A few years ago, if someone asked me to describe what self-care meant, images of long baths and DIY face masks would have sprung to mind. But since my diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension (PH), my understanding of self-care has changed dramatically.
For those with chronic illnesses, self-care means survival. The mental and physical effects of dealing with a serious illness can wear you down over time, and it is important to carve out time to look after both your mind and your body.
2020 has been a difficult year for almost everyone, and many who are facing health problems are struggling even more due to the effects of a pandemic on their mental well-being.
In the last six months, I have found myself increasingly worn out. I have discovered that working from home, though great in theory for people like me, can actually be just as exhausting as going to the office. Sitting in a room and working long hours with little social interaction is mentally draining.
Financial uncertainty also is a concern. If side effects from my medication act up, I am too scared to call in sick, because I am grateful to have a job during this difficult time. I don’t want to do anything to make me seem like I’m not a model employee.
I also hadn’t taken a vacation since before the pandemic. There hasn’t seemed to be much point in doing so, given that I couldn’t actually go somewhere. But not giving myself a break has caused me to feel completely burnt out. My anxiety has been at an all-time high, and my symptoms have worsened. While I try to stay active, working from home makes me feel sluggish and results in me moving less throughout the day.
I needed to reset.
A couple weeks ago, I booked some last-minute time off, and a family friend agreed to let me stay in their holiday cottage by the sea. I arrived yesterday and I can already feel my mind and body beginning to relax. This week off is more than just a holiday for me — it’s a reset.
This is what self-care means to me now: recognizing when I’m struggling, noticing the signs of fatigue, and taking action. I’ll be spending this week doing everything I can to make me feel well, including walking on the beach, breathing in the sea air, reading my book, sleeping in late, eating good food, and having deep chats with my best friend.
However, when I’m sick from my medication or losing sleep due to breathing problems, I can’t always run away to the seaside. I need to find ways to build these elements of self-care into my daily life. For now, I’m grateful to be able to do this.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.
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