When you have a chronic health condition, self-care is even more important

Self-care can be an elusive animal, especially for busy people with careers, families, and kids. Self-care often gets sacrificed to be able to meet an endless river of external demands. When you have a chronic health condition, self-care is even more important because you are dealing with decreased energy levels, strength, and reserves.

Where do we draw the line between self-care and avoidance?

One of the things that I struggle with regarding self-care is where I draw the line between self-preservation, avoidance, and a healthy degree of pushing myself to do things that are out of my comfort zone. I’ll give you a recent example of something that I have been dealing with.

I just booked a trip to travel by myself for a long weekend to Seattle in March to visit friends. From Austin to Seattle, it’s approximately a 4-hour flight. I used to travel from New York to Seattle by myself a few times a year, but it has become more complicated and exhausting and perilous to take weekend trips like this.

Risk-reward

For one, if I stay in a hotel by myself, I am dealing with unfamiliar terrain and that makes it easier to fall. Another thing that makes falling more likely is how physically tiring it is to fly. Then there’s the question of whether or not to travel with a wheelchair and if I do, do I take the 250lb beast that is rock solid, but challenging to transport or the 40lb folding chair that is a lot more limited in terms of the places I can use it?

I have to be more careful if I have a drink, because it affects my balance. It’s hard to get in and out of homes with stairs. Just listing all of these factors right now makes me wonder if I made the right decision by booking this trip.

On the other hand, I love going to Seattle. I love spending time with my closest friends. It feeds me in unique ways and I haven’t been out there in almost two years.

How much is too much?

So I decided to go, but I have been having anxiety dreams about it. I feel excited and uneasy at the same time. And it all begs the question of how much do I push myself. When is it self-care to decide not to go versus limiting my own possibilities and experiences? How safe are we supposed to play it?

These are obviously rhetorical questions that need to be applied on a case by case basis, taking in all of the different factors including weighing the desire to do something against the risk. I do miss the days when I didn’t have to think about any of this. I just booked the trip and went. Having to deal with all of these questions and planning can be exhausting in and of itself.

I decided that the desire to go won out this time and I am excited about it despite the trepidations. I’m also proud of myself for pushing myself a bit and allowing myself to struggle with all of this.

What about you?

Can you think of a recent example where you struggled with a similar issue?

How do you deal with the line between self-care and having new and different experiences?

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you feel up to sharing. We’re all in it together.

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David B. Younger, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist specializing in working with people with chronic health conditions with a web-based private practice and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 13-year-old son, 4-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.


Originally published at chronicillnesstherapy.com on February 1, 2018.

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