Many years ago I had returned from overseas and was heading westward to my next duty assignment. I pulled out a map – yes, I said map, as in ink-on-paper, unfold-and-never-be-able-to-refold map – and charted my course for the 17-hour drive. I know I’m showing my age here, because in this day of GPS, some of you may have never used a paper map. Let me just say I hated the things, but they were a necessary evil if I wanted to find my way to where I needed to go.
I find “roadmaps” useful in many areas of life, but especially in the area of self-care. Sometimes when we think of self-care, we think of it terms of being reactive rather than proactive. We may look at things through the lens of preventing after-effects rather than having a plan to improve our overall health, but as I talked about in Pre-planned Recovery Days a while back, we need to be proactive in our self-care.
For those of us living with fibromyalgia or other chronic illnesses, having an overarching plan in place can help us be aware of what we need to do to feel the best we can. We may not always be able to stick to our plan, but having one gives us a direction in which to go just like a roadmap does, and it can help serve as motivation to keep us going forward during those times we feel we’re not getting any better, or even going backward. If you’ve lived with fibromyalgia for very long, you realize that improvement is not linear (Check out Lessons From The Grandpa Tree). There will be times you’ll feel you’ve taken some steps back, but then you’ll have that moment when you realize you’ve come a long way from where you were last month, six months ago, or last year.
Sometimes when we’re in the middle of those horrific flares or we feel as if we’re slogging through mud with every step we take, being able to take out our plan and say, “well, I can at least do ___________ today” can help us shake off the blues that naturally come along with the bad days and give us something other than how bad we feel to focus on. Doing that one thing from our plan can give us a sense of accomplishment and allow us to move forward.
When we don’t have a plan in place, it’s easy to become bogged down in the emotional aspects of feeling horrible. We don’t have anything objective to concentrate on and it’s easy to just let the negative thoughts and emotions have free reign in our minds. Of course, the result of that is that we feel even worse.
Our self-care plans don’t have to be complicated. As many of you know, mine is very simple, based on HOPE: Healthy Diet, Optimism, Prayer and Meditation, and Exercise. My first roadmap looked like this:
It can’t get much simpler than that, can it? Of course, since then I’ve added in things such as my pre-planned recovery days, my osteopathic treatments, stress reduction techniques….you know, the day-to-day self-care activities we engage in…
As people who live with chronic illness, we realize that we may not ever be cured, but don’t we owe it to ourselves to do everything we can to feel our best? Our self-care plan is our roadmap to follow in order to thrive, not just survive.
Do you have a self-care plan in place? If so, what have you found most helpful about having an actual plan?