At 12 years old, I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). As an adolescent, I pushed my body to its limits with before-school hockey training, after-school practice (hockey and/or basketball), late-night video games, and weekend sports. At that time, I excelled in sports, had good grades, and had a lot of fun...it was safe to say I thought I was invincible.
When I was in grade 8, I woke up with a red rash all over my body that continued for a few weeks, and that's when we decided to visit our family doctor. My blood test results revealed that my platelets* blood cells had dropped dangerously low, which means I was in a flare-up*.
This was exactly when I started to question my so-called invincibility, and my doctor began preaching the importance of "listening to your body." My initial thoughts were, "I am not slowing down," "What does listening to your body even mean?" and "I am just going to do what I want, and I will push through this (flare)."
After years of frustration, anger, and helplessness toward my health condition, I started to realize that maybe this was not the way to get better and perhaps I should learn more about this whole listening to your body idea.
Listening to your body is about the mind and body connection. It involves slowing down your body and mind, deep breathing, and questioning yourself. How do I feel today? How rested am I? How much and where is my pain? How is my mental health? How is my mental clarity? How is my spiritual well-being (soul)?
Here are some practices I have implemented in response to the self-questioning:
•I am a firm believer in resting as much as your body needs; subsequently, I aim for a minimum of 7.5-8 hours of sleep each night and an occasional 20 minutes of rest if needed.
•If I experience muscle pain, I massage and apply heat; for the joint pain, I apply cold. Furthermore, I make it a priority to consult with my doctor if the pain becomes severe.
•Whenever I feel my mind becoming foggy, I find it helpful to keep hydrated and rest. Note, Lupus fog is a general term for cognitive impairment often seen with lupus patients (Griffin, 2010).
•Being mindful of my mental health has also been very relevant. One’s cognitive and emotional wellbeing can have a considerable impact on the body; therefore, I make sure to monitor my stress levels, have a good work/life/exercise balance and keep a positive outlook on life.
I would like to emphasize that these are only suggestions based on my own personal experience with my autoimmune* condition. Everyone's body is different. Thus, what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. Learning to listen to your body takes practice and finding the remedies that meet your individual needs can take time and lots of trial and error but, in my experience, the results have led to an important and sustained increase in wellbeing in my life that has made all of the difference.
Listening to my body has allowed me to find a balance between battling Lupus and living a relatively normal life. The words of my doctor are ones I live by, and I am pleased to share that I have been in remission for 10 years.
The message I would like to be taken away from this is that listening to your body is a technique that can help not only my fellow lupus warriors (and people living with autoimmune conditions), but each and everyone person.
Your Friend Miguel.
*Platelets: Platelets are pieces of very large cells in the bone marrow called megakaryocytes. They help form blood clots to slow or stop bleeding and to help wounds heal (National Cancer Institue, n.d.).
*Flare-up: A measurable increase in disease activity in one or more organ systems involving new or worse clinical signs and symptoms and/or lab measurements (Lupus America, n.d.).
*Autoimmune Disease: A condition in which the body’s immune system mistakes its own healthy tissues as foreign and attacks them. Most autoimmune diseases cause inflammation that can affect many parts of the body (National Cancer Institue, n.d.).
Medical Disclaimer: All content on Miguel’s World is published for information purposes only, and it is not to be a substitute for professional medical advice.