Having Lupus doesn’t mean the world gets less crazy. How to deal

Self-Care Checklist for when the world has lost its mind

Warning: I’m going to talk about current events. If you are in a phase of your journey where you have more than enough on your plate with just waking up every day and have no desire to know whats going on in the world, stop reading here. You do your journey and don’t feel guilty for a minute. With a disease like Lupus, we all do the best we can. There are plenty of great blog post you can read on this site that will help you on your journey that don’t deal with the news.

Now for the rest of us: This weekend was an especially brutal one. The events in Charlottesville are deplorable and heartbreaking. Like you, I am angry and sad. After holding vigil by my phone all Saturday, I was in a pretty horrible place. I woke up feeling ill for the first time in a long time and, frankly, a little depressed.

Maybe this describes you this past weekend or maybe it’s some other horrible thing happening out there that takes you down. Whatever it is, I want to remind all of us (myself included) how to manage our reaction to the craziness of the world so we can protect our health. This is vital because we aren’t just women with chronic diseases, we are a citizen of the world and what happens in it affects us deeply. But, unfortunately, the world didn’t stop being crazy when we got our diagnosis, and worry and stress tend to exacerbate our symptoms.

These are the things I reminded myself that help me take care of myself while being a citizen of this world.

  1. Care and worry aren’t the same things.  I give myself permission to care about the world and the people in it, but my worry doesn’t help anything. My worry doesn’t stop bombs, or change hearts, or rewrite history. My worry only hurts me; it compromises my physical and mental well-being. When I figured this out, I started saying this mantra when I find myself being consumed by worry over issues I can’t control: “I can care deeply, but this situation doesn’t need my worry.
  2. Act on your convictions. If you struggle to get out of bed every day you might be inclined to skip this step, but please don’t.  When I say act on your convictions, it could mean go volunteer or go to a meeting to talk about the big issues and brainstorm solutions, or it could just mean pray or meditate. Smile at a stranger. Tell someone in your life how amazing you think they are.  Action doesn’t have to be a big grand gesture, it just means to strike back against the ugly with love. Remember to direct that love as much inwardly as you do outwardly.
  3. Use your energy wisely. I woke up on Sunday feeling horrible because I spent my energy on worrying over Saturday.  When you have dealt with or are dealing with fatigue (like the exhausted in your bones kind), you realize that energy is kind of like money. You don’t always have it. If you don’t spend it wisely, you can end up hurting. Spend your energy wisely, preferably on things that will increase your energy and help you heal.
  4. Get yourself to your community. A big part of taking care of yourself is finding and being apart of a community of uplifting people who support you and are worthy of your open heart. Maybe that means your local lupus support group and/or your church. Maybe it means an online community of people who share your love for knitting or Jane the Virgin. Thanks to the internet, community can be cultivated anywhere, it just takes action on your part to find it and show up.

The world is a broken place filled with broken people but it’s also a beautiful place filled with loving and caring people. Take care of yourself, your heart, and your mind.

XOXO,

Carrie

A few of my favorite (free) things

I’m ramping up to do a blog series on alternative healing modalities like massage, acupuncture, and CranioSacral therapy and how those therapies can contribute to our healing. But before I started all that, I wanted to acknowledge the costly elephant in the room of autoimmune disease: being chronically ill can be pricey. From missed time at work to out-of-pocket medical expenses, the price tag for the autoimmune disease can get expensive, depending on your type of insurance and access to medical care. When you add alternative methods of healing to the traditional medical model, the money adds up fast.

While I deeply believe that every dollar I’ve ever spent on my healing was well worth it, I also want to control that cost as much as possible. Over the years I’ve discovered how I could give myself the best care while saving some money along the way. I’ve written several posts on how to reduce your spending while striving to clean up your eating and environment, but today I want to share those things that are free. We are lucky to live in a time when a wifi connection and a device of some kind can open up a world of quality teachers to assist you in your healing.

