Posts Tagged ‘flare’

The benefits of stretching

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

As you can see from the title, this post is about the benefits of stretching – but not the stretching you do to limber up and prevent your muscles from cramping. The stretching I am referring to is the kind where you do more than you are used to doing or think you can do (but I need to add one more qualification, which is that whatever stretching you do needs to make your life better in some way).

Why is stretching beneficial for those of us with chronic illnesses? It’s beneficial because we often feel depressed and hopeless because of all the things we can no longer do, such as doing things with our children, keeping the house clean, having fund with our friends, etc. And stretching to do more than we normally do or think we can do significantly lessens, and can even eliminate those feelings. Every time we go beyond what we thought our limits were, we feel a sense of accomplishment and hope.

Before I say more, I need to make it clear that I am NOT suggesting that you overextend yourself physically when you know that doing so will exacerbate your symptoms or cause your illness to flare for several days or more. As I said above, the kind of stretches I’m talking about are those that make your life better, not worse. So think of ways you can stretch that will do that. I’ll give you some suggestions a little later in this post.

Stretching, when we don’t overdo it, is very good for us, but most of the time we resist doing it. We resist for lots of reasons, and many of them are from things we learned when we were younger that were either wrong or no longer apply. For example, a baby elephant that is chained to a tree soon learns that struggling to get away is futile (obviously we’re not elephants, but in this case our minds work in the same way that theirs do). When it is an adult, that same elephant can be restrained by a very weak chain. It will not try to break free.

For each of us, from childhood on there have been countless times when we have “learned” that we couldn’t do something, or that doing it was painful. And, as with the elephant, what we “learned” becomes an unconscious limitation. But the process of deliberately trying to stretch makes us question those limitations, and that can enable us to overcome them.

One “chain” that restrains most people is the belief that they need to be in a certain mood to do some things. For example, they don’t think they can reach out and call friends if they don’t feel sociable, or they don’t think they can cook a nice meal for themselves if they are depressed. But the truth is that our actions can be independent of, rather than dependent on, our mood. So don’t let your mood prevent you from stretching!

Hopefully you have thought of some ways that you can stretch. I’ve given you a couple of suggestions: reaching out and calling friends and cooking yourself a nice meal. You can also stretch by taking up a new hobby, planting some flowers in the garden, joining an in person or online club, or countless other ways. So start stretching and you will soon see your depression lessening and your quality of life getting better and better.

Do you have TLCC Deficiency Syndrome? Here’s how to treat it

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

You won’t find TLCC Deficiency Syndrome in a medical dictionary, but in my many years of coaching people with chronic illnesses I’ve found that it describes what many of them have. TLC, of course, is an acronym for “tender loving care,” and the last “C” is for compassion, so TLCC Deficiency Syndrome is the condition of lacking the needed tender loving care and compassion that people with chronic illnesses often experience.

Many things can cause TLCC Deficiency Syndrome. Some of the most common are new symptoms or a worsening of symptoms that are already present. I’ve observed that when people have flares or develop new symptoms, they usually get the treatments they need to combat those flares and new symptoms, but they often ignore the need for extra TLCC that almost always accompanies them. I’ve also often seen people’s families and friends provide lots of logistical support, such as rides to doctor visits, advice, etc. in those situations, but overlook or not fully recognize the need for extra TLCC their friend or family member has. As a result, the TLCC Deficiency Syndrome goes untreated.

So what do you do if you have TLCC Deficiency Syndrome? First, let your friends, family, and others in your support network know that you need more TLCC, and ask if they would be willing to give it to you. Chances are good that many of them will.

However, there will inevitably be times when you are suffering from a TLCC deficiency, but your friends and family aren’t able to give you the TLCC you need. When that happens, it’s up to you to give yourself the extra tender loving care and compassion that you need and deserve!

Here’s how: First let in and acknowledge to yourself how unpleasant and painful living with the symptoms of your illness has become. Now you may find doing that to be difficult and uncomfortable. However, the discomfort won’t last long and your TLCC Deficiency Syndrome treatment will be much more.

