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From Our Advocates: Go-To Tips for Self-Care

Self-care is so important, especially during the hard times, but also during the good times. Community advocates share their go-to tips for self-care.

What are your go-to tips for self-care?

A balanced diet and downtime

Matt: It is important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Along the same lines, when not feeling well, you should eat more bland foods such as plain toast or rice and introduce more exotic foods as you feel better.

Another tip for self-care is, when not feeling well, to give yourself sufficient downtime to watch TV, read a book, or just relax and recuperate. Healing visualizations, finally, can work great. Gerald Epstein has a book filled with them. You can also create your own. By visualizing healing in the part of the body that is not well you can, in theory, train your body to feel better...or, if not that, at least create a sense of internal wellness.

Caring for myself in both necessary and enjoyable waysAmanda: I find self-care vitally important, but not so much in an ‘Instagram perfect bubble bath’ way. For me, self-care means drinking enough (or even extra) water. Washing my face and remembering to put lotion on my body. Spending less time scrolling through social media and more time listening to an audiobook or doing a calm meditation. Self-care means taking all of my regular medications, keeping appointments with my doctors, reaching out when I don’t feel well, and prioritizing my mental and physical health. When I have more energy (& resources) to spare, self-care expands into that Instagram perfect place - going to the salon to get a haircut or a blowout, getting my nails done, taking long walks down the aisles of Target. Self-care really comes down to caring for oneself, in whatever ways are both necessary and enjoyed.Work within energy levels and find ways to stay calmSahara: I try to live in a way that means I don’t need to reserve a specific time to practice self-care. I changed career direction and became freelance, so I work around my own needs and energy levels.Simply eating well, staying hydrated, taking my medication properly and managing a little physical activity when possible, I consider to be self-care practices, after all, they all equate to caring for myself!I try to avoid stress when possible, but if it happens (which it does because I’m only human), I take time out and focus my attention in other areas – writing, reading, even just binge-watching a series! That makes me calmer and more able to deal with it when I have to go back to it.Find something that brings the most joyJulie: My favorite tip for self-care is to do something that requires the least amount of time and money yet brings the most joy. If you feel that you are forcing yourself to squeeze in a workout because that is what others do, or is expected of you to use as a form of self-care, then it is not meeting its purpose.Or, if you feel pressured to spend a lot of money at a spa or to go on a vacation, then that also is not self-care. My favorite forms of self-care are in-home face masks, going for mani/pedis, and reading a really good book. These are all easy for me to enjoy since they require little time and money, yet I feel relaxed and rejuvenated afterwards, and that to me is the ultimate self-care!Finding what works is trial and eroorPaul: I have a few tips for self-care that I have used over the years. Remember that dealing with IBD is not a "one size fits all" strategy. it is a mixture of techniques that are tried out in a trial and error format.Be prepared- This helps with your thoughts. If you know you are going to go for a walk in the park, do your homework. Make sure there are bathrooms available. Bring a change of clothes (I always keep a change in my trunk). Bring snacks and some sort of electrolyte replacement wherever you go.Read- I read something every day. It might be a newspaper article, a few pages of a book, or the comics. Read something to take your mind off of your IBD. Find something readable that sparks your interest. Reading helps me focus on things that don't have to do with IBD. The less you think about your IBD, the better you will feel.Talking- I love talking to others who have IBD. It makes me feel better, knowing that others are going through some of the same things. I am always learning from talking to others. Talk! Don't hold it in!Getting outdoors or resting when neededJackie: Listen to your body and do what it’s telling you. Rest, hydrate, tune out, take a walk, whatever it takes to give your body and brain a break. I find that sometimes I need different things or a combination of things to be successful with self-care. Sometimes it’s just a night in. Other times it’s a full brain and body shut down with lounging on the couch and watching mindless television. I’ve found that being outside in nature is a great reset for my mental health, so I try to take walks when I can. Most of my self-care wants and needs to revolve around rest and the concept of simply doing nothing. I’m not great at it which is why it’s what my body craves.Find different ways to relaxElizabeth: I love self-care. Napping is a big one for me. Since I work from home, I always make sure I can fit in a nap whenever I am in a flare. Essential oils are also a big tool I use for self-care. I love to diffuse them when I am in my bedroom, or when I am watching TV in the living room. The aroma is intoxicating and always puts me at ease, not to mention the oils are extremely therapeutic. Another thing I do, is paint my nails. Whenever I don’t feel well, it’s always nice having my nails done because I feel a little put together. The actual act of painting my nails also relaxes me. I play some music or watch videos online while I paint and it’s a little moment of stress-relief for me.Spend time unplugged and with natureKelly: My self-care looks a little different than others probably, but I love going for small hikes & walks. I like to turn off all electronics, including my phone and just spend that time decompressing. When I'm at home, I'll stick my hands in some dirt and repot some plants. Gardening became a huge passion of mine over the last two years. I grew up with a mom who loved the rearrange furniture and I think I inherited that because if I have the energy, I like to rearrange the furniture in my house to give off a different vibe & feel to me.Make mental health a priorityMarisa: I am a big believer in making mental health a priority. While I know we don’t always have the luxury to do what is best for ourselves, we can certainly try. For me, it starts with that mindset. It has taken me a long time to accept myself and appreciate all I have been through. It is through daily practice that I try to incorporate little things that make me feel good into the day. Some examples include spending time outside with my dogs, allowing myself to watch something distracting, exercise, and bedtime meditation. I also enjoy gel manicures every month as a treat to myself. I figure even if the rest of me isn’t put together, having my nails done can really make me feel good.Rest and talk about thingsJenna: It doesn't have to be about pampering. Good food and drinking eight glasses of water a day can be self-care too as it's really important to nourish your body. And getting an early night (although now impossible with a baby!) is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself. I do love to have a day -again not so easy with a baby- where I deliberately schedule in nothing but Netflix and the sofa. A rest day is the ultimate self-care when it comes to IBD! Finally, I had therapy after having my son and after trying other things like meditation and yoga, this was far the best thing I've ever done for both my mental and physical health. Talking about things makes so much difference.Do you have any go-to tips for self-care that help you? Share them in the comments below!

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