Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How to Kill the Chronic Illness Symptom Cycle

10 Ways to Break the Chronic Illness Symptom Cycle

1. Exercise: The best way to reduce pain and fatigue is exercise. The hardest part is getting started, especially when you can barely move. My lifesaver has been the Arthritis Foundation's Exercise Program. If you have one in your area, definitely sign up. If there's nowhere in your area that has this program, the Arthritis Foundation does have videos and exercise ideas here. You don't have to have arthritis to benefit from their website.

2. Meditate: You don't have to be a yogi or buddhist nut to get into meditation. Just close your eyes and focus on every part of your body, from your toes to the muscles in your face, and concentrate on relaxing them. This should relieve muscle tension which can reduce headaches and pain.

3. Remind yourself of the good: When I first tried this mental exercise, I couldn't think of anything at all. But the more I thought about it, the more good I realized was in my life. And there are good things in everyone's life. You aren't dead. You aren't living in the Dark Ages, where anesthesia is made of deadly hemlock. We have the internet where we can find support from people all over the world, check to make certain our doctors aren't quacks, and when we feel lousy there are always pictures of cats or funny youtube videos. The list of good things goes on and on.

4. Focus on what you can do: Instead of spending all your mental energy on what you aren't able to do, try to find what opportunities your chronic illness has given you. I like to say that getting Lupus was the best thing to ever happen to me. It opened up so many doors and has given me a sense of purpose I never had before.

5. Find a friend with similar experiences: I have a wonderful friend that I teach my Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program with. She also experiences similar health problems that I do. Having someone to confide in and to celebrate victories with is wonderful. We know what each other is going through, and the parts we have never experienced, we can still say "I don't know what you're going through, but I still support you". But be careful to find someone who isn't dragging you down with their negativity. It's important to find someone with a positive outlook.

6. Help someone else: As a kid I always thought people were crazy when they said helping others would make you happier. Well, they were right. Try volunteering, or teach, or give a homeless guy a pizza. And keep doing something great. Start a fundraiser for Lupus. It's an instant mood booster.

7. Be thankful: This goes along with Number 2, but it is still different enough to have its own number. Appreciate the people in your life and opportunities you have. Be grateful. Practicing this every day will shift your point of view from negative to positive, making you happier and less stressed.

8. Try something new. Try something out that might make your life better. Learn something. Knock off an item on your bucket list. I'm still trying to figure out how to knock "Pet a hippo" off my bucket list. Do something spontaneous. Try something that scares you.

9. Get rid of the junk in your life. Whether it's things cluttering up your house or people who are bringing you down, get rid of it. It's just taking up valuable space in your mind, so chuck it out. And hey, while I was clearing out my clutter, I found my Zune HD, which had been lost for 2 years! What might you find?
So beautiful
From the portfolio of Megan McCarthy

10. Experience life. While you are sitting here reading this, focus on everything around you. How you feel. Notice the texture of your chair. When you look out the window (or if you are already outside) soak in the colors around you. If you are around people, really look at their faces. Notice their eye color, their hair. They way they hold themselves. Really be aware of what is going on around. Really exist in this moment.
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Monday, October 22, 2012

What is the Chronic Illness Symptom Cycle?

Have you heard of the Chronic Illness Symptom Cycle? It is something I have taught in my AFEP class (Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program) and it's important to know so that you can break this unhealthy cycle.
I saw this image on Tumblr and no one could tell it came from this site so I
updated it to have my website on it. If you see one without the website, let them know!
Thanks -Megan Folse

The Chronic Illness Symptom Cycle
When left unchecked, chronic pain can really mess up your life.

Let's imagine that your knees are in pain (maybe your knees actually are in pain). Because of the pain, you might try to avoid doing activities involving your knees, like walking, kneeling, or even standing. Avoiding these activities causes the muscles around your knee and the muscles used in these activities to become deconditioned, to lose flexibility and strength, or it causes stiffness and even disability.

The deconditioning causes fatigue, because it takes twice the effort to do half of what you used to. You don't have strength in them anymore. This might cause depression, anger, anxiety, fear, loss of self-esteem, or make you withdraw from society because you can't do all the things you once were able to do.

This anger, depression, social withdrawal, or anxiety is making you stress. With the deconditioning of the muscles around your knee and in your legs, you have to worry about how to get around. And what if there is a fire or an earthquake? And why did this have to happen to you? And oh, how you'd just love to have a day of being perfectly healthy. And your friends don't understand what you are going through. Because you can't keep up with them, they've stopped inviting you to spend time with them. There is so much on your plate that you never had to focus on and your life has turned upside down. Because you are stressed, you unknowingly tense up your muscles. After months of keeping these muscles tensed, this creates new pain for you. And the cycle starts again.

This cycle can also go the opposite direction, or from one point on the star to another point until it's one giant puddle of miserable.

Now that you know what the Chronic Illness Symptom Cycle is, you can learn to defeat it in my post How to Kill the Chronic Illness Symptom Cycle.

 Have you realized that you have gotten yourself stuck in the Chronic Illness Symptom Cycle?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pumpkin Breakfast Smoothie

A Delicious Pumpkin Breakfast Smoothie

I saw this recipe on Pinterest and decided to try it. But when it came time to actually try it, I didn't really like it. This is probably because the recipe called for yogurt, which I did not include because it is not on my anti-inflammatory diet. So I did some experimenting and was able to come up with a concoction that I did enjoy.


  • 1 Banana
  • 1/3 cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 2/3 cup Vanilla Soymilk or Vanilla Almond Milk
  • Sprinkle of cloves
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon
  • Sprinkle of nutmeg
  • Sprinkle of ginger
  • Or instead of the spices, use pumpkin spice
  • Some ice
  • Strawberries
And then I added a handful of strawberries because it tasted like it was missing something. That seemed to fix the problem, but tomorrow I will probably do some more experimenting.


  • Blend the banana, pumpkin, soy milk, and strawberries together.
  • Add the spices and then blend them together with the banana, pumpkin, soy milk, and strawberries. Also add ice.
  • Enjoy. If you don't like it, then try experimenting with other fruit or maybe larger bananas, or if you aren't following this diet then feel free to add the nonfat yogurt initially suggested.
And of the 87 pictures I took of my breakfast, I forgot to take a picture of the end product. Next time I make this, I promise I will take a picture of the final product.