Yoga

Yoga is one of the best things out there to reduce pain, detoxify, and help heal our broken relationship with our bodies. And for my money…um…time, Yoga with Adriene is the best way to get all those benefits without having to go to a studio. She offers a variety of videos for free from yoga for weight loss to yoga when you are angry and several yoga challenges.  But the best thing is that you get an authentic teacher who is clearly passionate about bringing the healing power of yoga to everyone while having fun. I don’t know about you, but fun isn’t something I think of when I think yoga. But Adriene Mishler makes it happen.  So even if you think you hate yoga, give Yoga with Adriene a try. I promise you will find something useful.

Meditation

There have been hundreds of studies that have found that meditation does many positive things for us, from increasing our compassion to improving our health. For those of us with autoimmune disease, meditation can help to reduce our stress, inflammation, and decrease our fears. For beginners to meditation, the Headspace app is a great tool. Each guided meditation is 10 minutes long. The app is technically not free, but it offers 10 days of free meditation and you can take those 10 free days over and over again. The Calm app is also another great guided meditation tool with some free features. Like Headspace, it is a paid service with free guided meditations, but what they offer for free is quality guided meditations full of useful information.

Workouts

Working out is extremely important for those of us with autoimmune disease because it helps to reduce inflammation and to increase our levels of happiness. And who doesn’t want to be happy?  Gyms are often a good place to go to get your workout on, but they can be expensive. And if you take classes, you have to work around their schedule.  This is why I really like Fitness Blender. This free, online resource has a plethora of fitness videos in a variety of styles and times. The search feature should be the poster child for all searches. Only have a 20 minutes to do a full body workout for beginners? No problem. Just input your requirements and find a workout that’s right for you.

 

Chronic illness can be so expensive, but supporting your body doesn’t have to be. I would love to know what you think of these resources. Have you tried any? Have they helped? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Stress management during the storm

Before I became a health coach, I was a policy lady. I went to policy school because I wanted to help right some of the injustices of the world. I still do, but I’ve changed my approach a bit. However, coming from this background, you might imagine that, like many of you, the last few months have been pretty stressful.  In that spirit, I want to dive into how you can manage your stress even if you can’t do anything about what is causing the stress.

First, our body’s stress response is very important. It keeps us alive by diverting our blood where it needs to go in the event that we need to fly or fight. Think about being chased by a bear or lion, you definitely need to run away or fight it off if you are going to survive. But when we are constantly under stress, it can harm our health by causing us to store fat around our organs and by creating inflammation. But it’s more than that. It can rob us of joy, and it just feels really horrible.

But what do you do when the thing or things that are causing you stress are out of your hands? Here are my tips:

    1. Get as much trustworthy information as you can. My tactic is to stay away from any news outlet that needs you to watch or click ads because those sources tend to sensationalize things. 
    2. Create a plan to act on that information if needed.  You don’t have to do everything, but pick a thing and do it. 
    3. Disengage from social media. Social media can be fun, but it can also be full of inaccurate information that can cause a lot of fear and panic. And you have no control over what you are going to see. While you are scrolling through pictures of cute kids or puppies, you get smacked by hateful or scary memes. Back away from your devices for a few hours or even a few days to give yourself a rest. I hear the world outside is pretty beautiful. 
    4. Hang out with people who lift you up. Share your concerns, your fears, and then listen to theirs. Sharing our concerns helps us feel like we aren’t alone.
    5. Take care of yourself. This isn’t a time to fall off the wagon. In fact, it’s a great time to up your health game. Exercise to reduces stress hormones and lower inflammation and eat those vegetables, fresh and fermented, to keep that brain-gut connection well-fed.
    6. Implement stress management techniques into your day. 
      • Breathe. A solid breathing practice is one of the fastest ways to calm your stress hormones. 
      • Practice gratitude. This means taking a few minutes to write down or meditate on a few things you are grateful for. This not only anchors you in the present, but it also has been shown to reduce inflammation. 
      • Meditation. Meditation is a powerful tool, but it’s basically just giving your brain a break from all those thoughts going through your head. Simply get comfortable in a quiet place, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. You can do this by slowly counting as you breathe in and out. When I meditate, I like to count to 10 and then start again as I breathe slowly in and out. During this time, my mind might start to wonder so I just bring it back to my breath. There are loads of guided meditations out there. I really like the Headspace app (paid) or this resource from UCLA for free guided meditations. 

