Self-care is crucial for anyone coping with stress, and it’s especially important for breast cancer survivors and others dealing with serious illness. We know that many recently diagnosed women haven’t had the opportunity to develop self-care strategies that work for them. We also know that self-care continues to be important for survivors no matter how far they are in their journey, because the challenges of processing a past diagnosis and treatment experience may be ongoing.
Prompted by this article, which encourages a more extensive concept of self-care by mapping it onto multiple categories, we asked our Guides to share their go-to strategies for self-care. As usual, we found their wisdom and creativity inspiring. Below, we share their ideas for self-care strategies that address social, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs.
Social: Because living with a serious illness can be very isolating, nurturing our social connections is an especially crucial form of self-care.
- Consider social activities that offer a ready-made activity to focus on: join a book club, host a product party (Thirty-One, Mary Kay, Tastefully Simple, etc.), play bingo, or go bowling.
- Celebrate big milestones (whether treatment-related or not) with others.
- Get together with a group: have a girls’ night out or a weekend away, host an all-day movie marathon or TV show binge, or have a bonfire with friends.
- Nourish your intimate relationships: have a one-on-one dinner with a close friend or with your partner.
- Embrace Facebook, Instagram, and other forms of social media as low-key ways to connect.
- Join a big crowd: go to a sporting event, play, or concert.
- Give back: volunteer, or do a random act of kindness for someone else.
- Attend a support group or connect with others through the Firefly Sisterhood.
Physical: Focusing on the body is an important component of self-care, as a way to both improve our physical health and clear our minds.
- Nap. Repeat.
- Walk regularly or maintain another gentle workout routine.
- Try yoga.
- Take a dance class. Or just dance, with abandon!
- Have a good laugh.
- Go for a bike ride.
- Have sex (with yourself or a loved one).
- Treat yourself to a haircut, a pedicure, or a spa day.
- Really focus on the pleasures of simple sensory experiences: listen to a favorite song, take a bubble bath, give a massage to a loved one, watch a fire, curl up with your cat, luxuriate over a piece of dark chocolate.
Emotional: In the quest to “stay positive,” we can sometimes be judgmental of our own emotional responses, but an important part of self-care involves allowing ourselves to experience the inevitable range of our emotions.
- Have a good cry.
- Get or give a big hug.
- Let your emotions get physical: pound dough, dig in the dirt, or break stuff (in a safe way).
- See a therapist or other professional.
- Express yourself in writing: keep a journal, or if you don’t want a record of your thoughts, write them out and burn the page.
- Send yourself a love letter (literally): write it, put it in an envelope addressed to yourself, stamp it, and mail it! Or give it to a friend to mail to you at an unexpected time.
- Scream! Just let it out, in whatever way feels right.
- Talk, talk, talk.
Mental: Challenging ourselves cognitively is a wonderful form of self-care, whether developing a new skill, tackling an old problem, or simply focusing on becoming more reflective.
- Take time to enjoy mentally stimulating games, such as crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and Sudoku.
- Take a class or a workshop, read a “For Dummies” book, or use YouTube videos to teach yourself something you’ve always wanted to learn.
- Make a plan (for a vacation to somewhere new, for next year’s garden, etc.), and enjoy getting lost in the details.
- Surf the web for non-medical information: new recipes, shopping, feel-good stories, local events, etc.
- Get all the little “To Do’s” out of your head and onto paper, and feel the satisfaction of checking them off: organize cupboards or drawers, complete or file paperwork, etc.
- Be thoughtful about saying “yes.” Give yourself time to reflect before making commitments.
- Break big tasks that feel overwhelming into small pieces. And prioritize honestly—what can be set aside, delegated, or done later?
- Practice looking at things from a different perspective.
Spiritual: Even those who don’t consider themselves religious should think about spiritual self-care, which can have a much broader definition than we might normally think.
- Read books that engage you spiritually.
- Give yourself permission to spend time meditating.
- Connect with nature.
- Practice mindfulness: be present in the moment, whatever the moment may be.
- Start a gratitude journal: keep a daily log of the things for which you’re grateful.
- Consider opportunities for sharing spiritually with others, such as a Bible study or non-denominational group.