Is there anything harder than being kind to yourself? For everyone else, your encouragement, patience, empathy is available on tap, 24/7. For you? Not so much. But it’s essential, and never more so than when you are managing autoimmune disease.
Chronic illness can make your world very small, very fast. One flare and it can shrink to the size of your bed. It’s hard to manage your present – or imagine your future – when your parameters narrow so dramatically. The people counting on you – children, partners, parents, friends, colleagues – may or may not understand. You may or may not be able to bring yourself to ask for the help you need. The stress of unmet expectations and unfulfilled potential mounts, producing cortisol which triggers inflammation, accacerbating symptoms and impeding healing. Pain, brain fog, and bone-deep exhaustion that can’t be seen and defies description lead to physical and emotional isolation. Soon, you’re living inside your head, spinning stories of shame, and spinning out. It’s a deep, dark, lonely space.
At the moment you most need it, kindness towards yourself may be the hardest thing to muster. But muster we must. A concerted effort to be kind to yourself is nothing short of essential to your health and wellbeing.
The mind-body connection is real. Without self-compassion, there can be no healing, physical or emotional – and you cannot have one without the other. So put yourself first in the kindness queue. And if you find that difficult, as many of us people-pleasing-good-girls do (side note: for a nice girl wake-up call see the Taylor Swift documentary ‘Miss Americana’), remember this: you can’t pour from an empty cup. The more you look after yourself, the more you can look after others. But you need to come first.
February is Kindness Month, and in the spirit of participation, I have a challenge – and a recipe – for you. For the remainder of the month, commit one act of kindness towards yourself each and every day. To get you started, here are a few suggestions, and only the last one involves leaving your bed! If you need more, the internet is heaving with ideas: try here, here, and here.
- Use Your Best Friend’s Voice – for one entire day, speak to yourself the way your best friend would. If you catch yourself doing negative self-talk, apologise! And carry on.
- Wake Up Early – doesn’t sound kind? Starting the day with 20, 40, or even 60 minutes to do something just for you is priceless.
- Meditate – better still, try a self-compassion guided meditation by Dr Kristin Neff, courtesy of Mrs. Mindfulness.
- Change The Rules – if you’re on a healing diet but your household isn’t, consider banning risky foods from your kitchen. You have a right to be safe from exposure in your own home. Claim it. They can still eat whatever they like outside the house. Everyone’s a winner!
- Share The Load – there is nothing wrong with a little delegation, and if you’re raising future grown-ups, learning to do basic household tasks is essential. Search age appropriate chores. They’ll learn new skills and the benefits of contributing, and you’ll get a rest.
- Ask For Help – always difficult, but sometimes necessary. Here’s how. Remember: people love to help. Let them. (p.s. No one loves a martyr.)
- Tell The Truth – do the people in your life understand what’s going on behind the scenes? Shame thrives in secret. You don’t need to broadcast your struggles to the world, but sharing with key people reduces the risk of misunderstandings, and will make you feel less alone.
- Make The Kindest Recipe Of All: Chicken-Chicken Soup. Do your body and your future self a favour by stocking your freezer with jars of golden, collagen-rich Chicken-Chicken Soup.
Chicken-Chicken soup is a magical golden elixir guaranteed to nourish every part of you. It gets its name, and its double goodness, from the cooking method: first, you make a batch of chicken bone broth; next, you cook a whole chicken in the bone broth. Is it twice the work? Not quite, but it is twice as good! All chicken-cooked-in-water-soups are anaemic by comparison. Plus, you’ll have bone broth to spare, and we can use some extra bone broth. Double-down on your chicken – it’s a sure bet.
- 6 cups chicken bone broth*
- 1 whole organic chicken
- 3 carrots, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 1 large or 2 small brown onions
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp collagen peptides, per bowl
- 1 tiny squeeze lemon juice, per bowl
Put the chicken, breast side up, in a large pot and add the bone broth. If the liquid doesn't quite cover the bird, top it up with your remaining chicken bone broth reserves. Bring to a boil.
Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered. Cook gently for 40-ish minutes (I like my chicken slow-cooked and tender, but be careful: if you let it go too long it will become stringy and mealy. Yuck). Remove the chicken from the pot to a platter.
Heat the olive oil over in a large frying pan over a medium flame. Add the carrots, celery and onion, and season with salt. Gently sauté without browning, until the onion is translucent and the carrot and celery begin to soften.
Add the vegetable to the pot of broth and simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove the skin from the chicken and pull the meat apart into bite-sized strips. (I set the white meat aside to be used in salads and paleo bowls, returning only the darker meat to the pot).
Return the meat to the pot and tip in the parsley. Heat through and adjust seasoning, as required.
To serve, mix 2 tablespoons of collagen peptides into each bowl and finish with a tiny squeeze of lemon.
Chicken Bone Broth
- 4 organic chicken frames or 1 kg/2 lb organic chicken wings
- 1 carrot, cut into three pieces
- 1 celery stalk, cut into three pieces
- 1 onion, cut into four pieces
- 8 cups water
Place all ingredients in your electric pressure cooker and cook for two hours.
Strain the resulting broth, reserving 6 cups for your Chicken-Chicken soup and pouring the remainder into storage containers for future use.