Answer this question honestly: How much do you love yourself? Really, how much? A whole lot? A little bit? Not at all? Or maybe you never really thought about it. Some people hate themselves so much they end up clinically depressed, while some people love themselves so much we call them narcissistic.
Your goal as a chronic illness warrior is to find the middle ground. You’re already dealing with health issues so it’s important that you remain in the healthy zone of self-love. This article will help you find ways to love yourself in a healthy way.
Self-love is a practice not a thing. It may sound like a bad thing, it may sound like narcissism, but it’s not. Self-love is not how you feel about yourself, it’s something you do for yourself. It definitely does not mean you’re selfish.
Self-love is a lot like the safety procedures we all ignore when flying. If you’d pay attention, you would hear the flight attendant tell you to always put your oxygen mask on first before you help the person next to you, even if the person next to you is your child. The theory behind this is that you’re not able to help anyone else if you’re not helping yourself first.
How good are you to help the person next to you if you are sick or dying from hypoxia? How good are you to the people in your life if you’re depressed or living in self-loathing? Not very good, right? So, get out there and do something for yourself right now. Yes, you may not feel like running a marathon and walking may even be painful, but if you do your best to be happier and do all you can to improve the quality of your life, you’ll be in a better position and mindset to improve your life and the lives of those around you.
Fall in love with yourself
This is an important part of self-love. You have to almost treat it like you’ve just met someone you really like. You would want to get to know them as best as you can. So, I want you to get to know yourself. Now, I know what you’re thinking: you already know yourself. Well, that’s true, but there is always more that you can learn about yourself, and sometimes that means stepping out of your comfort zone to find and try new things. So, start by taking yourself out on some dates and if you don’t feel up to it emotionally, plan a date inside.
Follow these tips to ensure you have a successful date:
Promise yourself to try new things. Go to places you normally wouldn’t go. Or, read books that you wouldn’t normally read. Learn something new about yourself. You may find a new hobby, and you may even find a whole new lifestyle. Try some of these things:
- A cooking class (online or offline)
- A foreign movie or a genre you normally wouldn’t watch (online or offline
- Read an interesting book
- Take an acting or writing class (online or offline)
- Take a chair yoga class or Tai Chi class (online or offline)
- Try a new restaurant or type of food you normally wouldn’t eat (Uber eats works, too)
- Go on a nice walk or enjoy nature by sitting outside
- Do some volunteer work (online or offline)
Don’t stress if you tried a bunch of new stuff only to find out that you prefer all the old things you did better. You’ve still got a chance to learn more about yourself. You were able to determine that you were in to all the right things that make you happy. So, go out and do more of those things, doing things you’re good at will help boost your self-esteem.
Start from the inside out
Start loving yourself from the inside out. In order to go inside, you will have to be better at living in the moment and getting in tune with yourself. Meditation is a great tool to help center yourself. There are a ton of resources out there to help you learn to meditate. You can find and take an online or offline meditation class. If you feel up to it, you can also take a yoga class. There are also a ton of books and apps that can help you get started. So, if you’re in a pain flare or simply don’t have the energy to do it, you can still work on loving yourself from the inside.
- If you’re not into the whole spirituality thing, try reading the book, Mindfulness by Ellen J. Langer. She does a great job explaining the scientific benefits of practicing mindfulness.
- If you enjoy the more spiritual type books, look for The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It’s a great beginning guide to spirituality and mindfulness.
- Try some guided meditations. They have some great apps to help people meditate and relieve stress. Headspace is a great app that will help get you started, and also motivate you to make meditation a part of your daily routine.
Personally, I wouldn’t go a day without meditating. I normally start my day with a quick 10-minute meditation. I find that it sets the tone for the day and ensures I leave the house in a good mood.
If you’re not interested in the books or the apps, just try this simple meditation:
- Sit somewhere comfortable…you don’t have to sit in a full or half lotus or cross legged.
- Make yourself comfortable…use a pillow to support your back, lean against the wall, lay down; do whatever it takes to ensure you’re comfortable.
- Close your eyes.
- Breath in for four seconds through your nose…make the inhalation last four seconds.
- Hold that breath for four seconds.
- Exhale through your mouth for four seconds….make the exhalation last four seconds.
- Hold the breath out without breathing back in for four seconds…basically don’t do anything for four seconds.
The above meditation is called “square breathing,” because there are four parts to it, and each part is the same length (four seconds), and so four equal parts gives you a square, hence “square” breathing. This will put your body in tune, and make you feel great. The better you feel the more you will love yourself.
Love yourself on the outside too
Now that you are in tune on the inside, focus on the outside. This doesn’t mean you should run out and get makeovers or some sort of plastic surgery (unless that’s your thing, of course). It simply means do things that feel good for your body.
A diet is a good way to love yourself on the outside. The food you eat obviously contributes to your appearance, There are even elimination diets that may help alleviate inflammation and help you feel better. Either way, eating a health diet can help you better deal with the demands of a chronic illness and can help improve your overall health and vitality.
Having healthy foods is very important, and the better your diet the better you will feel. You will be better off if you concentrate on how the food makes you feel inside and out versus how it makes you look on the outside. Try to go vegetarian or vegan for a while. Try gluten-free eating. Concentrate on foods with only nutritious value or try a natural detoxing diet. There are plenty of good detox diets that will help you break your addiction to sugar, cut carbs, etc.
Find a goal for yourself and get to work. I like to detox the sugar from my system, because you feel better, you look better, and no kidding, it improves your body’s natural glow. You can find plenty of sugar detox diets online, find one that works best for you.
Get a massage, acupuncture or see a chiropractor. All these things will help you deal with your chronic pain symptoms and help you feel better with some pretty long lasting effects. Relieve some of the tension or pain you’re feeling and you’ll notice that you feel better inside and out.
Establish a workout routine. It’s very tempting to go crazy picking routines out of bodybuilding or fitness magazines, but consider starting a routine by doing what you want to do in your living room. Choose exercises you can do at home. If you feel really good, however, venture out to the gym. Just don’t overdo it and cause yourself to experience worsening physical symptoms. If you choose to join a gym, start by going every other day or every three days and just doing the exercises that you find fun or you think work the best for you.
Routines fall to the wayside quick when you try to force yourself to do someone else’s workout that you don’t particularly enjoy. Now, I’m not saying these fitness freaks don’t know what they’re talking about because they do. All I’m saying is that you should reserve their exercise suggestions for when you’re ready to add to the workouts you’re already enjoying. Make the gym fun and not a chore, and then you’ll find yourself there more often.
Putting it all together
Again, caring for yourself is not a selfish act as long as you don’t care for yourself and no one else. Remember to treat it like you’re in a smoky airplane cabin and you’re putting on your oxygen mask first so you can help others around you.
You want to ensure you’re happy, healthy, and safe so you can help others feel that way too. You need to see how wonderful you truly are (especially when you have a chronic illness). By focusing on feeling good and doing the things you can do, you will feel even better about yourself and will be in a better position to help others. You can create a really good cycle of love and kindness, but remember that cycle can only start when you love and care for yourself first. Getting it started will take some effort, but after the ball is rolling, you will see that you feel better with less effort.