I hope this help you and that you will make it a priority to take care of yourself, no matter what storm you are weathering.

 

Carrie

Go play!

play

We bought our kids a trampoline for Christmas. This serves two purposes: 1.) to keep from adding more clutter to our tiny house and 2.) to have fun! (Because trampolines are just really, really fun.) They love it. My oldest races home from school every day to jump, and it has ended our arguments about screen time. My youngest has a blast and wears herself on the regular. Yay for longer naps, may they stay for a while. It’s such great play. We have a net and some rules, so I set my worries about ER visits aside.

But it’s also got me thinking about what I do for fun. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we stop having fun. Or maybe it’s just that fun turns into going on dates or out to bars with friends. Now I am not a teetotaller by any sense of the definition, but I find that really sad. Not only is drinking too much really bad for our gut health, but it’s also usually a sedentary event. And when we try to right all of our sedentary ways, we usually do it by going to the gym. Where is the fun!?! When did we stop having fun through moving our bodies?

Playing helps to reduce stress, makes us feel younger, and reconnects us to ourselves and our loved ones. What could be more important than that? Work you say? Bills? I get it, but wouldn’t work be easier if you were less stressed and felt more connected? Aren’t those bills always going to be there no matter what your health status is?

I’m issuing a challenge. Go play! Spend a minimum of 10 minutes a day doing something active that you find fun. Turn on the radio and make up a new dance. Have a race with your kids. Start a tickle fight with your partner. Just move your body and give into the joy of play. I’ll be jumping!

 

Lean in to your life!

Alex yoga

Today (Tuesday, July 5th), I have hit the halfway point in my challenge to do a month worth of yoga. This isn’t the first time I’ve done a yoga challenge, but I’ve had an epiphany that might apply to you too, dear reader, even if yoga isn’t your thing.

Lean in rather than backing off when life gets challenging. In the past, when things would get stressful at home/work/what-have-you, I would give myself a break. I would forgo exercising and eating right because something had to give. Right? Wrong! Taking care of yourself is essential when life is hard. By not taking care of myself, I was pulling myself into a vicious cycle: stress, treat my body like crap, get sick and gain weight, stress. Life was just happening to me through a haze of stress and poor health.

Taking time to tend to yourself adds time to your day. I know there are some math whizzes out there that will tell you that that is not possible, but they are wrong. (At least this time.) Another math whiz once said that time is relative, and never is that more clear for me than when I am facing my day/children/random obligations with energy. During the years I was sick, there was just never enough time in the day to get everything done. But now. . . well, I still wish I could get more done, but I have the energy I need to be productive.  Even when that means taking 30 minutes or more out of my day to do something that is just for me.

Find the self-care thing that works for you and commit to it like you do your Netflix account. For this period in my life, yoga has been my go-to. It is helping me heal from a pretty traumatic birth experience, and it’s helping me keep my focus on my goal of living a healthy, productive, and giving life. There might be something else that works for you. Maybe it’s walking with your neighbor, cooking nutritious meals, kickboxing, or something else entirely.  Whatever it is, make it a priority and start leaning in to your life.

 

For those of you who are interested in doing a 30-day yoga challenge, I highly recommend Yoga with Adriene’s free 30-day yoga series on YouTube. Check it out here.

 

Gut health 4: Stressing out our guts.

