Staying Out of the Hospital: #selfcaregoals
By: Christina Hunter
My main Self-care goal of the year: Stay Out of the Hospital. Easy Peasy. Psyche! This goal is in NO way simple. I have a rare auto-immune disease called Myasthenia Gravis (MG). This disease is also a neuromuscular disorder. In laymen terms, my body fights itself. As a result:
My muscles can stop functioning properly or I could literally have facial & chest paralysis.
When I over exert my muscles, I catch whatever cold, flu, and/or virus is floating around.
This can be a vicious cycle. In extreme cases, a Myasthenic crisis can lead to respiratory failure. I’ve been admitted to the hospital 6 times within the past 2 1/2 years for MG crises and two blood clots. Yikes!
For each hospitalization, I was absent from work for at least a week at a time. Once, I was out of work for a whole month. Missed pay with added hospital bills isn’t a fun combo…
When MG takes a lull, it not only affects myself, but my husband and family members as well. So needless to say, I had to quickly learn how to implement self-care and NOT feel guilty about it.
I know what you’re thinking—"Can I truly relate to this chick who has a rare condition?” Absolutely. We share a strong commonality: We each have one mind and one body to protect. This means we have to do our best to preserve our well-being and health.
Before I was diagnosed, self-care was rarely a thought. I had this self-inflicted pressure to put my academics, jobs, family, and friends first—putting everyone’s needs before my own. Does this sound too familiar?
When I turned my attention to “me”, I would end up with this gut-wrenching guilt as a result. I felt as if I did not deserve to feel at peace or balanced. I think the guilt stemmed from not valuing myself enough and low self-esteem. I was known as the peacemaker and absorbed others’ concerns as my own, which is not a healthy habit. In doing so, I think I muted my own needs in order to provide for the demands of others. To be honest, the thought of taking intentional time for myself just felt unnatural.
Six hospitalizations later, I am now learning how much is at stake when I ignore myself. The truth is our bodies and minds deserve attention and want to be HEARD. Here are some key lessons I’d like to pass along. Self-care is...
taking care of yourself.
Be intentional about how you treat yourself. I know selfishness is a stigma that comes with “me time”, especially if you’re a caregiver. On the contrary, by putting time and energy into yourself, you will find that your cup can pour more efficient time and effort into others—a positive trickle effect!
In order to take care of ourselves holistically, we need to be tuned in to our spiritual, mental, and physical selves. Not to mention, we need to acknowledge that each of these areas are equally important and intertwined. I like to read a daily devotion each morning before work. It helps me start my day with positivity and pushes my faith to new levels each day. If this sounds fulfilling, try buying a devotional book or subscribing to a free daily devotion app. I also try to be more conscientious of how I talk to myself. I used to be incredibly harsh, but now I am more aware and try to sprinkle grace whenever I can. In terms physical health, no, I am not aiming to run a marathon, but I do want to stay in a healthy shape. Thus, I go to physical therapy twice a week and practice low impact exercises. If you’re starting from the bottom, like myself, try looking up low impact workouts and be patient with yourself.
not always grand.
Self-care can be $free.99! You do not need to spend oodles of cash in order to obtain balance. I think when we hear “self-care” we envision Insta models at a luxurious spa or a yogi instructor taking a 6 month mindfulness retreat. Basically this seems financially unattainable, at least for me (haha). Though I would not turn down those opportunities, self-care is more about the little things that fill you up throughout your day. I made it a habit to take a take a hot bath, pray, meditate, and drink lavender tea right before I go to bed. This routine costs me nothing. Other free ways to practice self-care include: positive self-affirmations, taking a morning walk, and writing down 3 things that you are grateful for each day.
not always time consuming.
I hear ya! Especially during a busy day when you’re in a rush, it seems that taking time for yourself wouldn’t be time well spent. However, just taking 5-10 minutes to yourself can decrease your anxiety and promote productivity. In 5-10 minutes you could go for a walk and get some fresh air, use a 5-minute guided meditation on Youtube or an app to decompress, make a list of your agenda for the day and spend a few moments checking off what is complete.
listening to your body.
This can be tricky at first, because we are typically on autopilot until our bodies force us to listen. Try to beat your “crash” by being more present with yourself and identifying how and where you feel fatigued. For me, my breathing says it all. When I notice that my breaths are heavier, I choose to sit down and conserve my energy for at least 20-30 minutes. This wasn’t easy at first- a good place to start is trying a “body-scan” exercise. This encourages you to feel and identify different tensions in your body. From there, you make that mind-body connection and evaluate areas of your body that need more TLC. You can find this exercise on Youtube.
When we are going through a challenge in our lives (tests, family crisis, long we work, etc.) we make it a habit to wait until the smoke clears to actually take a breather. Ultimately, this is robbing ourselves of peace when our brain and spirit truly needs it. When I spearhead multiple events at work in a short period of time, it’s necessary that I get rest. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. As I mentioned prior, when I over exert my body, I get sick. So to prevent this as much as I can, I take a guilt-free rest day in between events to avoid a flare up. I can then come back ready to take on the project. Taking a day off for your mental health is equally as important to avoid burnout.
I have a hunch that if I had practiced the level of self-care that I implement now, my health may have turned out differently. I think for sure, my hospitalizations wouldn’t have been as frequent. However, I am proud to say that with the right clinical treatment and enforced self-care, I have not been hospitalized since. I also noticed a huge difference in how I handle potential crises-- I’ve become flexible and more kind to my body. We’re pretty much besties. Though I cannot fix the past, I can do my best to prevent flare-ups and pay it forward with words of wisdom.
P.S. How did you practice self-care this weekend?
About the Author
Christina Hunter is a New Orleans native and a Licensed Associate Professional Counselor (LAPC) in the state of Georgia. She currently works as a college counselor at Mercer University and is a co-author for MentalHealthMindset.com. As a psychotherapist and an auto-immune warrior, Christina has chosen to utilize her platform to bridge the topics of Mental Health and Chronic Illnesses. Her passion also lies in promoting balance, resilience, and self-care with her clients and anyone else who will listen! Follow Christina on Instagram: @MindOverMG