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

Move now, move later!

The workout and I have a long complicated history. In elementary school, I was super creative in getting out of P.E. and probably only went about half the time. As a chunky child, I sat out of fear of looking like a fool. In high school, I spent an hour plus at the gym every dang day, running on the treadmill and lifting weights. As I got older, the exercise thing was like a rollercoaster. I was either completely dedicated to it or dedicated to the couch. There were no in-betweens. The only thing these exercise stages shared was that exercise equaled punishment for being less than.

Thankfully, that’s not where I am today. Part of my healing journey was to find a way to work exercise into my life in a loving way. To do this, I developed a new way of looking at exercise. I would move in intentional ways so I could continue to move in those ways into the future.

While I have a much more rigorous exercise routine now, this idea is my base. At the very minimum, I walk now because I want to take long walks when I’m older. I pick up heavy objects and hold planks for my kids to crawl under because I want a strong body well into my old age. I do yoga and stretch throughout my day so I can keep my balance and flexibility when age makes that more difficult. Movement is an investment in my future self.

Of course, exercise can be challenging to fit into your day, especially when you have little ones, work, laundry, and other adulting to do. But you have to prioritize it. Just like you prioritize brushing your teeth, eating food, and update your Facebook status. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing different ways to get exercise into your life. But for now, start brainstorming about what you hate about exercise, what you love about it, and why you aren’t getting enough. Leave me a comment below!

 

Another side of wellness

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When we think about what it looks like to be healthy, we envision eating lots of vegetables and doing lots of exercise. While all that’s true, sometimes being healthy looks a little different when you aren’t. (Think cold and flu season.)

Imagine, if you will, that your partner/kid/loved-one is really sick. Your response (hopefully) is to get them to bed, make them some soup, and give them comfort. We do this because we know they feel awful and we don’t want them to feel awful. Now, try to remember the last time you were sick. Did you push yourself to work through it? Did you say horrible things to yourself because you aren’t exercising like you needed to be? Did you change your diet to reflect your body’s needs? Probably not.

Our body sends us messages all the time about what it needs, but we are either deaf to it or willingly ignorant. If we want to be healthy — full of energy, a healthy body weight, strong and happy into our old age, etc. — then we have to start listening. When your body says sleep, sleep! Listening to those signals and actively working to heal your body when you are ill is just as important as all the kale salads and trips to the gym you take when you are well.  So speak and treat yourself like you would someone you love and let the healing commence.

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!

 

Mindset matters

dumpster-fire
Created by Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks

As we round the final bend of 2016 I want to take a few seconds to reflect on this year and how important our mindset is to our health. The very witty ornament pictured above pretty well sums up how the world felt this year. Deaths of icons, a stressful election season, and injustices of all sorts hitting the headlines daily — it was a pretty crappy year when you take the 1,000-foot view. In all honesty, it was starting to take its toll on me.

I spent a lot of time feeling angry, sad, and completely helpless, and this started to manifest in my health. I was starting to lose energy and have those tell-tell signs of inflammation in my joints. Those of you battling illness know that this usually signals a downhill spiral. I know because I’ve spiraled away many times before. But not this time.

This time I took stock. Yes, the world can be a broken and horrible place, but how has my year been? My kids are healthy and growing. My marriage is strong and supportive. I’ve got the love of my extended family and have even seen some of them this year. I’ve got friends, I’ve got a roof over my head, and I’ve got the desire and ability to do good in this world.  In short, I’ve got a lot.

Next, I reduced my triggers. I found that when I got into the car and turned on the news my mood would sink, so I started listening to music. Likewise, Facebook and Twitter were sadness destinations, so I took a break.

Finally, I ramped up the self-care: More walking, more baths, more fun reads and silly podcasts, a fancy new coloring book with my own fancy colored pencils, and more time with people that lift me up.

This does not mean I am shirking my responsibility to be a well-informed citizen or viewer of funny cat videos. It means that I have made the choice to do those things that will allow me to act intentionally as opposed to  reacting to all the ills the world has to hold. This is me shifting my mindset so that I can continue the work of healing my body.

Heavy

compare

 

I’m taking a break from my detox posts to talk to you about something that has been on my mind a lot — a whole lot — of late. That is the issue of weight. Specifically fat. That picture above all these words, the one on the left, was taken when I was about 55 pounds more than the one that shows me right now. And at that time I was not happy with my body, but it wasn’t my first rodeo. You see, throughout my life, I have weighed a lot and I have weighed a little. But I have never been happy with my weight until I changed my view of things. I had to realize that the fat on my body was not the problem and it wasn’t a reflection of me as a person.

Most of us see fat on ourselves and others, and, honestly, we see failure. Failure in ourselves to lose the weight and failure in others to control themselves enough to keep from putting on the weight. But all of that is crap.  I have been fat and worked out way more than I do now and counted calories like a full-time job. I wasn’t being lazy, and I suspect that most people who are overweight and obese can recount the various things they have tried to get the fat off.

