As women, we get so caught up in all the busy-ness and responsibilities of life that we neglect ourselves. We put ourselves last. Responsible self-care is putting yourself first! Remember how they instruct passengers on an airplane? Put on your own oxygen mask before helping your children put on their masks. Put your health and self-care first before taking care of the rest of your family!
Self-care is critical to managing autoimmune diseases. True self-care doesn’t happen for a couple of reasons. Number one, it often feels selfish. But this is healthy selfishness that needs to embrace. Self-care also gets neglected because it feels impossible. Our days feel too packed with things that need to get done.
Stress is a normal part of modern-day life. It can’t be completely avoided, but we can manage it and curb the negative impact it has on our health. Stress is a common trigger of autoimmune flare-ups. Integrate consistent self-care practices and techniques into each day. It is a must to achieving and maintaining remission! This guide to simple self-care provides 8 simple and effective methods. The best part is, you can start today! You can read more on this and other topics on our blog page.
Gratitude Journaling for Self Care
Gratitude is the experience of counting your blessings. It generates happiness! No matter what the circumstances. Shifting focus onto something positive will always improve your mood. It’s hard to be sad, mad or afraid when you’re thinking positive thoughts.
According to Forbes magazine, gratitude provides the following benefits:
- Opens the door to more relationships.
- Improves physical health.
- Improves psychological health.
- Enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
- Grateful people sleep better.
- Improves self-esteem.
- Increases mental strength.
Our tool “The Five-Minute Journal” is the perfect way to begin and end each day with gratitude. “The Five-Minute Journal” is a daily practice. It will transform your thoughts, feelings and well-being.
Begin each morning by reading an inspirational quote. Then write down three things you are grateful for, and three things that will make your day great. End with a daily affirmation or “I am” statement.
At night, write down three amazing things that happened during the day. Also write down what you could have done to make the day better. This simple exercise is the easiest thing you can do. Done daily, it will help you create more happiness.
Meditation for De-Stressing
Meditation retrains the body to switch into “rest and digest” mode from “fight or flight” mode. It is a great method for teaching your body to learn the relaxation response. You can start with guided meditations through applications like Headspace or Calm.
When our bodies experience serious stressors they switch to “fight or flight.” That’s a good thing if the stress is coming from something life-threatening like running from a lion. But if the stress is something less life-threatening “fight or flight” is not necessary. With the practice of meditation, you can switch from “fight or flight” to “rest and digest.”
There are endless benefits to a regular practice of meditation. According to Healthline.com, scientific research shows the following benefits to daily meditation:
- Reduces Stress
- Controls Anxiety
- Promotes Emotional Health
- Enhances Self-Awareness
- Lengthens Attention Span
- May Reduce Age-Related Memory Loss
- Can Generate Kindness
- Can Be Helpful in Fighting Addictions
- Improves Sleep
- Helps Control Pain
- Can Decrease Blood Pressure
- And You Can Meditate Anywhere!
Exercise Helps Combat Autoimmune Disease
Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to manage an autoimmune disease. Exercise improves circulation and produces feel-good, anti-inflammatory compounds like endorphins. Exercise also produces chemicals that enhance brain function.
Here are some tips to help integrate an effective exercise routine into your life:
- Find a form of exercise that is fun and enjoyable for “you.”
- Positivity is anti-inflammatory while negativity is pro-inflammatory. So make sure that fun is a part of the form of exercise you choose. If you’re a very social person, perhaps a group class or social setting would be a helpful choice for the fun factor.
- Be sure the exercise is challenging enough to increase your heart rate to a beneficial level.
- But be careful not to challenge yourself so much that you trigger a flare-up. Consistent exercise delivers the most health benefits. Choose an exercise activity that you can do daily.
- Pay attention to your body. If you are feeling so run down that you can’t get out of bed, then that’s not a good day to go work out. If you are feeling a little run-down but can function, decrease the intensity of your exercise. At least you’re still doing “something!” A light workout can help you recover faster than not working out at all.
- Capitalize on your good-feeling days to challenge yourself a little more than normal. But be careful not to overdo it.
- Remember, auto-immune disease is a lifelong affliction that requires lifelong attention.
Nourishing Food is Critical to Self Care
Consuming healthy, nourishing food is one of the greatest acts of self-care you can do! The food we put into our bodies has a profound effect on our health and well-being.
Avoid processed, toxic foods at all costs. Processed, toxic foods are one of the biggest sources of inflammation. Inflammation is the root of autoimmunity. Consume an anti-inflammatory diet that supports the achievement and maintenance of remission.
