15 Life Lessons from 15 Years Living with Lupus

15 Life Lessons from 15 Years Living with Lupus

Karin W

November 9, 2023

It’s been 15 years since I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), which primarily manifested itself with debilitating arthritis and organ complications. My path has been challenging (sometimes at my own doing ;-), but it’s been incredibly fulfilling once I embraced my journey with an autoimmune disease. 

I’ve gone through periods where I took my medication but flat-out ignored self-care and ruthlessly pushed through an overcommitted schedule. I sent emails from my hospital bed post-total-knee-replacement surgery. Not smart. That only works for so long before illness catches up with you. And mine certainly did. 

Thank God. 

Lupus has changed my life, and I’m grateful to be able to share the information and insights I’ve learned over the past 15 years, which have helped me navigate the challenges of living with Lupus and transformed my life profoundly. While they may not all resonate with you now, I encourage you to stay curious. My life changed when I got curious.

1. Have Faith.

I got a text from a friend to go on a ski trip. I declined because I was hooked up to an IV in the ICU, receiving blood thinners to dissipate the extensive blood clots in my lungs. 

At 23 years old, I felt like the world was passing me by as I stared out my hospital window, losing hope that I would not get to participate in life the way I envisioned. The stark contrast between my friends’ vibrant adventures and my hospital view left me feeling robbed of the life I had anticipated.

I want to say it was in that hospital room I leaned into my faith, but instead, I pulled away, grappling with the unfairness of my situation. However, my persistence shone through as I clung to positivity, celebrated small victories, and embraced gratitude. This persistence birthed profound thankfulness for the present moment and a renewed hope for the future.

Hindsight gifted me the realization of my sheer fortune to be alive, a perspective I had lost in the throes of despair. Whether you find solace in God, the universe, or another form of faith, opening yourself to its abundance becomes a beacon in the darkest hours. 

It’s a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, forging hope from adversity and discovering that, even in the hospital’s quiet, the pulse of life beats with profound gratitude and unwavering hope.

2. Get Clear on Your Purpose and Values.

Your purpose, or life’s mission, is your North Star. This guiding light helps you align your priorities with your evolving life circumstances. Your values act as guardrails, ensuring you stay on the right path even when life throws you off course. 

When you’re faced with an autoimmune disease like Lupus, it can be easy to feel lost or overwhelmed by the weight of an intense chronic illness. That’s precisely why we need to get clear on our purpose. Purpose provides resilience. 

Your North Star and values provide the resilience you need to keep moving forward. It’s not always straightforward; sometimes, these diseases can be downright brutal, but having a clear sense of purpose and values can help you find beauty and love even in the most challenging moments.

3. Get Thanking.

Expressing gratitude for the abundance in our lives is a gesture of appreciation and a powerful catalyst for personal growth. It is through this act of thankfulness that we find our true purpose. 

When we concentrate on our journey’s “why” and “who,” we transition into profound gratitude; it’s a reminder that our pursuit of becoming the best version of ourselves is closely intertwined with the people who support and inspire us. 

Gratitude fuels our desire to give back, and we find fulfillment most rewarding in serving others. It’s a beautiful cycle of self-improvement and selflessness that enriches our lives and those around us.

Fun Fact: When we practice gratitude, our bodies make immunoglobulins – our natural defense against viruses and bacteria – and our immune systems strengthen along with other health benefits!2

4. Self-Respect is Vital.

Early on in my autoimmune journey, my priorities were out of order. I was focusing on too many things, and because I was stretched too thin, I wasn’t being my best self at any of it, especially for my family. Naturally, insecurities, self-doubt, and guilt plagued my thoughts. 

Thankfully, my close friends and mentors supported me through those dark times of self-doubt. Find people who will see the best in you, even when you can’t see it yourself. 

But ultimately, it has to come from within. Restructuring my life to align with my values gave me the space to stand up for my family in a way I previously didn’t realize was possible with an autoimmune disease.

The values allowed me to cut out the chaos and be hyper-intentional about where and how I spend my time. When I structured my day and created routines aligned with my values, self-confidence and self-respect followed.

Knowing I’m striving daily to live by my values provides self-worth and love for myself and those around me. Journaling about my accomplishments has trained my brain to focus on the value I’m providing vs. the endless tasks I didn’t get to on my to-do list. 

If you’re struggling with self-doubt, go back to lesson one 🙂 

5. Failure is the Essential Ingredient for Growth.

In our success-driven culture, failure is often viewed as a stumbling block, a setback, or something to be avoided at all costs. However, the reality is quite the opposite. Failure is not a sign of weakness or incompetence but an essential ingredient for growth and personal development. 

