If you don’t know by now, I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus (SLE) at the ripe age of 14. It took me until about the age of 23 (very long time, I know) to really start taking my health into my own hands and finding my own ways of dealing with living with a chronic illness.
For me personally, the fatigue, “Lupus Fog“, slow recovery after workouts and the joint stiffness in winter have been the worst part for me. In a sense, I am quite “lucky” that my Lupus has been manageable and under control for the most part, but there really are still some days where everything just seems slow and hard and exhausting.
In the spirit of Lupus Awareness Month, here are some of the things that I have learnt through my journey that help me manage my condition:
Eating a variety vibrant, whole, nutrient dense food will give your body the extra boost it needs to keep fighting. Avoid processed, sugary foods as much as you can (even though it’s nice to have a treat every now and then!) and replace them with healthy foods you enjoy.
It’s important to still enjoy your food! Healthy eating isn’t all boring salads and kale. It’s sweet potato, buddha bowls, mexican dishes and so much more! If you aren’t sure where to start, ask a qualified food coach, or search online or on Pinterest for recipes (give The Wholesome Project and Nourish’d a follow on Instagram for healthy, nutrient packed recipes and inspo). Chronic disease or no, a balanced diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables will certainly do your health well.
Tip: If you feel that certain foods might be triggering your condition, start keeping a food diary with a section where you can track how you feel!
Meet yourself where you are and go from there. If you’re only able to do 20 minutes of light exercise 3 times a week, then that is where you start. It’s important to keep your fitness up, keep your joints strong and most importantly, to feel capable!
Yoga will do wonders for your body and your mind. It’s low impact and works core, balance, flexibility, strength and coordination! If you suffer from joint pain, inflammation or fatigue this really is a valuable tool. Swimming is also a fantastic option – it provides a form of resistance training without putting stress on your joints.
Your own body is your best guide as to what exercises you can or cannot do. Find a qualified personal trainer to help you get on track if you need! I personally found that strength training gave me what I needed to feel strong in my body. That, coupled with eating well and learning to rest when needed, was a winning solution for me.
Tip: Always check with your physician before starting a new exercise regime.
Positive Self Talk
Be your own coach. Find books and people that inspire you, and keep your mind strong. Try to not be hard on yourself by practicing mantras, positivity and gratitude. You won’t always have people around you that understand, so you need to keep reminding yourself that you are valuable even if you’re chronically fatigued or ill. You do not have to do things you don’t have the energy for because people don’t know what it’s like. Read more below on some daily reminders that I think can help:
You do not have to hide your illness. It does not make you weak.
You do not have to prove to people that you are sick even if you don’t look it.
You do not have to work harder to be valuable.
You do not deserve to be paid less because you have an illness.
You do not have to force yourself to be busy to prove you are not sick (productivity and busy are NOT the same thing and busy isn’t always healthy).
You are allowed to take rest days.
You are allowed to say no to plans purely because you are too tired.
You are worthy and valuable.
You should practice self-care and try to keep in a routine as much as possible.
You should talk to people about it (if you don’t know how to explain chronic illness, google The Spoon Theory).
Mantras that I use:
I am strong.
I am worthy and valuable.
I am enough.
I am grateful for my body – it is working hard to keep me alive.
I hope these tips help. It really is a journey to find what works for you – patience and self-care is so important in making sure you stay on the right path. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and down trodden, so practice your mantras and healthy habits, and rely on routine.
If you know with someone with a chronic condition – speak to them about it! The more you know, the better you can help them when they need it.
Yours in health