Doctors don’t feed us, exercise for us, sleep for us, choose our spiritual practice, select the people we spend time with, etc. We are responsible for practically every aspect of our well being which is done by making healthy lifestyle choices; in other words, practicing “self care.”
Self care for me includes eating well, exercise, quality sleep, stress management, massage therapy, acupuncture, listening to music, resting by the pool or at the beach, meditation, prayer, avoiding toxic people, refraining from activities and events that overtax my body, taking breaks from my computer and phone, walking in the park, reading inspirational books, watching my favorite movies and TV shows, and spending time with people who lift me up.
I like to be active, but at times I also need to rest. For years I felt guilty if I took a break and rested during the day because I felt like I was wasting time and being lazy. Even though my dystonia symptoms required that I rest, I still felt guilt because it is not my nature to be idle. I was not comfortable doing what I perceived as “nothing.” It was not until I changed how I looked at it and realized that doing “nothing” was a form of self treatment and care that is vital to my health. I also realized that I didn’t do enough “nothing” for the vast majority of my life, which kept my mind and body in constant overdrive, creating a chronically stressed and unhealthy state.
When my dystonic body requires exercise, I feed it exercise. When my dystonic body needs rest, I rest. No qualms about it anymore. I make sure to relax in a peaceful setting to calm my body and mind. This might be at a pool, beach, my yard, a park, or somewhere in my home. I call it “purposeful resting” because it serves an important need. In many ways, this is more helpful than some treatments I receive.
When I realized the benefit of my self care activities and by renaming them to things such as “purposeful resting” and “self treatment”, the guilt went away. I am now more comfortable doing these things because I value how much they improve my life.
With the guilt gone, my self treatments are more effective in helping me manage my symptoms and interestingly, they make the treatments I receive from my health care team more effective. It just required me to shift my thinking so I was able to accept that doing “nothing” from time to time was actually a form of loving, personal care that enhanced my overall well being.
If you are struggling with taking time to care for yourself, whatever that means to you (taking a nap, getting a massage, going to the gym, reading a book, meditating), change how you look at it and/or what you call it. We rarely to never feel guilty when we are sick and have to see a doctor for care, so why should it be any different when we care for ourselves?
To learn more about self care and coping with the many things that accompany life with dystonia and any other challenge, be sure to get a copy of my book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey. Print and Kindle versions are available. To see what others are saying about it, please read the many positive reviews.