that you might have taking out the garbage is bringing in the mail? Are you able to take care of your house? And are you taking care of your house? The next one is religious observances. Obviously, I realize not everybody listening is is religious, I am not myself. But if you are, are you going to church? Are you practicing religion? Are you doing your prayers? If you are not religious? Are you connecting with spirituality in some way? And that way, could be things like meditating or going out into nature, there's lots of ways to be spiritual. So are you doing those things that you would normally be doing? Next one, we have is seeking procedures and emergency responses, are you able to keep yourself and your family safe? It's pretty broad. But are you able to even call 911 if you need to. And then the last one for ADLs is shopping. So this is going to buy your groceries, pick up your medications, buy clothes, if you need new clothes. And this is thinking outside of the monetary aspect of it. But like, are you physically going to do these things that you need to do in order to even get to the meal preparation and feeding stages? or some of the other things that are included? ADLs if you don't have supplies to clean your house with mix hard to clean your house. So are you able to go shopping? And are you going shopping? Okay, so after the break, we are going to talk about going above and beyond. So if you are already doing all these things and you want to go above and beyond in your self care, we're going to come back to that. Hey, warriors, what if it was possible to get local fresh groceries delivered right to your front door, you could take a deep sea yoga with all that free time. Well instacart gives you unlimited grocery delivery for one low monthly fee. This is definitely better than paying for delivery on all those other apps. Forget that one ingredient you needed to make that super healthy smoothie instacart can deliver to your front door in as little as an hour. You can shop multiple stores getting all your favorites on a single order. Instagram even highlights a deal so that you can save money. Get all the products you love hand selected by shoppers based on your preferences. They'll pick the freshest produce handle, keep your eggs safe to find everything you usually buy and get smart suggestions on new items. To get free delivery on your first order over $35 Follow the link in the show notes to let instacart know that we sent you and help to help support the show. With instacart you'll never step foot in the grocery store again. Okay, so going above and beyond really is about doing activities that you enjoy. So this is kind of the fun part of self care. This is when you get to do things that are fun for you. And it's kind of my favorite part of self care because, you know, like the other stuff is boring and basic right? We have to do it. And again, if you're not doing it, that's okay. Right like offer yourself some compassion, you are more at where you're at. But we want really want to move beyond where we're at. This kind of section is more for people who are doing all the other stuff, you're doing basics of self care, you're participating in your ADLs. One of this overlaps, by the way with those things. So if it sounds kind of repetitive, it actually is meant to be. So there are six aspects or six sections to self care. And the first one is physical. So what are you doing for your physical self care. So this could be things like exercise in nutrition, or could be more specific, like if there's a sport that you like to do, or some kind of physical activity that you enjoy, like, I enjoy hiking, okay, that would be something to do to take care of your physical self care. The next one is your emotional self care. So this is really your mental health. That could be something like seeing a therapist doing some of those relaxation activities that we mentioned before. What are you doing to improve your mental health, it could be also just reading a self help book or listen to a podcast like this one. If you're listening to this podcast, you are actually taking care of your emotional self care right now. I'm gonna let that sink in. Okay, the next one, intellectual self care. What are you doing to stimulate your mind? If you're in school, you know, that could be things like doing homework, or if you work, it could be your work might be stimulating for you. But it could be outside of that. Are you reading anything? Are you doing any kind of writing? Sometimes podcasts will stimulate your mind, sometimes certain games like playing Scrabble, or some other type of game that's really like more intellectual? Doing a puzzle, right? Those are things that are good for your intellectual self care. The next one is your spiritual self care. So again, this may be religion, if you're religious. So it may be praying, going to church, those types of activities. If you're not religious, and more like me, are you spending time in nature? Are you meditating? Are you connecting with something outside of yourself, essentially, is what it means. The next one is social self care. So this is spending time with family, friends and pets. Often when we're feeling depressed, we stop socializing. But what we find is that we usually actually feel more depressed when we don't socialize. So for chronic illness, if you are at least engaging