 So let me be clear, extra weight on our body is not a failing, it is our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. Unfortunately, while the body is sophisticated, it isn’t super hip to societal expectations. Because instead of seeing the fat and thinking that we need to address the underlying issue, we see fat and either berate ourselves and/or attack our body by reducing our calories significantly in an attempt to beat it into submission. This very rarely works, and it isn’t sustainable when it does. Ever been told to go on a 1200 calorie diet? How did that workout for your metabolism?

The 55 pounds that fell off my body did so only after I decided to address what was going on inside my body. This is what I do for my clients too. Together we look at what the body is telling us about what’s going on inside so that they can have a true transformation inside and out.  So if you are overweight and feeling hopeless because nothing seems to work, contact me today for a free consultation to see if I can offer what has been missing this whole time.

Detox 2: Love your lymphatic system

 

lymphatic

Our lymphatic system is amazing. I think of it as the vacuum of our body, just sucking up all the toxins so our bodies can keep on keeping on.  This system runs throughout our bodies and keeps things flowing by bathing our cells in nutrients, recovering fluid (waste created by our circulatory system), cleaning it up, and returning at a rate of about 3 liters of fluid per day. It also helps our digestive system by taking toxins and pathogens that weren’t Lymphatic_system_(vector).svgdestroyed by the process of digestion out of our gut and either flushing them out or organizing an immune defense against them.

The lymphatic system works with our skin, lungs, colon, liver, and kidneys to remove the toxins coming into our bodies and created by our bodies. This amazing system touches every cell, every organ, every tissue and is vital to life.  If the lymphatic system were to stop, we would become very toxic quickly and die. Unfortunately, the only time this system gets much love is when your doctor goes poking around your neck looking for a poor little lymph node that became inflamed fighting off an infection.

In order to help the lymphatic system do its job, we need to give it a little love. Here are some ways that you can start nourishing your lymphatic system today.

1. Move. Possibly the coolest thing about the lymphatic system is that there is no pump moving the lymph throughout our system so our movement is the pump.   So move, especially when you have been sitting for a long period of time. Even if it’s just a brisk walk or some chair stretching. Better yet, get a sweat going so you can really help your body get those toxins out.  You move = your lymph moves. You sweat = toxins move out of the body.

2. Dry Skin Brushing. Seventy percent of your lymphatic system is located right under your skin.  Before you take your shower or do yoga, get down to your birthday suit and  grab a dry brush like this one. Now brush all over your body, but remember to be considerate of those sensitive areas like nipples. I found this video by a lymphatic drainage therapist and fellow Lupus conquer to be very informative, and it completely changed the way I do my own skin brushing. Bonus: Skin brushing is a great way to improve how your skin looks.

3. Reduce your stress. According to Dr. John Douillard, stress hormones create a very acidic environment which gunks up our lymphatic system’s ability to do its job. I know that this recommendation sounds overwhelming; it did for me for several years. But stress management is paramount to health, and it can be done through little tweaks to our lives. Check out my stress management series here for some practical tips. There’s an added bonus to using deep breathing exercises to de-stress because the lungs are one of those pathways the lymphatic system relies on to get toxins out.

I hope these tips help you to start thinking about how you can support your body’s natural detox processes and provide you with concrete ways to actually do it. Of course, the lymphatic system can’t flush those toxins if the rest of the detox pathways are clogged, so stay tuned to learn more about ways to support those processes as well. For more in this series

 

I’m back and I got something to say… and a new series on the way!

Hello, Everyone! I’m back from my media fast with an epiphany. Are you ready? Here it is: We are super adaptable.

I know, you are probably thinking, “Duh! How else could we live on every corner of the planet and function when the heat index is an ungodly 108 if we weren’t adaptable? 108!!!!”

What I mean is that we adapt very quickly to new behaviors, for better or worse. For example, before going on my media fast, I was spending a lot of time scrolling through social media with jaw clenched and outrage turning my stomach in knots. But despite my daily (often hourly) habit, my first day of living media-free was incredibly easy.  I did have to remind myself not to just mindlessly “surf” while waiting in line at the store, but, other than that, I wasn’t missing anything. The days following were about the same, except that I felt much more relaxed. Even when my partner would give me updates on a disturbing news story, I just wasn’t getting as bothered.

The moral of the story is not that I learned so much or grew as a person, but rather that the Carrie with clenched jaw scrolling passed outrageous memes and the Carrie that was living her life outside of a screen is the same person. The only difference was the behavior. We slip into behaviors so easily, and, unfortunately, it’s often the ones that we don’t want to have. Staying up too late, drinking that extra glass of wine, having a daily “treat”, or just forgoing exercise comes so easily that, before you know it, it’s just how life is.

It’s as if we are on autopilot.  I try hard not to be on autopilot because I would rather be practicing intentional and purposeful living, but sometimes we just have to shake things up to keep from falling into bad patterns. That’s why I’m starting a new series on detoxing or, more specifically, supporting our body so it can do its job and get the toxins out. Stay tuned!

 

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.