Low Nickel Self Care

Ocean water waves coming into shore with slightly stormy sky at Encinitas beach in California.
Ocean water waves coming into the shore in the evening with a slightly stormy sky at Encinitas beach in California.
Self care involves all the time and investments we make to ourselves that contribute to our overall well being. When we live with eczema and severe nickel allergies our self care practice includes the various steps we take to listen to our bodies and to live low nickel.

How do you define and engage in self care? For me, self care involves specific daily actions I deliberately do to both take care of my own needs and my overall health and well being. 

Before learning how to survive during a global pandemic, I believed self care was something I planned a couple times a month when I had free time or was experiencing extreme stress. That’s when I would schedule acupuncture, a nice massage, or a vacation getaway. Sometimes I considered it to be selfish to take time for myself and prioritize my own needs. 

These past two years have made me acutely aware of these two critical aspects about self care.

  • First, self care is an act of self-love and therefore it is not selfish, and 
  • Second, self care involves all the actions and investments to myself that make a huge difference where I prioritize my own needs to take care of my whole person.  
Christy hiking in the Wasatch Front in the fall.

I still enjoy the indulgences of haircuts, acupuncture, massages, and vacations. All of these things are therapeutic in different ways. My self care practice also involves all the little things and hobbies that bring me joy. I love to hike, bike, sing off key, play board games, and watch horror films year round. I love to snuggle with my cats and spending more time reading in bed. There are times I get so focused on the daily rhythms and routines of life that I forget how important taking the time to do these things that make me happy.

Self care also includes when I mindfully check in with my body, emotions, and thoughts to understand how I’m really feeling or what my body is trying to tell me. The last thing I want to do is ignore or disregard my itchy skin or body aches. My body skillfully finds different ways to communicate with me. When living with atopic dermatitis and nickel allergies I am constantly reminded to pay attention. Over time I learned to resist and ignore my own needs. I still do not exactly know why it’s become easier for me to make commitments to others before myself. Despite the time and energy required, taking the time to listen to my own body to identify what’s going on internally and what my own needs are is self care.

The last couple of years have been really tough and to be honest I am still tired. 

At the beginning of the pandemic in the Spring-Summer of 2020, I did not have a self care practice and experienced the extreme consequences of compassion fatigue. I started working from home and I could no longer visit the gym to work out my anger and frustration. My work schedule changed to where I was required to work longer hours and weekends. I was really scared about getting COVID-19 – I still am. Feeling stressed and anxious adversely impacted my sleep and diet. The culmination of all these effects took a toll on my physical and emotional health. I felt so overwhelmed that I stopped engaging in things that made me happy, like reading, painting, and relishing in the unproductive moments of adventure. My lack of control made me yearn for it more. I knew I needed to engage in self care, but really didn’t know where to begin. So many aspects of my life felt unmanageable. I was burned out and needed to recover.

Looking back on that time, I see how not taking care of my own needs, devoting so much time to unfulfilling work, and the major disruptions in my life impacted me negatively. For a while I was in recuperation mode. 

After gaining self awareness, I had to redefine what self care actually meant for me and my life. My previously understood tools of self care no longer felt safe, such as going swimming at my indoor gym, getting haircuts, traveling, and getting acupuncture or a massage. What could I still do to take care of my physical and emotional needs while balancing my need to stay safe?

I started small. Caring for my basic needs became the priority. Reestablishing my routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time was the first step. Next I started to set alarms to remind myself to take breaks, spend time outside in the sunshine, and exercise. Again, I had to train myself to intentionally learn how to listen to my body.

Public mural on a garage door in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah depicting seven young ballerinas and one robot rehearsing in a dance studio.

It took me about 6-9 months to learn how to adapt to the new circumstances of life and accept my limitations. About that same time my regular work duties resumed, as did my routine. I rearranged my home office furniture so it was more open, comfortable, and inviting. Slowly I felt I could breathe again and I started bringing back activities that bring me immense joy. Lastly, I had to kindly remind myself that I live with chronic eczema and a systemic nickel allergy that requires constant attention and care.

All the actions I proactively and deliberately take to live low nickel by managing both my eczema and nickel allergy are also self care actions. Diligently striving to learn and eat a low nickel diet is a huge burden and an ongoing act of self care. Cooking from scratch by using nickel free cookware are actions of self care. Engaging in a skin care routine to manage my eczema in a specific way using fragrant free cosmetics and cosmetics that do not contain ingredients higher in nickel is the type of self care my skin demands. Being true to myself by communicating my eczema and nickel allergy needs and asking my spouse, family members, friends, and my employer to help me live low nickel are significant conversations that take courage and examples of self care. 

Boundaries are one of the foundations for self care for me. Reflecting on my values and how I spend my time and energy is huge. As an overachiever, (something I’m still working on) not over planning but actually simplifying my schedule by mindfully slowing down has been essential to my health. As is continuing to re-evaluate my own expectations I place on myself that do not serve me, but actually cause me significant undue stress I don’t need to experience.

Admittedly I am human, so I am not perfect at self care. Self care does not need to include a rigid schedule of additional burdens added to your to-do list. It should not be self-defeating. I thrive when my days vary and that means my daily self care practices also vary widely. 

