“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” — Audre Lorde
I’ve spent a chunk of this summer not feeling very good, too sick to do much of anything except feed Dinah Dog and make myself tea. Every once in awhile, I’d scrape up enough energy to go to the store for saltine crackers and red Gatorade but pretty much, I slept and didn’t do much of anything for several weeks. I tried to keep up with my email (failing miserably), and I made a quick showing every couple of days on Facebook (really just trying to convince myself that I wasn’t dead yet). It’s been a long, strange summer.
I don’t slow down easily. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn how to slow down this past few years but it still doesn’t come gracefully or gently. If I do relax and take it easy, it’s because I want to, not because I have to. So for those of us (and I know there are others out there just like me!) who might need a few guidelines and/or reminders on taking care of ourselves when we don’t feel good, here’s my short and very simple list to help us remember what to do when we’re needing some body down-time.
Pay attention to what that ol’ body is saying.
One of the things I’ve typically done over the years is ignore what my body is trying to tell me until it’s so overwhelmed and overloaded that it simply sits down and quits. In other words, I go go go until everything shouts “Stop!” and I somehow manage to break a leg or arm, or something happens to land me in the emergency room, when maybe all I needed to do was slow down, take a rest break, baby myself a little, and relax into the life experience.
During this latest health-related episode, I tried to tell myself that it was okay to pull myself in, to isolate, to sit still and be quiet, but my brain did not want to let go. In the beginning, I was in a constant push-me/pull-you, which wasn’t helping me to feel better at all. I didn’t have time to be sick! I had things to do, places to go, people to see! It was only when I finally let go, was finally able to accept that I didn’t feel good, was finally telling myself to take care of myself that I felt the weight begin to lift and I started to think about what I needed to do to get feeling better.
Drink lots of fluids and eat lightly and sparingly.
My idea of “fluids” when I don’t feel good is drinking lots of red Gatorade. I know there are several different red kinds but any one of them will do for me. I really don’t like Gatorade at any other time than when I don’t feel good but it feels like the answer to my prayers when my tummy doesn’t feel like having anything else in it. I’m also a fan of saltine crackers when I’m sick. Saltines and Gatorade. And maybe a little Canada Dry Ginger Ale. (It’s gotta be Canada Dry Ginger Ale. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know.) There you have it. My “not feeling good” food items. The problem this time was that I was sick for longer than a few days, which is all this “diet” is usually good for. After a week of this, I was thinking I needed some “real food” but nothing sounded good or tasted good, and what’s more, my insides didn’t like anything else I tried to put into it. Quite the conundrum, it was. But I drank Gatorade, ate saltines, and tried to eat other stuff on occasion.
Take naps. Lots of them.
Ok, so maybe just resting would work as well. I often wasn’t sleepy but my body felt like it weighed three tons, my arms didn’t want to move, my legs ached. When I finally was able to stretch myself out on the bed, all my cells cried out in relief. Thank you, they screamed at me. Thank you! I really tried to listen to them before they were in screaming meemies mode and sometimes I was successful. Oh sure, once in awhile I tried to ignore the cells when they talked (yelled?) to me, but if I stopped and listened, I would feel better just because I was resting.
Find something relaxing to do.
I read. I love to read but usually only have time to do it right before I go to bed at night. During this down-time when I wasn’t feeling good, I read several books. It was wonderful. Find some activity that you feel like doing that doesn’t take a lot of energy and will let you relax and recuperate. Maybe you’ve got a couple of books that you’ve set aside because you don’t have time to read them, or you’ve got a scarf you started knitting and it’s been sitting in a drawer waiting for you to find the time to finish it, or maybe watching TV if you have one – turn on the 60s and 70s sit-coms, and laugh away. I’ve heard laughing is very good for healing!
And finally, please remember that I’m not a doctor, I’m not even a nurse. I try to take care of myself as much as possible. I’m just a regular person trying to get by without a lot of outside resources so I’m learning to go inside myself and listen to my body parts when they’re talking to me. I don’t have health insurance so I don’t go running off to the medical center or emergency room for every little thing that comes up. Sure, I know things can get serious and sometimes illnesses need outside medical help, but without health coverage, I try to allow my body the opportunity to heal on its own, even when it seems to take a few days longer than I’d like. I encourage you to look at your own resources and choose for yourself what path you take when your body doesn’t feel well.
I’m happy to be back in the Land of the Living and back to feeling like doing things, going places, and seeing people. And I’m paying attention to the conversation my cells are constantly having with me. Taking care of myself really is an act of survival.
Question: What do you do to take care of yourself when you’re not feeling well?