After living with an autoimmune disease for over a decade I have experienced both living well, and not so well during that time. I’ve had periods of flares, years of remission and years of soul-growth and healing. Each of your personal experiences in living well with a chronic illness will have parallels to mine and yet also be different. There are a few key factors to living well with an autoimmune disease that have profound impacts on daily life. They are spiritual, mental and physical aspects that when all working together help me to live the best life possible.
Strong mental game
As I am sure you may have heard before, “Change your thoughts, change your life,” quoted originally from Dr. Wayne Dyer. I have found this statement to be incredibly true in my experience with chronic disease. When I was first diagnosed I was a young teenager, my first emotions were anger, sadness and grief. Though this shifted into steadfast determination, independence and resilience. I worked hard continue to live the life I had imagined for myself and was determined not to let a disease define my life. There have always been ups and downs along the way. As I continued to grow and learn I always came back to this simple truth. Your thoughts create your reality. So the more I incorporate positive affirmations the more I can release the negative.
Just as much as what you say to yourself, what you surround yourself with matters just as much. I have been in toxic relationships and friendship that absolutely contributed to my health. Cultivating community with nurturing relationships allows you to feel a part of something. It is integral for us as humans to desire to connect to one another. The people who you choose to be in your life should bring you joy, be there for you during your most challenging moments and allow you to feel seen and heard. Friendships are some of the most valuable experiences we have on this planet, they are important to how we feel about ourselves and our satisfaction with life. It helps you to know you are not alone in this journey, and that’s important.
Self-care is far from simply pampering yourself and it isn’t selfish. It may seem like that at first, but truly it is the art of getting to know yourself, understanding your needs and then making it your prerogative to make sure your needs are met. Getting enough sleep, doing things that you enjoy, healthy self-talk, appreciating your body, and making mental health a part of your priority. Doing rituals that help you care for yourself is the essence of self-love. It’s why I created my Self-Care program and why it’s so important to me, it has been the number one aspect of my self-love journey.
Movement matters more
Movement has always been instrumental in my life, but the reality is after being diagnosed with an arthritic autoimmune disease it became even more so. When you lose the ability to move, move matters more. For anyone, or everyone, I should say, it matters because of what happens physically in our body but also in our brain. The relaxation and clarity it provides. An outlet to stress and a break from routine. It helps your lymphatic system to move and for the body’s systems to function properly. It’s like a car engine. If you let it sit for too long, it’s going to be harder to start. The more you use it, the healthier the car. If you don’t move, your body shuts down. We were literally designed as creatures of movement, not stagnation. Being outside and moving allows our minds to connect deeper, our lungs to be filled with air and for us to feel truly present.
Food as medicine
I believe it was Aristotle who said, “All disease starts in the gut.” Well, wise man that he was, he couldn’t be more right. Although now we have science to back him up . We know how much food affects autoimmune conditions at this point, and one of my first recommendations in helping people is connecting them with other research, bloggers, naturopaths and resources to help transition in a lifestyle. What we eat affects everything in our body, not solely your immune system which lives in your gut, but your brain and cognitive function is clearly affected as well. Food will and always will be a part of the puzzle, so eat your greens, healthy fats and proteins. Don’t stress over it too much, but understand that food is foremost nourishment, not entertainment.
Hire for your team
This one can be tricky to navigate because in general, we’re taught to view doctor’s as authority, specialist in their fields and more knowledgeable than ourselves. After all, we are seeing them for help with something we don’t know how to handle. It’s true, and confusing. I have had so many doctors throughout the years, both regular MD’s, Functional Medicine doctors, naturopaths, acupuncturists, chiropractors. It all comes down to this, you get to decide who treats you, and what the treatment actually is. You ultimately know what agrees or doesn’t agree with your body. This may be an experiential learning curve, but trust me when I saw that it’s okay to fire a doctor that isn’t helping you in the way you need. They are there to support and aid in your process of restoring your health and managing your illness. This should be open dialogue and a join effort, they should be on your team!
I wish that someone had outlined these for me when I was first diagnosed. I am grateful to be where I am today, especially given that it helps so many people, but what I would have given then to feel supported in a community and with the wealth of understanding that I have now. That’s what I have loved about digging deep into the book Autoimmune Wellness, by Mickey Trescott and Angie Alt. They don’t just cover these basics, they dive deeply into each of these elements of living well. All of what I have learned in walking this path for the past 11 years is in this book (and then some!) It’s the resource that I will give anyone with questions about their autoimmune disease, to someone who has just been diagnosed or even someone supporting someone with a chronic illness
They provide outlines and guides to help ease you in to incorporating each of these elements into your life, making this resource invaluable. They are wizards in creating something so needed and powerful for the vast amounts of people globally dealing with autoimmune disease. While food tends to be a lot of the focus in much of the healing protocols, it truly just scratches the surface. It’s what I learned by going through it myself. Once I started digging deeper emotionally, developing a self-care routine is when everything started to shift in my healing journey. That’s why I created the self-care program I offer because I experienced first hand out important and valuable it is to living well with an autoimmune disease (truly anyone for that matter!)
In their book they outline the processes of finding helpful doctors, support, the right type of exercise, food choices and much more. It is in essence a lifestyle support for living well with an autoimmune disease. For someone with a chronic illness it is an invaluable asset.
When you think of living well, with whatever chronic illness you were diagnosed with, think of the basics. Think of what you enjoy, what brings you radical self-love and utter contentment with life? DO those things. Feed your mind with healthy, caring, compassionate thoughts. Fuel your body with nourishment and move like it matters, because it does. You deserve to live vibrantly. To live and feel well even if you have an illness. You can and you will.
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