As the holiday season quickly approaches amidst another year in a global pandemic, it becomes even more important to focus on self-care. While I always enjoy a face mask or bubble bath, self-care is largely an emotional mindset for me. I seem to have an easy time identifying what I need to take care of myself but a hard time not beating myself up for it. Reminding myself that I deserve to put my physical and mental health first is crucial to my self-care and helps me make the decisions that my body will thank me for later.
During the holidays, there’s a lot of pressure to travel, shop, and be at every social gathering for weeks on end. I know that I cannot do every single thing and make it to the New Year without a flare up, I have to pace myself and accept help from others. When people ask what they can do when I’m not feeling well, I usually struggle to answer. I’ve learned that socializing in my own space helps preserve my energy. When I go home to the other side of the country to visit, I’ll request that reunions with my family and friends happen at my house. This eliminates driving, puts me in close proximity to my medications and ice packs, and allows me to be on the couch in my pajamas regardless of the time of day. This is usually a small ask that makes a big difference for me and my body.
In any season, I know that my body can only take so much so I try to plan and set expectations ahead of time. The pandemic has forced me to do this more confidently. Telling people what I can and cannot do in advance has helped ease my anxiety of navigating COVID risk or canceling last minute. I do still feel like I’m on an island by myself, that I’m the only person who can’t attend a special event or the only one still being cautious about COVID. I experience guilt when making these decisions and often place blame on myself. “If only I pushed myself harder. If only I didn’t need so much rest,” it can be an endless cycle. That’s when I have to start my self-care mantra -- this isn’t my fault, having lupus isn’t my fault. Rest is a good thing, boundaries are a good thing!
The definition of self-care is the practice of protecting and preserving one’s well-being, happiness, and health. Those two words, protect and preserve, somehow feel like a warm hug to me. I want to protect and preserve my health and happiness! We are often told that putting yourself first means you are selfish. I remember that in times where I have put myself first, it actually puts me in a better place to be more present for others and the things that are important to me.
Life is hard on its own, even without the addition of a chronic illness. I believe that every day you deserve love, happiness, and support in whatever way makes you feel it most. What will make your day easier? What will make you smile? Whatever self-care means to you, remember that you truly deserve it. To me, that’s treating myself with the utmost kindness and really listening to what my body needs. My body usually needs rest but it also needs cookies, a few episodes of Survivor, and today’s celebrity gossip. And that’s what it will get!
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