Self Care When Living With A Chronic Illness

Self-care is a wonderful act of appreciation, love, and honor for oneself, something to be cherished regardless of how the day or week might have gone.  But what happens when you don’t have the energy to give back to yourself? When chronic illness — whether physical or mental — is thrown into the mix of day to day life, self-care gets tossed on the back burner.  Many times, simply making it through the day becomes the only focus, and when it’s time to give back to yourself, there is no energy to spare.

After years of struggling with chronic, debilitating pain and fatigue, I was diagnosed with endometriosis.  Even with treatment, I have many days where I can’t even get out of bed due to the pain. During these difficult times, it’s exceptionally hard — if not downright impossible — to practice self-care.  Chronic illness not only takes away energy, it has a way of stealing joy, too. Activities that had once served as self-care or a way to find happiness in day-to-day life, like yoga, crafting, or getting together with close friends, are often out of reach.

Oftentimes, the occasions when we find it futile or downright impossible to practice self-care are the times we need it the most.  Through my own struggles with chronic illnesses, I have found little ways to practice self-care and give back to myself, even when it feels hopeless.  I hope these ideas can bring you a bit of peace and comfort, too. I’ve included a free checklist of various self-care ideas at the bottom of this blog post for you to use whenever you’re having a rough day.

Perhaps one of the easiest things to do is snuggle up with your coziest blanket.  When you’re already in bed, lacking the energy to do much else, having your favorite things nearby can help.  If you’re uncomfortable or in pain, wearing your favorite loungewear or pajamas can help you feel at home and bring you a sense of ease, too.

Eat a healthy meal.  It doesn’t have to take much time to prepare, such as a fruit smoothie or a hearty vegetable soup (I like to keep a few cans of Amy’s Organic Chunky Vegetable Soup on hand).  You could even pick up a pre-made salad or order-in a whole-foods power bowl. Eat the rainbow and enjoy fresh food, which can help improve your energy levels and boost your immunity.  On the flip side, indulge in your favorite foods.  Eat that bar of chocolate, have that bag of crisps, get your favorite greasy takeaway.  On especially difficult days, sometimes giving in to your cravings is the thing to do.

As with food, drinking your favorite tea or coffee can be a wonderful treat for yourself.  Try to keep those sorts of things on hand at home, so that you can whip them up whenever you have a rough day.  My personal favorites are earl grey tea and Yogi Stress Relief Honey Lavender tea.

Don’t forget to give yourself credit for powering through each and every day, especially when the days can feel so long and difficult.  Give yourself a hug; take the time to thank your body.  Wrap your arms around yourself and give thanks for all that your body has done and continues to do.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help!  For the longest time, I felt weak and guilty when asking for help from family or friends.  But sometimes we need help, whether it’s as simple as having your partner bring you medication and water or having a friend pick up your groceries.  There is no shame in asking for help, and you can always return the favor once you’re feeling better.

We all need an escape from day-to-day life and more so when pain is a constant factor.  Read or watch your favorite shows.  Audio-books, podcasts, music playlists, guided meditations, you name it.  For me, books have always and continue to provide an escape from reality without actually having to go anywhere.  Surround yourself with your favorite entertainment, especially on the days when you’re in need of a distraction.

Chronic illnesses can also cause sadness, frustration, and anger.  Finding a way to release these emotions is so important.  There is no one right way and what works for one person might not work for another, but finding a way to release negative and toxic emotions is crucial to taking care of yourself.  Cry, rant to a friend, journal, blog, talk to a therapist or counselor, join a support group, meditate. There are numerous ways to lessen these feelings (and of course it is normal to feel upset sometimes; it just shouldn’t consume your life) and an infinite number of combinations.

When you do have days where you’re feeling better, even if it’s just a spark of energy for ten minutes, take that time to do something that truly brings you joy.  Give back to yourself in your favorite way and treasure those moments of self-care.

Most importantly: listen to your body.  Don’t feel guilty if your body is telling you to stay in bed all day or to pass up on the workout or cancel that get together with friends after work.  There is a difference between not wanting to do something but knowing you really should make the effort and your body absolutely crying out that it cannot handle anything extra.  Your body knows when you need to conserve energy. If you don’t feel up to doing something, rest and recover. There is no better way to practice self-care than to give your body what it’s truly asking for.

Don’t forget to save your free self care checklist below!

Comments

  • Hey Miri. We’ve been commenting back and forth on each other’s blogs for some time now and I didn’t realize that you also have a chronic illness. I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome 2 years ago though my diagnosis recently changed to Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder. I actually found that, for me, the height of my illness is what forced me to really pay attention to self care. I have to admit that, at first, I tried to push through it – to do as much as I used to do without such heightened symptoms. The biggest realization I made was that the best form of self-care I could have is health care. Now I like to think of myself as chronically healthy – I have chronic issues affecting my health which, yes, make me technically ill right now. But I am chronically pursuing health 🙂 I am eating WAY healthier. I am prioritizing what my body needs. Resting when it needs it. Working only when I can. Nurturing my mind and soul. I love that you’ve included those kinds of things on your list.

    • Hi, Amy-Lynn, I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis, but I absolutely love your mindset!! “Chronically pursuing health” is such a wonderful way to approach a chronic illness and not let it get you down. I’m so glad you are prioritizing your body’s needs, and I so hope you continue to find ways to wellness, physically and mentally. Wishing all the best for you!

  • Having a chronic illness or pain can really zap all the energy right out of someone. These are some great tips to keep in mind to help you feel normal again!

  • I’ve enjoyed reading this post and this actually help not only those who have chronic illness but those people who are experiencing different types of pains and I believe that self care is so important either your are in pain or not. Thanks for sharing these tips with us.

  • Man, please please. Though giving yourself a hug is nice but others doing it for you is a really big thing. Don’t be shy to ask and also give them to others.

    • Completely agree having companionship and closeness with others is essential and wonderful, which is why I chose to include asking for help. I think we often forget, when living with chronic illnesses, that loving ourselves is so important, and it’s something we can do on our own and make a few moments for, which is which I chose to include that on the list.

  • I would like to add up a simple point here.

    Whether or not you are living with a chronic disease, self care is very important for everyone.

  • I can only imagine how hard it would be to live with a chronic illness, it must be debilitating. I love the fact that you are sharing your experience and hopefully this will allow others to cope better.

  • These are wonderful tips! It is so easy to put self care on the back-burner, especially in this day and age. However, regularly practicing self care is important for everyone.

  • This is an amazing list for self-care tips! We definitely should be more sure to take care of our mental well-being and listen to our bodies. This should be more of a norm than being made to feel guilty for taking care of ourselves.

  • I truly believe in self-care will help to calm the mind. Whenever I feel like unmotivated in life, I try to practice self-care and indulge the time that I have. Because it’s nothing more worse then having those negative energy overpower oneself. I hope you have a lovely day and take care of yourself! ♥️

  • Thanks for the list! Some people don’t put much importance into self care, but it is so necessary to function at your best every day.

  • I totally agree with this. Having a chronic illness can really deteriorate one’s mindset and self care. We should keep this in mind

  • Even small acts of self care can make a big difference. I always make it a point to devote even a small amount of time for myself everyday.

  • These are really great ideas to make a self care ideas. Life’s too short to neglect our responsibilities to ourselves.

  • Self-care is really important. I believe that it could be a big help to us and for those who has a chronic illness.

  • Those are such nice tips.. Good thing I am healthy and not showing any signs of chronic illness. I hope I could do the same self care if unfortunately I would have the situation. Tha ks for sharing. 😊