Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Chronic Illness & the Importance of Self Care – Especially for Moms!

My name is Mariah. I have rheumatoid arthritis but I love to ride my bike.

This is a sponsored post for Self Care Catalysts. I have been compensated through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. All opinions remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

Self care – or intentionally making an effort to care for your physical, mental and emotional health – is extremely important for your overall well-being. It’s especially important if you are living with a chronic illness like rheumatoid arthritis, which already places a huge burden on your time and energy levels. And it’s even more important if you are living with a chronic illness like rheumatoid arthritis and you are the mother of a small and demanding human, or perhaps several of them!

I’ve sometimes seen the oxygen mask metaphor used to describe the importance of self care: you have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help anyone else. While this is undoubtedly true, there’s a reason they remind you every time you get on an airplane – because you might try to hold your own breath and help someone else first, even if that turns out to be detrimental to your own well being. I think this is something especially easy for parents to do, because there are so many demands on your time and energy that it can actually seem like a good solution to let your own needs slide – or even get forgotten all together. Because children are needy, and if you are having trouble finding the time and energy to meet their needs, it can seem practically impossible to make the time for self care.

The thing is, if you don’t take care of yourself you won’t be able to take care of anybody else – no matter how much they may need you. For that reason, my favorite metaphor for remembering the importance of self care is this: you can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s physically impossible! If your cup is empty, you have to find a way to fill it up before you can possibly share with anyone else.

But I do know that making time to “fill your cup” is far easier said than done, especially for moms. That’s one reason that I find it so important to be connected to a self care movement. Sometimes you need someone to remind you just how important it is to take care of yourself. Sometimes you need validation that it’s ok to take time away from caring for your kids to care for yourself – it makes you a good mom, not a bad one! And, if you’re anything like me, sometimes you need to be assured that taking the time for self care is being productive! We need to give ourselves credit for whatever we are able to accomplish, no matter how insignificant it may at first seem.

That’s one of the reasons I started Mamas Facing Forward. I wanted to help moms (and moms-to-be) who are living with chronic illnesses embrace the challenges we face and learn to find strength from them. I also want us to be able to support and encourage each other as we brainstorm ways to keep facing forward – for our children and, more importantly, for ourselves.

Self Care Movement’s mission is very similar: to transform perspectives about chronic illness and the way we manage it. They want to help us celebrate the greatness in the ordinary accomplishments that we face every day – which I often find moms, in particular, need to be reminded of. Are your kids (mostly) clean and fed? That’s a major accomplishment (even if they are, in reality, covered in dirt!) Did you find the energy to take them to the park or zoo? That’s fantastic! But guess what? It’s also ok if you didn’t. It’s ok if you let them watch TV so you could take a shower or if you spent the afternoon reading books on the couch instead of playing outside. Do your kids know you love them? That’s what matters.

No matter what type of social media you prefer – Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram – you can get connected to the Self Care Movement online to help you remember the importance of loving yourself too. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to try to convince my four year old to eat something other than cheese and carbs for dinner! Then maybe I’ll have Daddy take care of bath time so I can take some time for myself and go on a bike ride…

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