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How Much Self-Care Is Enough?

Some days it feels like I spend the majority of my time on body maintenance. Although it may be regular chronic condition activities, it feels like it piles up. I lose count of how many doctors' visits I have in a year that are mostly just regular checkups. Then there’s the blood work, x-rays, scans, and so forth.

If any actual issues happen, it feels like overkill on my schedule! Then I’m spending even more time at appointments (or traveling back and forth to them) and physical therapy sessions. I think I try to stay ahead of health issues as much as possible to avoid these additional drains on my time. I already feel busy with regular maintenance!

Yet why is it that spending so much time on health maintenance activities still never feels like it is enough? It's like there is always more to do or that could be done, but I just don’t ever get to it. The checklist is never-ending and then the optional, but nice, to-do list is never quite within reach.

My essential daily self-care activities

Take my medications

My husband Richard puts them in a daily organizer every week, so this saves some time to have the pills ready. The organizer has received so much love, there are no more day labels on them as they have been wiped away by use! One day, every other week, I have the added activity of taking my biologic auto-injector. This takes some extra time, but we now have it down to a short process

Apply my psoriasis cream as needed

This usually happens every day as I have to constantly check my skin for irritations or flares in my psoriasis. The better I stay ahead of it, the more problems I prevent with serious flares and even infections

Take any supplemental medications.

Lately, I’ve needed some additional prednisone and Tylenol in the afternoon to help with aches and pains. I hope this is a short-term seasonal problem, but it has been a persistent one. If I don’t take medication on the early side of a pain upswing, I can swiftly fall behind and feel terrible. As we know, once you fall into a pain hole it can be very hard to climb back out

Do my exercises

I exercise every day unless I am having a bad flare. Even on bad days, I try to exercise a little because I know it will help me feel better sooner. I have a few methods to choose from, but my favorite is going to the pool for aquatic exercises. Otherwise, I use my stepper machine or do some yoga via video to keep my body moving and try to build my strength (as I can do both of these from my wheelchair).

Get my rest

Even when I rest, it’s not always effective. So, I really have to be diligent about aiming for at least 8.5 hours of lying down. Like a lot of people with rheumatoid arthritis, rest isn’t always productive and I often wake up still feeling tired. However, I have to try and bank as much rest as I can in the hopes that the good nights will help me through the bad ones.

These activities could fill a day (and a night!), yet, it sometimes only feels like the tip of the iceberg for the self-care that my body truly wants. When I can incorporate more (on top of working and living), I try to tack on some additional activities.

Health maintenance to-do list when I have extra time

Meditation

In recent weeks I’ve been practicing yoga for many days, which ends with a meditation. The more I do this every day, the better I feel. It calms my mind and spirit to sit in stillness or take a relaxation period that doesn’t involve sleeping. This really shouldn’t be optional, but I find when I am short on time it is the first thing to get cut.

Moving slower

I know, this isn’t an activity, it is more of a practice. Many days I feel late from the beginning and I get up with a long list of to-dos on my mind. I hustle and hurry to get things done and just move faster than I should, especially at the beginning of the day when I should just be gentle and allow my body and mind some time to warm up.

More physical therapy

If you live with RA, there’s always something bothering you, at least that has been my experience. My ankle is sore or my neck is achy or my shoulder feels weak. There’s always a reason for me to go to physical therapy, but I only seem to go when it’s really intolerable. Sometimes I think I should just always be in some physical therapy or at least going for more than a few sessions every other year.

Addressing my checklist of nagging problems

I feel like there’s always a list in the back of my mind of RA or related health issues that I should be addressing. They get pushed back in priority because either they aren’t bothering me enough, I don’t have time to cope with them, or I’m just plain procrastinating.

How is it that my days feel filled with self-care and health maintenance, but it never feels like it is enough? How much would ever be enough and are there enough hours in the day? Probably not, but I do keep trying!

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