I’m one of you. I’m chronically ill too.
When I look at my health issues, I have to encompass my entire body. My first known and medically diagnosed chronic health issue was migraines. I started having migraines at age 13. I’m now 56… that’s 43 years!!
Fast forward a few years, and I realized that I was depressed, but at that time, I had no insurance, was in a horrible marriage and completely broke. Any money we had, went to care for our 3 young children.
Ironically, it was during this same difficult time that my ear issues developed, and that ultimately lead to hearing loss. (I’ll share that story another day).
Needless to say, my stress level was high. My anxiety off the charts. I struggled with my weight, decision making was all but impossible for me. My brain would just shut down. I could not handle one more thing. I now believe this was the bipolar showing itself, but that diagnosis wouldn’t come for another 30+ years.
But within those 30 years, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenal fatigue…. notice ALL of those conditions have stress as a main component and contributing factor to their development.
Then came type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, then hypothyroidism, hyperparathyroidism…. and more.
My lifestyle sucked. I wasn’t helping myself.
All with stress as a major component; but there were other lifestyle factors that were working to help me: poor diet, no exercise and lack of sleep. I was strongly in the camp of push through it, suck it up and keep working.
Here I am at 56 years old, with rheumatoid arthritis, postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS), severe osteoporosis in my spine, scoliosis, osteoarthritis, other damage to my spine and atypical tumors on my spinal vertebrae in several locations and one on my liver!
Nothing is getting better…. it’s all getting worse, and more meds are continually added.
My pain levels are extremely high. I have zero energy. I’m at a high fall risk with a few of my conditions causing fainting and balance issues. My bipolar rapidly cycles over even the smallest amount of stress.
All these conditions seem to be completely unrelated as they involve many different systems within my body and all were diagnosed over 40+ years.
Making the Connection to Healthy Lifestyle Choices
The only thing in common – is they are all in my body. Anything that affects one part of the body, will eventually effect other parts. Part is parts and they are all connected.
Acknowledging this and really letting it sink in, will logically lead you to the conclusion that anything and everything you do to/with your body has an impact within your entire body, and thus your overall health.
Changing the lifestyle
Lifestyle changes need to involve 7 things:
- Mental Health
- Physical Health
I know, I know: “if one more person tells you to just lose weight, do yoga, coffee enemas and eat kale, you’re gonna scream”. I hear ya. I really do!
However, there is some wisdom in those lifestyle changes. There’s also scientific facts to backup that wisdom.
Diet: You Are What You Eat
There are many ways of eating. I won’t call them diets, because that implies that you can eat that way for a little bit, lose weight (gain weight, or whatever your goal is) and then stop and go back to how you ate before.
That’s not what needs to happen.
Permanent change requires permanent changes.
Talk with your doctor about what way of eating works best for you and your health conditions.
We need nutrients to fuel our bodies. There’s nothing nutritious about fast food and faux-food whose ingredients read like a chemistry lab shopping list.
Organic food is best, because if you spray your food with chemicals that belong on a chemistry lab shopping list, it’s not really any more nutritious than faux-food with chemical filled ingredients.
Here’s a list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen of foods that you should always buy organic, and those where buying organic isn’t absolutely necessary.
Exercise: Move However You Are Able
Contrary to popular believe you do not have to do hours of exercise daily to get benefits of exercise.
Did you know you can do yoga in bed or while sitting on a chair?! Unless your health condition expressly prohibits you from any movement at all, bed yoga should be doable.
But if you are able, walking, pilates, swimming, bike riding, etc…. are all good forms of exercise. Again, talk with your doctor, take into consideration your unique health conditions and then find whatever form of exercise you can do – and do it!
Sleep: You Don’t Get Enough
Sleep helps us thrive by contributing to a healthy immune system, and can also balance our appetites by helping to regulate levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which play a role in our feelings of hunger and fullness. So when we’re sleep deprived, we may feel the need to eat more, which can lead to weight gain.SleepFoundation.org
If sleep can do all the above, then doesn’t it make sense to get some decent sleep?! But are you getting enough sleep? (Note: exercise can also improve sleep)
While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and teens need even more. And despite the notion that our sleep needs decrease with age, most older people still need at least 7 hours of sleep.HealthGuide.org
Water: Drink 1/2 Gallon Daily
Even mild dehydration can effect your physical and mental performance. Our bodies lose water every day due to heat and exercise.
Drinking water can also help with constipation, and helps improve your skin!
I know when I started drinking more water, my skin looks a lot better – more glow, less dry and haggard looking.
I’ve said this many times before, but our mental health greatly effects our physical health.
Please, don’t skip over this part. If you are struggling with anything, like stress, anxiety, etc…. please go to therapy.
A therapist will help you work through these issues, and give you coping techniques to help you. Not to mention you can vent and unload all the “stuff” you’ve been holding inside, that’s causing you stress, anger and more.
Seriously, go to therapy. It’s good for your mental health, which is also good for your….
As mentioned above, and really the whole theme of this post, is that everything that happens in your body is connected to, and thus effects, everything else in your body.
I mean, it’s a closed system of blood, organs, hormones, and more. It only makes sense that whatever is going on cascades throughout your physical body – including the emotional and mental too.
Aside from the above physical related tips of diet, exercise, sleep and water… you can’t forego regular checkups and health screenings. If you have chronic illness, don’t stop going to your doctors for those conditions.
Better lifestyle choices are essential, but I’m not saying they will cure you! Help, yes; cure, no. Definitely keep going to your doctor appointments.
Having a support network of family, friends, even strangers in offline support groups, or online support groups, is essential. You need people who have your back and love & care for you unconditionally. You need people who will encourage and cheer you on in your lifestyle changes, but also be there when you have a bad day and won’t judge you.
Find who your support people are and spend time with those people. Offline support counts, but in person support is vital too.
Make New Habit Choices: One at a Time
I can hear you now…..
“But Traci, I’m in so much pain I can barely move. If I try to walk/exercise, I’ll pass out. Changes raises my anxiety! What am I supposed to do?“
You do one thing. Start with one lifestyle change. Do that one change every day for at least 30 days. Get used to it. Get comfortable with it. Revel in your accomplishment. Pat yourself on the back for doing it – even when it’s hard, because it will be hard. But persevere.
Then, add one more thing. Add in another lifestyle change to the first one. Do that one for 30 days. Get used it it….. then rinse and repeat and add more.
Lifestyle changes take determination, perseverance and time. It doesn’t happen overnight, and neither do the results, but they will happen: if you don’t give up.
You may be thinking, “But what if it doesn’t work?”, and to that I say, “But what if they do?!”
Changing your lifestyle to healthier choices, is always going to be better than continuing to make unhealthy choices.
What To Do Next
- Begin by making one healthy choice, from the list above, for 30 days.
- Every 30 days, add in another healthy choice.
- Join my PRIVATE Facebook Support Group
- Comment below if you have any thoughts or questions