coffee cupSelf-care. Two little words that are so important if you are living with a chronic illness.

Traditionally, self-care is simply defined as being able to complete your own daily activities. Those activities can include cleaning, grocery shopping, getting dressed. The self-care I’m referring to is making yourself a priority while all of those other activities and tasks are waiting to get done. For someone without a chronic illness, he/she may have the energy to rush through cleaning the house in order to get to a yoga class. They can hit the gym and then go to the grocery store without stopping. When your daily activities also include battling pain, inflammation, fatigue, and more, self-care takes on a bit of a different meaning and certainly isn’t as easy to do.

Why is self-care important?

Every day you wake up (if you were even able to get some quality sleep) and head into a battle that you most likely won’t win. Even on your best days, you may still have pain, still need to rest, and most likely won’t be able to check off everything on your to do list, no matter how hard you try. Regardless of how long your check list is or how many things you’ve put off “until you feel better”, you have to schedule time for yourself. The time for self-care is just as important as an appointment with your rheumatologist- you wouldn’t skip that appointment, so you cannot skip out on caring for yourself.

What “qualifies” as self-care?

Here’s the fun part- it’s completely up to you. Self-care is about identifying what you need and what fulfills you. Is it a long nap with the sun pouring in through your bedroom windows? Is it reading a few chapters in a new book without stopping for an hour? Is it just making time throughout the day to stretch, even if you’re in bed or on the couch? Is it a Netflix binge or getting your hair done? Self-care doesn’t have to cost a dime and doesn’t have to last for hours- it just has to be enough to bring your exhausted mind and body a bit of peace.

What isn’t self-care?

Self-care isn’t something you feel guilty about. It isn’t overexerting yourself to get the laundry done so you can read (it’s actually asking someone to help you with the laundry so you can get the peace you require). It isn’t something that you earn, it’s something you deserve.

Tell us in the comments how you practice self-care.