Are You Okay?

As the new normal continues to be anything but normal and the strangeness of 2020 stretches on into the foreseeable future, it seems like a mental health check in is in order.  How are we holding up?  A quick look around at yourself and your loved ones might be a bit alarming. (How long has he been wearing that pair of lounge pants anyway?  Is hair brushing actually essential?)  Among my tribe I’ve begun to notice that even the toughest are starting to crack a bit under the pressure of doing the right thing in a world where the right thing depends on who you ask. 

The effects of the long-term suspension of our normal outlets and activities are really starting to show.  Depression, frustration, anger, and addictive behaviors of all kinds are becoming all too common in “the new normal”.  We are consuming more alcohol, binge watching more television, hitting the add to cart button with reckless abandon, spending hours scrolling through TicTok and Instagram.  If it’s a crutch or an escape mechanism, we are holding onto that puppy like a life raft these days. 

Are you addicted to the SIMS like me? There is no 12 step program but find support and yours truly on the community forum. Look for Corallady.

For me that means spending hours with my head in a book or designing dream homes for Sims and running their tiny, old-normal lives.  It means smoking more than I should and drinking more often.  It means allowing my younger son to spend waaaay too much time on his latest video game obsession, after all, he’s at least communicating with people on there, so that’s something, right?  Like the rest of the country, we are here holding onto whatever pieces of normal we have been able to preserve and keeping our eyes on them in hopes we wake to a brighter, normal-er future. Not to spoil a perfectly good escape mechanism but, hiding from our problems has never solved them before and it’s not likely to now. 

If we don’t start gaining control of our crutches, we may soon find we can’t do without them.  Crutches are tricky like that.  “Yeah but, Stasha, life still sucks, and I can’t do what I want, and its making me depressed so…”  I hear ya, I feel ya, I am right here with you. I’d like very much to just build the tiny homes all day and not pay any attention to the general state of the world outside my door.  But the building of virtual realities will not make my reality nicer when I emerge.

Life rolls on, whether we are paying it any attention or not.  So, whatever it is you are missing, or stressing about, or afraid of, or uncertain about, it’s time to start looking it over.  Consider the things you can control first, maybe start by taking a bit more control of when you choose to pick up the crutches.  We may not be able to solve all of the problems we see, but we just might be able to take a crack at our own. Overwhelmed or need help to find your way back to okay? Take a look at the this –> list and call or click for help today.

Keep Warm and Carry On- Surviving Winter with Arthritis

The weather today has me grumbly and groany. I remember when falling snow brought feelings of wonder and glee. Now it’s all pain and annoyance, often served with a helping of self pity and heaps of promises to move to a kinder climate one day. There is no doubt about it, the blanket of snow that my younger self adored now brings with it the worst of my RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) symptoms. No ifs, ands or buts about it, winter with RA, or any of the other 100+ types of arthritis, is rough. It doesn’t have to be taming a tiger rough, it can be toilet training a toddler rough. Messy, frustrating, sometimes painfully so, but not likely to cripple you. Over the years, I’ve found a few things that help me keep moving when the world freezes over.

The first and probably most obvious is staying warm. If you have any type of arthritis you know what it feels like when you get too cold. With RA that bone chilled stiffness and pain can invade your entire body. So dress warm, layer up. Develop a deep love for cozy sweaters, fuzzy socks, and all things snuggly and warm. Finger-less gloves are a must for anyone with hand/wrist arthritis. Keep those hands toasty, thank me later. Use hand and foot warmers when you go out into the cold. If you are a sports family and spend any time at outdoor sports, get a padded (or even better, heated) cushion to sit on at games. The toastier you are, the less you will ache later. At home, heated wraps, heated blankets, and heated mattress pads all help beat the cold and ease the aches and pains of arthritis. Other things that chase away that bone chilling cold feeling are hand spas, wood burning stoves, and the ultimate dream, hot tubs! Anything that really pushes the heat into those bones will make you ache less. The number one rule for winter survival with arthritis, the cozier you are, the better you will feel.