with other people like online, and we've just kind of we're at the tail end of a pandemic, and a lot of that socializing hasn't been online, one of my best friends, he and I have gone on zoom every week, since I moved, so that is like seven months ago, every single week, we go on zoom, and another friend of mine, every other week, we're on a different app. But we are also engaging, I have another friend who we do it almost every other week. So you know, there is ways to be socially connected, even if you aren't able to kind of get up and go out, if you are able to get up and go out. Are you doing that? Where are you going? You know, is it somewhere fun, very, very important for our overall health and self care. And then the last one is work. I know some people might be listening in, they're on disability. And that's, you know, that says what is what it is, work is actually really important for people, it helps us find meaning it helps us feel like we have a purpose in the world. So if you are able to work in some capacity, I do highly recommend it. If you are working, really doing things like setting boundaries, taking breaks appropriately, including vacations. And, you know, one thing I found when I worked in retail was really just getting that management and HR involved in knowing what my limitations were. Or if I needed to take extra sick days, like they knew that stuff, right? So it made it a lot easier to to actually work takes down less stress a bit. So those are kind of my above and beyond if you want to take your self care to a little bit of a higher level. Okay, I'm wondering if your thoughts and self care have changed at all by listening to this episode. Or if you can see why it's important for you to do it. So again, like this is about our overall health and wellness or mental health, all of it kind of comes together. If we're doing self care, it really improves all aspects of our quality of life. And no one is saying that all of these activities are super easy to accomplish, especially if you haven't been doing them. And this is where I wanted to talk about how to get to do some of the stuff if you're not. So personally, I think that SMART goal setting is the way to go. And that's what I do with all of my clients and with myself. So this is just a good way to start doing something You're not right now or do more of something you're not, which in therapy, I also call this committed action. The first thing you're gonna want to do is pick one, or maybe two, if you're feeling pretty confident, but at least one activity that you're not engaging in anything from that list that we've kind of gone through on the show already. And then we're going to make a goal. And that goal is first of all going to be specific. What are you going to do? And be as specific as you possibly can? So it's not like I'm going to do yoga. It's like, what kind of yoga are you going to do? How many minutes? Are you going to do it for? Okay, what specifically are you going to do? Is it meaningful? Does it align with your values? And your values, if you're listening to show I'm going to guess are probably health or well being something in that realm? And if, if that's the case, then if you've picked anything from that list, it will align with those values. Is it adaptive, will it improve your life? And again, if this is self care we're doing it should definitely improve your life to some degree. And I really can't guarantee you what degree that is, depends on the activity, and it depends on your commitment to doing it. Is your goal realistic? So for this one, you need to feel a confidence level of at least a seven out of 10, you're set at 70% minimum sure you can accomplish this goal. One is the loan number 10 is the hive if that wasn't clear. And then the last part is SMART goal setting is is a timeframe. When specifically Are you going to engage in these activities and or accomplish your goal We'll go back to the yoga exampl if it's yoga. Are you going t do this Monday? Wednesday, Fr day? Are you going to do this e ery day? Again? How many minut s for if it's a specific goal like you want to you know, y u're not showering every day but you want to shower every day? An when do you want to be shower ng every day by is that a month rom now? Does that mean you're going to shower twice a week his week and then three times a week the following week and hen four times a week then the w ek after and then everyday hat week after that like be time specific as well as goal specif c. Okay, reflection time. T is is my favorite part of the pisodes. What did you not ce about yourself as you liste to this episode today? Were here any specific thoughts and feelings that came up for you? And what are you noticing as yo reflect on your noticing? Is there anything else coming u ? And if so, what is it? hank you chronic illness war iors for tuning in. I hope you f und this helpful. I am rea ly a big advocate of self care I think it's so important, so mportant for well being and q ality of life. Honestly, it's pr bably no the top of the list. o I hope you got something out of this. You can always let me now what your takeaways were b tagging me on Instagram. And f course you can support th show on Patreon and or b writing reviews for me. Every ne, keep making the most speci l thanks to Nicole Skura for the original music and to Charity Williams for original