1. Stick to a routine.
Personally, I think this one is the most important. And, it is vital to your success. What I mean by “stick to a routine” is pretty simple.
- Get up at the same time each day regardless of how you feel.
- Do your personal hygiene and get dressed.
- Eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
- Decide on one primary activity for the day.
- Choose an achievable goal and accomplish that goal.
- Rest as needed.
- Go to bed at about the same time each day.
I know how hard it is to even move on the worst days. I have those days too. But I force myself into my routine every day. It might mean that there will be more rest breaks on a bad day. It might also mean that the activity I choose will be light. But if we give in to our illness and just stay in bed or refuse to try, we will end up only worse off.
When you feel good, do more. But always watch your level of activity so you don’t overdo it. If you follow a routine and accomplish something every day, I think that you can even out those good and bad days and really get more out of life.
I have previously written a blog on some coping strategies that I use to fight my pain and fatigue. There might be something that could help you too. If you haven’t read it, here’s the link:
2. Stay active.
If we are going to be happy, we have to stay as ambulatory as we possibly can. This means doing something that requires more than sitting in front of the computer each day. The best possible answer is to develop a simple exercise plan and stick to it. Now what I mean by a simple exercise plan is not doing more than your body is capable of doing. For some people, exercise makes you feel better and improves your strength. But for others, it can actually have the opposite effect. Especially if it is the wrong exercise or if you do too much and have a setback that might take days to overcome.
Here is an example of the kind of exercise plan that I am talking about:
3. Eat healthy food.
As I pointed out in the first strategy “Stick to a Routine”, you need to eat three meals and snacks every day. Because you are likely not burning a lot of calories, you will probably want to keep your calories consumption fairly low. By this I mean something in the 1200 to 1800 calories per day.
To try to help keep your metabolism going, I try to vary the amount I eat between days. So, I will have days where my calorie intake is low and days where it is significantly higher. This is because I have found that if I keep my calorie intake constant, my body adapts to that level of food and my metabolism slows down.
I also think that it helps to avoid big meals. That’s why I say eat three meals a day plus snacks. No meal or snack is then overwhelming to the body. Too much food intake seems to cause flare-ups of pain and fatigue. So, what I recommend is eating a good breakfast – something like yogurt, fresh berries and some tasty granola. This gives the body a good healthy start to the day. Next would be a mid-morning snack – something like a handful of nuts or some veggies (baby carrots, celery and/or broccoli florets for example) and a vitamin water. For lunch, maybe a tuna or salmon salad sandwich on whole grain bread with low calorie garnishments like pickles, peppers or even pickled green beans or okra. Another snack in the mid-afternoon, say fruit or veggies or nuts or even whole grain bread and more water. Hydration is vital. And then dinner that includes meat (or other protein) and your favorite veggies prepared your favorite way. My after dinner snack might be dark chocolate with a cup of chai tea. These are just examples but if you fill your day with little meals, keep them varied, and keep them simple; then I believe you can have a healthy diet that you can stick to every day. And having so many meals and snacks helps keep you active.
I have written a blog on some great food choices that also fight inflammation and pain. Anything we can include in our daily routine that helps us deal with pain is a good thing!
I have also written a blog about the benefits of a really good chai tea:
4. Find an understanding physician.
- If your primary physician is not experienced with illnesses that include chronic pain and chronic fatigue, first visit a specialist. Then find a primary care physician who has other chronic disease patients. It’s very common for primary physicians to be insensitive and they may give bad advice if they don’t understand your limitations. A doctor who’s willing to learn is all right, but you may have to put up with that doctor’s trial and error process of learning until he or she does understand your condition. The more rare your condition is, the likelier specialists will give you better, more useful advice and treatments. But you need one doctor who will coordinate your care. This is most often a primary care physician, but sometimes, out of necessity, it may be the specialist who best understand what is wrong with you.
- Do not try the same treatment, if it failed. Many primary physicians have a regular series of advice, treatments and regimens mostly geared toward sedentary, normal people improving their health. These can be too difficult and humiliating, so don’t torture yourself trying what didn’t work again and again. Taking long walks does not help chronic fatigue, but may mean that you can’t keep up with the dishes or brush your teeth for a couple of days resting up. See the section above about staying active. People with chronic pain and/or chronic fatigue must have a very different exercise plan from “normal” people who simply have failed to take care of themselves.
- Keep personal written records of all treatments, regimens and medications that had adverse effects. It’s a long slog to find the right medications for any chronic illness and you don’t need to repeat failed trials.
- Bring a healthy [family member] caregiver to your doctor appointments who can explain your condition and bring the doctor up to speed on the results of your medications and treatments. Work with your caregiver before going so that you’re sure he or she has the information memorized. Even better, write it all down. It gets complex sometimes, and doctors may not listen to what a sufferer says. They will listen to the healthy people who live with the patient; so bring someone else as your interpreter — or you may be ignored while the doctor tries to judge your tone of voice or body language for clues or symptoms. They will always look for the most common cause of symptoms, which is why complex chronic diseases are so often mistaken for lack of activity, exercise and will power.
5. Fill your life with joy.
Never, ever give up. Fill your waking moments with happiness – friends, family, good memories, great tasting healthy food, accomplishing simple goals and the list can go on and on. Take time to relax and concentrate on all the good things in your life. Finding such inner peace can go a long way towards fighting that pain and fatigue that can dominate your days.
The following article has some good suggestions on how to do things that can help us mentally overcome some of the bad in our lives and replace it with good thoughts. Take the suggestions seriously – they really aren’t tricks but good ways that we can help our bodies overcome some of our physical shortcomings with mental exercise and fitness.