I learned the importance of self-care in the hardest possible way. You see, I think it’s because I DIDN’T take care of myself as a first-time mom of a newborn (I ignored a sore throat that ended up being a strep infection), that my immune system triggered an attack against my joints.
An attack so relentless that 6 months later, I could barely walk or press the buckle of my baby’s car seat without crying in pain. An attack so relentless, that I’m dealing with the repercussions still today. That was 15 years ago when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune chronic illness and my journey with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) began.
It’s taken a lot of trial and error to understand my body’s response to chronic illness but the biggest thing I’ve learned is that I MUST practice better self-care. If I want to be able to keep up with my boys and be the mom and wife I want to be, I have to take care of myself. If I don’t, my body attacks itself and I’m in worse shape and out of commission for days. And in my case, the joint damage done by RA is permanent, my joints can’t be fixed without surgery. I can’t take it back, that mistake of not calling the doctor at the first sign of a sore throat, something I should have done if I valued self-care.
So I’m glad that my friend Rachel from Smart Mom, Smart Ideas wanted to write this post on self-care for moms with chronic pain. Because it is one I have wanted to write myself. Because moms tend to put their families first. Because with chronic illness or chronic pain, you can’t afford to ignore your body’s triggers or warning signs. Because moms need to give themselves the grace and understanding that they give to others. Because moms NEED better self-care and deserve it.
Please welcome Rachel to Mom’s Small Victories and leave us comments and let us know how you practice self-care and why you need it.
Self-Care for Moms with Chronic Pain
By Rachel from Smart Mom, Smart Ideas
When you are a busy mom, a day with pain from a headache makes your life miserable. But when you have chronic pain, getting through the basics of a day can be challenging if not overwhelming. While there may not be one perfect way to manage your pain, self-care for moms may help lessen and make your pain more manageable.
Note: this post is based on my personal experience and is not medical advice, nor should it be used in place of medical advice. Medical questions and treatments should always be discussed with your doctor.
I suffer from chronic migraine headaches. I remember getting painful headaches since I was a teenager. I really don’t remember a time when I didn’t get headaches. In my mid-twenties, the headaches became so unbearable and frequent, I almost could not function. This is when I began searching for a specialized headache doctor and treatments to reduce and manage my pain.
Fortunately for the last few years, with the help the help of a specialized doctor, the right medicine, minerals and self-care I have been able to manage my headaches much better than when I was younger. Here are some ways you can use self-care to help manage your pain.
Why Self-Care for Moms to Manage Pain?
Pain is often made worse by triggers like stress and overwhelm. As moms, a normal day can involve stress and overwhelm before 8:00 am (anyone else have 3 kids that don’t like getting up in the mornings or then all try to tell you something different at the same time!). With my migraine headaches, some triggers I have include weather changes and stress. When stress is a trigger that increases your pain, self-care may be beneficial in helping you learn to reduce or control your pain.
Self-care is a simple way for moms to take a time-out. By adding a short break in your day that allows you to relax and be actively involved in an activity you love, you allow your body to recharge and release positive feelings. Research in cognitive behavioral therapy suggests that changing your perception of your pain to be more positive can make a difference in managing your pain. Without getting into a deep scientific discussion, this gives us a basis for why self-care helps manage our pain too.
I have found that stress is a primary trigger that increases my pain. On days when I become too stressed, my headache pain usually increases too. One way I can reduce my pain is through self-care.
If stress is a trigger for your pain, then you might benefit from practicing self-care to help you relax and change your negative and stressed feelings into positive feelings. The more you are able to stay positive and reduce stress and negative feelings, the more you might be able to reduce your pain.How self-care reduces stress and manages #chronicpain. Guest post by @smartmomideas Click To Tweet
Who Should Use Self-Care?
All moms can benefit by adding a routine for self-care into your day, even if you don’t have a chronic illness. A daily self-care routine can help you stay positive, yell less, and have fewer angry outbursts from frustration to name a few positive benefits for all moms.
