As you continue to avoid gluten, read labels, and monitor your gluten-related symptoms, eating can get overwhelming. How about taking a break from thinking about food and your illness? Self-care is a somewhat new buzzword for initiating deliberate care of yourself, whether to reduce stress or reduce negative symptoms of fatigue or pain. It is important for both physical and mental health!
These are my favorite areas of self-care.
Physical activity: I have my smart watch set to notify me when it is ten minutes before the hour, every hour. Whatever I am doing, I get up and stretch, walk around the block or the house, go up and down the stairs a few times, and/or do a few calisthenics at my desk. I even have an RBG calendar on my office wall that shows activities I can do if I run out of ideas :)
Exercise: In addition to bits of physical activity throughout the day, I make sure I get at least 30 minutes daily of uninterrupted higher intensity exercise, such as a brisk walk, bike ride, hike, time on an elliptical, etc. This reduces the stress hormone cortisol and helps fight chronic diseases. You do not have to start training for a marathon; just find something you enjoy that raises your heart rate a bit.
Stress management: Physical activity and exercise are major stress busters. Other great habits are meditation (which I am terrible at) and yoga (which I love), as well as journaling, reading, listening to music, and spending time in nature. Surely there is something you can do for 10 minutes a day that is just for you.
Sleep: You’ve heard the advice: get eight hours of sleep every night. While the optimal sleep time varies, I know I feel better with eight hours, and I have to fight the urge to stay up late to enjoy a book or movie or NCIS episode on TV. It’s worth it to set a regular bedtime, make sure it’s dark and cool in your room, and avoid blue lights/screens for the half hour before.
Mindfulness: Mindful eating, especially, is a habit that can leave you feeling more fulfilled and nourished than speed eating while working at your computer or watching TV. Eat meals at the table with a placemat and even a candle.
Social support: A friend, partner, family member, neighbor, or online community can help you feel connected. Reach out to others, and cultivate only the relationships that feel positive.
Spiritual self-care: Remember your spiritual side, which needs nurturing along with your body and brain. Spiritual values may include religion, the environment, social justice and peace, or believing in anything else that is greater than yourself.
I often combine these habits, such as walking my dog (exercise) through the woods (stress management) while reflecting (spiritual) or inviting my partner along (social). Do I always follow my own recommendations? Maybe not, but it’s an ongoing effort!
Today, give yourself the care and compassion you give others; you deserve it.
What does a dietitian, nutritionist, and health professional do when she discovers she has to avoid gluten? I mean, avoid it to prevent painful symptoms, not to follow a trend!