Pretty much everyone who lives with a chronic illness experiences a “flare up” in their symptoms from time to time.
Sometimes it can be brought on by stress, working too hard, falling out of a routine such as doing your regular physiotherapy or even something as seemingly benign as the weather changing. For any non-spoonies reading this, a flare-up is when a persons everyday symptoms become worse than usual and life becomes that much harder to deal with. Some people might experience this as increased pain, some as heightened levels of fatigue while others may get a combination of symptoms associated with their condition. A flare can last for anything from a few days to several weeks.
I thought I would share 8 self-care tips for getting through a flare up:
- Microwaveable wheat bag “hotties” are an absolute saviour for me during bouts of chronic pain or muscle spasm. The warmth helps relax the muscles and relieve pain plus they’re a lot easier to manage with bendy hands than a regular hot water bottle. You can get ones with lavender or other herbs in them which can help with relaxation and you can get them in all kinds of shapes and sizes; everything from cuddly animals to more ergonomic designs.
- Soaking in a hot bubble bath is great for relieving tightened, sore or spasming muscles or painful joints. Many people swear by using epsom salts or relaxing oils in their bath water. Hot baths are something to be very careful with if you suffer from autonomic dysfunction such as PoTS but if you’re able to do it it can be very helpful.
- Cuddle your pets! Having my dog Wilma with me when I’m at home laid up really does help. She’s like my own little nurse, she knows when I’m in pain or feeling ill and will come sit by me and offer her company, attention and of course kisses!
- Cut yourself some slack! If you have to cancel something or push back a deadline the world won’t end, trust me. No, you really can’t take on that overtime or baby sit for your cousin right now.
- Take good care of your skin, as all of your body’s resources will be directed towards healing the skin is one of the first areas to suffer. When our skin suffers and we break out in spots or become very dry it can really knock our self-confidence and actually hinder our recovery. If you can find a mobile therapist having an at home facial is a wonderful way of pampering, relaxing and looking after your skin. Many therapists also specialise in massage therapy which is very valuable for those who suffer from fibromyalgia or chronic pain.
- Talk about it! Being chronically ill is a very isolating experience and many sufferers go on to develop depression. It’s important to verbalise what you’re going through and feeling to someone – even if at first it’s just your dog! The internet is very helpful in this regard as there are many spoonie groups and forums you can join.
- Use pleasant distractions to help you cope with pain flares. Watch a film or TV show you love, indulge in your favourite crafting hobby or read your favourite glossy magazines. Whatever you will find engrossing enough you get to forget about feeling crappy for an hour or two.
- Get plenty sleep. We all know good quality sleep is important but for many spoonies it’s something we often struggle with. I say if you really need to take a nap then take one, I do however try not to do so after about 3pm as I don’t want to impact on sleep at bed time. What I wouldn’t do is hang about in bed all day awake if I could possibly help it, that is much more likely to impact on sleep quality and quantity at night than going for an hour nap.
If you’re a spoonie, how do you self-care during a flare up?