Source 

Stress is a killer of joy, a robber of your time, and, as it turns out, devastating to your gut health. I’ve written a lot about stress and its effects on your health and tips for managing it, but today I want to take a slightly different approach. The little ecosystem in our guts made up of bacteria, viruses, and fungi (microbiome) aren’t just helping us digest our food and strengthing our immune system.  This ecosystem is actually influencing and being influenced by our brain. Scientists call this the microbiome-brain-gut axis.

Researchers have found that being put under stress affects the make-up of our microbiome.  Under stress, both animals and humans show a decrease in lactobacilli.  This is fine when stress last for just a little while because the microbiome will bounce back, but most of us aren’t dealing with small bouts of stress. Unfortunately, many of us live with chronic low-level stress which means our microbiome doesn’t have the chance to bounce back.

This starts a vicious cycle. “Evidence (shows) that bacteria residing in the gut can also affect central brain function including neurobiological features and behaviors relevant to various psychiatric disorders.”  Basically, our mental state influences the makeup of our microbiome and the microbiome impacts our mental state, which for many of us shows up as anxiety and/or depression. Can you think of a better reason to take care of both? Me neither.  Here are some things you can do to protect your health.

  1. Prioritize stress management! I know that we live in a stressful world, and we are even financially rewarded for being constantly stressed out. I’ve been a part of a work culture where working all hours and heating up your lunch at 3pm only to eat in front of your computer is seen as a symbol of your commitment and dedication. This is crazy! Your stress level is the key to avoiding disease and absorbing nutrients and a hundred other things that create a quality life.  For tips on how to start managing your stress check out my series on the topic.
  2. Watch what goes into your body. So far this series has focused on things to avoid like antibiotics and processed and sugary foods. I’ve also written about keeping your microbiome healthy by increasing your intake of fiber. I’ll be sharing more about what you put into your body and its effects on stress in more detail over the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
I hope these tips are helpful and that you’re inspired to reduce your stress and increase those good bacteria! For more in this series check out parts onetwo and three.

Self-care, dang it!

self-care

I’m taking a break from my gut health series to write about something that has been on my mind: self-care.  Self-care is vital to our health and, in many ways, is the linchpin of creating and sustaining a healthy lifestyle. And while it’s one of those things that is talked about ad nauseam in health blogs and in health-focused magazines, it’s really hard to get people to actually do it.

In fact, self-care might be the most challenging aspect of health for my clients.  I preach it because I know how important it is, but even I can have a hard time incorporating it into my life. In fact, over the last month I’ve not tended to myself at all. And I have excuses. There’s my business and volunteer commitments, unexpected travel, illness, and now a toddler that can scale just about anything.  In the face of all that, I just let self-care fall off the list. And you know what? It did not serve me. Here I was trying to serve everyone else, but I had nothing to give.  I did it; I took care of those diverse needs, but I wasn’t eating as well as I should or exercising enough. I felt overwhelmed; I had very little patience for those around me and  started to seriously feel resentful. I don’t know about you, but this is not how I want to live my life.

Part of the challenge of incorporating self-care into our lives is that we don’t really know how to do it.  When pushed to say what we think it is, we tend to think about eating right and exercising. While there is truth in that, it goes a little deeper.  It’s really about the why and how. Self-care requires a shift in our thinking. We prepare good food or exercise not because we are beating ourselves into submission but because we know that when we eat well and move our bodies we feel better and we can handle our lives with more grace. It’s about turning off the T.V. and the phone at the end of a long day and curling up with a good book so that we can get deeper, more restful sleep. It’s meditating, spending time with friends that lift us up, and paying attention to and managing our stress.  It’s about making those things that build us up and nourish our body and mind a priority.

Here are a few tips for incorporating self-care into your life.

  1. Pick your self-care. Decide on one or two self-care practices you want to work into your life. Maybe it’s just using all that fancy face washing things you got for Christmas or maybe it’s practicing yoga daily. Pick something that will nourish you.
  2. Schedule it. Once you have an idea of what you want to do, put it on your calendar each day and treat it like you would a meeting with your boss.
  3. DO IT! Seriously, you will always have too many things on your list and not enough time. What does it hurt to take half and hour or less to focus on your health? Nothing. It hurts nothing.