Dressing warm helps protect us from the cold, but what about the ice outside? Every winter 1 million Americans are injured in a winter slip/fall accident. In fact, most of the slip and fall injuries occur at this time of year. Icy conditions can make staying on your feet a challenge. Add any kind of balance or mobility issues, like those often associated with arthritic damage, and it is easy to see why so many people unexpectedly find themselves on the ground in winter. Luckily, there are a few great aids out there to help people stay upright. A nice warm pair of winter boots with an aggressive tread are your first defense against slippery ice. Ice cleats, made to slide over your shoes, are made by a variety of companies and help add traction to everyday shoes and winter boots. A walking stick, especially one equipped with an ice spike tip, can help you stay on your feet by providing an extra point of balance and grip. Last, but certainly not least, Walk Like a Penguin! No, I’m not kidding, those tuxedoed flightless birds certainly have perfected the art of the slow and steady waddle. So, don’t rush, pay attention to where you are putting your feet and waddle away. It might take longer to get where you are going, but the time you save healing broken bones will be well worth it.

Finally, and just as important as staying warm and upright, taking measures to stay as healthy as possible will make winter much more tolerable. It is no secret that most colds and flus spread more quickly in winter. It also happens to be the time of year those with arthritis complain of the most inflammation. There are a few reasons for this, and many ways we can combat this pattern. Winter generally means less time outside in the sun, fewer fresh fruits and veggies, less exercise, and holiday after holiday filled with delicious, inflammatory treats. It’s pretty easy to guess why this is the least healthy time of year in the Northern hemisphere. Vitamin depletion paired with higher germ exposure from being cooped up inside allows winter bugs to spread. Being sure you are getting enough fruits and veggies, adding a multivitamin and a vitamin D supplement can help build your immunity and resistance to those nasty invaders. Protecting yourself from germs by washing hands frequently and wearing a mask, can help you dodge many of the bugs we pass around in winter. Getting exercise daily will also help you stay healthy and keep arthritic joints mobile. So dig out those exercise videos and move it! Or, better yet, bundle up and go try snowshoeing, cross country skiing or some other low impact winter exercise. The fresh air and sunshine will do you good.

Staying healthy when you have inflammatory arthritis disorders, like RA or PsA, also means watching out for those delicious holiday treats and the endless comfort foods available in winter. Being mindful of what you are eating will make your holidays, and the days between, much more bearable. It is an undeniable fact that sugar causes inflammation, this is true even for completely healthy bodies. In autoimmune bodies, consuming sugar is very much like throwing gasoline on a fire. The result will always be a flare up of that unwanted fiery activity, inflammation. So proceed with caution. Keep in mind that those treats you are reaching for come with pain later, and don’t sign up for more than you can handle. Better yet, offset the fuel you add to the fire with some inflammation busters like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, green tea, and chaga. These powerful plants and fungi are excellent fire fighters, proven to reduce inflammation. Being mindful of diet and including some helpful inflammation busters will go a long way toward making winter less achy.

With a little extra self-care, a bit of caution, and all the warm things you can get your chilly little paws on, winter doesn’t have to be the season of endless suffering. You might even find some pretty great days. Between storms of course, they’ve yet to make a cure for those weather related symptoms every arthritis sufferer lives with. Until they do, I’ll be spending these stormy days snuggled up with my electric blanket and a big steamy cup of chai green tea, plotting my escape to warmer destinations.

What gets you through winter with arthritis?

Chronic Illness Struggles- Is It My Disease Or Do I Need To Seek Treatment?

If you spend much time interacting with the autoimmune and chronic illness community, you may have noticed one of the most frequent types of questions asked is “Is this normal or do I need to call my doctor?” The well-meaning response of the other group members is often a chorus of, “oh yeah that happened to me once and it was X, just do Y.”  A few more cautious types may suggest you talk to your doctor.  While it is very tempting to take the assurance of that first group that is sure they know what you are dealing with, don’t lose sight of the fact that they aren’t you.  The unfortunate truth is, even people with the exact same conditions will react to those conditions, and the treatments for them, differently. 

Sometimes, there is truly no harm in trying out that suggested remedy for what the group thinks you probably have (when they happen to agree.)  Other times, it leads to unnecessary suffering, or worse.  Assuming those chest pains are costochondritis (common among many RA patients) when it may be your heart, is not a safe bet.  Walking around with a broken foot for a week because you think it is just your RA acting up in a new, more intense way, is also no walk in the park.  So why suffer?  Pick up the phone and talk to your physician. They can help you pinpoint the cause, or at least rule out anything dangerous, the issue will also be added to your health record.  Sometimes those little annoying symptoms you aren’t discussing with your doctor are the piece he/she needs in order to fine tune your diagnosis.  Remember, managing chronic illness is a team sport, make sure your co-captain has all of the information.

