January 1, 2020

Your 2020 "Givens"

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Annie Spratt

Happy New Year! 2020 – a round year to round out your list of “givens.” 

In order to manage my disease, I’ve developed a list of “givens,” – the things that allow me to live “companionably” with RA. This list has evolved over the years to include more self-care. I have also given myself time to incorporate it into my lifestyle. Suffice to say that I was not quite ready for some habits. Or perhaps the habits weren’t ready for me!

Here are some examples of the things on my list of givens:

  • Getting some form of exercise/movement each day. This could be as simple as putting on some tunes and dancing around the living room, going for a swim, doing Essentrics or venturing out for a walk. Cleaning also counts.
  • Choosing foods that are nutritionally sound, even if I slip up with some of those things on my “naughty, but nice list.” Ice-cream, chocolate….
  • Listening to my body and learning its language.
  • Making sure I get enough rest and sleep.
  • Transforming my stress.
  • With stress transformation, comes the realization that sometimes life, and RA, can get in the way of bowing down to my givens. If that’s the case, I pick up the list the next hour or the next day. The important thing is that I get back to it as soon as possible.

Driving in a New Direction in 2020

A new year and a new decade may just the catalyst you need to expand your list of givens that will drive you in a new direction. If your resolution list is as lengthy as your “Dear Santa List” once was, you may wish to pare it down to make it more manageable. You want to be successful at each step along the way.

Start small. Another option is to do this Start, Stop, Continue exercise that is reflective of where you’ve been, whether you wish to stay there and what needs fixing/adding/augmenting. 

For me, it is a better “vehicle” than that (often broken down) resolution list. This is the destination for 2020: New Year Renewal

What things are on your “given” list for 2020?

 

December 9, 2019

Essentrics Are Essential, Especially with RA

It started with a trip to the library. While perusing the DVDs I came across the Essentrics Pain-Relief Workouts : Standing, Floor and Barre Workouts. I loved how at ease I felt while doing the exercises. The best part was that I felt much more limber after doing a workout almost-first-thing in the morning. (By the way, you do not need a barre – a chair serves as your barre.)

What I love about these exercises is that they are gentle. Miranda Esmonde-White, who retired from the National Ballet Company of Canada, knows her stuff. If her routines are good enough for the Montreal Canadiens and Cirque de Soleil, they are good enough for me! (No, you don’t need to be a high performance athlete to benefit or to take part.

In the beginner DVDs, Miranda cautions you to respect your body. If it hurts, don’t push into the pain. Instead, go back to the point where you didn’t feel pain, thereby allowing your brain to send the message to your body that it is safe to move to that point. Do what you can, while respecting your limitations, which will more than likely change for the better over time. You’re encouraged to relax while you do lazy, circular movements, reminiscent of T’ai Chi, that help to lengthen and strengthen your muscles.

As a person living with rheumatoid arthritis, you know that range of motion exercises are vital, especially if you wish to maintain the mobility that you do have. Your often-neglected hands and feet aren’t forgotten in Essentrics. A full-body workout in 20 to 30 minutes. Isn’t that worthy of your time? As always, check with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program.

I have also checked out Classical Stretch – Age Reversing Workouts for Beginners – Mobility and Bone Strengthening, Aging Backwards – Connective Tissue Workouts, Essentrics – The Ultimate Stretch Workouts, Essentrics – Strength and Stretch in Motion, Essentrics – Toning for Beginners – Standing, Floor and Barre, Essentrics – Full Body Toning – Standing and Floor, Essentrics Body Sculpting Series – Volume 1 and Essentrics Body Sculpting Series – Volume 2. (I found the latter two DVDs more challenging to do in the morning, but they were much easier to do in the afternoon.)

The library also had Aging Backwards – 10 Years Younger, 10 Years Lighter, 30 Minutes a Day. It is a wonderful “User’s Manual,” that introduces you to your muscles, ligaments and joints. You’ll learn about the difference in strengthening your muscles concentrically (by shortening them as in weight-lifting), and essentrically, (strengthening by lengthening, as in Essentrics). Aging myths, fitness and disease prevention, injury recovery and exercises are also included in the book.

Equipment

Apart from the cost of the DVDs, which I’d class as $$, you don’t need expensive gear. Maybe an exercise mat if you have hardwood floors, a sturdy chair and an exercise band. For the exercise band you can use a towel, or braid your old pantyhose if you’d prefer something stretchy. (I remember doing that in the 80s when I did those Jane Fonda exercise videos. Do you remember VCR tapes?)

My feet tend to slip on the carpet, so I put socks on that have a rubberized non-slip sole:

Do Better When You Know Better

In my 20s and 30s, I taught fitness classes. If only I knew then what I know now, bolstered with the information I gleaned from Miranda. It is what it is, so by applying the principles I’ve learned from Miranda in her Essentrics program, I can do better in order to live better.

Perhaps if I were 10-15 years younger, I’d consider beoming an instructor. Similar to my Auntie Stress hat, I suspect that I would become my own best client. That’s how much I believe in the Essentrics system.

