Some posts on notebooksandglasses.com may contain affiliate links. Click on my Disclosure page to read more.
I am delighted to have another guest post on the blog this week. Amanda Pratt from www.imaginelifetherapy.com shares her top 5 tips for better self care for anyone with chronic pain or chronic illness.
Amanda has lived with Fibromyalgia, Lupus and several other chronic conditions for years, and knows exactly how devastating and difficult it can be to live with a chronic illness. As well as focusing on her own self care, she has made it her life’s mission to help others.
Read more about Amanda at the bottom of the post.
When we don’t get our needs met, we can’t thrive
Unfortunately, when we get diagnosed with a chronic illness – something we’re going to have to learn to live with for a long period of time or even for the rest of our lives – we’re automatically experiencing a deficit in our human developmental needs. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is used today as a model for health and wellness. When you have a chronic illness, think of this hierarchy as a model of self care. If these self care needs aren’t met, we will not thrive while managing our illness. Not having good self care can also lead to other illnesses coming to the forefront and a gradual wear and tear on us physically and emotionally.
Today, I’m going to share with you 5 Tips For Better Self Care, so you can up your self care game and get those needs met so you can thrive!
TIP #1 Focus on food
Getting our nutritional needs met is one of the foundation blocks for everything else self care oriented.
Explore this area of your care by asking yourself: What are you eating? Are your meals and snacks nutritious? Are you getting the nutrients you need, specific to your illness and how it is affecting your body? Are your medications depleting any nutrients you might need to supplement?
Remember that consulting with a Registered Dietitian is a great place to start. Also know that while there are ‘general’ recommendations for nutrition, these go out the window when we take medications, have a chronic illness or have any other factor that changes the dynamic in your body.
TIP #2 Constantly check in on your mindset
Our thoughts become our actions and this is an important thing to check in on during self care. Our unique patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving are significant factors in our experiences, both good and bad. Since these patterns have such a significant impact on our experiences, we reason that changing these patterns can change our experiences. We have about between 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day, this means between 35 and 48 thoughts per minute per person. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.
Research also shows that the quality of our lives is directly connected to the quality of our internal states and dialogue and external communications. In other words, we can only be happy if our internal voice is happy and we can communicate calmly and effectively to those around us. Since our internal voice affects our external communication – this really all comes back to our mindset.
To help become aware of your mindset, start by practicing mindfulness – or being in the present moment. Remember that thoughts and feelings aren’t FACTS and we shouldn’t take them as such without properly challenging and questioning them. I like to encourage my clients to practice simply observing their thoughts with curiosity and asking yourself: ‘Is this thought or belief based on evidence? Have I seen, heard experienced this with my own eyes, ears, etc., or am I simply accepting this as truth even though it may not be?
Starting here can help you become more aware of your mindset and emotional states and start to connect those to how it affects how you feel and act. This provides endless opportunities for change and self care!
TIP #3 Work on your sleep routine
Lack of sleep is one of the most common complaints my clients have in regards to self care and basic needs. Sleep is so important for our body to be able to recharge as much as possible in between each day we spend fighting our illnesses. Try to create a bedtime routine that includes shutting down all electronic devices and light emitting sources at least an hour before you want to go to bed. Try to start activities that will help you relax or wind down like reading a book or listening to a relaxing meditation.
Start by exploring: Are you getting enough sleep? Most people should be aiming for 7-9 hours a night, but we know having a chronic illness can mean you need even more. More importantly, what does the quality of your sleep look like? Are you getting restorative REM sleep?
TIP #4 Human connection
Having social supports is another great stress reducer and it can even extend our life expectancy. When you have a chronic illness, it’s even more important to connect with others who might share a similar experience. This helps us feel validated, provides an outlet for expressing emotions and can also provide resources that can be helpful in problem solving stressful situations. It’s also important to make sure your support circle is filled with people who are supportive and uplifting, rather than draining, critical or negative. Remember, we want to focus on quality here, not quantity.
Explore this area by asking yourself: Have you looked in your area lately to see what support groups or meetups might be relevant to your needs or wants? Can you schedule some time to chat with a friend? Are your friends supportive and uplifting? Is there anyone in your circle who brings you down or is less than supportive and understanding? When you have a chronic illness you may need to let go of draining friendships to make room for more validating ones.
Pin this post for later
TIP #5 Stress management is key
Stress management comes in many shapes and forms and can be implemented in any environment and should be a key component of any self care plan.
While stress can be healthy and adaptive and has a bigger purpose for us to be able to recognize problems and Escape Danger, our stress response can become a problem when it is constantly telling us we are in danger (when we’re not) or by making us aware of problems we have no control over or that are inconsequential in the bigger picture.
Stress management is basically a plan aimed at controlling your level of stress – especially chronic stress – in order to improve your day-to-day functioning. When you have a chronic illness, you’re even more sensitive to and susceptible to the negative effects of stress, so this is even more important for people like us who are fighting one or more illnesses.
Stress management can reduce overall stress by a) eliminating stressors and b) learning to better respond to stressors you may not be able to eliminate in order to reduce the overall effect it has on your mind and body.
Some evidence based stress management interventions include: mindfulness, breathing and relaxation techniques, engaging in talk therapy with a licensed professional, general self care activities and address basic needs through nutrition, sleep and physical exercise.
Not sure how to create a stress management plan? I offer a 6 week online stress management course that walks you through how to do it and has a huge module all about self care techniques! If you’re interested, the course just opened for enrolment and you can check it out via the button below.
Amanda Pratt, LCSW, CPLC
Where to find Amanda
Amanda loves to shine light on topics that are rarely talked about. A Michigan Native turned Floridian, she graduated from Central Michigan University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2009 and went on to graduate from the University of Michigan in 2013 with a Master of Social Work degree. While spending years volunteering locally and globally, and working to become a School Social Worker for students with disabilities, she suddenly became diagnosed with several incurable chronic diseases. This not only changed her life, but it changed her perspective. She’s learned firsthand that there is a lack of support around strategically and emotionally coping with major life changes. After years of struggling, she took matters into her own hands and started a therapy and coaching practice that serves, educates and speaks out in support of people living with chronic health conditions and going through tough stuff.
Her mission is ‘to support people in reaching the realization that they have the strength and potential to improve their own quality of life, through empathy, compassion and education.’
She has been featured as an interviewed expert by and is a contributing writer for ‘The Mighty’, an online platform for people with disabilities and chronic health challenges. She also speaks locally and nationally and creates online resources catering to the chronic illness community.