This is especially true when living with a chronic illness inherently involves facing adversity. Flare-ups, pain, and unpredictable symptoms can be disheartening and discouraging. Yet, it’s in these moments of struggle that resilience is forged. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks, a quality that can be cultivated through experiencing and overcoming failure.

Failure is a potent teacher. Trying something that doesn’t work out as planned is an opportunity to gain new insights and knowledge. This newfound understanding can lead to more informed decisions and strategies for the future. In the realm of chronic illness, learning from failure can be life-changing.

For example, suppose you’ve experimented with a particular dietary approach to manage Lupus or another autoimmune disease, and it didn’t yield the expected results. In that case, it doesn’t mean the effort was in vain. It means you now have valuable information about what doesn’t work for you. This knowledge can guide you towards more effective solutions and a better understanding of your own body.

Failure tests your mettle and pushes you beyond your comfort zone. It forces you to adapt, learn, and persevere. In the context of autoimmune disease, a failed attempt at managing your symptoms or a setback in your treatment plan can be seen as an opportunity to learn about yourself, refine, and go again. Setbacks allow you to develop the resilience needed to face future challenges. Each failure is not a stumbling block but a stepping stone.

6. Orchestrate Your Life to Create a Symphony.

The saying, “If you don’t make time for your wellness, you’ll be forced to make time for your illness,” resonates strongly with my journey. Like many, I was stubborn and pushed through the pain and fatigue.

It took a hospital stay for me to reevaluate my lifestyle and learn about epigenetics (definition), which taught me that we have more control over our health than we previously thought. Prioritizing wellness is an investment in your future well-being.

Wellness isn’t just about physical health; it’s about holistic well-being. For instance, getting enough sleep does more than give you more energy; adequate sleep (7-8 hours) can:

  • Boost your immune system and make vaccines more effective
  • Help prevent weight gain by repressing cravings and appetite 
  • Strengthen your heart
  • Elevate your mood and reduce feelings of annoyance, irritant, and anger 
  • Improves memory – how about that for brain fog!4

It’s more than just getting enough sleep or eating the right foods. Those actions that seem to have a singular effect on our health contribute to other aspects of our health. 

conductor conducting and orchestra

While we tend to look at these health aspects in silos, it’s essential to consider a holistic approach. Practice each instrument, learn how their sounds interact, refine until we have music, and optimize until we have a symphony.

When you hear an off-tune sound, revisit the instrument. We’re continuously evolving; staying in tune is critical to creating beautiful music.

7. Stand Up Every Day: Persistence and Patience.

With autoimmune challenges, standing up every day transcends the physical act. Standing might be symbolic sometimes, finding alternative ways to engage with life and work towards your goals. 

On days when physical limitations prevail, it’s a moment for gentle stretching or immersing yourself in an informative podcast.

Regardless of its form, this daily commitment becomes a testament to persistence and patience. It’s a declaration that you actively participate in your journey, no matter the circumstances. 

By remaining engaged amidst autoimmune challenges, we anchor ourselves to our purpose and values, shielding ourselves against the encroaching shadows of hopelessness. Standing up embodies resilience in whatever manifestation is feasible on a given day.

Persisting and persevering through the unpredictability of autoimmune conditions is a marathon, not a sprint. We may not discern the tipping point where the tides turn, but the unwavering faith in its existence fuels the patience and fortitude needed to stand up every day. 

No matter how small, each act propels us forward, reaffirming the journey is not just about reaching the destination but about the strength found in the daily steps and who we become in the process.

8. Making the Hard Choice Now Makes Life Easier for Your Future Self.

Making challenging choices today is an investment in a smoother, more fulfilling future. Whether it’s battling the allure of sugar, the endless scroll of social media, or the captivating abyss of Netflix, our vices can exert a powerful pull.

These distractions not only hinder productivity but can also derail our overall well-being. 

Establishing routines and systems as a barrier against these temptations becomes crucial. Doing so reduces decision fatigue and creates an environment conducive to healthier choices. 

It’s about recognizing that hard choices pave the way for a future where well-being is prioritized and distractions lose their grip. Implementing these structures is a form of self-care that echoes through time, making the journey toward a healthier and more focused self an achievable and sustainable endeavor.

To learn more about setting yourself up for success, see the post: How to Turn Bad Habits into Healthy Habits by Addressing 6 Sources that Influence Our Behavior

9. Have Empathy for Your Supporters.  

The impact of autoimmune diseases ripples through the lives of those around us, touching family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Often, they bear the weight of these diseases with a unique kind of strength.

While we navigate the challenges firsthand, they find themselves on the sidelines, offering support and encouragement but feeling powerless. Living with an autoimmune condition becomes a shared journey, a test of patience not just for us but for our steadfast supporters as well.

Transparency about our diseases becomes a bridge, helping them comprehend our situations and offer more meaningful support.

