How To Practice Self-Care Amid a Health Crisis

The mind and body are an interconnected system, meaning that prioritizing your mental health can have a positive influence on your physical condition. For those in the throes of a health crisis, taking care of yourself and implementing an effective self-care regime can assist in symptom management, provide a sense of consistency and structure, and allow you to prioritize yourself and your needs. Researchers have found that those who seek early intervention for mental health struggles and maintain healthy self-care routines experience a better quality of life and positive physical health benefits.

Read this starter’s guide to find ways to prioritize yourself during a health crisis. I implore you to take the strategies and suggestions that best suit you, your needs, your abilities, and your lifestyle. Like therapy, self-care is meant to be personalized. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or stressed by your self-care regime it may be a good indication that you may be taking on too much or may need to reevaluate and prioritize practices that leave you feeling energized, uplifted, or empowered. Be kind to yourself in this period of exploration and use this opportunity to attune to your needs and the things that make you feel most like yourself. Here’s how:

1. Take Care of your Physical Wellness

As mentioned, taking care of your physical health can have a positive impact on your mental health. However, maintaining healthy sleep, nutrition, and exercise patterns can be particularly challenging in the midst of a physical health crisis. Your body is already working overtime to assist you in day-to-day functioning and, on top of that, treatment can leave you feeling drained, disheartened, and fatigued. It is important to set realistic expectations for yourself regarding nutrition, sleep, and exercise and to be mindful of what routines you are capable of maintaining amid treatment. Consulting with your doctor may help you conceptualize a wellness routine that is both attainable and conducive to you, your abilities, and your lifestyle.

2. Find a Creative Outlet

When working through a health crisis, it is common to feel that your concerns and fears are misunderstood by others. It can also be difficult to effectively and accurately convey the complex thoughts and feelings you are experiencing throughout your recovery in a way that others, who have not experienced it, can understand. Expressive mediums are a wonderful way to externalize and articulate those ambiguous feelings when the words feel elusive. Whether it is painting, dancing, singing, or even writing, getting those emotions out of your system can be profoundly cathartic and provide a wonderful opportunity to examine and process the discomfort surrounding those feelings. In processing your emotions, remember that it is important to avoid judging yourself for the way you feel and approach your emotions with a sense of curiosity and acceptance. Getting creative can also be a wonderful way to reconnect with some much-needed joy and self-engagement during this challenging time.

3. Find Community and Connection

In times of hardship, it is vital to have a solid support system for you to rely upon. Although you may be capable of overcoming this obstacle independently, that does not mean you have to do it alone. Whether you find connection and comfort through friends, family, partners/spouses, your community groups, or individuals who share your condition, it is important to utilize and rely on the people who care about you. They will be instrumental in providing companionship, reassurance, and stability during this tumultuous time.

4. Consider Mindfulness Practices

One core principle of mindfulness-based practices involves exercising gratitude even amid challenging hardships. Gratitude is a practice that takes time to develop into a habit, so repetition is important with this self-care strategy. Be kind and patient in the process of expanding your capacity for gratitude. Some wonderful examples of mindfulness-based practices include meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, and journaling. Mindfulness strategies also work towards getting an individual grounded in their present as opposed to ruminating on past experiences or future events. During treatment and recovery, people may find themselves fixated on the events that led up to their current physical state, cast blame on themselves for not doing more to prevent harm/injury, or are worried about how their health crisis will impact them in the future. Mindfulness practices can help reorient your focus toward tangible factors in your present and prevent hyperfixation of things that are currently outside your control.

5. Participate in Relaxing Activities or Hobbies

Engaging in activities and hobbies that interested you before your health crisis can help you re-establish a sense of normalcy, reconnect you with yourself and your passions, and remind you of the things that bring you joy and fulfillment. These activities will vary greatly depending on your personal preferences and the things that make you feel refreshed and connected. However, some common examples include listening to music, spending time with loved ones, going for walks, reading books, knitting, etc. Be sure to engage in these activities graciously and be understanding and patient if these activities do not give you the same level of fulfillment that they once did. It is a common occurrence to struggle to find motivation and enjoyment in the face of a crisis. Again, it may take some time to reconnect with feelings of excitement, joy, and contentment. But, please keep in mind that your body is working hard amid your health crisis and rest and recovery may biologically take precedence over your body producing those “feel good” hormones. Rest, recover, and value enjoyment when it comes.

6. Establish and Maintain Healthy Boundaries

During a health crisis, one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself is set clear expectations and boundaries with your medical team and support system. It is important to prioritize your needs to optimize your recovery and treatment outcomes. Your voice, needs, feelings, and opinions matter and it is important to surround yourself with people who validate you and your experience. If there are individuals who are not providing you with support, empowerment, and empathy during this difficult period, it may be worth considering limiting your exposure to those individuals or, if you feel comfortable, confronting them with your concerns. “No” is a powerful word that only a select group of people feel comfortable utilizing. However, it is a magnificent and meaningful tool to help preserve and prioritize your time, energy, and peace of mind.

7. Ask For Help

Do not be afraid to ask others for help. You are not alone, so do not force yourself to endure hardships by yourself. The people who care for you want to help, so confide in them when you are having a difficult time. If you don't feel comfortable talking with your friends, family, and loved ones, your doctors and care team can provide you with additional support resources.

You are always welcome to seek counseling services regardless of your level of distress or impairment, and at any stage in your physical health journey. However, if you or others in your life are beginning to grow concerned about your mental wellness or feel you need additional support outside of what self-help and self-care strategies can provide, reach out to a therapist near you, explore our resources about living with chronic pain, or read our blog about chronic pain and mental health. 

About Lifeologie

Lifeologie Counseling was founded in 2000 with one goal in mind — to bring a fresh, innovative approach to the everyday problems of life. Creative solutions to stuck problems®. With our unique multi-specialty, collaborative approach, Lifeologie Counseling helps individuals and families heal their wounds and break out of old, unhealthy patterns.