Be your best health advocate
Living well with dystonia and other chronic conditions requires that we be disciplined in taking good care of ourselves. Some people rely solely on their doctors for care. Unfortunately, except for suggestions, doctors can’t do much for us beyond providing treatments. For some this is enough, but for the vast majority, we need to do more for ourselves to be as healthy as possible.
Doctors don’t feed us, exercise for us, sleep for us, choose our spiritual practice, select the people we spend time with, etc. We are responsible for practically every aspect of our well-being which is done by making healthy lifestyle choices; in other words, practicing “self-care.”
Self-care for me includes eating well, exercise, quality sleep, stress management, massage therapy, acupuncture, listening to music, resting by the pool or at the beach, meditation, prayer, avoiding toxic people, refraining from activities and events that overtax my body, taking breaks from my computer and phone, walking in the park, reading inspirational books, watching my favorite movies and TV shows, and spending time with people who lift me up.
I like to be active, but at times I also need to rest. For years, I felt guilty if I took a break and rested during the day because I felt like I was wasting time and being lazy. Even though my dystonia symptoms required that I rested, I still felt guilty because it is not my nature to be idle. I was not comfortable doing what I perceived as “nothing.” It was not until I changed how I looked at it and realized that doing “nothing” was a form of self-treatment and care that was vital to my health. I also realized that I didn’t do enough “nothing” for the vast majority of my life, which kept my mind and body in constant overdrive, creating a chronically stressed and unhealthy state.
When my dystonic body requires exercise, I feed it exercise. When my dystonic body needs rest, I rest. No qualms about it anymore. I make sure to relax in a peaceful setting to calm my body and mind. This might be at a pool, beach, my yard, a park, or somewhere in my home. I call it “purposeful resting” because it serves an important need. In many ways, this is more helpful than some treatments I receive.
When I realized the benefit of my self-care activities and by renaming them to things such as “purposeful resting” and “self-treatment”, the guilt went away. I am now more comfortable doing these things because I value how much they improve my life.
With the guilt gone, my self-treatments are more effective in helping me manage my symptoms and interestingly, they make the treatments I receive from my health care team more effective. It just required me to shift my thinking so I was able to accept that doing “nothing” from time to time was actually a form of loving, personal care that enhanced my overall well-being.
If you are struggling with taking time to care for yourself, whatever that means to you (taking a nap, getting a massage, going to the gym, reading a book, meditating), change how you look at it and/or what you call it. We rarely to never feel guilty when we are sick and have to see a doctor for care, so why should it be any different when we care for ourselves? We are also very happy to tell others to take care of themselves when they are having a rough time. This is a gift we need to also direct inward.
To learn more about self-care and coping with the many things that accompany life with dystonia and other health challenges, be sure to get a copy of my book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey. Both print and Kindle versions are available. To see what others are saying about it, please read the reviews.
Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and author of the book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey, a comprehensive resource for anyone suffering with any life challenge. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, The Mighty, Patient Worthy, and The Wellness Universe. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his book (also on Amazon), or schedule a free coaching consult, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.