I started writing this post at a time of immense frustration. Even though I’m much healthier now, I still battle with a body that doesn’t always work the way I want or need it to. In this community, I’m sure I’m not alone in this frustration. In an effort to turn this frustration into an opportunity to be positive, I thought it would be helpful to remind myself about the basics of self-care.*
For a discussion on the importance of self-care for living gluten-free, please read Part One.
Your prevention strategy includes all the ways in which you invest in your health and well-being—these activities may include eating a balanced (gluten-free) diet, getting regular exercise and adequate sleep, doing meaningful work, and/or participating in hobbies or other amusements.
Identify Your Factors
Think about the last time you felt really successful or happy or calm—what factors helped you get there?
These factors are what influence how you create your prevention strategy. Select 2-4 factors that embody the core aspects of what motivates you to be your best. My core factors are purpose and balance. For me, these are the main ingredients for a happy life—everything else stems from them.
These factors may be easy for you to identify, but they may not be. If you are struggling to identify your factors, think about specific activities you enjoy and then try to identify what those activities bring to your life.
Do you enjoy creating art?
Do you enjoy traveling?
Do you enjoy reading?
How do you feel when you are engaged in that activity? Do you feel peaceful or energized or connected with others?
Use what you love as a guide to identify your future priorities.
If you are still struggling to identify your factors, it may also be helpful to think about times in your life when you have struggled. When I was sick, I really struggled with feeling like I had no greater purpose in my life. I also felt like my life was out of balance—like it was completely out of my control—and I longed to regain the ability to create more balance in my everyday life. When I started living gluten-free and had a second chance at my future, I wanted to make sure I remembered to incorporate those factors into my daily life.
Implement Your Factors
Think of specific but simple ways to incorporate each factor into your daily or weekly routine.
Giving yourself multiple options for each factor will improve your chances of success. The best (and worst) part of this process is that it is flexible. The core factors you identified above will most likely stay fairly stable, but the specific ways in which you incorporate those factors into daily life may evolve over time, especially as you make your way through various life stages.
When I was younger, it was easier for me to make time for self-care. However, as a mom of a young child, I don’t always have the opportunity to take care of myself when I need it the most. My son keeps me quite busy. He’s lovely and chatty and exhausting—so now he goes to school three times a week so that I can work part-time from home writing this little blog. I eat a reasonably healthy diet, exercise on a regular basis, and try to get at least 8 hours of sleep (and a nap if I’m really lucky).
The particulars of my self-care routine change on a daily basis (sometimes even an hourly basis), but understanding specific ways in which I can feel both purpose and balance each day has proven invaluable as my life has gotten more hectic and demanding.
It is tempting, at least for me, to try to implement this strategy into a fixed or scheduled routine—however, anyone with young children knows that there is no such thing as sticking to a rigid schedule.
Your prevention strategy only provides a framework for making decisions about how to prioritize your time.
Plan for crazy days. Know your limits. Be flexible. Treat yourself with kindness. Make small steps forward every day. Self-care starts with simply caring for yourself.
For additional information on how to implement a self-care plan, please read Part Three.
*Yes, it helped.