Once you’ve accomplished the step of letting in and acknowledging how painful your symptoms have become, then complete your treatment by giving yourself the same compassion you would give to someone you feel close to and care about, such as a child, a spouse or partner, or a dear friend. When you do, I’m certain that you’ll feel much, much better. Not only that, but you may find, as I and many of my clients have, that the treatments you’re undergoing for your illness become more effective.

Tom Robinson – Life Coach for People with chronic illnesses

An Opportunity to Walk My Talk

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

I know I’ve been very fortunate, because I’ve had relatively good health for most of the time since I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. As I describe in the page about this blog, my symptoms kept getting worse and worse during the first three years after my 1996 diagnosis, but in 1999 I found the combination of standard and alternative treatments that put my Crohn’s into remission and gave me my life back. Since then I’ve had a few fairly mild flares, but I’ve been drug and pain free for almost four years.

Because I’ve been so fortunate health-wise, it’s been a long time since I have needed to practice the suggestions I write about. Now I know those suggestions are good ones, because many people have told me how helpful they’ve been. But last week I found out firsthand that there is a big difference between recommending them to a client or describing them in posts, and being in major pain from a flare-up and struggling to do my best to use them.

The flare happened10 days ago and it turned my world upside down. After almost four years in remission, I had the mindset that for all intents and purposes I had beaten Crohn’s. But for some reason, some foods that hadn’t bothered me before (broccoli and almond cheese), triggered inflammation and spasms in the lower right side of my abdomen. While I can’t prove it, I’m convinced that the fragile emotional state I was in at the time was a major factor. But whatever the cause, all of a sudden I faced the same uncertain future that is all too common for people with chronic illnesses: would the pain lessen or would it get worse (it was a seven on a scale of one to ten, which was more than enough to keep me from getting much sleep that night)?

I did my best to follow my own advice, especially in giving myself lots of hugs and compassion. I would give myself a B+, maybe even an A- 🙂 I’m glad to say that my flare is almost completely behind me. But it was a great opportunity for me to use my own suggestions, and more than that it was a firsthand reminder of how truly difficult living with a chronic illness is for many people. I had a lot of compassion for you and them before; today I have even more.

How You Are Isn’t As Important As How You Feel

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

If you are reading my blog, chances are you have a chronic illness. And if I asked you how you are, you would likely tell me that you’re sick, that you’re having a flare, that you’re in pain, or something like that. Because I’m a life coach for people with chronic illnesses, I have asked many people that question and have gotten many answers similar to the ones I just mentioned.

But when I ask people with chronic illnesses how they feel, I get answers that aren’t at all the same or similar. Some people say they feel bad, depressed, upset, or sad, while others say that they feel good, positive, grateful, optimistic, and things like that. I find myself wondering why some people with chronic illnesses feel good while others don’t, and wondering even more about what those who feel those negative emotions can do to feel more of the positive ones.

Before I continue, I want to say that I don’t consider it to be a sign of weakness for a person to feel bad or sad when he or she has a chronic illness. Since having a chronic illness very often means 1) living with pain and fatigue, 2) not being able to things that we enjoy and used to be able to do, and 3) not being able to explain to others what living with our illness is like so they understand it, it’s completely understandable that a person with a chronic illness would feel depressed, upset, etc.

But even though feeling negative emotions is understandable, I have no doubt that most of us who live with a chronic illness would choose to FEEL better if we could. And the truth is that we can. There are many things we can do – so many that I could write a book. Actually, I am writing a book, and I’ll let you know when it’s available so you can get it if you want to.

In the meantime, here are a couple of ways you can FEEL better even though you have a chronic illness and aren’t well:

The first is to recognize that feelings, including negative ones, are transitory. They come and they can go, but only if we let them. One thing you can do is to imagine that you’re a house, and that feelings come in with the wind through an open window. If the window on the other side of the house is closed, the feelings will stay, but if you visualize yourself opening that other window, the feelings will pass through and leave.

