This post was updated on April 5th, 2020
Scientists and medical professionals have perfectly paved the pathway to overcoming PCOS, but there’s one essential idea that only people who have taken the journey can tell you. While it’s easy to point at the yellow brick road of lifestyle interventions for PCOS and say “there it is, now get going”, if you don’t know how to take care of yourself, then even the tin man, the lion, and the scare-crow can’t help you walk the path.
This article is about self-care and how important it is that you pack this in your knap-sack if you’re setting out for Oz.
The path to overcoming PCOS
While many general practitioners and family doctors can be anywhere from vague to completely ignorant of the pathway to overcoming PCOS using natural therapies, if you consult the medical literature, the directions are as clear as google maps with street-view:
Nutrition, exercise, and stress management are the three proven lifestyle interventions that reduce, or even eliminate the adverse symptoms of PCOS. Indeed, the pathway to overcoming PCOS is bright and clear, but that’s not to say it’s an easy stroll…. Especially if you’re the sort of person who is more accustomed to putting other people first.
Why overcoming PCOS is so difficult
While the upside of using a natural approach to overcome PCOS is obvious, the problem with using lifestyle interventions to free ourselves from the grasps of our hormonal snare, is that they are time consuming, and they are slow acting.
Whether you’re a student or a parent; you have a busy vocation, or both; then chances are you’ll find it challenging to implement the recommended lifestyle interventions for PCOS. Preparing healthy meals, exercising regularly, learning to cope with stress and anxiety, and getting enough sleep all gobble-up time that could be spent studying, making more money, taking better care of your kids and husband, or getting the household in order.
As a type-A over-achiever, taking care of myself has always fallen to the bottom of my priority list, and that’s where it stayed for most of my life until I learnt the importance of self-care and committed to overcoming PCOS so that my husband and I could start a family.
What is self-care?
I know this might sound stupid, but for people like me, the idea of taking care of yourself is something we need to learn – it doesn’t always come naturally for many of us. Self-care to me, is the actionable aspect of self-compassion which I have written about previously with respect to infertility and as a solution to low self-esteem.
Self-care is the act of doing things for yourself that foster greater health, both mentally and physically. This can range from as small an act as taking a 2 minute break to stretch your neck and limbs, to as elaborate as going on a week-long yoga retreat. If it involves doing something that makes you feel “good” in anyway, then I call that act self-care.
Why is self-care so important for PCOS?
While self-care is important for absolutely everybody, if you’re a woman suffering from the adverse effects of PCOS and you want to get better, then self-care is absolutely ESSENTIAL.
If you don’t take time out for self-care, then you can’t successfully implement the lifestyle interventions that overcome PCOS. Simple as that.
Self-care gives you the permission and the resources you need to improve your diet, sustain regular exercise, and most importantly for many; help you combat the elevated levels of stress that are part of a PCOS diagnosis.
To help you come up with self-care strategies that personally work for you I have listed below examples of my self-care activities to get your ideas rolling. My self-care activities include:
- Eating 3 healthy meals a day
- Continuing to learn more about health and nutrition
- Taking my supplements religiously
- Getting 8 hours
- Doing SOME form of exercise each day, even if it’s only a quick walk through my local Ecovillage
- Going surfing or doing Pilates with my friends
- Taking a long hot bath with some candles and a book
- Playing guitar
- Daily mindfulness meditation, even if it’s only for a few minutes
- Making the conscious decision to stop and relax when I feel my stress levels rising
- Deferring difficult conversations or problem solving in the moments when my anxiety is getting the better of me
- Watching a trashy TV show once in a while 🙂
This is not an exhaustive list, and I’m sure everyone could (and should) have a plethora of ways in which they actively choose to take care of themselves. Maybe you could even put “reading Kym’s blogs” on your self-care to do list if you find it enjoyable and beneficial? 🙂
What self-care isn’t
The only thing you need to know about what self-care isn’t is that it ISN’T selfish. In fact, feeling selfish for spending time or money doing things that heal us is the biggest barrier to healing.
While it might be completely natural or normal to feel guilty for putting yourself first, I can’t emphasis enough how WRONG that belief is!
This would be a foolish thing to say to someone who is truly selfish, but I have never come across someone like that amongst the thousands of women with PCOS I interact with daily! So without knowing you personally, I am still extremely confident in guessing that there is no way you are a selfish being, and you should in fact feel GOOD for LEARNING to take better care of yourself!
You can best give to others by giving to yourself first.
I’m sure this sounds cliché, but if you truly want to help others, then starting with yourself is the best thing you can do. Great generosity and compassion for others, is the natural by-product of feeling good ourselves, and no amount of giving is sustainable if we don’t nourish our own souls as well.
The most generous and amazing people in the world, are also the ones who know how to look after themselves – just look at the Dalai Lama if you’re still not convinced.
So give yourself the care you both need and deserve and I’m certain that you and those around you will appreciate the fantastic return on investment.
Wishing you all the best as always,
Kym Campbell is a Health Coach and PCOS expert with a strong passion for using evidence-based lifestyle interventions to manage this disorder. Kym combines rigorous scientific analysis with the advice from leading clinicians to disseminate the most helpful PCOS patient-centric information you can find online. You can read more about Kym and her team here.