Credit: WP.com at Gfycat.
I am a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race. In my low emotional moments, Ash reminded me of what RuPaul says to her queens at the close of every episode: “if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love anybody else?” I laughed at the reminder, but he was right. Loving myself is a form of self-soothing and a great way to manage my chronic illness.
If I don’t learn to love myself and treat myself right, how am I expected to care for anyone else? An easy form of showing love for ourselves is to engage in the act of self-soothing.
Not Just for Babies
Look up self-soothing on your search engine of choice, and you’ll find tips to teach babies and toddlers to self-soothe. I am in the middle of this milestone as I work with Jai to find appropriate self-soothing techniques. Because of this, it’s fresh in my mind of how important self-soothing emotionally and physically.
At its very core, self-soothing is finding ways to calm ourselves down. Parents are encouraged at the beginning to provide healthy tools for children to care for themselves. Sometimes these techniques carry into adulthood. But some people use less healthy means to soothe, chemicals and unhealthy behaviors can distract from negative feelings.
As we grow older and life experiences get in the way, there is a tendency to forget or dismiss the important stuff we learned as children. If you were never properly trained to healthfully self-soothe, this concept is completely foreign. Rather than looking at self-soothing as something for babies, look at it as a healthy way to manage your emotions with love and compassion.
Self-Soothing for Adults
I still sleep with my childhood teddy bear because it feels weird to not use him as a pillow or cradle him in my arms. It’s something that brings me comfort and helps me fall asleep faster. And as a mother of a toddler, more sleep = more energy in the morning.
I mention this because it’s a form of self-soothing I’ve carried over since childhood.
You may not still have your childhood stuffed animal, or partners might make us feel uncomfortable if we start reaching for childhood comforts, so consider more grown-up techniques to soothe yourself:
- If you have an oral fixation, consider drinking an herbal tea. Use honey as a sweetener (if you aren’t vegan) as this will help relax you.
- Grant yourself a few minutes to veg out on your phone, tv, computer, etc. Instead of feeling guilty about it (“I should be doing this…”), set yourself a timer and give yourself permission to escape for a few minutes.
- Pick up a new hobby that is both fun and stress-free. If you’ve never had the opportunity, consider doing a group painting night or paint ceramics. Make something that you can appreciate and reminds you of the fun you had while creating it.
- Give yourself a hug. This could be a bath (if your illness allows it), getting a mini-massage, or taking yourself out to coffee.
Self-Soothing as Chronic Illness Treatment
So how can self-soothing help as a chronic illness treatment?
If you recognize warning signs of an attack or feeling overwhelmed, take this time to soothe yourself. While the above section works if you have a chronic illness, there are a few more ideas that are specific to chronic illness:
- Remember to take your medication every day & on time. Managing your illness in a healthy and responsible way can minimize future attacks or issues. It’s also your way of saying to yourself that you deserve to take care of yourself.
- Take any additional supplements recommended by your healthcare professional. With MS, I am deficient in vitamin D, so I need to take extra vitamins every day as part of my self-care. I go through periods where I forget/don’t want to take my vitamins, which can increase my chances of a flare-up.
- Recognize a stress-inducing situation and take the steps to minimize the stress whenever possible. It’s not possible to avoid every stressful situation, but consider taking a relaxing supplement or the time to do breathing techniques to help you into a more relaxed state.
- Allow yourself to say “no” or “I am unable to” without feeling guilty about it. Remember to take care of yourself first. This is particularly hard if you want to be social and your illness prevents it. Look at it as an opportunity to care for yourself so you can go out at a later time.
Because, well, You’re Worth It
The key concept is that you are worth taking the time to care for yourself.
Chronic illness can beat us down and make us feel bad about ourselves. Sometimes these feelings are a secondary response to the illness or in the case of MS, the illness directly impacting brain function.
Self-soothing is a way to regain control over the uncontrollable situation and saying that I am worth my love. If you struggle with loving yourself, consider taking the baby steps of self-soothing as a means to get to a place where you are able to more actively take care of yourself.
Self-soothing boils down to loving yourself and telling yourself on a daily basis that you are worthy of that love. It’s also acknowledging that there will be low points and so you need to take the time to mitigate that.
How do you take care of yourself? What makes you feel better when you are feeling low emotionally? Leave your thoughts and comments below.
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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton