Hello my Zebras and Spoonies! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. So, you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness. Now what? There are things that you can do to help find balance in your life (regardless of the diagnosis or even if you don’t have one).
While this list is going to be simple, it is important to remember that they are things that are hard to implement. Life style changes are hard and take time to master. You are more likely to be successful if you work on one area of your life at a time. Shoring up even one area will increase your well being, even if there are other areas that still need work. Remember to be patient with your self and to keep in mind that change takes time.
It’s true. The better you eat, the better you will feel. It is also one of the hardest things to change. It can be difficult to sort through the supermarket and know what is and isn’t good for you. If you aren’t sure what kinds of foods will help improve your health, consider seeing a nutritionist for guidance. Keep in mind that everyone’s food needs are a little different. Many things can effect what kinds of foods you should be eating: other diagnoses (like diabetes or heart disease), your weight, allergies, food intolerances, culture, religion and preferences.
Also, not much in the world of food is absolute. If you have a life threatening allergy, you should never eat it. Otherwise, there is usually some flexibility. Know that giving in and eating that cookie today doesn’t mean that you failed yourself. It just means that you ate a cookie. Eating well is a life style. It is a commitment to make day to day choices about your food with an awareness of your health. It is also about being healthier today then yesterday. If you start your journey with the habit of eating a whole package of cookies every day and are now eating a 1/2 package every day then you are healthier. Nope, not perfect, but better. Health is not black and white. Your food isn’t either.
FIND SOMEONE TO TALK TO
Some people benefit from formal counseling and this is often a great place to start when you are newly diagnosed. But it doesn’t have to be something formal to be of benefit. Having a trusted friend or supportive partner can be as helpful, but be sure to keep in mind that their role isn’t to be your therapist. It seems too simple to be true, but the reality is that talking does help. Now, this isn’t the superficial chit chat we usually engage in. Talking in a meaningful way can be hard. Pulling out your emotional guts and letting someone else see them can be daunting. This is why it is often easier to talk to a counselor.
Talking about your feelings and problems gives you an outlet for the stress that you are feeling. It can help you process what is going on. It can get you an outside perspective on your situation. It also can foster relationships that will lead you to more stability and emotional support. People who love you are better able to support you when they know what is going on. This social connection goes a long way towards feeling well.
Formal counseling has many forms. If you try one and it isn’t helpful, consider trying another counselor or form of counseling.
CONSIDER HERBAL OPTIONS
I’m not going to advocate that herbal remedies can solve every problem, because I think that any kind of treatment has it’s pros and cons. Additionally, even treatments with high efficacy will not work for everyone. But Herbal treatments are often over looked when considering treatment options for chronic illness. There are numerous herbal options out there. It can be increasing herbal consumption in your diet or drinking teas. Or you can get pills with herbal content. Keep in mind that these treatments are generally speaking not as researched as mainstream medications. But that doesn’t mean they won’t work for you.
Smells are linked strongly with memories and can greatly impact our mood and energy levels. This is a low risk therapy. The only risk is that the smell will trigger a negative emotion or memory. I suppose a smell can also trigger something like a migraine. Again, these possible side effects suck, but they are short term and not life threatening. The benefits can be life changing. Try different aromas. There are essential oils, perfumes and herbs out there. Experiment and see if anything works for you.
Aromas are also useful if you are new to mindfulness or meditation since they can be used as a focus point for your thoughts.
MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION
The effects of mindfulness and mediation are profound. They have the benefit of being something that can be done anywhere and are completely free to use. There are many classes out there that teach you these skills, but going to classes isn’t required. There is plenty out here on the internet to get you started. It is also something that many health care providers are using to treat mental illness. It is one form of counseling and thus is a treatment often covered by insurances.
Making sure that you are taking care of your mental health is super important right now. There is going to be a grieving process that comes with having a new diagnosis, so having mental health care as part of the plan will help you through this difficult transition.
Exercise is connected to our energy levels. When we have an excessive amount of energy, exercise is a good outlet to burn some of that off. When our energy levels are low, exercise can increase our energy. This does not mean that you have to engage in heavy physical activity. It means doing physical activities that match your fitness and energy level. Going for a walk can go a long way to making you feel better.
This one can be super difficult to consider when we are not feeling well and our energy levels are low. It seems counter intuitive to the resting that we crave. Resting is important and should also be embraced. But our bodies are designed for motion. Give yours the movement that you can. Even if that means laying in bed and swinging your arms and legs off the edge of the bed for a while. Movement is movement and we benefit from it regardless of the form that it takes.
It is an essential part of being healthy. Sleep is our body’s time for “cleaning house.” It gives the brain a chance to clear away all the chemicals that have been used for the days functions. It is also when are immune systems are most active. Good sleep decreases frequency and length of illness. Good sleep also improves focus, memory and emotional flexibility.
Seeing a doctor and getting into a medication management program are immensely helpful for many people. But remember that this isn’t the most effective treatment for everyone. I personally feel that medications should never be the sole treatment and should not be the first line of treatment. But taking medications isn’t a sin and is often a required part of managing a chronic illness. All medications have risks. There are a lot of treatments that have little or no risk that should be tried first. However, medications have their place. There are some cases that are really severe or are just not responding to other treatments. Medications can be life changing for some people. But if you have been on several medications without benefit, you might want to consider trying other treatment options. Also, don’t forget to include your pharmacist in your discussions about your medications. Talk with them about when you should be taking your medications and the foods you should avoid with the medication. The pharmacist is the medication expert and can give you the best information regarding your medication.
These are the things that we do to help us work through the difficult symptoms that we are having. They are any characteristic or behavioral pattern that enhances a person’s adaptation (our ability to adapt). These are things that help us process, distract us (sometimes taking a break from a problem is needed) or reduce our stress. Some of the treatments on this list could be viewed as coping skills rather then treatments! And you could view all treatments as coping skills since they improve your adaptability!
Here are some coping skills that you can try: Writing, art, being social, TV, social media, puzzles, music, star gaze, primp yourself, cry, shower, play with a pet, find a craft or hobby, reading, cooking, organize or sort objects, rip up paper, hug a stuffed animal, dance, prayer, list your blessings, go to a park, be silly!, use a fidget or stress toy, gardening, look at photos, positive imagery, deep breathing and so many others. If there is a coping skill that you find really helpful that I don’t have listed, please share it in the comments. Don’t be afraid to try new things, you never know what will be helpful.
We have been treating illness long before the arrival of the scientific method and modern science. Treatments became “traditional” because people found that they were working well enough and often enough to continue with the practice. There is more and more research going into these kinds of treatments, but they are still largely untested. There are options in Chinese medicine such as acupuncture and treatments focusing on the management of energy. There is the Indian life style of Ayurveda which focuses on wellness as a whole. I personally don’t know a lot about these kinds of treatments, but I feel it is important to note that they are out there as options available to you.
THE MIXING POT
I have never known anyone who found success with a single treatment. Try things out and take what helps while letting go the things that don’t. Also, keep in mind that for you to experience lasting change, the treatments you choose need to be things that you can commit to for the rest of your life. If you cannot imagine life without cheese, you might want to skip on trying that no dairy diet your cousin had great luck with.
Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!