If you live with vitiligo, you’re likely familiar with the emotional journey that a mostly uncontrollable and ever-changing condition can bring. I have been living with vitiligo for the past 25 years and have seen my physical appearance change rapidly in recent years. As my vitiligo has spread, it has proven critical to keep my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health in check. In reflecting on the things that keep me balanced and fulfilled, I’ve developed a self-care routine that allows me to navigate the challenges – and triumphs – of life with vitiligo.
Here are seven tips on how I practice self-care every day:
Identifying things to be grateful for always puts me in a better mood and happier emotional space. Some days I write a few sentences in a gratitude journal. Other times I simply take a moment to acknowledge all the good things and people in my life. These two simple activities tend to positively change my whole outlook for the day. Scientific evidence supports the belief that practicing gratitude improves psychological well-being, helps relieve stress, facilitates feelings of calm during difficult moments, improves sleep, supports a healthier self-esteem and promotes a more positive outlook on life. So, let’s grab those gratitude journals and start jotting down the things for which we are grateful.
When my therapist first mentioned mindfulness, I was not thrilled about completing ‘homework.’ However, as she began to practice mindfulness exercises with me during our sessions, I realized that the practice can be very simple. The exercise allowed me to slow my mind and bask in the present moment. I noticed that my anxiety decreased, feelings of calm and relaxation manifested, and I was able to immerse myself in feelings of gratitude. In short, I immediately felt better than before we did the exercise. Check out www.mindful.org for an introduction to mindfulness and simple exercises that you can complete in a few minutes each day.
Move your body
Exercise is good for our bodies, but it’s also good for mental health. Regular exercise promotes an overall sense of wellness because it relieves stress, increases energy levels and boosts spirits. Regular exercise has been shown to have positive effects on anxiety, depression, ADHD and other common mental health challenges. Endorphins produced by the brain during exercise are associated with feelings of well-being, happiness, calmness and relaxation. Whether you enjoy walking, dancing, jumping rope, yoga, running, cycling, hiking, swimming or many other sports, make it a priority to get your body moving. If you choose to exercise in the sun, remember to wear sunscreen and clothing that protects your vitiligo.
Thanks to social media and digital communication, staying connected is easier and more convenient than ever. Reach out to your inner circle and those in your support system via a phone call, text message, e-mail, video chat or many of the social media sites like Facebook or Instagram. You may even want to reach out to old friends that you have not connected with in a while. The current time may seem uncertain and cause feelings of loneliness – thanks to technology we do not have to feel alone.
Revisit old activities and hobbies
Sometimes when my life seems boring or unfulfilling, I encourage myself to think back on the activities I used to do when I was at my happiest moments in my life. For me these activities included photography, writing, reading, exploring music and going fishing. When I take the time to start doing these activities again, I get the same gratification and happiness that I did years ago. Put those thinking caps on and get back to doing things that used to bring you joy.
Explore an activity that you have always wanted to try
Throughout my life there have been activities that I had always wanted to try. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I never quite got around to trying most of these new things. In 2020 I have been very intentional about experiencing new activities and developing new hobbies. Already this year I have tried a few activities that have been on ‘my list’ for years. These include going skiing for the first time and trying my hand at shadow box art. I have found a new hobby in creating art with shadow boxes, but I did not prove to be very good at skiing. The point is, challenge yourself to try something you have always been interested in. You may find a new lifelong passion.
Love yourself unconditionally
Self-love is one of those topics that baffled me for years. It was hard to think about and even harder to put into practice. Living with vitiligo made self-love almost impossible at times for me to even think about. As my physical appearance changed from week-to-week and year-to-year, I struggled with depression, fear, anxiety, hopelessness – the list goes on and on. Along my vitiligo journey, I have learned that love is not earned, love just is. I encourage you to do one thing to love yourself today. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are worthy. Eat a healthy meal because your body is worthy of it. Each exercise is a step towards self-love, even before your feelings catch up.
Brandi Jackson is a health care professional, writer, and visual storyteller. She is based in North Carolina and has lived with vitiligo for 25 years. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family, playing with her puppies and working as a freelance photographer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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