Just being an adult requires copious amounts of self care. Remember playing The Sims? They’d throw tantrums and refuse to do things if you made them study, work, or exercise for too long at a time. We humans are like that, too. We go crazy and it’s unbearable if we go-go-go without a break and without sufficient relaxation and kindness for ourselves.
That’s one of the lessons I’ve had to learn since my CFS came back and since my chronic pain started. I used to get by on probably normal amounts of sleep (plus naps) and relaxation. I could be up for class at 8:00 AM, be out of the dorm until the end of my last class around 4:00 PM (sometimes as late as 6:30), go back to do my homework, eat dinner, and then work until 2:00 AM. Repeat. I’d sleep in until late on the weekends, study and do chores, and then enjoy a film on Saturday nights. I had no problem doing this for four years.
In Durham I spent more time than usual in my room studying, sleeping, and watching back episodes of The Great British Baking Show, Don’t Tell the Bride, and Come Dine with Me. But I got through with my distinction. In York my CFS came back with a vengeance, and I had to sleep really late each day to function at all. I started needing more time to do yoga, to sleep, to lay in bed, and to have a cup of tea outside. I forced myself to meet friends out more than I’d used to, as I seemed to need that social interaction to get through the weeks. When I met my boyfriend (now husband), I needed that phone conversation each evening and our fortnightly meetings to propel me through my days. When I hurt my back, I was in bed almost 24/7 and was in so much pain I could barely think straight. Films and television shows were my new best friends, and I had to be as kind as I could to myself.
That has carried over into my present situation. Although I’m able to go to work most days, I find that I’ve become more of a homebody and needed more self care than I had previously. I can no longer push through my week at full-speed and make up my self care time on the weekends. I need that care everyday for longer than would be ideal.
Of course, my self-care also involves going to appointments four out of five workdays a week. Chiropractor Mondays, acupuncture Tuesdays, Pilates Wednesdays and Thursdays, and then finally muscle massage on alternate Fridays or Sundays. It’s exhausting, so even though I’m doing all this for me and for my self care, it’s hard to view it as relaxing.
So what else can I do which would actually feel like self care and not an obligation?
I take baths sometimes, which helps the pain level and also gives me some peace in my own room, isolated from the cats and my husband. I take pride in the food I buy. It tends to be organic, brightly-colored, and without much packaging–real food, I suppose many would argue. I buy and brew far too much tea, and I have an addiction to buying books. I love window shopping, especially at jewelry and furniture/home/vintage stores. One of my favorite items is a heated throw which I use in the basement no matter the temperature or weather outside. A handful of times I’ve gotten facials, and sometimes I’ll apply face masks at home. I cuddle my cats as much as they will allow, and I pet any dog who I walk past. (I actually have been known to change my course if there’s a golden retriever…) Often these small enjoyments aren’t enough to make me feel totally rejuvenated, and I have to spend even glorious days inside resting with a heating pad.
I hope that whatever you need to do to get through your hard days is enjoyable and helpful.