There is no doubt about it, life with an autoimmune condition is a challenge, one nobody wants but millions of people have. While the 80+ autoimmune diseases behave differently and require distinct approaches to treat, there are a few things that are beneficial to people with all types of autoimmune disease.
Nourish Your Body
One of the most critical areas to pay attention to when managing any autoimmune condition is nutrition. Our bodies use nutrients for every single process they carry out, everything from maintaining proper cell function to responding to an internal threat, relies on the presence of nutrients. Without the right micro-nutrients and macro-nutrients, your body simply cannot function properly.
This means it cannot rebuild damaged tissues, empty out cellular waste, or stop inflammatory processes. Managing an autoimmune condition without those functions working properly? Nearly impossible. Eating a balanced diet, taking a good vitamin supplement, and being sure you are drinking plenty of water will go a long way toward giving your body the support it needs.
Listen to Your Body
Speaking of your body, it is tired of being ignored. Now I understand completely the instinct to ignore its constant complaints. Over time you’ve gotten tired of it going on and on about the same old thing, so you’ve learned to tune it out, like a Mom with a Minecraft obsessed kid. Unfortunately, unlike the Creeper tales of your 11 year old, you are missing critical information when you tune out. Those persistent annoying symptoms? That is your body begging for help. It needs you to listen and DO something about the root cause. Until you do, it will just keep droning on, turning up the volume as you toss and turn your way through another sleepless night. Pay attention to those symptoms. Start a journal to track them, if you can find the root cause, treat it, if not, work on better symptom management with your health team.
Be Honest About Your Symptoms
Listening to your body will not do you much good if you don’t share what it is telling you. Life is a team sport. Your loved ones, medical team, employer, friends…none of them can be a supportive member of your team if you are not being honest with them. Think about the person you love most of all. Now, imagine them quietly suffering alone. How does that make you feel? Do you want them to lie to you, saving the tears and frustration for themselves or would you rather they share their woes so you can help lighten their burden? If it’s love, and you are not a grouch, you probably want them to share so you can help them. So, why are you denying them the opportunity to help you? Be honest about what you can do and what you cannot manage, about the symptoms that bring you to your knees and the rough days. Let them be there for you as you would want to be there for them.
Work on Your Balance
The most challenging aspect of life with autoimmune diseases is learning how to balance the needs of your body with those of life. In busy industrial nations, where self-worth is tied tightly to daily productivity, that can be extremely hard. We’ve been taught that hard work is a virtue and resting is, well, not. With the massive list of all that society has agreed we should all be capable of juggling, it is easy to see how tossing something like a demanding health condition into the act might cause all of the pins to drop. Now you can attempt to pick all those pins up and carry on, the show must go on after all, but…if week after week the same pins are lying in a heap on the floor, you may need to consider changing the act up a bit. Finding the balance between what you think you should be able to do, and what you actually can achieve will not only make it more manageable, it will also make you look and feel more successful. The key to any successful juggling act after all is not picking up the knives before you’ve mastered juggling those pins.
Last but certainly not least, you must calm down! Stress is the number one most common trigger among autoimmune diseases. Luckily, if you are doing a good job of communicating what you need, asking for help, and working toward achieving balance you are also reducing your stress. Consider the other areas of your life that cause stress. Is there anything you can change to reduce those stressors? Can you avoid that situation or person who causes your blood pressure to rise? Is there a less stressful job out there for you? What changes can you make that would reduce your stress?
For the stress you can’t escape, what will you do to manage the stress? Exercise, meditation, writing, time in nature, breathing, all of these help reduce stress, choose a few stress relieving strategies to add into your daily routine.
Life with an autoimmune disease is no walk in the park. It is challenging, frustrating, and difficult to manage a body that fights itself. Learning how to support ourselves and finding our balance can go a long way toward living well with autoimmune disease.