Since chronic illnesses come with chronic symptoms, and those symptoms rarely all arrive at the party at the same time, you are going to find yourself playing “is this worrying or just how I am now” on a regular basis.  To prevent missing the important symptoms or driving your doctor insane with every little tiny “regular for you” symptom, it may help to ask yourself a few questions before you decide to call the doctor. 

If you’ve got a brand new symptom, even if it is an expected symptom, make the call.  That needs to go in your record.  It is a big part of how your medical team knows if the treatments you are receiving are truly working fr you.  It also often lets them know how aggressively your disease is progressing. 

Sometimes, it might also be the heads up that they need to realize you are having a negative reaction to the medication you are on.  The point is, in order to give you the best possible care, your doctor needs to know what you are experiencing.  Don’t assume they know because everyone experiences x when they have what you do.  They aren’t treating everyone, they are treating you.

If the pain scale number you picked is higher than what you are used to living with, or if the pain is new, or especially more intense than you are used to, or just plain too persistent and making life suck, call your doctor. Chronic illness does come with chronic pain, however, that doesn’t mean you just have to suffer with it.

Pain remedies are made to make people feel better, just because you have extra pain compared to “normal people” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also get relief.  Also, and this is important (and something you may occasionally have to remind your doctor of), just because you have a disease punctuated by chronic pain, doesn’t mean every pain is related to that disease.  Other things can still go wrong.  You can break things, tear things, organs can misbehave in ways entirely unrelated to your condition. You are more than your disease. Suffering with a kidney stone because you think it’s just your body being its usual un-charming self is senseless. (Ask me how I know.)

Which brings us to the last two questions.  Is it interfering with your life and is it treatable?  Whether it is an expected part of your disease or not, makes no difference when it comes to these answers.  It may be entirely normal for joints to break down and change shape when you have RA, that doesn’t mean you have to just sit by and hopelessly watch as it happens.  If the “normal” symptoms are stopping you from living your normal life, talk to your doctor. 

If there are treatments for your symptoms that someone without your disease would reach out for, you should too.  Again, expected symptoms does not mean things you have to suffer without treatment for.  It seems many people fall into the belief that those chronic illness symptoms are just their cross to bear, that this is just how they have to feel.  Honestly, that is rarely the case, few and far between are the completely untreatable symptoms.  Generally, you will find there is a therapy, medication, or fix for whatever you are suffering from.  Don’t suffer, seek help. 

Need help solving your medical mystery? Get your free printable symptom journal here.

Life with chronic illness is certainly not a walk in the park.  Spending so much time and energy on feeling well can seem like an uphill battle.  Having a well-informed doctor on the team to help get you up those inclines makes all the difference between well managed disease and disaster.  Getting their help to diagnose the root of a symptom is often the first step in finding relief for it.  Once you know what the problem is, those well-meaning chronic illness warriors will be able to offer much more helpful advice. 

New Year New You?

Has anyone else noticed a shift in the tides?  Generally, this time of year we are bombarded with hype about resolutions and crushing those goals to finally change that thing you don’t love about yourself.  I don’t know if it’s because we did so much changing in 2020, or if we finally found the sense and empathy to toss out the whole “It’s a New Year you better be a better person NOW” mentality, but whatever the reason, the shift is nice.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for self-improvement, in fact, I am quite sure it’s what we are here for, to learn and to grow, to be the best we can in the lives we chose to live.  Whatever that best is.  What I don’t believe in is new year new you type “resolutions.”  In fact, I don’t believe in resolutions at all.  I believe in goals and intentions, that we should always have a few set and be moving toward achieving them.  There is no reason whatsoever that starting the work needs to start January 1, or Monday, or after the next holiday, or after you go do that thing where you know you’ll be tempted.  Change, real, lasting change, happens over time, not at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. 

To change the habits that left us where we didn’t want to be, we will have to try, fail, revaluate, try again, probably stumble some more, possibly fall off the wagon entirely, look at the wagon for a long time and consider what being on it looks like, consider catching hold and trying to stay in charge of our actions and then follow through.  Repeatedly if it is a longtime habit.  That’s why New Year’s resolutions are like poison to me.  It’s just a set in stone goal that you will fail to meet immediately, which then makes you feel like you couldn’t do it, because it’s a new year’s resolution, everyone has one, and look at those people crushing theirs. 

