Nicole Erickson is a certified Nutritional Therapy Consultant (NTC) and AIP Coach. She earned her NTC certification from the Nutritional Therapy Association and her AIP coach certification through the first ever AIP coach program co-created and directed by Angie Alt, Mickey Trescott, and Dr. Sarah Ballantyne.
Nicole is passionate about helping women who struggle with gut dysfunction and skin conditions find symptomatic relief through healing their gut and strengthening their immune system. She takes a whole-body approach with her clients looking at diet, lifestyle, and helping them to develop attainable and sustainable self-care practices. You can learn more about Nicole and her work at Live and Learn Nutrition.
Self-care is an important topic when it comes to improving our health and tackling autoimmune disease, but it’s rarely something I see people making a priority.
In fact, I have experienced more push-back when bringing up self-care than any other healthy lifestyle change. And I get it. I do.
Self-care seems selfish, silly, and downright luxurious when you have a full-time job, a family, a disease to conquer, and many other responsibilities. But for all those reasons and more is why self-care is so important. To understand more of the “whys” behind self-care and how it can benefit your body on a physiological level, read The Physiological Benefits of Consistent Self Care.
Here’s the thing, many of us think of self-care as spa-days, peaceful bubble baths, massages, and weekend get-aways (and that’s certainly what we see on social media), but I’d venture to guess that many of you reading this can rarely make those types of activities happen. If you can, that’s fantastic. But I’m guessing it’s few and far between.
I think we’d all love to have the time and resources for these self-care escapes, but it’s often not realistic or sustainable. We need to connect to, and establish, everyday self-care practices for our long-term health.
Keep this in mind – self-care doesn’t have to be “go-big or go-home” to make a difference. It’s our actions in every day that make the biggest impact.
So what can we do on a daily basis that makes an impact, and is attainable and sustainable?
Here are 8 ways you can incorporate self-care starting today.
Eating can be tricky when you have an autoimmune disease. There are so many different diets and protocols out there for you to consider and follow, but what they have in common and should absolutely be your priority is REAL FOOD. Nourishing your body with the most nutrient dense food you can buy is the best self-care you can practice.
Depending on what your body can tolerate, and any food sensitivities you may have, stock your fridge and pantry with nutrient dense, health-supportive food. Take advantage of online grocery shopping with easy pickup or delivery, online markets like Thrive Market, and meal planning or meal delivery services if needed. There are so many to choose from and can take a large amount of stress off your shoulders.
Healthy digestion is key to good health and helping the body heal. In order for our body to use the nutrients we’re taking in, we must be able to break those nutrients down and absorb them properly. What you do before, during, and after your meals can make a huge difference.
Slowing down is the name of the game. Sit down for each meal, and before you eat, take a few deep breaths to relax your body; chew each bite slowly until it’s almost liquid; put your fork down between bites; focus on your meal and really savor it and the company you’re with; and try not to overeat. After your meal, take a light walk if you can or drink a cup of ginger tea to aid digestion. These actions will help your body relax and properly digest your food.
Each day, as you’re trying to do ALL the things, find at least 15 minutes for yourself that is non-negotiable. Go for a walk and listen to your favorite podcast or audiobook; do an at-home face mask made from your kitchen; make a smoothie and read your favorite blog; color or journal; or just sit with your eyes closed doing some deep breathing. Whatever you choose to do with your time, make it part of your routine every single day. Remember, this is non-negotiable.
When putting ourselves first, we can start to feel selfish for doing so. We feel like we’re taking time away from our spouse/partner, kids, work, family, and home. And essentially, we are. You give 100% to everyone around you, and now you’re taking some of that time for yourself. And of course, that’s the point, but what you’re giving back to them is a person who feels less stressed, happier, and well taken care of. It’s a fair trade.
If you struggle with this, create or find a mantra that resonates with you and keep it in your mind, or even write it up and place it around your home to keep you motivated and secure in taking time for yourself. Say them over and over until you feel comfortable with them. Here are some mantras I like to use:
“I’m worthy of self-care. I take care of myself so I can be healthy enough to take care of others.”
“I’m taking this time for myself to show others that I love and value myself.”
“Self-care is not selfish. It’s restorative and helps to fill my cup.”
“My family/work/friends will be fine without me for a little while. I need this time to show myself love and respect and return a happier person.”
This is a tough one, but if social media, TV shows, or even the magazines you subscribe to are a space of negativity for you, then unplug, turn it off, and unsubscribe from it all. Ditch the stuff and people that leave you feeling anything but good about yourself. If you are on social media, then seek out a supportive network. Connect with the people who inspire you, spread a good message, make you smile and laugh. Or better yet, find an in-person group who can lift you up, relate to what you’re going through, and support you (and in return, you support them). Having a positive, uplifting support network is key when you have a chronic illness.
This is another tough one but it’s something you have to do when you are sick and your health must come first. Say no to any and all activities you do not have to do. Don’t volunteer at your child’s school bake sale at the height of an autoimmune flare. Don’t offer to host a birthday party or take on extra responsibility at work that will only increase your stress. Saying no more often won’t last forever but do it so you can slow down and focus on rest and repletion. And ask for help when you need to. Whether that be from friends, family, your spouse, older children, your church group, a local support group, etc., think about those in your life who can lend a hand and ask for help. You’ll find that people like to and want to help, so ask.
You might be thinking “the last thing I feel like doing when I’m tired or in pain is laugh”. Ok, I get that. And I say this lovingly – force yourself to do it. Call a friend or family member who supports you and ask them to lift your spirits. Read a book, watch a movie (a personal favorite is Mr. Bean), or read a blog that really makes you howl with laughter. Why is this important? Laughter releases feel-good hormones in the brain called endorphins. The more endorphins your brain releases, the more relaxed you feel, and the less cortisol (a stress hormone) you produce. Endorphins can also lower the amount of pain you feel and can even increase your immune cell activity thereby strengthening your immune system. Laughter is medicine.
This may sound too simple, but it’s amazing what just being hydrated does for our body, and it’s absolutely an act of self-care because we rarely give our body enough water. Aim for half your weight in ounces of clean, filtered water daily. Add lemon, lime, berries, cucumber, or fresh herbs for flavor. Like chicken soup is for the soul, I believe tea is for the body. Tea relaxes us and comforts us. This is an easy one. End your evening with a warm, soothing cup of tea. When we take in anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, tulsi basil, chamomile, lavender, and mint, we are taking in all the restorative properties of those herbs and spices which can be incredibly healing and comforting to a body that needs care from the inside out.
Taking care of ourselves is non-negotiable. When our health starts to fail, it’s in part because we’ve put ourselves on the back burner. Take self-care seriously and start slowly if needed. If all you can do is one thing from this list – or from your own list! – that is totally okay. Do that one thing but start today.