But those of us with a chronic illness may find additional benefits by reducing our stress levels and pain triggers. Many times managing pain triggers whether they are food or stress or some other trigger is the key to managing and reducing chronic pain.
When pain is triggered or increased by stress, simple techniques to reduce your stress might also provide some relief from your pain. Just as your pain increases with more stress, your pain might also be decreased when the stress is reduced or removed.
Self-Care Ideas to Manage Pain
Moms can practice self-care in many different ways. When you choose your favorite self-care activities, I suggest considering 2 things. First, do you enjoy the activity? Second, will the activity help you relax and reduce stress in your day?
Here are some ideas for self-care you might enjoy:
- Your favorite hobby (taking time for an activity you enjoy is perfect for self-care)
- A favorite meal (enjoying a favorite meal may provide positive feelings)
- Quiet time to read books
- Journaling (learn how to use a bullet journal for self-care)
- Hand lettering and creative activities (try these ideas for using hand lettering as self-care)
- Hot bubble bath (and reading your favorite book)
- Enjoying the sunrise with a cup of hot tea or coffee
- Any activity you find enjoyable that’s a break from your normal routine and allows you to relax (even for just 15 minutes)
- Peaceful rest with soothing music
- 25 self-care ideas free printable
On the days when my pain seems the worst, just sitting quietly for 10-15 minutes with no interruptions and concentrating on being relaxed can make a big difference.
Also, consider when is the best time for your mom self-care. Would it be more beneficial in the morning or early in the day before you get too stressed (perhaps you will not get stressed)? Or would it be more helpful later in the day when you are getting stressed and help you calm down?
For me, I usually have more time for self-care later in the day and I also find I benefit more from the relaxation to help lessen my stress and pain at the end of the day. On the days when my headaches are challenging, adding self-care definitely makes a difference in managing my pain.
Self-care may not be the magic solution that will eliminate all your pain. But with practice, self-care is one more tool to help you manage, control and reduce your pain over time. In addition to managing your pain with self-care, you may find self-care helps you yell less, have less anger, and control your temper too.
Would you like more ideas for self-care? Request a free printable of 25 Self-Care Ideas for Moms.
Special thanks to Tanya for allowing me to share on her blog today. I hope this information on self-care has been beneficial to you.
What is your favorite self-care activity? Does self-care help you relax and reduce pain?
Rachel Newcomb blogs at Smart Mom Smart IdeasSmart Mom Resource library which includes free printable meal planners, goal setting worksheets, an inspiring coloring book and more.
I’m amazed sometimes when I read stories like Rachel’s, how similar chronic illnesses can be. Though Rachel deals with chronic migraines and I deal with chronic pain in my joints, there is the similarity that weather changes and stress make our pain and symptoms flare. I think that’s why it’s important for people with chronic illness to share their experiences, so we can learn and help one another in any way we can endure and thrive with these conditions.
I love all of Rachel’s ideas on practicing self-care. In fact, my go to self-care and flare coping mechanism is taking a break from reality and escaping into a great book. You could say that my RA helped me find my passion for traveling the world in books and for this blog where I can hope to inspire and encourage others like me from what I’ve learned.
Here is my short list of self care ideas to basically distract my mind from the physical pain:
- reading, of course
- planning for when I feel better
- watching movies and snuggling with kids
- demanding hugs from my husband
- wearing my husband’s sweatshirt
- listening to my kids’ heartbeats
My introverted self becomes even more introverted when I’m in pain. Most surprising to me is that planning actually helps me when I’m in pain. I think it is because putting order to my mind when I can’t fix my physical pain is strangely comforting to me. Planning also gives me something to look forward to when the pain passes, to plan and work for that life I’ve dreamed of, to turn my dreams into reality.
I hope you learned how important self-care is, especially if you’re a mom with chronic pain. Self-care can help you reduce stress and manage the pain you feel so you can go back to being the mom you want to be for your kids.
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