Weathering Storms

While I try to begin each day with hope that the trajectory of 2020 will turn itself around, it seems like this might be a year loaded with trials and stress. If you suffer from a condition that is aggravated by stress, this is not good news. Add it to the pile right? It seems bad news is in abundance as storm after storm hits our country. With all the fear and life altering unpredictability of a hurricane, to say that the recent events have shaken things up is an understatement. As uncertainty, anger and fear continue to sweep the nation, and we face what will undoubtedly be a rough year (or ten) of recovery and healing, it’s going to be really important to take the time to attempt to manage stress and treat your body well. It is not the time to add fuel to the fire, we’ve already more than enough fires to fight at the moment. Being as healthy as you can, will make whatever comes next easier to survive.

That said, self care and stress management are anything but easy for most of us at the moment. If you are struggling to meditate, exercise, and eat well, you are not alone. Stress tends to bring out our worst habits as we reach for things to sooth our frazzled nerves. Personally, that means comfort food and binge watching sitcoms all day long. Which leads to feeling terrible, as lack of movement and piles of sugar feed inflammation and instigate other autoimmune symptoms. Which leads to…well, eating more junk and less moving, of course because I feel terrible.

Rinse and repeat, throw in a few days of attempting to behave myself and a smidge of exercise now and then, and that describes my life for the last two months. As the shit continues to hit the fan, I’ve become increasingly aware that this is A) not sustainable and B) not helping.

Since tanking my own health and mobility clearly won’t make this situation better, I’ve decided to focus on the fires I can put out, starting with the ones I’ve been dumping fuel on. That means watching what I eat, exercising daily, and managing stress, the three biggest keys to living well with rheumatoid arthritis and many other autoimmune conditions. Now is a great time to work on new habits and healthier responses to stress. With so much of it around, we’ll certainly get plenty of opportunities to practice.

Retraining our stress responses won’t be simple, but it will be worth it. Think about your own stress habits. What crutches do you turn to when it all becomes too much? Try to come up with a list of things you could do instead of reaching for that familiar, but ultimately destructive, soothing habit. Post the list where you can see it, preferably somewhere near the crutch you are trying to put down. That way, the next time you head to the snack cupboard after watching the news, you will be reminded that a walk will help you release the tension without feeding the flames. In time, feeling stressed will make you want to take that walk, just as it now has you reaching for a doughnut. Unlike the doughnut, all the walking will build a stronger, faster you. The way things are going this year, you just might need that speed to outrun the next storm.

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