Focus on whole foods that combat inflammation. Include foods rich in antioxidants and omega- 3’s. Here are some of the top anti-inflammatory foods:
Avoid processed foods that promote inflammation, like:
Hydration for Health
Hydration is a key factor in responsible self-care. It’s essential to maintaining proper body functions and supporting all systems. Hydration supports body temperature regulation. It keep your joints lubricated and helps prevent infections. It also supports digestion and assimilation of food nutrients. Hydration is key for oxygen delivery throughout the body and clear cognition.
The composition of an adult human consists of approximately 60% water. How much water should you drink? A good starting point goal for water intake is to consume at least:
1/2 your body weight (lbs) in ounces of water/day
Example: For a person who weighs 150 lbs their daily water consumption goal should be 75oz.
What About Water Quality?
Water quality is also key. Proper water purification helps to remove most environmental toxins while maintaining beneficial minerals. Most refrigerator and pitcher filters are only water filters, not water purifiers. They give your water better taste but are not necessarily safer.
Be sure the water you are drinking is clean. We trust the AquaTru and Berkey countertop purification systems. They are simple to use and creates water that is cleaner and healthier for you. It transforms your regular tap water into safe bottled-quality water. It requires no plumbing or installation.
Use refillable stainless steel or glass bottles instead of plastic. This reduces the consumption of the harmful chemicals contained in plastic.
Quality Sleep is Part of Self Care
The importance of quality sleep is critical. Sleep is crucial for health and well-being. Create the optimal environment for getting a good night’s sleep. If you struggle with fatigue or have problems sleeping, here are a few great tips for a solid night’s sleep:
- Your bedroom must be comfortable and peaceful. Choose soft, soothing colors and keep the bedroom space uncluttered.
- A cool temperature (60-67 degrees F) is optimal for beneficial sleep.
- Begin limiting your exposure to light an hour before bedtime. This supports your natural melatonin production.
- If you keep your cell phone next to your bed at night, be sure to switch it to Airplane mode to limit EMF exposure.
- Blue light has a negative impact on your body’s ability to produce melatonin needed for sleeping. The Himalayan Salt Lamp glows a soft orange color to limit your exposure to blue light. Himalayan Salt Lamps release negative ions that help clean the air. They also negate the effects of EMFs emitted by your electronic devices.
- The F.lux App is an app for your computer that changes the color of your display. It adjusts the screen to emit less harmful blue light at night. The change depends on your location and time of day. You can download the F.lux app HERE.
- The Sunrise Simulation Alarm Clock slowly lights up your room. It simulates the sunrise before your alarm goes off. This helps wake you up naturally and refreshed. Sunlight helps signal our spike of cortisol in the morning to help us wake up.
Healthy Rewards of Self Care
It is important to treat yourself! Congratulate yourself for your hard work and achieving your goals. Often, we reward ourselves with unhealthy treats. Don’t these end up making us feel worse instead of better? Does that make any sense? How do you feel after rewarding yourself with an ice cream sundae? Usually, pretty crappy!
Choose rewards that make you feel great! Choose rewards that further support your healthy lifestyle. Pamper yourself without guilt. Take time for yourself. Put it on your calendar. That might sound crazy, but scheduling weekly times for self-pampering is not indulgent. You ARE important! Your health is important.
Here are some great self-rewards:
- Schedule regular massages, pedicures or facials. If that’s not in your budget, go when you can.
- Take a walk, hike or sit and relax in the sun. Bring a book or music that you love.
- Skincare night with a good movie.
- Take a nap.
- Plan a fun get together with friends.
- Take a bath. Use Epsom salts, light a candle and put on some relaxing music that you love.
Breathing is ESSENTIAL. Focused breathing is also shown to be beneficial in combating stress. Proper breathing also helps to switch the body out of out of “fight or flight” and into “rest and digest.”
4-7-8 breathing helps you to focus on using your diaphragm or “belly breathing:”
- Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach while taking a deep breath in and out. Feel your hand on your stomach rise and fall with the breath. The breath in the stomach, not in the chest, will help avoid shallow chest breathing.
- Close your mouth and inhale through the nose to a mental count of four
- Hold your breath for a count of seven
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight
- This is one breath. Now, inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Begin to incorporate these eight steps into your life one by one. Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to add all these things to your life at once! The goal is not to create more anxiety, but to help ease anxiety and stress. You can do this. You will feel so much better.
Dr. Tiffany Caplan & Dr. Brent Caplan
PS: Have fun exploring the creative and flavorful recipes in Dr. Caplan’s cookbook “Friendly Recipes to Calm the Fires of Inflammation.” These delicious recipes are great support for lowering inflammation due to lupus or other autoimmune disease symptoms.
PPS: Self-care is so important, and an essential component of conquering autoimmune disease. This is why my wife; Tiffany and I created the “Simple Self Care for Autoimmunity” e-book. This guide provides 8 simple and effective ways to practice self-care you can start today! It’s our gift to you! Download it now at no cost!