Flare-ups are a regular and unfortunate part of living with an autoimmune disease. They LOVE to come right when we are busiest, invading our days with pain and dizziness where there was no room for such miseries. I'm experiencing one currently, as often happens when I am due for my next chemotherapy infusion (Remicade every four weeks, totally worth it!). (It's also the first week of my last year of graduate school, so, of course, it's the perfect time for me to be flaring!)
Flare-ups are a great occasion to practice self-care. Actually, flare-ups pretty much force us into caring for ourselves, and if we don't we usually end up feeling worse. When we choose self-care from the beginning, we can reduce the amount of emotional distress that so often comes along with our flares. Here are three of my go-to tips for surviving a flare:
1. Don't push through the pain.
This is easier said than done, I know. When responsibilities are adding up, resting feels like the last thing we need. But stress can quite honestly just make your disease worse. Take a deep breath and then set aside the responsibilities you can. While you won't always be able to take a full sick day, you can try to lessen your load for the day, take a short nap in your car, or take regular stretch-breaks to keep your joints from getting too stiff.
2. Be kind to yourself.
No matter how many times we've endured them, flare-ups are gonna affect us. Flare-ups are inflammation-terrorists, wrecking havoc on our joints, organs, and even emotions. If you are at all like me, you will sometimes be surprised at how low a flare can make you feel. Remind yourself that you are human and that your body is enduring something incredibly intense. You likely are not going to feel like your normal, productive, perky self during a flare. So arm yourself with grace and kindness: you don't have to be perfect, and this will pass.
3. Make your kindness practical.
What's comforting to you during a flare? For me it's taking a hot bath and watching lots of episodes of TV shows (at the moment I'm re-watching Gilmore Girls season 6, for about the 5th time...). Do something comforting if you are able. And better yet, let a friend do something comforting for you. It might feel strange, but letting a friend bring you dinner or a cup of tea could just be the encouragement you need today. We were never meant to carry the burden of sickness alone. If letting a friend in feels too draining today, then after your flare is over think about telling a friend what kind of support you might need in future flares.
And, if it's any consolation, this is advice that I have to follow too. Now, back to my Gilmore Girls...