Self-Care When You Feel Lousy

I don’t know about you, but my house has felt like a plague camp the past week or so.  Fevers, stomach upset, you name it.  My best friend is my canister of Lysol wipes.  As of this writing, I have dodged the bug, but I’m pretty sure that won’t last.  All of this has made me think about how much more overwhelming self-care seems when you don’t feel well.  Whether you’re dealing with a round of the flu or a chronic illness, when your body hurts it’s tempting to just let your self-care fall to the wayside.  So, this week, I’m offering a few suggestions to help you maintain a sense of continuity with your self-care.

My daily fruit treats are one of my favorite forms of small self-care.
My daily fruit treats are one of my favorite forms of small self-care.

Assess Your Definition

The first way to support self-care when you feel lousy, is to clearly define what self-care means to you.  If your self-care definition is entirely based on a regular exercise program, or a busy social schedule, then illness can really do a number on your self-care routine.  And there is a cycle that can happen.  If you aren’t able to do the self-care you normally do, that can lead to frustration, self-blame, and a sense of “not deserving” to do things that are self-nurturing.

If that sounds familiar, then it might be time to tweak your definition.  When you are sick, for a day or for the long haul, every choice you make that supports your physical, emotional & mental health is good self-care.  If you can’t run a 5K right now, but you did decide to walk to the end of the driveway, that is self-care.  If you can’t fix a healthy meal right now, but you did eat some fresh fruit, that is self-care.  If you can’t make it to “girls night out,” but you reached out to a friend by phone, that is self-care.

Give Yourself Credit

There is something powerful about noting and naming the healthy choices you make.  Taking note when you choose self-care helps you be more likely to make that choice again.  Naming the small healthy behaviors you choose throughout the day reinforces your ability to take care of yourself even when you feel lousy.  Being sick can make you feel powerless, and noticing your self-care choices can restore some of your sense of self-control.  It might even be useful to keep a journal or a list of all the small choices that you make which can count as self-care.

My yoga mat is one of the places I go for big and little self-care.
My yoga mat is one of the places I go for big and little self-care.

A Few More Suggestions

I don’t know about you, but when I am sick, I don’t want to have to think too much.  So, here are a few more small self-care suggestions for those low days:

  • Listen to some great music
  • Read or watch something funny
  • Let yourself be absorbed in a book that transports you out of your daily life
  • Do a savasana (relaxation pose) or other restorative yoga pose
  • Meditate for five minutes
  • Write a card or a letter to someone you miss
  • Reach out to lift someone else’s spirits
  • Eat something that nourishes your body & spirit
  • Move in small ways
  • Take a nap

What about you?  What is your favorite act of self-kindness when you feel lousy?


Image Credit: “Fresh Fruit” photo by Calvert Cafe and Catering via Flickr
Image Credit: “Outdoor Yoga” photo by Average Jane via Flickr

11 thoughts on “Self-Care When You Feel Lousy

  1. This is a great reminder to not let go of self-care when we need it most. It is so hard sometimes because we get out of our routines as you point out and that can be a downward spiral. I love all of the suggestions. Great advice. Best, Allison

  2. Hi Ann,

    I appreciate the idea of giving ourselves credit for the small things we do to take care of ourselves when we are not feeling well. I think this is important all the time, not only when we are sick.

    When we fall short of goals we set for ourselves, we will feel better when we focus on the steps we have been able to take, instead of the steps we have not yet taken. This helps us to keep moving forward instead of giving up.

    I also like the suggestions for things we can do to feel better. I love cuddling up with a blanket and a good book, with a cup of mint tea.

    I hope you succeed in staying well. 🙂


  3. Yes, this was the post I needed to read today. It’s easy to feel bad about not doing ALL the self-care things I plan to do (healthy diet, exercise, sleep, etc.), so thank you for the reminder that I can take credit for the self-care I do accomplish.

    I’m frustrated today because a hamstring injury is keeping me from exercising – my preferred way to wind down and de-stress at the end of the day. Instead, I chose to play piano for a while. That always makes me feel better, too, but sometimes I forget that.

Leave a Reply