I stand, head bowed in the shower wishing that the hot water could wash away the dark fatigue that pulls hard at my body and the corners of my mind. It feels good to let the water fall on me. I can relax here. It’s quiet. There are no expectations. If you suffer from chronic illness then I know you can relate to this feeling. You understand what it means to have to will yourself to move through your day. Here are five tips for surviving life and motherhood:
1. Get Enough Sleep
Adequate sleep is one of the most vital things in keeping chronic illness at bay, and yet it’s often the first thing I compromise. It’s just too easy to stay up past bedtime. Lack of sleep makes fatigue and pain, the two biggest complaints of chronic illness, much worse. Set a sleep schedule for yourself and a good bedtime routine, just like you do for your kids, to make falling asleep easier. I have an alarm set on my phone to tell me when to go to bed. Lately that hasn’t been enough, so I’m actually in the process of setting the electronics in my house up on timers so that they automatically shut off at bedtime. Knowing my weaknesses and planning ahead are important.
2. Eat Right
Making sure you’re getting the nutrients you need is vital to feeling your best. Did you know different illnesses may require a change in diet? For example, there is a lot of research that supports the conclusion that autoimmune diseases are made worse by consuming gluten. When my naturopath told me that gluten had a major impact on my Hashimoto’s disease, I rolled my eyes. But she convinced me to try going gluten-free for a few weeks and see if I started feeling better. She was right. More than that, the next blood test showed my antibodies were within normal range, providing real medical proof that my gluten-free diet was having a direct impact on my health.
3. Know Yourself
This is so important! Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses and limitations. Make a plan for how you’ll handle situations that commonly come up. Dinner time is hard for me, so I know I have to plan for it way ahead of time. Since I feel at my best in the mornings and early afternoons I start making dinner early, often utilizing my slow cooker. I also keep a few meals on hand that my kids can prepare themselves, for those days when I just can’t manage dinner myself. It happens, the key is to be prepared for it.
4. Accept Offers of Help and/or Plan Ahead
Stress is another key contributor to controlling the symptoms of chronic illness. I’ve found that one of the biggest ways to manage stress is to plan ahead. Life is far less stressful if you know what’s coming and you already have a plan in place. Sometimes that means accepting someone’s offer for help. For me these offers of help come most frequently from my supportive husband and children. I keep a bullet journal with me at all times with running lists of meal ideas, items needed from the store, and things that need to be done around the house. I check items off as I do them or as others do them for me. This way I always know what I need, even if I’m in a brain fog or feeling fatigued.
5. Be Prepared to be Misunderstood
There’s nothing you or I can do about it, at some point we’re going to be misunderstood. Someone is not going to understand why you’re saying “no” and their feelings will be hurt. Be prepared for it so you’re not completely blindsided and you’re able to approach the situation gracefully. Be patient with the person who doesn’t understand (even if it’s for the 100th time) and try to see it from their perspective. Realize that the root of the issue is that they feel disappointed and use your experience to try to relate to them. Let them know you’re disappointed too.