The movements I’ve learned and practiced in the livingroom accompany me as I go about my day. I am more mindful of how I walk and stand (something that is covered in the How To section of Classical Stretch Posture and Pain Relief DVD). I have even incorporated some of the movements into my pool exercises.

Now, my biggest challenge is to choose one of the DVDs from the many that are currently on special. If you are interested, the 30% special ends December 27, 2019, at 11:59 pm, EST.

No, I am not being compensated for this review! Darn! 😉 I’m sharing this information with you so that you can take back the reigns of your life and giddy-on-up to feeling and doing better!

 

December 8, 2019

Book Review: Brave New Medicine

Author Information

Cynthia Li, MD graduated from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and has practiced internal medicine in settings as diverse as Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, San Francisco General Hospital, St. Anthony Medical Clinic for the homeless, and Doctors Without Borders in rural China. Her own health challenges led her to functional medicine, a paradigm that addresses the root causes of chronic conditions. She currently serves on the faculty of the Healer’s Art Program at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, and has a private practice. She lives in Berkeley, CA with her husband and their two daughters.

Connect with Cynthia Li, MD on Facebook @dr.cynthia.li and visit www.cynthialimd.com.

Subject

Mllions of people worldwide are affected by autoimmune diseases—most of them are women. Some are common, like rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, and others are mysterious conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and dysautonomia. While the latter are gaining attention, patients struggling with these ailments are often dismissed by their doctors, families, and friends. The medical community often refers to them as “difficult patients” because they don’t follow the traditional checkboxes of illness and their symptoms can elude standard testing. When one doctor develops a disabling autoimmune illness and becomes that “difficult patient” herself, the beliefs and methods she once swore by collapse.

Brave New Medicine: A Doctor’s Unconventional Path to Healing Her Autoimmune Illness [Reveal Press, September 1, 2019] takes us on an intimate whirlwind of a journey with Cynthia Li—a doctor who seemingly had it all until her health took an unexpected turn, leading her to question her medical training. Dr. Li is forced to dive into the root causes of her illness, and to learn to unlock her body’s innate intelligence and wholeness. Drawing on cutting-edge science, ancient healing arts, and the power of intuition, Brave New Medicine offers support, validation, and a new perspective for doctors and patients alike.

Intended Audience

This book is invaluable reading for anyone living with a debilitating auto-immune condition or disease. Family and friends would also benefit, as Dr. Li intimately describes how her illness took its toll on her life, marriage, family and career. If your friends, family or co-workers struggle to understand. this book can serve as a conversation opener.

Organization of the Book

Brave New Medicine is a memoir that depicts Dr. Li’s journey from health, to illness and finally, to wellness.

The book opens with “Grand Rounds: The Difficult Patient.” On page 3, Dr. Li writes:

More than a decades has passed, and I can still feel the ominous flutter. It feels even cleaer now than the day it started, because at the time I had no idea what it meant. The quality was deceptively gentle, like a baby chick rufflig its feathers beneath my breastbone. But in the coming years, this ruffle would escalate into a storm of unimaginable symptoms—dizziness, exhaustion, and profound weakness—making me my own difficult patient. She would break me down, then would break me open to new ways of understanding health and disease. She would reveal to me just how layered and dynamic the human body was.

The journey toward optimal health isn’t a simple one. It’s a mystery embedded in the personal ecosystem of mind, body, and spirit.”

Parts 1 and 2 provide the palette that paints the before, during and after picture. Part 3 includes the how-to’s – the technique on how to go from a monochromatic landscape to to one that is rich in colour, movement – life!

Take-Aways

While RA is a different auto-immune animal from the one that Dr. Li wrestled with, there are, I believe, commonalities in the genesis, the impact and in the lessening of symptoms and improvements in health and wellbeing.

This book resonated with me on so many levels; over the course of my 43 year-long journey with RA, I have gravitated to implementing and adopting many of her How to Get Off the Couch/How to Heal tips. Hint: There are 15 of them, many of which I regularly practice. (Yes, I have some more work to do.)

I have shared some of the strategies I use on this blog and in my writing for HealthCentral.com. One of my biggest take-aways is that of validation: the treatments, practitioners and protocols I pursue serve to set me on a different trajectory. By sharing her healing journey, Dr. Li has given me courage to share more of my journey – things I do that help me live better with RA.

On page 36, Dr. Li talks about her MDR (minimum daily requirement). In her case, time in nature and time spent in solitude. Even if you don’t have a chronic illness, you would do well to identify your MDR of things you need to do that will allow you to live better. Then, make it non-negotiable – share it with family and friends. If you have a case of FOMO (fear of missing out), it’s time to realize that there is a price to pay when you try to do it all. What happens when you miss your MDR?

On page 75, Dr. Li links the information her midwife shared to a concept she learned in college:

It reminded me of the Japanese concept of ma I had learned about in college. Ma, which meant ‘gap’ or ‘pause,’ is the negatve space in buildings, like the openings under doorways and within fireplaces, or the spaces outlining the contents of a room. So, if a space feels cluttered, it’s not because of an excess of things, per se, but a deficiency of ma. Ma isn’t an actual “thing.” It’s created by one’s consciousness. This helped me understand the focus of nothingness in meditation, and it’s application to the labor process. My God, I thought, this concept could even apply to my marriage and health challenges.”

