Olivia Fulton describes the importance of self-care days and shares her top tips on how to switch off.
One of the biggest lessons I have learnt over the years living with a chronic health condition like severe asthma is that we cannot always battle on.
But for many years, I really tried. I was determined not to allow my asthma to define me. It was not going to stop me from doing anything… I wanted to be ‘normal’, just like everyone else.
I saw being unwell as a weakness. Because of my asthma I had to take time off work and often missed important events and big nights out. I was not like my friends – they were ‘normal’.
Taking time out for yourself is ‘normal’
Recently however, I have started to realise that it’s perfectly normal to sometimes take time out for yourself. After all, most people allowed themselves ‘me time’, so why couldn’t I? Particularly in trying times like these, we need to learn to slow down for our own sake.
As someone who was very active, I initially didn’t like the idea of taking time to relax. My idea of relaxation was going for a run or playing sport - certainly not reading a book or doing some mindfulness techniques!
Although after a while, I slowly realised that this time actually gave me the opportunity to take some much needed rest.
Scheduling self-care days
As a result of this discovery, I have since started to regularly schedule time out for myself: I call these ‘self-care days’. Even if it’s just one day, or a couple of half days here and there, I always make sure I use this time to put myself first, and everything else comes second.
Don’t get me wrong, I found the concept difficult to begin with - I volunteer at the AUKCAR (Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research) - and used to consider reviewing research papers as a form of self-care, until I found this to be too mentally taxing. The whole idea of self-care is to give yourself both a physical and mental break, so I knew I had to find some things I could do that wouldn’t:
- make my asthma symptoms worse or
- stress me out
As a result, I have developed a number of different activities that I know I can do when I’m taking a self-care day.
So, what do I have in my self-care arsenal?
A good supply of books
E-readers make reading easy now as there is no limit to the number of books you can carry and store. I like to have a variety of genres: some easy-reads, short stories, and then books that you need more brain power for!
Mindfulness and meditation techniques
I first started off with some apps on my phone to help with this, but now I like to follow my own routine. Meditating also really helps to take my mind off things and allows me to reflect.
Audiobooks and music
When I’m not feeling my best or if I’m finding it hard to concentrate, a good audiobook or a relaxing playlist helps me to pass the time and switch off.
A self-care day is not just about sitting down and doing nothing. A walk along the coast can really help to clear the cobwebs! I feel really refreshed and invigorated when I’m able to go on a long walk with no distractions or anything to rush back to.
Stringing Lacrosse sticks
Lacrosse has been a passion of mine for years and since my asthma symptoms forced me to give up playing, I taught myself how to string lacrosse sticks instead. I find this hands-on activity to be very therapeutic and the finished product is really satisfying to see.
Since finding a range of activities that I can do, I never get frustrated about my asthma stopping me from doing certain other things. All these activities are things I enjoy doing and feel even more special as I don’t usually have time to do them every day. They leave me feeling good and have allowed me to view my self-care time as a positive – not something that I am forced to do.
Everyone needs to look after themselves and acknowledging that, has helped me to accept my health conditions and my asthma a little bit more. Taking a self-care day is part of the ‘normal’ I was seeking, but I just never saw it.
NPS-IE-NP-00369 December 2021