If you haven’t checked out the #SELFCAREMVMT yet from Self Care Catalysts, I urge you to visit their website and read my first blog in the series from last week. Self-care is an integral part of the quality of life of a chronic illness patient. Patients are advocating for this movement, and now companies are too!
Last week, we talked about daily little accomplishments and being kind to yourself when living with multiple chronic illnesses. This week I want to get more specific on that and talk about what I do to give myself some physical self-care. Sometimes the idea of physical self-care is tough for patients because that can illicit thoughts of heavy exercise and activity. Yes, it includes activity, but physical self-care is more than that in my eyes. And it also doesn’t have to be an intense workout, which is something so many of us have difficulty doing.
Physical self-care in my life is still about being kind to my body. But it’s also about doing things I might not feel like doing, just because I know they are good for me. Full disclosure people: I hate exercising. I’m a tad lazy, I’ll admit it. But I still know how important activity is. In fact, when it comes to some of my diseases (like spinal arthritis and fibromyalgia), activity is a double-edged sword. I’m in pain so it’s the last thing I feel like doing, however, regular light exercise eases the pain and symptoms of both mentioned conditions. Go figure, right!
For me, there are a couple go-to exercise options that feel like a good workout, yet don’t aggravate my symptoms or pain. Yoga is one of my favorite forms of exercise, but I admit I have gotten out of the routine of going. Another exercise form I like is biking. I’m excited because I just recently got a stationary/recumbent bike for my birthday, so I’ll be pedaling into a routine with that soon. I even placed it in front of my TV so I have no excuse! Whatever works, right?
Exercise is a pretty obvious part of physical self-care, but there are other opportunities as a multiple chronic illnesses patient that really make a difference in my day to day quality of life. Health Storylines is an app from Self Care Catalysts (yes, the same company heading up this #SELFCAREMVMT series) that incorporates a vast number of self-care components. You can track your symptoms, medications, mood, daily notes, gain peer support, add family members and friends, and even send reports to your physician or care team. Health Storylines also has disease-specific apps for a more personalized approach. I’ve used the Ankylosing Spondylitis specific app before, but I’ve switched to using the Health Storylines main app. This is due to some findings on whether or not I actually have Ankylosing Spondylitis, but that’s a topic for a different blog post (coming soon).
Health Storylines is different than many other health tracking apps because it offers so much more in terms of historical data. I love that I can see how my symptoms have changed day to day. And you can even edit the visibility of those symptoms: family, doctor, private, support group. It’s very intuitive and arguably the first of its kind in terms of well-rounded self-care disease management. Download the app for yourself for iPhone here, and Android here.
Other facets of my physical self-care include sleep, drinking enough water, taking medications on time, seeing my doctors, or at least messaging them, regularly, and more. Medication compliance is huge: there is a large debate over the word compliance in the chronic illness community and I definitely understand the wariness of that word. But for lack of a better term, it works. I have been in a position where I was lazy on when I took my medications or if I took them at all. However, you can’t begin to manage a treatment plan and your symptoms if you don’t at least adhere to medication frequency and time. I definitely learned that the hard way.
Additionally, as I said in my last #SELFCAREMVMT blog post, sleep is critical for me. I will move my schedule around and procrastinate on tasks if it means I will get a proper amount of sleep, i.e, 7-10 hours. I just know that I need it. Drinking enough water helps with my frequent headaches, weight gain, and brain fog. I notice a big difference in my focus and ability to have a short term memory if I’m dehydrated and not really drinking much. I admit I forget at least one day a week, but it’s about baby steps.
The biggest takeaway with all of this is still about being kind to yourself. No one is perfect, and you can’t beat yourself up for that. I’m eating dark chocolate chips as I write this, it is what it is! Push yourself to accomplish what gives you the highest level of physical self-care, but don’t lose it all for one tiny step back. Additionally, self-care is a day by day process for me. I try not to go more than a week in advance in my planning for self-care because I know that life happens, symptoms change, and diseases flare. Que Será Será; whatever will be, will be.