There’s no doubt that an RA flare is painful. Next time the “heat is on,” see if you can relieve some of your suffering by paying attention to the ma – the space in between the pain.

I cried when I read about how Dr. Li’s husband’s simple act of making the bed resulted in feelings of tenderness and intimacy.

There is so much more I could recount, but instead, I will suggest that you pick up a copy of Brave New Medicine. Read it, then rejoice in the discovery of invaluable pearls of wisdom.

The Stress Connection

On page 193, Dr. Li shares The Five Causes of Disease:

  1. Infections
  2. Allergens
  3. Toxins
  4. Stress (emotional, mental, physical)
  5. Poor diet.

Chronic stress is a debilitating as chronic illness. In 1936, Canadian researcher, Hans Selye, described stress as the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change. Non-specific refers to the myriad of signs and symptoms of stress; over time it exacts a hefty toll.

When you are under chronic stress, it’s like stepping on the gas and brake of your car at the same time. Wired, tired and finally burnt out, you don’t give your body a chance to get into the rest, digest and heal stages that are so important for health and wellness.

I often joke that as Auntie Stress, I am my own best client. Learning and practicing techniques to transform my stress, has been, well, transformative. I urge you to onboard techniques – do it for the health of it! Even if you are able to maintain the health you do have, that is worth celebrating! (I can help.)

What Others Are Saying

By Suzanne Elizabeth on Good Reads:

Good read about the personal journey of a physician learning to navigate through her own autoimmune health crisis. I would highly recommend for anyone suffering with chronic disease or otherwise unexplained constellation of symptoms.”

By Anonymous on Amazon:

I just finished Brave New Medicine this morning and I don’t believe I have ever read something that resonated so strongly with me. I have read so many books on “steps you can take for healing”, but I’ve never read a book like this one that acknowledges the emotional components of chronic illness, or what it means for your relationships, or how strongly it affects your identity. And even more, how hard it is to rebuild all those things as the new you. If you suffer from an autoimmune disease or other chronic illness, this book is worth reading for a lot of reasons, but most importantly how well it articulates some of the psychological challenges associated with illness .”

By Anonymous on Barnes and Noble:

Her courageous journey to healing inspires and calls into question conventional medicine . She takes the reader on her own journey through recovery, testing, health changes and how she was inspired to find her own healing practices. A very poignant and real look at the true suffering of a chronic pain patient in today’s western medical system.. I appreciate very much receiving this book for a ARC as it came at the right time for me. Thank you to the author for this important body of work. “

November 18, 2019

Giveaway to Live Better with RA

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a post here on ART (A Rheumful of Tips). Let’s just say that I’ve haven’t felt very “arty,” although during my hiatus, I have continued to add to my drafts. (You really don’t want to know how many drafts I’ve saved between ART and ASC – Auntie Stress Café.)

In order to mark my return to writing, I’ve decided to offer a giveaway. (I have some ideas for future giveaways, but I’d like to hear from you, dear readers. Is this something that interests you?)

The Giveaway

I believe that when you have a chronic condition, the best thing you can do is to be proactive. I have rheumatoid arthritis, but it does not have me! Chronic pain can take over your life – it happened to me, when I didn’t know any better in my 20s, 30s and 40s. Then, I would have said that rheumatoid arthritis had me!

But, there’s wisdom with age. I am doing so much better by adopting a number of different strategies to live well with RA. (Another topic for a blog post!)

I’ve put this giveaway together to encourage you to take a step, then another step, then another, in the direction you want to go. Remember, it’s a process, so it won’t happen over night. Please consider this part of your self-care strategy.

The lucky winner will receive:

  1. Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis – Volume 1 by Lene Andersen. See the interview here: A Virtual Visit and an E-Book Giveaway.
  2. Live Well with Chronic Pain by Liza H. Leal, M.D. See: Book Review and Giveaway: Live Well with Chronic Pain.
  3. When You Hurt All Over DVD by Katy Bowman. Check out my post here: Know, Do and Feel Better + a Giveaway.

How to Enter

1. To enter the giveaway, complete the following statement by leaving your answer in the comment section, below: When I feel better, I _________.

2. Entries must be received by midnight PST, on Sunday, November 24th, 2019.

3. This contest is open to anyone who has a mailing address in Canada or the United States. You must be of legal age to enter.

4. For extra entries to the draw, get social:

  • On Twitter?For an extra entry share the following: I just entered a #giveaway from @AuntieStress. https://rheumfuloftips.wordpress.com/?p=10917
  • Make your way over to my Pinterest Board called “Giveaways“. Earn one entry by clicking “Comment” and leaving one. (Repin it for another entry. Just leave a comment here, providing me with the link to where you pinned it on your Pinterest Board.)
  • If you decide to share elsewhere, provide the link and you’ll get an extra entry.

5. One winning entrant will be drawn from a hat. You will be notified via email. Your name will appear here, on Twitter and Pinterest.

6. Good Luck!

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