6 Ways to Thrive with (or Without) Chronic Illness. ~ Jesse Loren

Via elephant journal
on Jan 23, 2013
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Granny squared

Living with chronic illness requires compromise.

The first compromise is energy and it comes down to simple math. If Johnny has five energy bars, but completing all goals of the day subtracts eight energy bars, Johnny will be in energy bar deficit. This is a simple truth for all people, but the energy bars are already reduced for chronic illness people. There are many reasons for this, all of which contribute to the problem.

Fatigue is a cloud embedded in the muscles of the day. The scientific contributors to fatigue aren’t something I can explain. Suffice it to say the illness itself takes a toll on all systems of the body, this in turn leads to fatigue. Diet is part of the problem. Blood health, such as anemia, and low platelets are problematic. Chronic pain, side effects from medicine, neurologic and muscle involvement, are also contributing factors.

Going back to Johnny, if Johnny has five energy bars, but his illness swallows three, how many energy bars does Johnny have at his disposal?

The answer is six. That sounds funny. How is it possible? Here are six ways of getting more out of your energy bars, whether one has chronic illness or not.

1. Sleep

Adequate sleep can make or break your day, illness or not. If you don’t get enough rest, you have started your day in deficit energy bars. Find out the source of the sleep problem. Is it sleep apnea, diet, reaction to medications, stress, worry, pain? There are medical and non-medical ways to address these problems. The first line of defense is proper exercise, diet and attitude. A positive attitude goes a long way. You need medical help for apnea and perhaps to manage pain. Illness can undermine sleep, but you can’t let insomnia undermine sleep without it effecting memory and energy. Talk to your doctor about sleep problems. Don’t ignore them!

2. Pain

Chronic pain eats up the energy bars. There are medical and non-medical ways to deal with pain. Getting out of bed hurts. But staying in bed hurts too. What are you gonna do? Get out of bed of course! Set some goals for gentle exercise, but get moving. The more you move with pain now, the longer you will be moving in the future.

My experience with Lupus is that I need that jog. Without it, my tongue becomes sharp and my attitude is snappy. It wipes me out, but I need those beautiful endorphins. If taking pain relievers helps, take them before exercising, but exercise if you can.

3. Diet

Food is good medicine. To me, food is the first medicine. What food medicine are you putting in your body? Entenmann’s doughnuts and french fries? Oh, pishaw! Fruit, beans, vegetables are your best friends. Consider a food elimination diet. Find out what makes you feel good and what makes you feel fatigued. There are anti-inflammatory foods, too. I definitely have put a lot of time and energy into eating carefully. I am not perfect, but reducing refined sugar and flour, growing a garden and eating fresh fruits and vegetables are all things that help me. I do live in California and have the luxury of already being a gardener and living in an agricultural area. However, the point is, food is your first medicine. Eat wisely.

4. Time management

Plan your day. Make lists, do what you can, then relax and don’t beat yourself up. These days, I meal plan for the month. I have a copy of my plan on my phone, on the fridge, and on the computer. I shop accordingly. I make part of tomorrow’s meal today, that way I reduce the time and energy required to cook. For example, if I made mashed potatoes and a celebration roast, I make enough mashed potatoes for tomorrow’s shepherd’s pie. I am also “getting busy” with the crock-pot.

My illness zaps me hard at about seven o’clock every night. It’s like clockwork. A pain suit zips up around me and I can’t get out. Knowing this, I do as much as I can before it hits. The rest can wait. I also plan for exercise, plan for time with friends, and I plan for naps and sleep. The hardest thing for me is learning to say “no.” Time management requires one to say “no” to people. You can’t do everything, so say “no” if something will zap you of too many energy bars, otherwise, plan accordingly.

5. Attitude

Pain, fatigue, insomnia, being overwhelmed—these are attitude downers. What lifts you up? Running on Saturdays with my coach lifts me up. I can’t do all the days of training I want to do, but getting encouragement from others makes a difference in the quality of my life. My friends have a hoop circle and meet weekly to hula hoop, that’s pretty fun. The point is, surround yourself with fun-loving people.

If you are immune compromised due to medication, there are safe ways to be out of the house. When I am in bed and not social, I write about it. This lifts me up. When I need quiet time, I paint. The point is, there are always good and positive things to do, but you have to find them.

6. Don’t beat yourself up

You are doing more with less. As long as you are getting up each day and smiling or finding wonder and beauty, you are doing great.

What did I leave off? I wonder what other people do to stay healthy, happy and holy?

Published by permission from iPinion Syndicate


JesseLorenpicJesse Loren is a writer, gardener, beekeeper and living with Lupus.  Jesse writes for iPinion Syndicate can be contacted at [email protected].






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8 Responses to “6 Ways to Thrive with (or Without) Chronic Illness. ~ Jesse Loren”

  1. jmhofwiw says:

    Excellent article! I think avoiding negativity is the ultimate key in all things, but especially with chronic pain. It is very easy to live in a negative world when you're in pain much of the time, but the negative energy feeds the pain. Positive energy diminishes it. Same with illnesses in general.

  2. These are excellent strategies for feeling well, even when you don't have a chronic illness. All good tools!

  3. Christy says:

    Fantastic Jesse!!! Self care is important for all people but especially for those with chronic illness. This is a great guide!

  4. Valerie Engelman says:

    You nailed it! Dealing with a chronic illness does require a plan, and this is a sound strategy. Only thing I'd add is that your first energy bars of the day need to be spent taking care of yourself – for instance your workout, or physical therapy. Put your health first. Sometimes people in our lives are used to us taking care of them, and even though they love us they just can't seem to absorb that we can't do what we used to do. It's hard to admit to ourselves, and then convince our loved ones, that we have to spend those energy bars wisely, and say no to some things we'd love to do but can't any longer. I'm afraid of taking sleeping aids because my pain is extreme, so I imagine that the meds would have to be to help, but your article encouraged me to take a look at what's out there. Thanks for the article!

  5. Sammy says:

    I have been in severe pain for the last 3 years (scleroderma).
    At first when the pain started and I had to be in bed for most of the day life was really boring but then my brother gave me a tablet and things got so much better , I downloaded tons of e-books and then I made a little "schedule" or timetable with the books putting them in the order I wanted to read them . So this provided a lot of entertainment and then I discovered online couses at coursera and I signed up for a couple of them , lots of entertainment too, with the videos and quizzes and homeworks. In the last year my routine has consisted of reading, online courses (signed up for more) , physical therapy and cooking . Can't complain really. I don't really miss going out with friends or going out to restaurants and stuff , I just want to feel comfortable and stay within my comfort zone , that is all I ask.
    Speaking of cooking , when I dont feel well enough to cook a whole meal i just make an instant soup and add some veggs and chicken and listo! Not very healthy but fast and easy .
    Anyway good luck to all and take your meds!

  6. Bowl of Cornflakes says:

    As someone who has lived with chronic illness for more than half of her life, I enthusiastically applaud each and every one of Ms. Loren's points. Beautifully written and I cannot imagine better advice for anyone who is dealing with current illness or simply wishes to maximize their own wellness.

  7. […] 6 Ways to Thrive with (or Without) Chronic Illness. ~ Jesse Loren […]

  8. Jesse says:

    I like your meal ideas. I meal plan and build part of one days meal with some of the ingredients for the next day. I also will soak beans in the crock pot a day in advance, cook the second day, refrigerate and then add whatever the finish is on the third day. That way I just have to do a little at a time.