Each month lately, I have been posting an easy to achieve (but still important) self-care challenge for my readers. And for myself, really; these are all issues that I need to be working on for my own well-being. Self-care is an essential component of any patient’s treatment process and should be an essential component of life in general, whether or not you are going through physical or emotional hardships outside of the ordinary.
As classic citizens of the modern world, we all will typically ignore our own needs at some point. Even the most greedy, narcissistic, self-involved among us will sometimes fail on the basics of self-care (and sometimes directly because of those very traits). But I’m not talking to that particular demographic right now, because my readers are certainly among the more enlightened, caring, and genuine people out there. Look, I’ve said it, you’re darn awesome. But that does not mean you don’t have room to improve yourselves or the lives you lead.
One way you can do that is by making time to laugh.
Find the humor
It might seem like an inconsequential thing, but laughter is powerful. I’ve tried to write about my cancer experience in a humorous way a few times because, frankly, few things are as absurd as living with metastatic adenocarcinoma. I try to face my condition with a modicum of self-effacing humor whenever I can. I have also written about the process of learning how to laugh and the positive effects that a smile can have. Because I really do believe that these things make a difference.
But as much as I believe these things and evangelize for them, making the time or finding the inclination to actually do them is another issue entirely. Even though there are good tools out there to help organize every aspect of our lives, like the Health Storylines app I use to keep track of these challenges along with other aspects of my care, we will only ever get so far without making a conscious, concerted effort.
Right now, for example, the sides of my head are crusted with scabs and feel extremely itchy. Every time I touch my hair, however, it makes each short, wiry strand poke into my scalp like a needle. And even if I don’t touch anything on my head, any expression I make causes my skin to pull; any chill I feel tightens my scalp; if I wince or talk or chew, I’m stretching the skin on my head just enough to make the itching worse or the scabs more painful. In short, my head hurts and there is nothing I can do to make it better that does not also hurt more. So I am not feeling particularly funny. And while, yes, I know that smiling or laughing is likely to cause just as much pain, being amused (or amusing) will also offer a substantial distraction from the discomfort.
But I have to choose to find or create this sort of distraction. I have to choose to find the laughter or the humor and commit to the time to enjoy it. It is far easier to focus on the things making me uncomfortable, but that is an exceedingly unpleasant place to dwell.
Take a moment, right now, to decide what activity you will commit to that will facilitate laughter. It could be reading a funny book, going to a funny movie, attending open-mic night at the local coffeehouse, or watching a sitcom with your significant other. That’s just to warm things up. Then…
Learn a new joke. This is an important challenge and much more difficult than it sounds. It is worthwhile, though, because a good joke — just one — can get you a lot of mileage. I know this one about a piece of string that kept me going for years, but I’m ready now to add another to my repertoire.
Find the humor around you. I think that beauty and humor are two of the most important things to look for in your darkest hours. But even when life is otherwise fine, it is still important to keep your eyes up and open.
And that’s it. Plain and simple.
Now go and enjoy that laugh.
If you have suggestions or recommendations about how you find humor in the face of adversity, I’d love it if you would share in the comments section below. If you have a tool like the Health Storylines app to monitor responses to side-effects and keep track of reactions — something that is good to look back on as a reminder that it all ebbs and flows with some sense of order — I would love to hear how you make effective use of it. I look forward to hearing which techniques are most effective for your individual circumstance and the different approaches from those who rely on group support versus those who do it alone. We all have our moments, after all, when this is a challenge we have to face.
I realize that I mention Health Storylines a lot in these challenges. I got to know the company during their rollout of the lung cancer version of their app. These self-care challenges were initially their idea and are part of a large patient-oriented project across many chronic conditions. Click here to see all of the Self-Care Ambassadors participating in these challenges. It is a pretty interesting collection of folks.
In case you missed them, here are my previous Self-Care Challenges:
And, of course, the post that set the stage for these challenges: