Style Tips for the Chronically Ill

I want to share some practical style tips for looking good, even when you feel less than your best. Being sick can be difficult and exhausting. For most people, illness means messy hair, ratty sweatpants, and an overall feeling of yuckiness. After all, when we feel terrible, it’s tough to even consider putting our limited energy into showering or getting dressed in “real clothes.”

But in my journey with chronic illness, I’ve found that my self-esteem takes a dip when I look the way I feel. There is not a day that goes by that I feel 100%. Sometimes I daydream about what I would do if I had 24 hours of feeling “normal” again. But I don’t want to look as pale, bone-tired and discouraged as I feel. So I made the decision to change my routine and put some effort into my appearance again. Yes, there are some days I spend in my pajamas, but that’s not typical for me anymore. I almost always shower, fix my hair, and put together an outfit. I don’t do it to impress anyone or to live up to a particular beauty standard; I do it because it helps me feel more human. When I like the way I look, it’s easier for me to engage in the day and feel motivated to do the best I can with what I’ve been given.

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Style Tips for the Chronically Ill

  • Choose functional clothing. You can look and feel good while still considering your needs. Embrace your personal style and get creative! For example, if you are overly sensitive to certain textures or fabrics, don’t buy them. You’ll look and feel much better in clothing that makes your life better, not more complicated. I wear pants with loose, elastic waist bands most of the time because jeans are not comfortable for me. I’ve taken the time to find fun, printed pants for myself, similar to theseIMG_20150114_150605
  • Wear layers. Symptoms aren’t always predictable, and neither is the weather. I suggest being prepared by incorporating the use of layers into your wardrobe. I often wear a fleece jacket, cardigan, or loose sweater over a tank top or blouse because my body doesn’t regulate temperature very well. Sometimes I even wear long johns under my pants! Since I can go from sweating to freezing in a matter of minutes, I keep that in mind when I choose my clothing. I tend to wear solid colored outer layers that I can easily mix and match them with my tops, which allows me to have more outfit combinations to choose from.
  • Wear clothing that doesn’t wrinkle easily. Let’s be honest, ironing is a time-consuming chore and it requires a good deal of energy. Those of us with chronic illness have to carefully plan what we do, and eliminating certain chores makes life easier. When you’re looking for new clothing, look at the tag that outlines how to care for the item. If it requires dry cleaning, regular ironing, or special washing, consider putting it back on the rack. If you fall in love with the item, invest in a clothing steamer, or at least some Downy Wrinkle Releaser Spray. In my opinion, a clothing steamer makes it easier to target and eliminate clothing wrinkles instead of ironing the entire item. And Downy Wrinkle Releaser Spray gets out set-in wrinkles like a charm! IMG_20150201_162752
  • Liven things up with accessories. When I want to add something special to an outfit, I put on a scarf, nail polish, statement jewelry, or some other touch of color. I instantly feel a bit happier when I do it. I promise that the little bit of extra effort goes a long way in feeling brighter and more put-together. Also think about adding some bright colors to your surroundings, especially if you spend a lot of time at home.

Living with chronic illness is difficult; there’s no sugar-coating it. But taking some time each day to focus on yourself helps you feel a bit better and more in-control of your day. And I think that makes a big difference!

(To read about 10 Must-Haves for Living with Chronic Illness, click here.)

Changing My Routine

This week I read a newsletter written for women with chronic illness, and I was inspired to try a different approach to my mornings. I put more effort into my routine by showering, moisturizing, fixing my hair, putting on a bit of makeup, and wearing a cute (and comfy) outfit. I took things more slowly than I did when I was healthy, and I made a few changes to my old routine, but I did it. Those of you who live with illness know that being able to get ready and look “normal” is an accomplishment in itself. I dealt with physical pain most of the day, and my symptoms remained the same, but I felt good about myself. And I felt confident about my appearance for the first time in too long.

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We know that illness affects the body, but we don’t always consider how chronic illness changes the way we see our bodies. There have been dozens of times I’ve thought to myself, “I am fighting against this body” or “I wish my body would cooperate today.” In the process, I’ve seen it as something that I battle. It’s been challenging to love the very thing I am fighting against. I’ve decided that I need to change my point of view. I started by following a morning routine in which I care for my body. It’s helped me change my perception of what I’ll look like while living with this illness. I know that I won’t be able to blow dry my hair or shower on my really bad days, but I am learning to do what I can to help myself feel better about the body I am in.

You see, I can’t change my illness. I can manage it, accommodate it, and be grateful for good days, but none of that will make it disappear. It’s taken me months to accept that my life will not be what I’d expected. That doesn’t mean that my life is less worthwhile, but it changes how I think about my future. Accepting a new way of life means that I have to be more intentional about caring for my body because it’s not as resilient as it was before. I will need to use my transport chair sometimes, and I may be judged for looking “normal” while riding in it. I may get stares from strangers who don’t understand that I need a lot of help, even though I don’t look terrible that day. And that sucks. However, I refuse to feel bad about how I look in order to cater to the misconception that illness is always visible. I will not let ignorant people determine the way I live my life, and I won’t hate my body because it doesn’t function the way I’d like. Instead, I’ll do the best I can to enjoy the life I’ve been given.

Today I am reminding myself that life can be beautiful when it’s not perfect, and I am challenging myself to treat my body well every day.

If you’re looking for more inspiration on this topic, I recommend checking out Lottie Ryan’s newsletter.