Most people with an autoimmune disease are go-getters, high-achievers, and helpers.
How did I form this opinion? I’ve spoken with over 100 people affected by an autoimmune disease and noticed that high-achieving traits are common among us all.
We are go-getters until it catches up with us and gets us. We love to help and serve others but helping ourselves first has always been difficult.
Take care of yourself first
Please start to take better care of yourself by forming new habits from this list of self-care ideas for autoimmune diseases.
Forming healthy self-care habits that you do daily to feel better and achieve your life goals puts you in the driver’s seat of your future. So don’t let another day, week, month, or year go by without taking care of yourself.
When you develop self-care skills, you can use them to help you when challenges come along. The habits you form now will be there to help in future challenging times and help you feel grounded.
All the self-care ideas for autoimmune diseases will help you manage your health, be happier, feel better and meet challenges with a can-do attitude. As a result, you’ll increase your confidence in your ability to manage your symptoms, improve your health, mood, and quality of life and engage more fully in the aspects of your life you value.
Remember, if there is a new activity or idea you are not sure you can do, please consult with your doctor. For example, if you want to start walking, ask your doctor. Or, if you wish to practice deep breathing but maybe have a breathing issue, please consult your doctor.
Set attainable and realistic goals
First, set easy and practical goals for any self-care ideas you choose. In addition, focus on one idea at a time and set weekly goals. Please don’t go overboard when deciding to start a new self-care practice—start by setting weekly goals and choosing a reasonable goal for the week.
For example, if you want to drink more water, don’t set a goal such as, I will drink 100 ounces of water a day. Instead, choose a goal you can achieve and maintain for the long term. For instance, I will drink an additional five ounces of water and measure my water intake daily for a week until it becomes a habit. Then increase your ounces of water until you reach your long-term goal.
Self-care ideas for autoimmune diseases are not always about going to the spa or taking a bubble bath. Even though those ideas are lovely and would make you feel good, they are only a temporary approach to taking care of yourself. My goal is for you to incorporate self-care activities into your daily life. As a result, they become part of your life and part of who you are. Without a doubt, these activities will help you manage your days, weeks, and years to come.
How can you practice self-care?
First, it’s important to note that there are many ways to care for yourself. While specific ideas may work for others, they may not work for you. So, keep an open mind and try something for at least a week. Second, set small goals you can easily attain and practice for one week. If you decide the activity isn’t for you after one week, let it be and try something else.
All the following self-care ideas for autoimmune diseases are categorized by the six simple steps of healthy living: Healthy Eating, Sleep, Exercise, Managing Stress, and Spiritual. However, you may notice some self-care ideas overlap within the categories. For example, all self-care ideas for autoimmune diseases help your mind, mental health, and emotional health, so there is no category breakdown on that topic.
Healthy eating self-care
Awareness of your daily eating habits is key. Your first step of self-care around healthy eating is to understand your food and water intake by tracking your diet for one week. Use a website or app like MyFitnessPal or keep a paper log to track. I know this is not many people’s idea of fun but try it just for a week. Without a doubt, tracking your food and water intake will increase awareness of the calories, protein, carbohydrates, and sugar consumed during the day. From this point of awareness, you can change or refine your food and water intake areas for your best health.
Self-care ideas for healthy eating
- Eat your vegetables and fruit. If you are low on fruit and vegetable intake, try adding one vegetable and fruit daily for one week. Then, once you have consistently incorporated your additional fruit and vegetable, try increasing your goal again!
- Plan your meals for the week ahead. Try meal planning for peace of mind, easy grocery shopping, and relaxed dinners.
- Plan and eat a 100% plant-based main meal one day a week. Try to include legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds in your main meal.
- Make vegetable soup once a week. In addition, freeze extra portions of the soup for an easy meal in the future.
- Drink more water until you’ve reached drinking half your body weight in fluid ounces daily. First, start small by breaking up your water intake throughout the day. For example, try breaking it down into easily dividable portions, such as 5 ounces every hour.
- Eat early – don’t go to bed on a full stomach. Leave a minimum of a two-to-three-hour gap between your last bite and night-night.
- Stick to a regular eating schedule. Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner around the same time every day.
- Reduce or eliminate fried foods, sugar, and high-fat foods from your diet. If you eat many of these types of food, start small by saying I will only eat these foods two or three times a week. Then, once you have consistently reduced these foods try to reduce your intake to only one day a week.
Sleeping better self-care
Awareness of your current sleep schedule and routine is key. Your first step of self-care around sleeping better is to gain awareness of current sleep patterns for one week. So, grab your notebook and summarize your sleep for the night before. Write down the following notes about your sleep:
I know this is not many people’s idea of fun but try it just for a week. Tracking your sleep habits will show you areas that you can improve. From this point of awareness, you can create or change your sleep routine for your best sleep.
Self-care ideas for sleeping better
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep.
- Go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning – even on weekends.
- Do not drink one hour before bed to reduce bathroom trips.
- Eat early – don’t go to bed on a full stomach. Leave a minimum of a two-to-three-hour gap between your last bite and night-night (See healthy eating ideas.)
- Exercise four times a week and stay active, preferably get morning exercise.
