I am part of a great blogging network called Chronic Illness Bloggers and this month we were set a writing challenge to discuss our three worst symptoms and to share how we manage them. Although my illness causes a vast array of symptoms, it was easy for me to identify my worst three. The symptoms I suffer from the worst are fatigue, pain and feeling unwell. Although these symptoms have improved over the past couple of years, they still persist (to varying degrees) and I can have flare ups from time to time. Sometimes these flares are due to things I’ve done (taking liberties with diet or pacing as examples) but sometimes the cause isn’t quite so clear-cut. Either way, I put my focus and energy into things I can control and strategies that I know will help me to feel better.
When it comes to managing my health problems, I like to view my illness as being like a puzzle. Instead of focusing on each individual piece (or symptom), I have come to learn that for me to feel as well as possible (and to minimise symptoms) all the different puzzle pieces need to come together. When it comes to managing my three worst symptoms I, therefore, take a holistic approach.
Over the years I have developed an extensive toolbox to help me live as well as possible with chronic illness. Today I am going to share some of my favourite tools for dealing with pain, fatigue and feeling unwell.
Symptomatic therapies are those that help to suppress and manage symptoms. They don’t address any underlying problems or the cause of illness. Pain killers would fall under this category but I personally do not use them and that’s the only reason I don’t mention them here. There is a lot of value in using symptomatic therapies in your recovery as they certainly make life more bearable.
- The Quell: This is the latest addition to my toolbox. In fact, I’ve only had it for a couple of weeks but already I can say it tops my symptomatic therapies list. It is a wearable pain relief device and really helps to tone down the volume of my pain. I am really impressed by this device. I will have a full review of the Quell up on the blog in a few weeks time but I love it so much I had to mention it in this post.
- The Fay Farm Serenity CBD Oil Lotion: I love The Fay Farm products and this lotion contains essential oils and CBD oil, which are great for reducing stress, anxiety and nerve pain. I apply this lotion every day.
- Heating pad & Lightstim: I much prefer heat to cold and I find that a heating pad is great for relaxing my muscles. I have also been impressed with the Lightstim for Pain, which uses light therapy to ease pain and inflammation. I tend to use both in combination.
When it comes to dealing with the symptoms of chronic illness, I also take into account the need to look after my mental and emotional health. These are some of the strategies I use, some of which also have a positive impact on my physical symptoms:
- Visualisations: I use visualisation to help me cope during those difficult times where my symptoms have flared. It’s a powerful tool that can actually result in changes to your biochemistry. Read more about it here.
- Relaxation: I use breathing exercises to help me to relax. I find that I have a tendency to over-breathe or to breathe too shallowly. As oxygen is essential for energy production this is problematic. Therefore, I spend a few minutes each day working on breathing exercises. It not only helps me to feel relaxed but can also help to reduce my pain and to improve my energy levels.
- EFT: EFT– or tapping– is like an emotional version of acupuncture and involves tapping on certain meridian points on the body. It can be used to help with anxiety (the reason I started using it) but people also use it to help with a number of physical symptoms.
Learning to slow down and pace myself better has definitely helped me to feel better overall. Pushing myself only sees an increase in pain and fatigue, plus I end up feeling really unwell too.
- Working to a baseline: I stick to a routine of what I can safely do in a day and don’t push myself beyond that (though of course life isn’t perfect and there are exceptions). I am slowly and safely adding to what I can do so that it is achievable and sustainable.
- Scheduled rest: I make time for rest at the same times every day. I find this really important for maintaining energy levels, keeping me feeling well and reducing my pain.
- Restorative movement: Equally, so long as I am able to, I will add restorative movement into my day, eg. Qigong, yoga and gentle stretching. These help to maintain my energy levels, reduce pain and keep me feeling well.
- Prioritising: I prioritise tasks that I need to do, say no to ones that are not important and don’t give myself deadlines to stress about. Making sure I don’t overload myself is key in managing my symptoms. Stress exacerbates all of my symptoms, but particularly my 3 worst symptoms.
Addressing underlying dysfunction
- Diet: I eat to nourish and heal my body and avoid foods that do not agree with me. Working on healing my gut is leading to reduced pain, improved energy levels and feeling better overall.
- Herbal therapies & supplements: The herbal therapies and supplements that I take have been key in helping to improve my symptoms and overall health. They help to boost my immune system, suppress microbes, support gut function, address mitochondrial dysfunction and balance the HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis.
- Prioritise sleep: Sleep is key to healing and I have worked hard to create and maintain a sleep schedule through good sleep hygiene and supplements.
All of the above strategies combined help me to manage and treat my chronic illness and, in turn, improve my symptoms. I have linked to relevant blog posts throughout this post, but if there is anything I have missed or a topic you would like me to discuss more in depth, please let me know in the comments below.
What are your worst symptoms and how do you manage them? Let me know in the comments down below.
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