That’s one of my favorite aspects of self care – you choose what you need to do to fulfill your own needs and how you spend your time. It can be something small like seeking 5 minutes of silence, or maybe a formal meditation practice, or paying someone to complete a task that you’re avoiding. It might also be rewarding ourselves by adding the $50.00 we would have spent on weeknight take-out to our vacation savings account, because in the end we chose to cook and eat low nickel at home instead.

Maintaining our physical health and mental health is vital, and even more so when living with chronic conditions.

How are you doing? What do you actively do to maintain your own self care practice? I’d love to learn more. Share your own tips and experience by leaving a comment below.

  1. Hi, Christy
    thank you for reminding us to care for ourselves and slow down. You are so right with your article, I agree whole hearted. Lots of times I was depressed and sad and didn’t feel like doing my favorite things to make myself feel better. I love to read, sew and quilt, bake a lot and take my dog for a walk. Can’t wait for spring to work in the garden/yard. Love your website, thank you, Heidi

    1. Hi Heidi,
      Thanks for your comment and appreciation for my website. It’s great to hear about all the things you love, especially taking your dog for a walk! I too love to read, bake, garden, and sew. It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of life and forget to do the things that bring us such joy.
      Warm regards,

  2. Well written Christy 🙂
    These days I am busier than ever, but still I try to keep all the work here in the lab, my home is a place that I can refresh my mind and recharge… No work there…. hehe
    Being stressed because of workload and freezing weather made my nickel allergy worse during past month… So, my important self care these days is to avoid eating out. hehe Saying no to all those who invite me to have a meal together is not easy, many do not understand why even after I explain. However, that’s the life I’m living…
    But with all these, I am happy.
    Hope everyone is spending happy days

    1. Hi Pegah,
      Thank you and thanks for your comment! That’s wonderful you’re doing so well, happy, and being busy with the space to relax after work. Sorry to hear that stress and weather has negatively impacted your eczema. I totally relate, both stress and extreme hot and cold also aggravate my eczema. Also I understand not dining out or going to events. It sometimes is easier to accept our allergy than explain. When I have chosen to participate I tend to bring my own food that I can eat and enjoy in the company of others.
      Warm regards,

      1. That’s such a good idea to have my own foods in the gatherings… I will try to do it next time…
        Dear Christy, I am wondering how do you and others deal with the depression that sometimes may come with the pressure of this low nickel life… I think that is normal for all the people who are diagnosed with a disease that have to deal with rest of their life to feel depressed when they think that they lost their health. My being happy is an everyday challenge for me. I’m really doing my best to be happy and don’t let this eczema takes away it from me…, It’s not like I accepted my allergy once and that’s all. I am talking to myself everyday about it and comforting myself, trying to grab small things that can make me happy, to be happy.
        You have been dealing with it for many years, do you still feel depressed because of it or not? I am really curious how many years I should wait until I become friend with it…

        1. Hi Pagah,
          Thanks for your comment. I agree with you and that it can be especially challenging physically and mentally to live with severe nickel allergies and eczema, as both are chronic health conditions. I understand trying to do your best and still struggling. There are times I still deal with depression related to my nickel allergy, eczema, or inability to control either despite my best efforts. At the end of the day we’re human and in those moments I try to be self-compassionate and to treat myself with kindness.
          Warm regards,

          1. Hi Christy,
            Thank you for creating this site. Reading your posts and others replies are so comforting to know I am not alone and there are people out there just like me, who struggles with depression as soon as a flareup happens, and then trying to stay positive through the recovery but never fully getting better. Thank god for my amazing husband who has been sooooo supportive of me through my episodes, crying day and night everytime I looked at my hands or legs. I never had a nickel allergy until recently, of course I’ve had ezcema breakouts from stress here and there but never anything severe. I experianced my very first flareup in 2020, which I found out beer and wine were the culpturt. After my flareup cleared I didn’t have any problems until this year 2022 in February. I thought it might have been from some beer/wine I had, but after taking predisone to clear the flareup I kept getting bumps even after I stopped drinking beer/wine. I thought my life was over at this point, hiding in long sleaves and covering up scars from itching and bleeding. No one knew my struggle except for my husband, and he saw me at my lowest. My whole life changed once my husband came accross your site and realized I have a nickel allergy. I followed your list of foods to eat on a low nickel diet and its cleared up the bumps after a few weeks. Just last week I had salad two days in a row and low and behold I have a breakout on may hands. It gets very fustrating when this is now my new lifestyle and I have to avoid things i love. I can’t imagen you having to figure all this out before there was even any information out there what you can eat or cannot eat. Thank you again for putting this information out there for everyone. You have truely helped me!!!

  3. Thank you so much for publishing your experience and knowledge. Very helpful and well written. Truly appreciate it! One question? Could systemic nickel allergy lead to or be caused by mast cell activation disorder? I now have cervical nickel implants that cannot be removed, learned of nickel allergy after surgery, then the Dx of Mastocytosis. Thank you!

    1. Hi Diane,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ve heard of some individuals who have nickel allergies and later learn they actually have a histamine intolerance, which I think is related or a type of mast cell activation, so they work to limit foods that can release more histamines in the body – or avoid eating leftovers and wine, etc. I personally don’t know a lot about mast cell activation or solutions for how to treat it. I’d reach out to a provider familiar with mast cell activation and ask for solutions.
      Warm regards,

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