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Why Self-Care Is a Must

Author/Guest Blogger: Beth Rush

Woman listing things she will do to take care of herself.
Image Source: CNA/Canva

Attention All Neuropathy Sufferers: Why Self-care Is a Must

Maybe you hear self-care and envision indulgent days at pricey day spas. However, it’s essential for everyone — especially patients with peripheral neuropathy. Today, many medical professionals recommend these practices as vital to overall mental health, particularly among those with risk factors like a chronic illness1.

You need not drop a bundle on professional services. Rather, self-care for neuropathy and other chronic conditions means acknowledging that you ultimately exercise more control than anyone over your health and taking proactive steps to maintain your well-being. The specific behaviors you engage in vary from person to person — some might find solace in baking healthy recipes, others in a fitness program.

Self-care gives you a sense of taking back control of your physical and mental health.  It removes some helpless feelings you may have, knowing you are doing everything you can to help yourself and your angry nerves.  Spending time alone on self-care is an opportunity to recharge energy.  Doing self-care activities with a partner for friend provides a reason for social interaction; vitally important for maintaining good health. Even smallest things are self-care based: choosing non-toxic nail polish, sitting in nature, stretching, or breathing with intension.

Self-care also provides a sense of accomplishment. You feel good doing something good for you. On the other side, when you have a day where you feel “less than”, self-care can provide feelings satisfaction or courage!

You feel good doing something good for you.

– Beth Rush

Your daily nurturing habits should support your condition and make it easier to manage. Pay attention, please, neuropathy sufferers — here’s why self-care is a must.

The Link Between Self-Care and Mental Health

Researchers learn more about the connection between self-care and mental health daily. It may not sound romantic to think of it thus, but your thoughts and behaviors ultimately boil down to a series of electrochemical impulses. These biological and chemical signals affect other body systems, impacting neurotransmitters and hormones, making you feel better overall — or worse.

For example, think of your body’s fight or flight response. You perceive a stimulus that your brain interprets as a danger signal. Mentally, you might feel panicked. Physically, your body ramps up adrenaline and cortisol production to energize you to battle back or get out of Dodge2.

Fortunately, this connection means you can improve your overall physical health through self-care for mental health. Nurturing this link is particularly vital for chronic pain patients. Scientists have found that meditative exercises such as yoga and Qigong work on the same brain region responsible for pain and emotional processing3. Although it takes time, you can change how you react to specific pain signals, improving your overall symptoms.

Furthermore, chronic pain patients need the nurturing that comes through self-care the most. They endure so much between costly treatments or prescriptions not covered by the medical system  and other people’s reactions to their illnesses as cries for attention.  Patients must manage enormous stress loads daily. They deserve a breather.

“Chronic pain patients need the nurturing that
 comes through self-care the most.”

– Beth Rush

Suggested Self-Care Plan for Neuropathy Sufferers

What should you do each day to improve your symptoms and care for yourself if you’re a patient? Here’s a suggested self-care plan for neuropathy sufferers.

1. Daily Foot Care

Many people who develop peripheral neuropathy have diabetes. This condition causes problems with blood sugar control that affect your circulation and immune system, slowing wound healing4. This applies to everyone whether you are diabetic or not.

Therefore, you should inspect your feet daily for any cuts or sores and disinfect them. Otherwise, nerve damage might prevent you from feeling the warning signs of pain until you become infected and risk severe health problems. Keep your nails trimmed to avoid hangnails and file away any rough patches.

2. A Healthy Diet

Neuropathy is a health condition, and everything you put in your body will affect it — including food. Your best bet is to stick with whole foods close to their natural forms. Avoid overly processed items, especially those laden with sugar and white flour. Both substances spike your blood sugar. Again, even if you are not diabetic you are affected. 

3. Gentle Movement

How does exercise help neuropathy? It improves circulation, which keeps oxygen-rich blood and other nutrients flowing to the muscles and nerves in your extremities.

Fortunately, you don’t have to run a marathon or sweat it up in a HIIT class. Gentle movement like walking and ballroom dancing does the trick. If stress plagues you, why not try some gentle yoga? You can even do some poses in bed to wind down before you sleep5.

Such an approach might have a bonus as self-care for neuropathy sufferers. Many people with chronic pain struggle to sleep, but a few gentle stretches and some meditation might work more effectively than counting sheep to put you under6.

4. Say Yes to Pedis and Massages

Honey, if you have the money, go ahead and have a spa day. Pedicures nurture your feet while including a massage. Massage alone stimulates circulation and helps neuropathy sufferers.

What can you do if your wallet holds nothing but moths? If you have a partner, why don’t you learn some DIY tricks and practice them on one another?

5. Say No to Cigarettes

You know that smoking doesn’t do your lungs any favors. However, that’s not the only reason quitting counts as self-care for neuropathy sufferers. It also hinders circulation, making your symptoms worse. Please  take advantage of free government resources, or in the US  their government programs, to help you kick the butts7.

6. Say Yes to Gentle Compression

Some neuropathy sufferers swear by compression garments to ease the pins and needles associated with their condition. They’re inexpensive, so why not try a few pairs and see if they help you?

7. Say No to the Pinch

However, you want to take extra care to encourage circulation to the extremities. Therefore, try to change your habits if you typically sit with your legs crossed. Try a loose cross at the ankles if you must, for modesty’s sake.

8. Keep Toasty

Cold can make your blood vessels contract. When the temperatures dip, indulge yourself in sumptuous Sherpa socks or even heated slippers to keep your dogs from barking.

Suggested Self-Care Plan for Neuropathy Sufferers for Improving Physical and Mental Health

Science now confirms an association between self-care and mental health. Taking time out to nurture yourself is vital to your psychological well-being, especially if you’re a chronic pain patient. It can even improve physical symptoms.

Follow the eight tips above to start a self-care plan for neuropathy sufferers. You’ll improve your symptoms and overall quality of life.

Donations keep us moving!

Empower us in the fight against neuropathy’s impacts. Let’s give everyone the chance to fight for themselves.

References

  1. Gavurova, Beata, et. al. The Role of Self-Care Activities in Depression: Evidence From Slovakia During the COVID-19 Pandemic. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8801882/
  2. Physiological consequences of everyday psychosocial stress.. https://europepmc.org/article/med/9225496
  3. Mental Health and Chronic Pain. https://calgaryneuropathy.com/mental-health-pain/
  4. Poor Immune Response Impairs Diabetic Wound Healing. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/poor-immune-response-impairs-diabetic-wound-healing
  5. Barnes, Mia. 9 Floor Yoga Poses You Can Do in Bed. https://bodymind.com/9-floor-yoga-poses-you-can-do-in-bed/
  6. Sleep Hygiene and Neuropathy. https://calgaryneuropathy.com/sleep-hygiene-and-neuropathy/
  7. Quit Smoking: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/smoking-tobacco/quit-smoking/provincial-territorial-services.html
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/index.htm#:~:text=For%20support%20in%20quitting%2C%20including,800%2D784%2D8669).
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