Change happens after we stumble, and it sticks because we figured out how to stop stumbling.

Keep in mind that the idea of a new you is insane anyway.  We can’t be new.  We can improve, we can get healthier, lighter, faster, be more present, more on time, we can change practically everything about us if we want to badly enough. But, we are still who we are.  We are the sum of all the versions of ourselves we’ve been.  Remembering that while we set goals is a big part of setting ourselves up for success.  When you are setting goals remember, the changed you is in the future, she’s not here yet, so don’t set yourself up for failure by expecting yourself to act like her.  You’ll get there, but for now, being realistic about the person you are working with will make changing more successful. 

Get your Free Printable Symptom Journal here!

One of the ways you are going to set yourself up for success is to create realistic goals and a plan to get there.  Where many trip themselves up is by making the goal the plan.  If the goal is to eat healthier, the plan can’t be eat healthier…that is where you want to be “eat healthier” is a finish line, a goal post.  A pretty vague one at that.  If the goal and the plan are the same, you’ve left yourself no room to grow and change.  You’re asking for some of that stroke of midnight change, tomorrow I will be a person who eats healthy is what you are saying.  Guess what?  Tomorrow you will be the same person who struggles with healthy eating, so leave space for that. 

Break that goal down into achievable chunks.  Small steps add up and create lasting change.  If the goal is to exercise five days a week, start out with one or two.  If the goal is to “eat healthier” (first define healthier because that is not very specific) consider the small changes you can make to get there.  Maybe you can cut out that afternoon candy bar or trade soda for water.  Maybe you prefer to put your focus on getting one nutritious meal a day. 

You probably know the things you need to change.  Just don’t set yourself up to fail by asking yourself to do it all in one swoop.  If it was that simple, you’d have done it already.  Which brings us to the last bit of advice on creating lasting change.  Habits are hard to change.  A fact we tend to lose sight of during the new year new you frenzy, change is HARD.

Doing whatever you usually do, even if it is causing you actual pain to do it, will always feel like the easier option.  Be prepared for that.  Know that the bad habit will call you like a dear old friend.  Since you are only human, sometimes you are going to listen to that call.  It will be easy and probably comforting to slide back into that old pattern.  When you do, don’t waste time beating yourself up about it.  Know that it is part of the process.  Think about why it happened, plan to avoid it next time if you can.  Then get right back to working on that goal.  No waiting until next Monday.  Start right now. 

GoodBye 2020

What a year! It is probably safe to assume this one will make the history books. Between the virus that shall not be named, the economic and job insecurity that followed, school closures, work relocation from office to home, murder hornets, earthquakes, fires, and social upheaval, we have certainly had plenty of challenges to get through this year.

First things first, let’s all take a nice deep breath, we made it!! Despite 2020 being the year of change, here we are, surviving it all. Proof that we are more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for. As we ease into 2021, hold on to that, hold it tight. You are incredibly adaptable, whatever comes next, you’ve got this, just look at what hasn’t taken you out of the game so far!

Now, I know, many of you don’t feel like you’ve got this. In fact at this moment a good many of you feel like life is a grizzly bear and you are just trying to get the damn thing to leave so you can catch your breath for a moment. And why wouldn’t you? Your head hasn’t stopped spinning from all the change, everything is new and different, your need to do list has never been longer, and you honestly don’t think you are nailing it on any front. Maybe you are doing better than you think, then again, maybe you aren’t but…you are still moving forward, take pride in that. If you were assume the fetal position and stare off into space, nobody would judge you, we have all been there. 2020 was jam packed full of reasons to just call it a day and give up. And yet, that is not what we witnessed as the year continued on its crazy track of change.

Instead of throwing in the towel, we saw people find their way, again and again. Families have pulled together and rediscovered each other. Forced to cram all of life into your four walls, we’ve witnessed incredible inventiveness springing forward to make those spaces work for you. You’ve re-prioritized, de-cluttered, and generally everyone has taken a good close look at the life they have built. Some of us liked what we found, some not so much, most found room for improvement. Without all the distractions of our fast paced lifestyles, there has been time to consider what we need to work on.

