Self-Care Sunday is not just for Sundays. You can do it on a Thursday or any other day of the week. The most important thing is that you intentionally set the time for yourself to take care of your health.
Research shows many people do not understand the true meaning of self-care. According to studies, 44% of people believe that self-care is only possible for people with enough time and 35% of people believe self-care is only possible for people with enough money. According to Healthline, self-care does not need to be expensive or time consuming. 
Many people also believe that making time for self-care is selfish.  Those of us who are mothers, especially, put pressure on ourselves to take care of the kids, family, and home before taking care of ourselves. I am guilty of this myself, as I often put my children’s needs before my own. Remember that in order for us to take care of others, we must first take care of ourselves. It reminds me of being a plane when the flight attendants explains that we must put the oxygen mask on ourselves first, before helping others. Because we can’t help others if we cant breathe ourselves. Do not neglect yourself. Show up for yourself. Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is essential.
While Migraine Strong writes about the latest in migraine treatments, this is not medical advice. We are patient educators and all information you read should be discussed with your doctor.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care means different things to different people. Yes, to some, it means taking a bath on a Self-Care Sunday because social media has done an amazing job bringing awareness to it. But, did you know that the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) has a definition for self-care? According to the W.H.O., self-care is “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”  It includes but is not limited to anything related to physical health, hygiene, nutrition, lifestyle, and leisure.
In the recent years, self-care has become more mainstream. The definitions now apply to the general public and focus on improving our health, mood, as well as reducing stress and anxiety. The Self-Care Sunday which is now so popular on social media motivates people to take time on Sunday to do something special, like taking a bubble bath, using a face mask, reading a book, or doing nails.
Basically, self-care is an activity that we do intentionally to take care of our physical, and mental health.
Whether you participate in Self-Care Sunday or not, you need to be regular and intentional about your self-care routine. You must actively plan self-care activities. We recommend sharing them with our Migraine Strong Facebook community to motivate yourself and others.
For those of us with migraine disease, self-care is especially important. According to Elizabeth Seng, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University, incorporating self-care practice into your regular schedule can reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.
Here are 5 ways we can incorporate self-care into our daily routine:
Movement improves our overall health, helps us sleep better, and is one of the slices of the Migraine Strong treatment pie. Sometimes exercise can trigger migraine. Usually, people with migraine find these forms of exercise tolerable – cycling, swimming, yoga, ballet, light weight lifting, and outdoor walks.
Here are some ideas how you can incorporate movement into your self-care routine:
- Go on a walk while listening to music or audio book.
- Go for a walk on a nature trail.
- Do yoga when everyone goes to sleep.
- Take a swim in the pool.
2. Practice Gratitude
The benefits of practicing gratitude are almost too many to count. Practicing gratitude can have long lasting effects on our emotional, physical and social well being.
Here are some ideas about how you can incorporate meditation and gratitude into your self-care routine:
- Practice gratitude meditation – Gratitude meditation is the practice of reflecting on the things in our lives we’re grateful for.  Actually, one of my favorite guided meditations on the Calm app is about practicing gratitude.
- Write in your gratitude journal – with regular practice of writing in a gratitude journal we begin to focus on things or people that we feel grateful for. Studies show that our brains will change and start to approach life with more positive feelings.
3. Spend Time In Nature
Spending time in nature has been proven to increase our sense of well-being, decrease stress, anxiety and depression. A study published in 2019 concluded that spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing.  Of note, it does not have to be a two-hour slot. It can be accumulated in 30 minute increments during the week. This is a great news for those of us suffering with migraine when there are days we may need to spend indoors in the dark.
Here are some self-care activities involving nature:
- Tend to a butterfly garden.
- Take a walk in the park.
- Bird watching.
- Walk on the beach in the evening.
- Forest bathing – walking aimlessly and slowly in nature while connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.
4. Eat a Nutritious and Healthy Diet
A healthy diet offers many health benefits, reduces a risk of chronic diseases and keeps a body healthy. For a person who is already chronically ill, however, the relationship with food and diet is a bit more complicated. Many of us with chronic migraine cannot skip meals because it can trigger a migraine attack. It is not enough to just eat “healthy”, we need to find a way to incorporate diet into our lives that will not conflict with our migraine disease.
For those of us with chronic migraine, migraine oriented elimination diet, like Heal Your Headache, (limited in scope and time) can be helpful in allowing the brain to calm from its hyper-responsive state. A Ketogenic diet can also be very helpful. Join our Migraine Strong Facebook Group to find others like yourself embarking on a migraine diet journey.
5. Get Quality Sleep
Adults usually need 7-8 hours of sleep each night. However, people living with migraine are up to eight times more likely to have sleep problems than the general population. Too much sleep or not enough sleep can trigger migraine attacks or symptoms.
Create a nighttime self-care routine that helps you relax before bedtime.
- Take an Epsom Salts bath or soak your feet in magnesium chloride flakes. Magnesium helps with migraine symptoms including dizziness. If you do the foot soak, throw some flakes into a foot spa and soak your feet for about an hour.
- Listen to an audiobook or read a book. While reading, it is a good idea to use blue light blocking glasses like Migraine Shields (20% off code: MIGRAINESTRONG) or a Kindle Paperwhite. If you have difficulty with reading, here are some tips to enjoy reading with chronic migraine.
- Take a warm shower or a bath to relax. If you are a momma and you have an option to have someone watch the kids, do not rush so you can shower in peace.
- Develop a nighttime skin-care routine – if you already have a skin-care routine, turn it into a self-care ritual. If you don’t have one, this is a great time to develop it. Your skincare routine should be something you enjoy that will make you feel your best. How do you start one when there are so many products on the market? I turned to my trusted source, DabbleCo, led by Claire O’Brien, NP who helps people navigate health, beauty and wellness. She helped me select medical grade products for my face from The Skin Clique, a company she co-founded. I am so excited to have a new self-care routine that will also benefit my skin.
If you have difficulties sleeping, here are additional tips to get quality sleep to improve migraine.
Take Self-Care Of Yourself
Now that it’s clear self-care is more than just a bubble bath and a massage (although those are always encouraged), its important to incorporate it into our daily routine and not just on Self-Care Sunday. I hope you are now motivated to add more ways to be good to yourself. Because self-care for those of us with migraine is essential to managing our disease.
Also remember that self-care can also be something you stop doing, like using screens before bed. Yes, that is easier said than done, but turning off your screens at least an hour before bed improves sleep. Also, taking a break from the news, especially during the pandemic is absolutely self-care. And those of us who are moms need to be reminded to take care of ourselves first so that we are well enough to take care of our families.
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