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Self Care: Sickness behavior and learning when to give in

There’s quite a learning curve in figuring out if you’re in a place where you need to push yourself when you have a chronic illness vs allowing yourself to recoup and give into being sick in order to get well again. There may be a battle going on between what your body wants to do vs what you’re brain wants you to do. This inner conflict alone can be exhausting. So what can you do to figure out what’s works best for you in this struggle?

Understanding what sickness behavior is helps. It is described as “a coordinated set of adaptive behavioral changes that develop in ill individuals during the course of an infection.”Sickness behavior affects the lifestyle of an individual by bringing about changes like excessive sleep, fatigue, and sometimes insomnia, loss of energy, anxiety, depression, aches and digestive problems”image. This occurrence happens as a way for your body to restore and recover itself back to its best functioning after a stressor. This commonly occurs during infections, cancer or autoimmune diseases.

So now that I know what it is what to do about it? Learning when to give into the sickness behavior in order to let your body restore is a concept that may take sometime to get accustomed to. You may want to push through and do something but your nervous system will not allow it. Similar to when you’ve experienced the flu getting out of bed may physically feel like an impossible task and not just an emotional hurdle.

How to manage:
Prioritizing your tasks- Would today be a good day to ____? Is it something that can be rescheduled? Is it going take more energy because it’s physical mental strain or both? Still commit yourself to doing as much as you can in terms of self care but taking on new or more strenuous activities on this day may further stress the body. Taking a walk would be okay but it’s not a good day to run a marathon.

Communicate- letting your loved ones know that you’re wiped out goes a long way. They may have concerns anyway and wondering why you’re so out of energy, withdrawn, edgy or cranky.

Be on your body’s team- dehydration makes us feel crummy when you’re at your best. You’ll feel it more if the body is forced to work even that much harder when it’s stressed. Make sure your intaking enough fluids.

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