Slowing down and turning inward, we have rediscovered dreams long dead and begun to breath new life into them. We have discovered the baggage we’ve been tripping over and started the process of unpacking it. Faced with our very real mortality, we have taken a deep dive into what we need and want in our lives. Many have found ways to make those things happen, in some form, many others now know what they want when “things return to normal”. I hate to burst that bubble, but normal isn’t coming back anytime soon. It can’t get back, you have seen behind the curtain. You cannot un-know the things you discovered there. Carry them forward instead, into a brand new normal, we can build it together.

In fact, that is the beauty of this time of the year. The clean slate. Tomorrow we start an entirely new leg of our journey. What will it hold for us? What will we create there? How do we want 2021 to look? Take a few minutes to make a list of things you wish to see happen in 2021. Be sure to stay in the positive, ask for what you do want, forget the things you don’t want, they don’t fit your bright new normal world, toss them out with the clutter. This is your mission for the coming year, to do whatever you can to work toward the life you want to live. Simple right? After a complex year like 2020, we all need a little simple in our lives.

Hoping 2021 is magical and 2020 is soon nothing more than a bad dream we all shared.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Finding the Joy in Christmas 2020

When I was little, Christmas was a magical time of wonder. Each year the anticipation would build as we trimmed the tree and baked cookies, preparing for the arrival of the magical man himself, Santa, friend of elves and reindeer, flying through the sky to bring toys to all the good little boys and girls in the world. Christmas Eve we’d gather at my Nanny’s surrounded by the beautiful chaos of a large blended family. It was hugs and hot cocoa, warm gingerbread cake fresh from the oven, and I couldn’t wait for it to be that time of year again.

By my late 20’s the magic was missing, buried under heaps of stress and grief from all of the less magical Decembers past. I continued to go through the motions to make the magic for my kids, but for years that feeling of anticipation, that magical spark of holiday cheer, was gone. I dreaded the turning of the calendar page to December, now littered with landmines of sorrow and mixed emotions. All those happy and sad memories twisted in a tangled heap like discarded Christmas lights. Like the lights it felt like I was half lit. Every year, I slogged through it, faking it, eventually, little bits of joy crept back in, but honestly, Christmas has become a difficult holiday for me, in a good year. In walks 2020…and December damn near shut me down.

Staring down my most difficult month with none of the chaos that I’ve come to rely on to distract me? Terrifying. How would I cope without all the activity and obligations to keep me moving through the molasses that December is for me? What would force me to get up and fake it when there were no holiday parties to go to? My introvert self freaking out about NOT leaving the house to join a crowd, was a pretty big red flag in and of itself. Hold on, what in the hell are we running from anyway? For the first time in my life, I looked at what hurts in December, in one big, messy heap. I discovered two important things, 1) this is the epicenter of most of the most difficult times of my life and 2) I’ve done well to fake my way through it all this time. Splendidly, truly. It isn’t an easy time of year for me, and nobody would expect it to be. Perspective.

After counting the landmines and marking them on the map, I began to consider the ways I’ve navigated them previously, which of those tactics are healthy, and what I could do in the upside down of 2020 to smooth out my bumpiest month. Crafting, giving, reaching out to those I love, all of these fill my cup. They give me joy. So, I made plans around those things. Plans to inject joy into my month, while leaving room to also sit in the feelings when they come. For the first time, it doesn’t feel like I’m trying to sprint through December and slide into January as quickly as possible. I’m not running anymore and that might just be the most magical gift of all.

Best Gifts for Rheumatoid Arthritis 2020 Edition

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If you have a loved one with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), you have probably noticed that it comes with its own set of challenges. Aching joints, exhaustion, and physical limitations are likely to rule their lives. Give them the gift of relief this year! We polled 100’s of RA patients to find out what they wish for. Here’s what they asked for! From gifts to keep them warm and toasty to gadgets that will help them get things done, our readers had a ton of great ideas! Read on to find out what your arthritic loved one would be overjoyed to unwrap this year!

Topping the wishlist this year, and hitting this writer right in the feels, the number one requested gift in 2020, by a landslide, is time with the ones they love! The prolonged isolation from grandchildren, adult children, parents, friends, and all of their people has taken a toll. Holiday traditions have taken a hard hit. The result? What they’d like most of all is the magical gift of your presence.

Since the….let’s just call it 2020 chaos, shows no sign of slowing before year’s end, and many RA patients take immune suppressing medications that leave them vulnerable to that which shall not be named (look I am willing to try anything to weaken it’s power at this point), they understand that an in person visit might not be possible. That said, it’s still at the top of the list, so consider how you can be there (safely) for them.