The second way is not for everyone, but many of you will find it very helpful. That is to schedule a time each day for negative feelings – for example, from 2:00 until 2:15 every afternoon. If you notice yourself having negative feelings before that time, just set them aside until then. And any negative feelings after 2:15 are to be set aside until the following afternoon.

While these ideas won’t directly improve your health, they can be a great help in lifting your feelings. I will share more ideas in a later post. If you would like some suggestions for your own challenges, you can sign up for one of the limited number of no cost introductory “How to Have a Better Life” coaching sessions I offer.

I’ll close by saying Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Holidays everyone!

Keeping Hope Alive

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

When life is difficult, as it often is when we have a chronic illness, one of the most important things that helps us keep going is hope for a better future. But given the many challenges, hardships, and disappointments we face, hope like that can be hard to come by. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make hope for a better future real – and then keep it alive.

Before I share some of those things with you, I want to first repeat the same advice I’ve written in many of my other posts and that I repeatedly give to my clients: give yourself LOTS of compassion for having to live with your illness and its symptoms. From my many years of experience coaching people with chronic illnesses and having one myself, I know without a doubt that it is one of the best things those of us with chronic illnesses can do for ourselves. And the suggestions I’m going to give you for keeping hope alive will work much better if you give yourself lots of compassion first.

I want to say one more thing before I give you my suggestions: not only is keeping hope alive good for our emotional health, it’s good for our physical health as well. Here’s why: People who live and contend with the symptoms of a serious illness often become angry and depressed, and being angry and depressed weakens the immune system. A weakened immune system leaves them more susceptible to flares and to other diseases.

Clearly eliminating illness-related depression and anger is important for maintaining and improving our physical health. And finding real hope for a better future is one of the most effective ways to do that.

My first suggestion for finding real hope for a better future and keeping it alive is to make a list of the good times and the successes you’ve had since your diagnosis. Maybe you had an especially enjoyable time with friends last week, got a new job last month, got married recently, heard an uplifting sermon at church, had a son or daughter graduate from high school or college last summer, had a new grandchild, or just saw a beautiful sunset. Just like everyone else, those of us with chronic illnesses have our special times, but because of our daily pain and struggles we often quickly forget about them. So start writing them down, and reread your list frequently. Doing that will remind you of those experiences and the good feelings that came with them, and will help you realize that even though you have an illness, you are still going to have more of those successes and good times in the future.

My next suggestion for making hope for a better future real and keeping it alive is to look for ways to regain control in your life. One of the worst aspects of having a chronic illness is the loss of control of our bodies and our lives the illness brings about. We often aren’t able to eat what we want, go where we want, hold the job we want, or engage in the activities we want to. The list of the things we can’t do can goes on and on, and we can easily dwell on the control we’ve lost. To make hope for a better future real and keep it alive, we need to find ways to regain control. Fortunately, total control isn’t necessary. Coaching clients, as well as studies I’ve read, have shown me that a little can go a long way.

So I suggest that you choose one small area of your life and take a small step to improve it. The step can be as small as buying a house plant for your home, getting earplugs so you can sleep better, or calling friensd you haven’t talked to in a while, and reconnecting with them. After you’ve done that, decide on and take another step, then another, and another. As you do, your hope will keep growing, and so too will the quality of your life.

My last suggestion for making hope for a better future real is to get involved in something bigger than yourself. Many people with a chronic illness–and I speak from personal experience as well as from my experience coaching others–spend too much of their time thinking about their illness. Of course we need to think about how to best treat our illness and how to live the best life possible, but when we dwell on our symptoms and how hard our lives are, we make our lives more difficult than they already are.

Instead of dwelling on your symptoms, I suggest that you look for ways to make the world a better place. Find a cause that’s important to you, such as cleaning up the environment, teaching illiterate adults to read, or helping to raise money to find a cure for your illness. Then participate regularly in whatever cause you are able. When you do, you’ll spend much less time dwelling on your symptoms and how hard your life is, and you will find you’re more hopeful about the future, and on top of that you will be making the world a better place.

These are some of my suggestions for how to make hope for a better future real and keep it alive when you have a chronic illness. I would love to hear about any that have worked well for you.