6 Ways to Love Your Body on Bad Days with a Chronic Illness

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6 Ways to Love Your Body on Bad Days with a Chronic Illness

Even if you have a chronic illness, there are still many more good days you can look forward to. Try some of these techniques to get you through those tough times.

1. Check the facts

When feeling symptoms, especially ones like pain, fatigue, or weakness, it’s easy to catastrophize what you’re experiencing and assume that the pain will never end, or that you’ll never feel any better.

This is especially difficult with chronic illness because the truth is, for many of us, we won’t feel completely better or have the same level of energy or lack of pain that our able-bodied friends do. Still, there’s a balance between assuming the worst and accepting reality.

In Dialectical Behavior Therapy there’s a practice called “checking the facts.” This basically means seeing whether your view of a current situation lines up with reality. For me, this works best when I’m feeling immense anxiety or sadness around my current condition. I like to ask myself a simple question, “Is that true?”

This technique helps when my brain begins to spiral around self-pity and fear, believing I will always be alone, sitting in a chair while my friends explore.

 “Is that true?” I ask myself. Usually, the answer is no.

Today might be a hard day, but not all days are this hard.

2. Practice gratitude for your body — even just by breathing

One of the most helpful things I’ve learned to do is keep a gratitude journal for when things go right.

Within it, I note the good: my cat’s warm body against mine as I sleep, finding a gluten-free brownie at the bakery, the way the light stretches across the carpet in the early morning.

It’s harder to notice the good within my own body, but that helps restore balance, too.

I try to notice what my body is doing well — even if all I can come up with is that I’m breathing and continuing to move through the world.

Whenever I catch myself criticizing my body, I try and reframe that criticism with gratitude that my body’s working hard to fight illness.

3. Keep self-care simple, but intentional

 Often self-care is advertised as an extravagant affair, like a day at the spa, a massage, or a shopping spree. Those things are fun and rewarding, of course, but I’ve often found more enjoyment from simple and intentional self-care.

For me, this is taking a bath or shower and then using a favorite lotion afterwards; pouring myself a glass of water and drinking it while being aware of the good I’m giving my body; planning a nap in the afternoon and reveling in the quiet calm that comes when I wake, relaxed and pain-free.

I find that planning ways to care for yourself, even if that’s just washing your hair or brushing your teeth, helps to restore the balance in your relationship with a body that’s aching from a chronic illness.

4. Advocate for yourself

Upon returning home from shopping with my friends, I crawled into bed and began to cry.

We were on a weekend trip together, staying in a shared house, and I was afraid to admit how hard the day had been for me. I felt exhausted, defeated, and ashamed of my failing body.

I fell asleep, exhausted and achy, and came out of my room several hours later to find my friends awake and waiting in the kitchen. Dinner had been made, the table set, and several cards waited at my seat.

“Sorry disability makes things so hard,” one card said.

“We love who you are, always, regardless,” said another.

Within me, something softened. Oh, I thought, my illness isn’t something to be ashamed of. What a gift, to have such good friends. What a safe space, I thought, to practice advocating for what I need.

So, within a circle of kind people, I explained how if we’re out for long periods of time, I’d need to take breaks. How stairs were hard sometimes. How I needed to be sure a place had chairs or spaces to sit if I was feeling fatigued.

They listened, and I softened further. Advocating is hard work, because there’s always the fear of rejection, and more than that, the fear of not deserving to speak up for what you need.

Speak up. It’s worth it. People will listen. And if they don’t, find the people who will.

Source: 6 Ways to Love Your Body on Bad Days with a Chronic Illness

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