Consider planning a visit if at all possible. The love you share and the memories you make will be well worth the time and effort it takes to make that happen, even if you have to spend 2 weeks hunkered down at home first to be sure you’re not contagious. If that’s not possible, consider ways you can visit from a distance; video call, write letters, have food delivered and have dinner “together” online, plan a virtual family game night. You may have to get creative to create the “togetherness” they are yearning for.

If you can’t be there, because realistically that is going to be the case for a great many people, consider sending your loved one the gift of warmth. While not quite as lovely as a hug, rheumatoid patients agreed the thing they wanted most was a heated wrap, bonus points if it is portable!

Beautyrest Ultra Soft Sherpa Berber Fleece Electric Poncho Wrap Blanket Heated Throw with Auto Shutoff, 50″ W x 64″ L, Tan Plaid

Knowing that nothing ticks arthritis off more than getting “chilled to the bone” in chilly winter weather, there were many other wonderful gifts on their wishlist to keep them warm, including these cozy heated gloves, heated socks, or a nice heated carseat cover.

To help soothe chilled bones at home they asked for electric blankets and heating pads, or how about this amazing portable sauna? (Yes please!) Basically, if it makes heat to make you warm and cozy, it’s a great gift for all of the arthritis sufferers on your list.

Considering their obvious love of all things warm and cozy, it is not at all surprising that the next most frequently asked for gifts included a pile of warm and cozy socks and slippers. Leaning into the 2020 lougewear trend, leggings and pj’s were also at the top of their list.

For those increasingly rare times they need to leave the house, RA patients asked for warm gloves and mittens and comfortable shoes like these Clarks CloudSteppers, hands down my personal favorite shoe, I like them so much I have them in three different colors.

If your loved one struggles with bulky winter coats, consider a nice warm poncho, for ease of wear. It is essentially like wearing a blanket, and as we already know, they LOVE blankets!

Speaking of things they love to wear, consider picking them up some compression gloves, knee sleeves, or other compression gear. Whatever body part they have that could use a little extra love and support, there is probably compression wear for that.

Chronic pain being one of the primary symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, anything that will offer them a bit of relief would be greatly appreciated. The remedies that RA patients swear by include many mentholated creams, like Biofreeze. The most frequently asked for topical remedies were CBD oils and creams. Other great gift options for pain relief included bath soaks like this delightful mango soak from Scentsy or Dr Teal’s epsom salts.

To chase away the pain, those surveyed also asked for hand and foot massagers, massaging chairs, and therapy balls. Want to really make their day? A gift certificate for a massage is sure to bring them comfort and let them know you want them to feel their best.

Looking to really wow them? The dream gift among those surveyed was a hot tub! Hot tub a little out of your budget? How about a nice hand spa or foot bath instead?

Life with RA often involves a good deal of struggle with getting the little things done. Pain, inflammation, and changes in joint structure can make the simplest things a big challenge. Gadgets that can help to make those things easier will be greatly appreciated.

At the top of that wishlist were electric can openers and jar openers. I love this jar opener so much I bought a second one to keep at my Mom’s so I don’t need to ask for help there either. Other great kitchen gadgets include electric pepper mills, a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, and this amazing Rotato peeler!

For help outside of the kitchen, a lifting seat or recliner would be a great gift for your loved one who finds getting up to be a struggle. Other wonderfully helpful tools include chunky ergonomic pens, lever doorknobs, and this cool pen mouse.

Since we started out our list talking about how isolated your vulnerable loved ones are feeling this holiday season, it seems fitting to wrap up our gift guide with a list of things to help them stay entertained at home. Topping that list were gadgets that make reading easier on the hands like the Kindle Paperwhite, this amazing bookstand, and these adorable page holders. Consider keepiong those readers entertained with a subscription for a magazine, audiobook, or book of the month club.

Other great suggestions include gifts to pamper them through the long months ahead. Perhaps they would enjoy a selection of delicious teas/coffees, there are even subscription services for that. Think about the things they enjoy, you’ll likely find someone, somewhere who offers a monthly subscription box. Not sure what they would like? How about a Spoonie Box Subscription? Loaded with goodies for chronic illness fighters, it is sure to be a big hit month after month.

While the 2020 chaos might change everything, including your traditions, this year, that doesn’t mean we cannot show our isolated loved ones how very much we appreciate and care for them. A little creativity and extra effort is sure to go a long way. May your days be merry and bright and may all your test results be negative. Happy Holidays from the TenaciousME family.

