Good Self Care for a Bad Day
“You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don't help.” Calvin, “Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Waterson
“Ugh,” I rolled over and grabbed my comforter closer. “I feel bad. I don't want to get out of bed. My lungs hurt. I'm tired. I'm depressed.”
“When you start each day with a grateful heart, light illuminates from within,” an inspirational poster of sunlight said smugly.
I growled at it like it would care and, because I'm a mature adult, stuck my tongue out. I thought of a new favorite quote of mine from Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews: “. . . I wanted to punch the happy day in the face, grab it by the hair, and beat it until it told me what the hell it was so happy about.”
“Yeah, not happy. I can already tell it's a bad day.” I coughed and rolled back over.
Everyone has bad days. Everyone.
With COPD my bad days can be because I'm exhausted. Or they can be because I've got bronchitis, costochondritis (inflammation of the cartilage connecting the ribs to the sternum), constant coughing, shortness of breath, allergies, and on. And I can have bad days where I'm just too overwhelmed or depressed – or cranky, if I'm being honest – to want to get up.
Despite the rumors, I don't actually like feeling cranky and horrible. I know that on bad days I need to do something to help myself feel better, give myself a little bit of joy through the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Normal things done for self care by healthy people don't usually apply to us. Take a long hot shower or bath? That's exhausting for me on a good day. Go for a walk? Hah! Yoga or work out? I like yoga when I'm feeling well, but when I'm not it's too much. Lighting scented candles? The small amount of smoke and scent can be too much after a little bit. Scents like “apple cider” and “pumpkin pie” just make me hungry anyway.
So what to do? I'm glad you asked.
Here are my tips and I hope one will help you.
1. I just rest without guilt.
When my body is really just too tired to get out of bed, I don't. If I need rest, I take it. This isn't as easy as it sounds. I like to do what I can during the day. I like to feel useful and busy. So if anything, bad days are a lesson in forced relaxation. I've learned to sleep, or stay in bed and it helps me feel better more quickly.
2. I cuddle with my cats.
Well, I try to. You know how cats can be. When it's 3:00am and you're fast asleep that's when they want to lay on your chest and wake you up to pet them. When you don't feel well and want some comfort, they usually have no idea who you are. But on those occasions they want to curl up with you and sleep in your arms and purr, it is pure bliss.
Because who doesn't like a good back rub? Appointments with a professional massage therapist are nice, but rare for me. Sometimes I can get my son or husband to rub my back or my temples and that really, really makes me feel better. The warmth, the contact, all of it is soothing.
4. I binge watch a favorite TV show or watch a favorite movie.
I actually do this when I feel good too, so I kinda feel like I'm cheating with this one. But watching good shows, especially musicals or comedies is something that always improves my mood. “Who's On First” never gets old and Danny Kaye and Carol Burnett are geniuses.
5. I do something creative.
When I'm feeling all right physically and need a good mood booster, this one never fails. I color, write, or take photos. Creating art is extremely important to keep me from turning into Ms. Cranky McCranky Pants.
6. I sit outside.
During the autumn and spring and sometimes in the summer when it's not too hot, sitting outside in the sun is as good as prescription medicine for me. I'm lucky to live in the country where it's quiet so I hear bird calls instead of car horns. Laying in my hammock is even better.
7. I learn something new.
On those days when it's a bad lung day and I need to rest, I look up something on the Internet that I don't know. I've learned a lot about history and space doing that. It keeps me interested in the world and uses my brain, which I like to exercise as regularly as possible. I hear it helps you stay young and I'm all for that.
8. I talk to someone I love.
This one seems pretty self-explanatory.
I wish all COPD patients never had bad days. I also hope you can all find your small joys when you do go through the tough times. Keep breathing.
“I’ve had the kind of bad day no quote can fix.” – Richelle E. Goodrich, “Making Wishes”
Do you have a COPD exacerbation tool kit?