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How I Stopped Viewing Self-Care as a 'Chore' to Better Manage My Lupus

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Last year, I had an “aha” moment. I was at an event surrounded by people with abundant energy, eating whatever they wanted, and going out together in the evening after the workshop. There I was, barely able to keep my eyes open, bringing my lunch with my special diet, and having to say no to going out afterward because I needed to go home and go straight to bed!

The event was about how to find pleasure in your life. Because of the topic, I became aware of a little gremlin of resentment chattering to me from the back of my mind.

How can I find pleasure when I can’t eat whatever I want or stay up late? I have to be careful with everything I do, or I’ll pay the consequences – I won’t be able to get out of bed, or my lupus will flare. It’s not fair! Why can’t I have a normal life?

You know the drill. Your inner gremlin voices have their own messages, but I’m sure you can relate.

Then I started agreeing with my inner gremlin.

Yeah   you’re right, it isn’t fair. Look at everything I have to do to take care of myself that others don’t have to. My life is a struggle.”

By hearing my thoughts and then recognizing I was agreeing with them, I realized I had been viewing my self-care as restrictive like a chore, or even worse, punishment. Once I became aware of that point of view, I was able to shift my thoughts. I asked myself a question. What if I approached things differently and saw my self-care as pleasurable instead of restrictive? Bam — mic drop.

What if I savored my healthy, wholesome diet and the way it makes me feel light instead of heavy and bloated? What if I felt the softness of my flannel sheets when I snuggled into bed for a much-needed nap? Could I let myself appreciate the great book or funny movie I was watching while I rested?

I started practicing a new mindset of appreciation around self-care. This mindset can feel challenging at times. I know. The mind will find a million reasons to tell you why self-care is not enjoyable, why it’s not fair, how healthy people are out enjoying their lives while we’re stuck at home, how we’re missing out on that social event that we couldn’t go to again.

But there is power in perspective, and our perspective is a choice. We can choose to listen to our inner gremlin voices of deprivation and recrimination, or we can embrace another way. We can choose to enjoy the time we need for self-care. Our illnesses make self-care a necessity, not a luxury. But why not make it feel like a luxury?

I’m not saying to ignore your frustration or sadness. Feel it, acknowledge it and then choose. Choose what’s highest and best for you and your overall health and well-being. Take moments to enjoy your self-care. Rest in a restorative yoga pose while listening to music you love, read a good book, watch an engaging movie, take a nap, get outside and feel the sunshine on your face.

Personally, this new mindset has created a positive shift in my life. Viewing self-care as something I get to do rather than that I have to do, has cultivated gratitude instead of resentment. I have more relaxation and joy in my life. This relaxation promotes healing by balancing my nervous system and decreasing stress hormones. My increased joy has enhanced my emotional well-being.

Most importantly, my new perspective on self-care has enhanced my health. Now, I engage in my much-needed self-care sooner and more frequently, giving my body time and space it needs for healing.

A new mindset takes practice — repetition over time. Since I’m living with a chronic illness, I’ve got plenty of time and opportunity to practice enjoying self-care.

Getty image by rawpixel

Originally published: December 17, 2018
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