Snuffing Out Inflammation

If you’ve been around TenaciousME for a while, or have gone through the site’s menu, you’ll notice that the menu hosts information regarding autoimmune resources including nutrition and exercise. What’s different about this post is that get to write it from a different perspective. I’m not one with many autoimmune issues, I “only” have minor autoimmune issues; and that’s not to discredit the severity of anyone’s autoimmune journey.

I call mine minor because for the most part I’ve somehow have lessened the histamine effects of eating potatoes that affected me similarly to rubbing my face in my cat’s fur. Itchy, watery eyes, throat and ears would get itchy, sneezing. Tomatoes and peppers would make my stomach hurt with such sharp pains that I gave them up for almost 10 years. I also have a 2-hour window of being in the presence of pumpkin guts before I get a histamine reaction and if I eat it, I’ll lose my lunch from three day ago. Obviously, avoiding all of these is annoying but doable.

However, earlier this year, just before the coronavirus blossomed, I fell into eating ketogenically and doing intermittent fasting. And holy shit it works… when I stick to it – because let’s face it, I’m human and I like to eat all of the things, even what’s bad for me.

Since, I am assuming you’re human, too; I am here to offering insight as to why keto and intermittent fasting may help you. Know that I am not a doctor, I did not play one on TV, nor did I sleep at a Holiday Inn (stupid but a favorite commercial of mine). What I am is a certified personal trainer, certified nutrition coach, a certified behavioral specialist, and, finally, I am experienced in eating the ways of keto and scheduling my meals with intermittent fasting. Both of which fascinate me.

Hippocrates said, “all disease begins in the gut,” and we’ve seen memes telling us that “we are what we eat, so don’t be cheap, easy, or fast” and this is where ketogenic and intermittent fasting may help you. Ketogenically eating is reducing your carbohydrates (especially processed carbs), greatly increasing your healthy fat consumption, and getting in adequate amounts of quality protein. If you’re body is going to attack itself, it really should be the visceral fat that are not healthy for us to have anyway – and that’s where intermittent fasting comes in.

Intermittent fast – when done properly and may require you to touch base with your doctor, is scheduled eating and not eating. The evidence here is that when you go longer periods of time without eating, your body starts to produce ketones which is energy from stored fat. When this happens the BHB (beta-hydroxybutyrate) ketone is produced and is associated with reducing inflammation.

It does this, first by entering the anabolic stage i.e. digesting the foods you just consumed which occurs 0-4 hours after eating. Hours 4-16 you move into the catabolic stage where blood glucose continues to drop and your body starts to nibble on your stored fat cells. The fat burning stage is somewhere between hours 16 and 24 and in 24-72 hours (also called extended fasting), your body enters into ketosis and is solely using stored body fat. But wait! There’s more!

One of the best benefits of intermittent fasting is when your body goes into autophagy. This is where I love to geek out. When our bodies go into autophagy, we are literally upcycling all of our damaged cells – and yes, that take time and is not an overnight flipped switch to being inflammatory free. When our bodies transform damaged cells, it has the ability create new cells of better quality. Inflammatory response are reactions to damaged cells and when we’re fasting, our bodies use those damaged cells in order to keep us alive during the fasting process.

We’ve evolved from cavemen and we wouldn’t be here if the times when food was scares our bodies didn’t do something to survive. Because of this evolutionary enlightenment, we’ve learned that we don’t need to go to the extreme and prolong our fasts. But here’s the tricky part… We are all different in how slow or how quickly we get into the states of ketosis and autophagy. If you are accustomed to eating high carb meals and then you get into fasting, it will take you longer to get where you need to go; and this is why adding a ketogenic way of eating helps your fasting results.

We can also mess ourselves up when we enter what I call “stuff your face season” hits – aka Halloween through New Year’s. The silver-lining to this season, this year (thanks again Covid), is that we can find recipes and make wonderful holiday meals that are ketogenically approved, schedule intermittent fasting, and/or reduce the number of meals we eat each day of celebrating from 6 (if you include snacks) down to 1 or two and eating them in a short window of time – like a four hour window.

