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15 Self-Care Start-Ups

By Gay Falkowski
sam-wheeler-95303-unsplash-(1).jpgLong before the health and wellness movement gained momentum at the turn of the century, self-care had become a way of life for many people who realized their well being depended on more than just keeping up with yearly doctor visits. Simply put, self-care is any deliberate action taken to maintain mental, emotional, and physical health. Most importantly, self-care is not selfish. It is a basic human need.
For the person with MS who’s focused primarily on taming the disease and its symptoms, self-care can easily fall by the wayside. The good news is you can learn to pay attention to all your needs, which is the basis of self-care. In fact, it’s a skill you can sharpen with practice. Here are 15 self care tips to get you started:

1) Set a timer to go off every hour to check in on how you’re feeling physically and emotionally. Are you hungry? Are you stressed? What does hunger and stress feel like in your body? How are they different? Your job is to become an expert in recognizing how your needs ‘express themselves’ in your mind and body.

2) Depending on what you notice, respond by taking small actions. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re tired, take a break. If you’re upset, talk to someone you trust. If you’re overwhelmed with anxiety, see a therapist. Enjoy the feeling of satisfying your needs.

3) When you tune into your feelings and needs, knowing what you don’t want to do is as important as knowing what you want to do. Make a list of things you refuse to tolerate. Your list should help make you feel safe, protected, taken care of, and free to be your best self. Examples:
  • Not rushing
  • Not using credit cards unless you can pay them off fully at the end of the month
  • Not keeping anything that you don’t love or need
  • Not answering the phone during dinner
  • Not participating in gossip

4) Pay attention to things that frustrate you. For instance, maybe you’re tired of giving so much of your time to others. Put that on your list.

5) When creating your list, pay attention to your body. When do you typically feel tension, tightness, or aching? This might be a hint that this activity needs to go on your list.

6) Post your list where you can see it every day. Extreme self-care takes practice. At first it might seem awkward to say no to something or someone. At first, you might feel guilty for taking time for yourself. But with practice, it will feel more natural and automatic.

7) Focus on maintaining a nutritious, healthy diet. Seek guidance from a nutritionist/dietician if good eating habits are a challenge.

8) MS can interfere with a good night’s sleep. Make sure you’re getting the amount of sleep you need. Ask your doctor about ways to improve your sleep hygiene.

9) Exercise routinely. Exercise is as good for your emotional health as it is for your physical health. It increases serotonin levels, leading to improved mood and energy. Choose a form of exercise that you like, one suited for your physical abilities. Check with your doctor before beginning any new fitness routine.

10) Don’t put off seeing your doctor. Pay attention to preventative healthcare visits along with your MS care.

11) Practice relaxation and/or meditation as often as possible. Use these skills to relieve stress at any time, day or night.

12) Spend time each week with people who inspire you and know how to support you. 

13) Schedule time to do at least one relaxing activity every day. 

14) Do at least one pleasurable activity every day; from going to the cinema, to cooking, or any hobby you enjoy.

15) Look for opportunities to laugh daily!