To the friends and loved ones supporting individuals navigating autoimmune diseases like Lupus, your unwavering support, prayers, and positive vibes are like a lifeline, lifting us more than you may realize.

Your understanding is a source of strength, and your presence on this journey is profoundly appreciated. Thank you for standing by us, making the burden a little lighter, and being an integral part of our resilience.

10. Take Heat.  

Taking heat and holding oneself accountable can be an uncomfortable journey, especially when faced with the blush of embarrassment. The instinct to retreat or hide is powerful, but it is precisely in these moments that growth and a life of integrity are forged. Accountability is the crucible in which our character is shaped, and while the path may be challenging, it is essential for personal development.

In the allegorical tale of YOU GOT THIS, KID! Leadership Advice for Young Leaders,3 the armadillo, Alex, symbolizes resilience with thick skin. This metaphorical armor is developed by understanding what truly matters.

When faced with challenges outside our comfort zone, revisiting our intentions and values becomes the wellspring of courage. For me, grappling with autoimmune disease has fortified my mission and strengthened my values, serving as a steadfast reminder that my purpose lies in serving and aiding others through unwavering integrity.

Family, the cornerstone of my support system, anchors me to what truly matters. Their presence reinforces my commitment to living a life aligned with my mission and values. It’s a challenging yet profoundly rewarding journey that fuels personal growth and ensures that the heat we face refines us rather than scalds us.

11. T.I.M.E. – Today Is My Everything1.  

In the intricate tapestry of time, the present moment stands as the most precious thread—undeniably significant and profoundly impactful. Today is not just a day; it’s an embodiment of opportunities. T.I.M.E. is a poignant reminder to do everything with Intention, Mindfulness, and Engagement.

The past, a repository of memories, is unalterable. What lingers are the moments that stir our emotions, be it joy or sorrow. Meanwhile, the future remains a vast expanse of uncertainty, where studies suggest that a staggering 90% of our thoughts and worries never materialize5. By anchoring ourselves in the present, we liberate our minds from the shackles of an unpredictable future, allowing us to savor the beauty of the now.

I can do whatever I want today

This singular moment is our only guarantee—a canvas waiting for our purposeful strokes. Are we taking positive actions or succumbing to habits that might hinder our future selves?

Every positive step, like engaging with this post to learn about living with autoimmune diseases, is a stride toward progress. Focusing on the present provides the clarity and space to live intentionally, ensuring that each choice contributes to a purposeful and fulfilling journey.

12. Turn Off the Noise.  

The constant barrage of stimuli. The digital age has given us unprecedented access to information and connectivity but has also brought a relentless wave of noise into our lives. From the moment we wake up to when we go to bed, we’re bombarded with news updates, social media notifications, emails, television programs, and a never-ending music playlist.

While it may seem like we’re in control of this digital cacophony, the truth is that it often controls us. We find ourselves tethered to our devices, compulsively checking for updates, and perpetually distracted. This constant state of sensory overload can have detrimental effects on our mental and emotional well-being. For those of us living with chronic illnesses like Lupus, it can exacerbate stress and symptoms.

That’s where the concept of “turning off the noise” becomes not just a luxury but a necessity. Taking deliberate moments to disconnect from the chaos of the modern world can be incredibly healing, restorative, and therapeutic.

13. One Step at a Time.  

When you’re living with a chronic illness, the journey ahead can feel daunting. Managing symptoms, making lifestyle adjustments, and coping with the emotional toll can make the road seem endless. At this point, the wisdom of taking one step at a time becomes invaluable. Breaking your journey down into manageable steps is not just a strategy; it’s a lifeline that can help you navigate the turbulent waters of chronic illness.

Life is full of complexities, and chronic illness introduces a unique set of challenges. However, approaching it one step at a time allows you to gain control and perspective over your situation. Understand that progress is progress, no matter how small it may seem. The incremental changes you make today can add up to substantial transformation over time.

steps

Celebrate the daily victories, whether adhering to your medication regimen, practicing self-care, or simply getting out of bed on a difficult day. Remember, taking one step at a time doesn’t just apply to your physical health; it’s equally relevant to your mental and emotional well-being. 

Dealing with a chronic condition can be emotionally taxing, and it’s crucial to address your mental health with the same measured approach. Seek support when needed, whether through therapy, support groups, or talking to trusted friends and family. Every step you take to prioritize your emotional health is a significant stride toward overall well-being.

Ultimately, the path to wellness, especially when living with autoimmune disease, is not a sprint but a marathon. It’s a continuous journey with its ups and downs. Embrace this long-term perspective and the practice of taking one step at a time. It allows you to build resilience, develop a deeper understanding of your condition, and live a meaningful life at a pace that suits your unique needs.

