10 Ways to Love Your Body Through Chronic Illness
I am a chronic illness warrior.
I say that loud and proud now, but that wasn’t always the case. When my chronic illness story began over 15 years ago, I did not love my body. I despised it. I cringed at the fact that I didn’t know what was happening, that I had no answers to my symptoms, and I felt like a medical mystery no one could solve.
Fast-forward to today, and I have three diagnoses: chronic migraine, generalized anxiety disorder and depression. There are weeks where I’m bedridden and other days I’m dancing to my favorite songs in the living room. There are days I am angry at what I have lost because of my illnesses but I no longer have a day where I am not grateful for what chronic illness has given me.
This revelation did not come easily. It took years of hard work, therapy and practice. And, most of all, self-love.
Here are 10 ways I’ve learned to love my body against the odds of chronic illness and become the warrior I am today.
1. Ask your body what it needs each and every day.
A daily check-in with your body is the simplest way to acknowledge your needs from head to toe. Our energy levels, pain levels, mental fogginess, etc. can greatly fluctuate from day to day, or sometimes, even minute to minute. Checking in and assessing what we need can lead to a more productive and comfortable day. It can also help us communicate to our caregivers where we’ll need assistance. A sense of clarity about your needs at the beginning of the day equals a greater chance of balance and calm.
2. Learn your body’s subtle cues.
For me, this has been a deeply personal journey of tuning into my body’s signals of an impending migraine or heightening anxiety. It’s that slight sensitivity to light, stomach drop or quickening of my pulse. Grab a notebook and track the events leading up to worsening symptoms. This will help you and your health support team learn how to best prevent and treat your condition.
3. Focus on a body part that has nothing to do with your illness.
Distraction is a powerful tool. When one part of you is the reason for all your woes at that moment, move your attention to a body part that is not in pain or discomfort. For me, this means making sure my bottom half is relaxed while my head, neck and shoulders are throbbing during a migraine. Body scan meditations work well for mental health and full body relaxations.
4. Nourish your body — physically and emotionally.
From healthy eating to setting boundaries, it is up to you to ensure your body is properly supported. No one in this journey has greater responsibility over the care of your body than you. Don’t be scared. Grasp this privilege as an opportunity to have control over a body you may not always feel like you have control of. The learning curve may be steep, but the outcome is worth it. The more you understand about your illness(es) and your needs, the taller you can stand and the stronger you can advocate for your health.
5. Celebrate its successes — big and small.
With chronic illness, some days taking a shower can equal a major win. Other days, you’re able to run all your errands easily. No matter how minute — a pain-free blood draw — or substantial — a pain-free week, each success deserves recognition. Motivation breeds more motivation leading to a healthier mindset and in turn, a healthier body.
6. DO WHAT FEELS GOOD TO YOU.
And don’t be ashamed about it. Does a certain pillow help you sleep? Bring it with you everywhere! Do you need access to plug-ins for a heating pad or a freezer for ice packs? Don’t be afraid to ask. Is a medication’s side effects making life even harder to live? Talk to your doctor. Does a certain treatment like acupuncture or massage help you immensely? Advocate for your insurance to cover it. Listen to your gut — at the end of the day, you know what is best for YOU.
7. Treat yo’self.
When you come out of a rough patch, it’s time to shed the negativity and do something just for you. Sit outside in the sun with your toes fluttering in the blades of grass. Go for a manicure. Buy a new piece of loungewear. Call a friend. Take a class. You deserve it. You made it through, again. High five, girl!
8. Marvel at it.
While I spend a fair amount of time cursing my brain for causing me so much pain, it occurred to me the other day how wondrous of an organ it actually is. Despite being in pain, it still keeps the rest of my body pumping and flowing. There is still so much unknown about the human body that there is no reason to lose hope — no matter your illness. Our bodies are incredibly resilient. As is the human spirit.
Related: 10 Self-Care Ideas
9. Give it thanks.
After you’re done marveling, send your body a big dose of gratitude. It does so much work on your behalf every single second — most of it with you being completely unaware of it happening. Send your feet love for helping you stand tall. Your arms love for being able to hug those who matter most to you. Your eyes or ears love for being able to read or hear this post. And, most importantly, give your heart thanks for guiding you through this journey of self-love discovery.
10. Embrace acceptance.
While all the above are important, the ultimate key to loving your body as a chronic illness warrior is to accept your illness/disorder/syndrome/disease(s). When you can let go of the inner battle and surrender, every other part of this complicated situation becomes easier. It’s a cliché, but a weight is lifted off your shoulders. Why? This is the mastery of self-love. You are accepting you for all you are; you beautiful human you.
It’s time to embrace yourself body, mind, and soul with OPEN arms. No more negative self-talk, body insecurity, and self-doubt. Download our FREE e-book, EMBRACE, and start taking action towards releasing the doubt and claiming your truth today.
Laura is the face behind A Lush Life, a blog showcasing how healthy living can simply become lush-cious. A chronic illlness warrior, Laura fights chronic migraine, anxiety and depression. On the the blog you'll find recipes, safer beauty options and honest accounts of life with chronic illness. Through A Lush Life, Laura helps other warriors feel supported, inspired and worthy. Her approachable, loving and genuine voice has help her grow a community of warriors from all walks of life. Find her on Instagram and Facebook. And don't forget to trust the universe <3