Self-care: Why, When, What, and How Much?

October 18, 2021

I have been compensated by Merz Pharmaceuticals, LLC for this blog post including for sharing information about XEOMIN® (incobotulinumtoxinA). I am not currently being treated with XEOMIN.

For a lot of us, self-care is difficult, to say the least. Whether you have a specific health issue or not—in my case it is chronic pain from cervical dystonia—everyone needs self-care. But time and guilt often have other plans. So how can we care for ourselves in a way that makes us feel good about it?

For me, it wasn’t always easy.

My journey with self-care started over 20 years ago when I was diagnosed with cervical dystonia. Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder that can cause pain for many people. At my worst, I used to say that it felt like there was a constant power drill banging around in my head, neck, shoulders, and back.

Managing my diagnosis, my chronic pain, and my life were all taking a toll on me. I wasn’t eating well or sleeping. I gained 150 pounds and was always stressed. Not knowing how my body was going to behave from day to day or even hour to hour, made me feel like I was always on edge, waiting for something bad to happen.

But after a stomach bug forced me to lay down, recharge, and spend time with my thoughts, I started to make a change. I started to listen to myself and think about what I wanted. At that moment, I wasn’t focused on others. I didn’t let guilt sneak in. Instead, I relaxed, gave myself grace, and practiced mindfulness. I connected with my surroundings and myself for the first time in a long time.

If you struggle with guilt or just don’t know where to begin with self-care, I want to share an idea that might be different from your previous approach to self-care.

For a lot of us, we only do self-care activities when we find the time. In other words, we fit it in around everything else. What I think is a better approach is to pick one self-care activity to implement every single day and schedule everything around it. It’s the opposite of how most of us do it. It could be the same thing every day or a different thing every day of the week. Whatever it is, commit yourself to that ONE self-care activity. Human beings are REALLY good at complicating life, not often realizing that it doesn’t take much to make a big difference.

Another barrier to self-care is time. We think we need to do a lot, that it will take long, and we don’t know where to start. Because of this, we often end up doing nothing. As mentioned above, choose just ONE thing and put it to practice every day. Be consistent and see what happens. Then add more as you feel is necessary. The key is to get the ball rolling so we are in the habit of being better at self-care. Over time, self-care will become part of your life because it becomes part of your daily routine.

Here are some of my self-care activities:

  • Eating well
  • Exercise
  • Quality sleep
  • Massage
  • Listening to music
  • Resting by the pool, at the beach, or in my yard
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Avoiding toxic people or situations
  • Refraining from activities and events that overtax my body
  • Taking breaks from my technology
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Spending time in peace and quiet
  • Taking walks
  • Reading inspirational books
  • Watching my favorite movies and TV shows
  • Spending time with people who lift me up

I had to first try different things to see what might help and then do them daily, without guilt. That was the sticking point…guilt! I felt guilty for taking time for myself until I realized just how helpful it was for my health and how much better it made me for others.

We can’t forget that self-care also includes advocating for ourselves when it comes to outside care, such as the doctors we choose and the treatments we pursue. With cervical dystonia and the pain it can cause, there is no cookie-cutter approach, so we need to find what works best for us.

I know that in the dystonia community, we sometimes struggle with options when it comes to treatment and management. But one option that’s proved effective at stabilizing cervical dystonia symptoms in adults, such as head or neck turning, shaking, pain, tremors, and stiffness, is XEOMIN® (incobotulinumtoxinA). XEOMIN is a prescription medication that is used to help manage symptoms for various disorders. For people living with cervical dystonia, XEOMIN is injected into the muscles to reduce spasms/contractions, that cause abnormal head positions and neck pain. It is a botulinum toxin type A product, which means that it works by injecting proteins to help block muscle activity caused by incorrectly firing nerve signals. XEOMIN is manufactured through a state-of-the-art process that removes unnecessary proteins, leaving just the active therapeutic component. If you’re interested in learning more about XEOMIN, visit the site here.

Part of self-care means knowing when you are at your limit. So, if you’re struggling with managing your symptoms as often as I was, talk to your healthcare team. For now, remember that it’s okay to lean on others—whether that’s a doctor, fellow patient, friend, or family member. They are there to help you!

I know how cliché it is to say this, but we have to take care of ourselves in order to take care of everything and everyone that we’re responsible for. For instance, when we’re on an airplane, we are always told that in case of an emergency, we must first secure our oxygen mask before helping others. It may be a little cliché, but it’s a great metaphor for life.  And this is what more of us need to do in our everyday lives.

Take some time now to determine one self-care activity that will help you feel better, or that you want to do, and implement it. See how it makes you feel and how you feel about making it more of a priority. From there, you can determine the next activity you can implement. The most important step is to first get comfortable practicing self-care, so take it slowly.

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The effects of XEOMIN may spread hours to weeks after injection causing serious symptoms. Alert your doctor right away as difficulty swallowing, speaking, or breathing can be a sign of a life-threatening condition. Do not take XEOMIN if you are allergic to XEOMIN or another botulinum toxin, or have a skin infection at the injection site. Side effects may include allergic reactions or, depending on the FDA-approved indication: dry mouth, diarrhea, high blood pressure, seizure, nasal congestion, sore throat and runny nose, difficulty swallowing, neck pain, muscle weakness, pain at the injection site, muscle and bone pain, drooping of the eyelid, vision problems, or dry eye.

For additional important safety information for XEOMIN’s FDA-approved indications, please visit XEOMIN.com.

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Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey (2015) and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges (2021). 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 NetworkThe MightyPatient Worthy, and The Wellness Universe.

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2 responses to “Self-care: Why, When, What, and How Much?”

  1. Lynn M Lipman says:

    Tom just wanted to send a thank you again for reminding me it’s OK to take time out for myself. I have done self care activities and it helps with my CD tremendously. Then I forget about me and take care of everyone else’s problems and I wonder why I’m having tremors and pulling and muscles that are angry and active. I need to take care of ME.

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Hi Lynn. Thank you. I love hearing your feedback. The more we know about self care and how it helps us, the better off we can be for ourselves so we can give more of ourselves to others. Thank you again!

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