If 2020 taught me anything, it was that simply taking care of myself is not enough; I need self-care. To clarify, I see taking care of myself as health management; this includes treatments, medications, tune-ups, regular appointments with a mental health professional, and generous communication with my care team. Self-care, however, is an intentional catering to myself in ways that make me happy -- or give me a break -- when I'm beginning to feel overwhelmed.
Last year, I was admitted into the hospital almost every six weeks. This may seem like an odd confession, but -- during that time -- I struggled to answer any questions about myself or things I liked to do outside of the hospital; I realized I had been devoting all my time outside of schoolwork to taking care of myself. This lack of “me-time” and self-development took a huge toll on my mental health.
I often asked myself who was I becoming, and if I had let myself be so submerged in medical routines that I forgot the actual reasons why I was fighting so hard on a day-to-day basis.
Honestly, I had lost a little perspective, but I was determined to fix that. Getting myself out of that funk was difficult. In no way was this an overnight transformation into me being the most self-aware, content human being; but I had to remind myself of small things I could be doing that would lead me down that path.
After a lot of self-reflection, I found that music, journaling, planned time for good shows/movies, doing my nails, long sunset-capturing drives, any time spent with animals, and coffee are my self-care go-tos. Although the frequent admissions did not stop, I learned to incorporate self-care into my daily hospital routine. And -- might I say -- jam sessions in the shower during tune-ups are so rejuvenating!
Slowly but surely, I was able to perform self-care without an ounce of worry or guilt because I realized that this me-time was granting me perspective.
By doing the small things I could control, I was realizing and accepting my new normal and gaining a different outlook on who I was holistically; my mental health has become so much better because of it.
I would now argue that self-care is an under-discussed aspect of staying healthy.
Each individual with CF is unique, so I suspect all our manifestations of self-care will look different as well. If you haven't decided on your outlets -- or find yourself in the same boat that I was in last year -- ask yourself these questions:
- What calms me down?
- What is something I can do regardless of my location?
- What used to/can always bring a smile to my face?
- What is something I can do for myself physically that would be an accomplishment or lighten my mood?
- How am I keeping track of my progress and struggles? (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually)
- What is a low-effort activity that I would consider a “break” from my daily routine?
If you still cannot decide what activity you find suitable for your own individual self-care, start by taking someone else's suggestion and see how it fits you. The main point is that you do these activities for yourself, with no guilt. In the same way, I know when the world constantly throws adversity and sudden change in our faces, taking care of ourselves is all we can do on some days; treatments and pill regimens are not the types of things that can easily bring joy or remind us of ourselves outside of everything that comes with cystic fibrosis.
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