One more thing! Eating ketogenically and doing intermittent fasting are easier than you’d believe. In the long run, it’s actually economical, too. I’ve heard (and probably have said) the same thing you’re thinking… “I could never go_____ amount of hours without eating!” Here’s the funny part… You already do. Every night when you go to bed, you’re fasting. If you cut off your eating time by 7:00pm (a lot of people do this, so they don’t snack before bed) and do not eat until breakfast (7:00am-10:00am), you’re doing a 12-14 hour fast. If you only eat one meal a day, you’re fasting. Crazy, right? It’s having support that can be the trickiest part; so, if you need help with that, come over to Facebook WBFL-Coaching, like the page, share with friends.

Keep Working Out Buddies! Your Perfect Is Growing!

WBFL-Coach Angela
48-Hour Intermittent Fasting Challenge

Guest Post At WBFL

Something pretty fantastic happened yesterday! While I was at my monthly infusion appointment, my very first guest post published over at WBFL Fitness! I am excited to be starting my journey as a legit, paid writer! This will hopefully be the first of many pieces I write for other folks in the health and wellness field. Spreading my wings! Want to see what I had for the WBFL audience? Follow the link to check out the post. While you are there, don’t forget to take a look around, Angela and Stacy have some wonderful advice and assistance to help get you on track with your healing journey.

My Marijuana fueled life

There has been a lot of talk over the years about the negative effects of marijuana (cannabis) use. Chief among these, always, is laziness. Cannabis use is often associated with a lack of motivation, unemployment , and general slothery. While it may be true that the right/wrong bud can make you one with the couch, that is certainly not the general case. Used right, marijuana helps people get things done. I’d love to share a few of the things Mary Jane has helped me get done over the years. Some of them may surprise you, they certainly fly in the face of the stereotype. Of course that’s no surprise to me, stereotypes are made for breaking.

The 1st and perhaps least surprising way marijuana has helped me over the years is pain management. I can’t really remember a time before chronic pain. By my teens ibuprofen had become part of my daily diet. I can’t tell you about the magical day I realized marijuana was my answer to pain management. It didn’t happen like that. I started smoking recreationally.  It made my body and brain happy, so I used it more. Eventually it became a daily habit and I found I only needed ibuprofen on days when I didn’t think being “high” was a good option, mostly workdays. At this point, disabled and decades into chronic pain land, cannabis is my primary method of pain management, with the help of a few great herbal and topical remedies now and then. While the strains that completely eliminate my pain are few, and all definite couch potato strains, I have found most strains help keep my pain at a tolerable level, better than prescription medications ever have. 

Marijuana is also the only thing I use to manage anxiety. That too I figured out accidentally. Remember that recreational use? Those stoned times with friends helped me find my way past the social anxiety that caused me to clam up in social situations. It quieted the panic when someone asked me a direct question. I found I could talk, think and actually enjoy myself while high. A very different experience from my normal fear-filled people interactions.

With marijuana muting the anxious side of me, I could maintain control, think, articulate. It pulled things into focus and made me feel good in my own skin. Years later, it is how I know I can navigate social situations that would otherwise leave me either pukey and stressed, or absent, because I’m probably not going without a puff.

With Mary Jane pitching in on two very constant fronts in my life, I have been able to step out of my comfort zone and reached for jobs, relationships and dreams.  Marijuana was one of the keys to earning my bachelors degree. I am not at all ashamed to admit that I attended classes, took exams and studied under the influence of marijuana. It kept my pain in check and, probably more important in college, kept me socially engaged and focused. Since finishing college Mary Jane has helped me reach out and take chances anxiety would have easily talked me out of, again and again.  Helping me find that quiet space inside, marijuana gave me the peace and perspective needed to heal trauma and emotional baggage.  Since diagnosis with chronic illness, it has allowed me to keep my prescription counts around two, three if you count the marijuana (I certainly do.)  It has given me the courage to write and share my story. Settling me when anxiety is at the helm, cannabis allows me to be in control and be my best self. It helps me have the resilience to face this life. It allows me to take pain dulled walks and produces rest when I am weary. I often think of where I’d be without it.  The picture is sad and lonely, and probably littered with alcohol bottles dripping with depression, which you guessed it I also manage with marijuana.

Disclaimer- I am not a medical professional.  If you are considering using marijuana for symptom management I highly recommend you make an appointment with a doctor who understands your conditions and can advise you concerning use of medical marijuana.  If there are medicinal dispensaries in your area, they are a wonderful source of information concerning the medical properties of different strains.  Use them!

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