- Walk or get morning exercise.
- Manage your energy throughout the day, so you’re not exhausted or not too rested to sleep.
- Do not watch TV or use any electronics in bed. Blue light from these devices signals your brain for action and not sleep.
- Get a monthly massage to relax tense muscles
Awareness of your movement throughout the day is key. Your first step of self-care around reaping the benefits of exercise is to gain awareness of general movement, activities, and exercise for one week. So, use a paper log or website/app such as MyFitnessPal, Fitbit, or your Smartwatch. Unfortunately, I know this is not many people’s idea of fun but try it just for a week. Definitely, we know that being sedentary is not good for our health. From this point of awareness, you can make changes to reap the benefits of exercise.
Self-care ideas for exercise and movement
- Manage your energy exercising for as little as 10 minutes at a time can help you gain and maintain your energy. Exercise also helps you burn off extra energy such as stress (see stress tips), helping you feel more in control of your emotions.
- Exercise for 30 minutes a day at least four times a week. Even if you exercise for 10 minutes at a time, you can fit that in a day. Go for a walk, rowing machine, treadmill, or strength training.
- Range of motion and stretching exercises.
- Get morning exercise, if possible, outside in the natural sunlight.
- Get up and walk around every hour.
- Practice balancing.
- Do your PT exercises.
Managing stress self-care tips
Awareness of your daily stress is key. Your first step in self-care to manage your stress is to realize how much stress you deal with daily. For this exercise, I suggest you talk to someone you trust and ask them to help you audit your stress level. Unfortunately, we may not be the best judge of our stress levels because we are used to dealing with stress at certain levels.
Talk with your trusted friend or adviser about everything you do every day of the week. Be open and honest about all your activities and responsibilities for family, friends, work, and home. Most importantly, don’t filter yourself. Once you can see all your duties on paper, you will see areas where you are either doing too much or too little. From this point of awareness, you can make changes to manage your stress better.
Managing stress self-care ideas
- Simplify your life by pruning off those things that you no longer need or no longer serve you well.
- Exercise for 30 minutes a day at least four times a week. Even if you exercise for 10 minutes at a time, you can fit that in a day. Go for a walk, rowing machine, treadmill, or strength training (see exercise tips.)
- Accept this season in your lifetime. Do your best to manage your current circumstances and work towards a better state of mind, body, and soul.
- Get up and walk around every hour (see exercise tips.)
- Range of motion and stretching exercises (see exercise tips.)
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep (see sleep module.)
- Schedule a monthly massage (see sleep module.)
- Sleep at the same time every night (see sleep module.)
- Keep warm with a heating pad, layered clothing, gloves, and blankets. Cold brings on stress symptoms in the body.
- Use self-care items such as a foot bath, massagers, and a paraffin wax machine.
- Do not watch TV or use electronics in bed.
- Get out of the house.
- Listen to relaxation audios and practice deep breathing.
- Go out with friends or connect with others through zoom.
- Keep a gratitude journal to practice the positive or journaling your thoughts.
- Meal plan – if you enjoy cooking or baking, now’s the time to do it!
- Break up your tasks into small chunks. Rest in between tasks by setting a timer.
- Go to talk therapy and clear out any junk stuck in your mind from the past.
- Sit out in the sunshine or outside under the shade to get some vitamin D.
- Batch chores and tasks for certain days.
- Don’t say yes to everything – say no.
- Use an emotions wheel to identify and deal with your feelings.
- Not try to make everything perfect. Perfection is the enemy of done.
- Plan and set goals for your day, week, and month.
- Schedule time to pad around your going out and coming home.
- Enjoy a hobby.
- Write a personal mission statement.
- Do not make decisions when you are in a rush, exhausted, or upset.
- Learn self-management skills and strategies.
- Order your groceries online and have them delivered or do a drive-through pick-up order.
- Prioritize what tasks must be completed today and get those done first. Then you have the rest of the day to do other tasks.
Keeping yourself steady and balanced with a deep spiritual life is the foundation for all other steps to living a healthy life in mind, body, and spirit. When speaking of spiritual life, I refer to a life lived in and with God.
Unquestionably, your spiritual self-care is different from other self-care topics in that you know if you have a deep spiritual life and relationship with God or not. So here are my spiritual self-care ideas to help you grow in faith and have a closer relationship with God.
self-care ideas for your spiritual life
- Read the Bible every day. Ask God to reveal His Word to you. Journal your thoughts about God and what you learned, and be grateful for the small things.
- Read Bible-based devotional books.
- Pray without ceasing.
- Go on a spiritual retreat.
- Be kind and practice random acts of kindness
- Go to a church online or in-person.
- Join a Bible study online or in person.
- Volunteer for an in-person church-sponsored event.
Mental and Emotional self-care
All of the above!
Self-care ideas for autoimmune diseases
Which self-care ideas for autoimmune diseases idea will you use? Hopefully, you can find one from each category to practice. As a result, you will better manage your health, be happier, feel better and meet challenges with a can-do attitude. As a result, you’ll increase your confidence in your ability to manage your symptoms, improve your health, mood, and quality of life and engage more fully in the aspects of your life you value.