If you need help figuring out how to get self-care into your life or are ready to transform your health, contact me for a free consultation. 

(Self) Love is all you need

lucille-ball

As I’m writing this it’s International Women’s Day, so I thought I would take a break from my usual posts and talk about a key and often missing ingredient to living a happy life full of energy: love of self. You can eat as well as possible and work out religiously, but if you aren’t doing it from a place of love, it’s not going to get you very far. We know that people with low opinions of themselves don’t fare well in this life. They’re suspectable to depression, suppressed immune system, etc.  As one very dry research paper out of UT Austin concluded, “People with negative self-views think and behave in ways that diminish their quality of life.” Ain’t that the truth!

I spent a good portion of my life loathing myself. I was too dumb, too fat, too whatever to be worth anything. In my early teens, that turned into an eating disorder; in my twenties, it was staying in the wrong relationship; and in my early thirties, it was crushing depressing and constant fear of being found out. And through it all, my body got the message. I was wrong; it was wrong.  Even though I would cut calories drastically and workout like I was being chased by a bear, my weight stayed the same and my health got worse.

My quality of life was not great. But I turned it around. I sought help, and I learned how to catch my negative self-talk and replace it with positive self-talk. I had a little girl, and, through her, I realized that I was precious too and deserved to be talked to the way I spoke to her. And finally, I had this revelation that I’m going to die. Not that minute or anything, but that, at some point, this journey will come to an end. Did I really want to spend it hating myself and punishing myself for not living up to other peoples expectations? Hell no!

Getting here, to this place of healing and self-love, was not easy; but along the way I learned how to see my value and, just like any nutrient that finally makes its way into the body, loving myself began to do its magic.

Tip: Pay attention to your negative self-talk. Once you get good at catching yourself, replace those words/phrases with positive ones. It takes some time for this to feel natural, but I promise that speaking to yourself positively will eventually come just as naturally as speaking to yourself negatively does now.

 

My healing journey

Thank youhttp://www.thewoodconnectionblog.com/ for such a beautiful message.
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It’s November, which means we Americans are gearing up to celebrate Thanksgiving. Mostly this means we are making travel arrangements and planning menus, but a few will take this month as an opportunity to reflect on all the wonderful things in their lives. I love seeing peoples’ “30 Days of Gratitude” posts on Facebook because I believe in the power of giving thanks.

A few years ago, I went through one of the most trying times of my life. Something was wrong with me, but none of the many specialist could figure it out or agree on a course of treatment.  Additionally, the project manager I was assigned to at the time did not suffer fools, weakness, or absences, and, at that point, I was all those things to her. Getting tested for rare forms of cancer and feeling completely incompetent really starts to wear on a lady. During those months I went to the darkest place I have ever know. It still scares me to remember that time and the thoughts I was having about my worth.

At that point I had been on my road to healing for just under six months. Because of this process, I had something to lean in to. This healing journey became my priority because the alternative wasn’t an option. But just focusing on what I should and shouldn’t eat and how I should move wasn’t helping me tackle the crippling depression that kept me in bed when I wasn’t working or had me faking my way through mommyhood. I didn’t start to overcome that until one day while walking my dog I just took off my headphones and started to name the things I was grateful for. Let me be clear, this one walk did not sort out all my problems, but it gave me a tool that allowed me to switch my perspective. I didn’t lie to myself and say “everything is cool” because I knew it wasn’t and I wasn’t sure it ever would be. But I did know that at that moment I had things like food, a roof over my head, and sturdy walking shoes, and that was something to focus on.

I used my gratitude practice to drive off the demons of insecurity, fear, and doubt. When that voice popped up saying “you aren’t…” I would list all the wonderful things I was thankful for that I am, most importantly alive and loved. This was the beginning of my understanding that in order to achieve healing I can’t just muscle my way through a “diet,” I have to nourish my mind and spirit as well as my body.