I didn’t simplify my life for clean countertops or to be better organized. I simplified my life because I got sick. Really sick. I was sick, tired, and overwhelmed for a long time, but when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I knew things had to change. The stress and excess in my life may not have caused my disease, but it contributed to relapses, new symptoms and other health issues. If you’ve ever thought …
- this is too much
- things need to change
- this headache/cold/exhaustion is my body telling me to slow down
then you can relate.
We’ve all been impacted by the effects of stress and excess. Some of us notice and make immediate changes and for others (like me), we let it go on for too long thinking “it is what it is” until our bodies say, “enough is enough.”
Someone with MS recently asked me, “How can I be healthier with MS?” After writing back with some suggestions, I realized you don’t need MS to benefit from these recommendations. They apply to all autoimmune and other chronic conditions. In fact, even if you don’t have a specific diagnosis or condition, but are running low on energy, don’t sleep well, get frequent headaches or simply don’t feel your best, these might be helpful.
For Your Best Health: 8 Things to Consider if You are Sick and Tired
1. Build a medical team you trust.
My first neurologist and her team were terrible. I was diagnosed over the phone. They told me to review the pharmaceutical kits and pick my own drug. They told me diet and exercise don’t matter. They told me my health would decline. After I few months, I realized they weren’t on my team (and fired them) but also that I had to rise up and build and lead a team. I used to be intimidated by doctors and other medical professionals, but now I know we have to work together. They know their stuff and I know my stuff.
2. Remember you know your body better than anyone else.
When I mentioned above that I know my stuff, I mean that I know what I believe, and know my body. You know your stuff too. Keep this in mind when working with your medical professionals, when taking advice from well-meaning friends and family, and especially when gathering information from the internet. Trusting what you know will take some practice, but you do know.
3. Reduce stress.
If we want to improve our health and live with more energy and wellness, we have to be willing to live with less stress. Here’s the road to less stress: Less stuff. Less busyness. Less drama. Less debt. Less worry. Less fear. It takes time, but go down this road.
4. Rest when you need to rest.
Let’s stop apologizing for taking care ourselves, for taking naps, for staying in on a Friday night and taking a bath. Pushing through the pain doesn’t usually lead to less pain. Rest and renew.
5. Fuel when you need to fuel.
Make a list of the things that fuel you … body, mind, heart & soul. Fill up on good food, exercise, meditation, writing, and connecting with people you love.
6. Don’t try to do it all at once.
You didn’t get sick and tired overnight. Give yourself time to heal and don’t put a time limit on it. Adding random deadlines for feeling better only adds more stress. Instead, take a little step each day, rest when you need to rest and fuel when you need to fuel.
7. Don’t give up.
Keep experimenting. Ask for help. Do whatever it takes to feel well … to be well.
8. Give hope all the time it needs to replace fear.
Not feeling well is scary. Not knowing what’s wrong is scary. A devastating diagnosis is scary. The words chronic, debilitating, unknown … all scary. But we have to make a choice. Will we live in fear or in hope? It’s not as easy as a flip of a switch, but if you find daily pockets of hope each day, the fear will dissipate. Write down what you are afraid of, and what makes you smile, what you are curious about and what you are willing to do to feel better. Keep writing it down until your hope lists are longer than your fear lists.
It’s been more than a decade since I’ve had an MS relapse, but I still remember what it was like to wake up afraid that I wouldn’t be able to see or walk or think straight. I can’t predict the future but now I wake up hopeful and excited for the day ahead and find it easier to focus on what really matters to me.
Your best health will be unique for you. It won’t look like my best health, your partner’s best health or anyone else’s best health. It will also look different today than it does in five years. Figure out what your best health is today.
You’ve done a great job taking care of everyone and everything around you and now it’s time to do what’s best for you. Take all the time you need to give that gift to yourself.