As with many life-altering events, an autoimmune illness is almost guaranteed to cause you to re-evaluate your priorities.
Autoimmune diseases are estimated to affect about 4.5% of the world’s population. In total, 76 autoimmune diseases were identified in 2012 by immunologists Scott M. Hayter and Matthew C. Cookand. These include Type 1 Diabetes, Psoriasis, and Thyroid-related diseases such as Hashimoto Thyroiditis and Graves’ Disease, among others. Autoimmune diseases are chronic conditions in which the immune system fights against our body’s cells and tissues. Different conditions affect different areas of the body and sometimes may even affect multiple organs.
The reason why someone develops an autoimmune disease is not yet fully clear or agreed upon in the scientific community. However, it is thought that autoimmune diseases are triggered by an overworked immune system which eventually starts malfunctioning, leading to unmanageable levels of generalized inflammation. There are also known risk factors that increase its likelihood: family history, overweight, smoking, and specific medications such as antibiotics. I must add chronic psychological stress to this list since mental and emotional strain contributes to the increased response of the immune system.
Despite the variety of autoimmune diseases, patients often share common symptoms. These include fatigue, joint pain, and swelling, skin problems, digestive issues, recurring fever, and swollen glands. Fatigue is one of the most reported symptoms and can often be ignored as part of a bigger health problem such as autoimmune disease. It is probably also one of the most psychological annoying symptoms as it prevents patients from feeling alive and being active in their pursuits. Fatigue can be a continuous experience or occur in specific periods of crisis driven by a lack of oxygen and nutrient supply, altered metabolism, mood, motivation, and sleep. To help you navigate through these issues, here are 5 coping strategies:
Go Easy On You
I personally struggle with autoimmune disease and being a bit of a Type A kind of person, I often become very critical and judgemental of my performance when in fact there is not much I can do in the middle of a crisis to experience peak performance. In these moments, I have to remind myself that I need to take it easy and don’t beat myself over my temporary disability. It is important to be kind and compassionate toward yourself. I find the practice of meditation useful in this regard.
Practice a Whole-Food Based Nutrition
The whole-food approach to diet is simple and natural. It is based on fresh, whole ingredients that cover different groups of food. It consists of a high intake and variety of vegetables and fruits, moderate ingestion of quality protein, and minimal consumption of highly processed foods. This approach helps reduce inflammation and replenishes the body’s minerals and vitamins needs, crucial nutrients to boost the good functioning of the immune system.
Get Enough Sleep
Although crises can disrupt sleep, it is important you take the necessary measures to sleep as much as you need. To achieve that, it is recommended that you avoid caffeine and other stimulants such as spices and dark chocolate. Also, try to remove unnecessary stimuli in the evening such as disturbing news or difficult people. Reducing screen and social media time can help you as well.
Exercising every day can be strenuous and not indicated for every patient, but doing it on a regular basis helps the body generate important molecules that contribute to the regulation of different aspects such as metabolism and mood. Keeping our metabolism in check is crucial to recovery and it helps repair our energy levels. Consider choosing aerobic exercises such as walking or other low-impact activities such as yoga and stretching.
If you know your workload or schedule is going to increase, it is useful to prepare as much as possible beforehand. Make sure you have available healthy snacks and meals, the right pieces of clothing and shoes, and the necessary materials and resources. After a busy day, it is normal to feel drained and lack sufficient energy to perform even the minimal tasks such as cooking. Preparing what you will need and scheduling breaks in between commitments and commuting will allow you some breathing space and ease.
Living with an autoimmune disease can be burdensome since it sometimes requires triple the effort when it comes to managing our health and well-being. These coping strategies are useful to help us navigate through a crisis but also serve as a guiding stone to prevent potential flares. Although we can’t control our body, we can help it function to the best of its ability by providing the right food, sleep, and rest, without forgetting to develop kindness and compassion toward ourselves.
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I believe the overall message of this blog post and practice is that the more time you spend in nature, the more healing benefits you get. Whether you choose to make direct contact with the earth by going barefoot or immerse yourself in a forest, your body will thank you and recover from its electrical imbalances. Practices such as these can help us prevent and alleviate health and well-being issues that plague modern men and women.Keep reading