Throughout my career as a nutrition therapist I’ve watched many women fight hard against losing themselves to the various pieces of their lives; work, family, friends, social, volunteerism, church, etc.

I really wish I had a magic self-care wand.

My wand would not be pink or sparkly and definitely wouldn’t have a star adorning it, anywhere.

My magic self-care wand would be a fierce mix of red and purple and black, and spray tiny droplets of liquid inspiration and permission; a potent combination guaranteed to render the recipient capable of appreciating and valuing themselves.

Who’s eligible to earn a spritz from my magic self-care wand?

Anyone struggling to add self-care to their list of “Non-Negotiable Things to Do For Me.”

You DO have that list, right?

I didn’t think so.

Ok, you’re eligible; get in line.

But fair warning. It’s a ridiculously long line.

Is Your Self-Care Missing?

I was in a recent online conversation about nutrition with another breast cancer survivor when the topic of self-care came up. We discussed making nutrition choices that support health, she talked about how hard it was for her to make those choices consistently.

Since that’s a common struggle, I wasn’t surprised.

But I wanted to know more (there’s always more.)

I asked her, “What gets in the way?”

Her reply stopped my heart.

“Learning or understanding how to make practicing self-love and self-care an automatic thing.”

And I wanted to give her the biggest, tightest, longest hug.

But it was a virtual discussion, so I couldn’t.

Instead, I decided to write a bit about self-care and breast cancer, just to get you thinking about where you are on that path.

How Nutrition and Self-Care Intersect

Throughout my career as a nutrition therapist I’ve watched many women fight hard against losing themselves to the various pieces of their lives; work, family, friends, social, volunteerism, church, etc.

Although self-care may not seem like a topic that fits neatly into a nutrition session, I can assure you it’s often one of the first things to come up.

A few examples:

  • emotional eating
  • avoiding physical activity
  • on again/off again yo-yo dieting
  • self-sabotage through food and exercise abuse
  • resistance to building or maintaining the foundation of a nourishing diet

In time I was able to readily spot the (lack of) self-care connection in each of these, but my clients often needed a ginormous spotlight to illuminate how these destructive patterns and behaviors fit into the self-care piece, and that’s where our work together would begin.

To give you some idea, I invite you to consider the following:

With so many things demanding your attention, shifting your needs to the bottom of the list (if they make the list at all) can feel like a simple way to manage overload.

Removing things you “should” do, or deciding you don’t have time for the things you “want” to do – exercise, cook in vs. dine out, get enough sleep, water and fresh air, hell, even just read a book – makes that list more manageable.

And it can be an easy existence to get used to.

Self-care requires planning, deliberate action and commitment; practices that require EFFORT.

And let’s be honest (here comes my tough love for you), sometimes you just don’t feel like making the effort, so is it possible that claiming “I don’t have time!” gives you legitimate permission to skip taking care of yourself?

Maybe. Maybe not. That’s not criticism – that’s a thought provoker.

But then, you got breast cancer.

Self-Care for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer recovery outcomes and self-care go hand in hand, with some research suggesting self-care is critical for lymphedema management and risk reduction. (1)

A breast cancer diagnosis and treatment forces you to focus on yourself, and I invite you to do so with patience, grace and kindness.

Self-care is all about being kind to yourself, appreciating and valuing yourself for even the smallest of things; things you may think don’t matter, like your empathy for others, your ability to be a good friend, your killer chocolate chip cookies.

Maybe it’s taken this diagnosis to move you toward practicing a little self-care, almost as if you were spritzed with my magic self-care wand.

Or maybe, not. It’s your choice, and please know that one isn’t better than the other.  

What Acts of Self-Care Are NOT

When you care about, respect and value yourself, you naturally adopt habits and behaviors that keep you emotionally and physically healthy.

In fact, as a way to set boundaries, you may have a long list of things you DON’T or WON’T do, such as. . .

  • Smoking
  • Sacrificing sleep
  • Starving yourself
  • Numbing out with food
  • Excess (or any) drinking
  • Making fast-food a habit
  • Forgoing your fitness routine
  • Watching endless hours of television
  • Try to change situations or other people
  • Punishing yourself with a brutal fitness routine

What Acts of Self-Care ARE

Practices that ground, elevate or center you truly feel good; that’s how you know you’re doing something supportive for yourself. But remember, what feels like self-care to you may feel exactly the opposite to someone else, so I’ve listed a few ideas to get you thinking, then you can add in your own and create your daily, unique-to-you self-care routine.

  • Journaling
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Mindfullness
  • Aromatherapy
  • Being in nature
  • Moving your body
  • Listening to music
  • Sleeping (enough)
  • Washing your car
  • Stress management
  • Unplugging from tech
  • Reading inspirational books
  • Decluttering your desk, refrigerator, kitchen cabinets
How do you engage in self-care? Share your favorite self-care ideas in the comments below.

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  1. Making Self-Care a Priority for Women At Risk of Breast Cancer-Related Lymphedema