14. Continuous Learning Fuels the Soul.  

In the ever-evolving landscape of life, the key to staying vibrant and relevant is embracing continuous learning and nurturing an insatiable curiosity. The world is a vast repository of knowledge, and constant learning is a dynamic dance with the ever-expanding boundaries of information. It’s a commitment to growth transcending age, circumstance, and experience.

To stay curious is to cultivate a mindset that sees every encounter as an opportunity to glean insights and broaden perspectives. The fuel propels us to ask questions, seek understanding, and approach challenges with a zest for discovery. 

In a world where change is the only constant, those who embrace continuous learning and stay curious are the ones who not only navigate the currents of transformation but thrive in its embrace.

15. Gumption: Keep Doing the Hard Things.

Gumption is the compass that steers us through the stormy seas of life, urging us to persist and persevere even when the path ahead seems arduous and uncertain. In pursuing our dreams, embracing the hard things is crucial, even when they appear messy or impossible. Your North Star, that unwavering guide within, continues to shine, casting its light through the challenges that may unfold.

The journey toward your aspirations may not always unfold in a neat, linear trajectory; it’s an intricate tapestry woven with threads of hope and potential. As you navigate the twists and turns, remember that the path’s difficulty doesn’t diminish the brilliance of your North Star. 

sign that reads, "#Remember: Fear is a reaction; courage is a decision."

It’s a reminder that the dream is worth every effort, every stumble, and every leap of faith. So, keep doing the hard things, for it is in the crucible of challenges that the true strength of your aspirations is revealed, and the journey becomes a testament to your resilience and unwavering commitment to your dreams.

Living with a chronic illness like Lupus presents unique challenges, but it also offers opportunities for growth, resilience, and transformation. Over 15 years, I’ve learned valuable lessons that have not only transformed my life but have the potential to inspire positive change in anyone facing adversity.

As you navigate your journey, whether related to chronic illness or any other challenge, remember there is always hope. Embrace the path before you, set your values, and follow your North Star; life will reward you far beyond your wildest dreams. 

Thanks for reading to the end 🙂

Dance on, friends,
Karin

In remembrance of Kevin Gerard Moder, M.D.

Your diligence, calm bedside manner, and genuine care for your patients saved my life. Thank you for selflessly serving the lupus community and being a bright light in every life you touched. I’ll forever be grateful. 

Read more about Dr. Moder (Obituary)

Sources

  1. Anti-Time Management: Reclaim Your Time and Revolutionize Your Results with the Power of Time Tipping, by Richie Norton
  2. UCDavis Health: Gratitude is good medicine.
  3. YOU GOT THIS, KID! Leadership Advice for Young Leaders, by Chuck Saia
  4. Intermountain Health: Benefits of Getting a Full Night’s Sleep
  5. National Library of Medicine: Anxious Thoughts

9 Steps to Prioritize and Take Control of Your Day

9 Steps to Prioritize and Take Control of Your Day

Karin W

October 5, 2023

We’re flying through our routines, grimacing through joint pain, drinking caffeine to fight off relentless fatigue and other complications accompanying autoimmune diseases.

Time is the only irreplaceable commodity, yet so many of us spend it racing through our daily routines without giving it much thought.

While here at Invigorate, we give you the steps, tools, and resources to empower your health journey while navigating autoimmune disease challenges; you may be thinking…

How the heck am I supposed to make these changes when it takes every ounce of my being just to get through the day?  

We hear you. Hang with us…

We have a finite number of hours in a day – 24 hours: eight for sleep, four for eating (including prep and dishes), two for essential self-care, like showering and laundry, and work for eight or so hours…give or take time on each side, we’re left with a few precious hours to spend with family and friends.

The good news is that you can take steps to get some stuff off your plate and prioritize to maximize those hours.

While it takes more initial effort and persistence to change your habits, the payoff will mean more energy and stamina to get more out of those hours – improving your quality time with family and friends.

9 Steps to Take Charge of Your Day


1. Track your steps.

Before cutting out the energy drainers and time suckers, we need to know how we spend our time. We’re generally not great at doing this, especially in our culture of multitasking, distractions, and various vices.

Being specific about each habit you have throughout the day will help you understand how these habits stack up and affect your energy.

Use a journal, an app, or pen and paper to record every task and every step you take throughout the day. Don’t worry; you won’t have to do it for long – two weeks is great, but even a few days of tracking can provide some insight.


2. Group your to-dos into categories.

  • Self-Maintenance: This category encompasses tasks related to taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. It may include self-care routines (which can be as simple as showering and brushing your teeth in the morning), personal development, and relaxation.
  • Family: This category focuses on tasks and responsibilities related to your immediate family members, such as spending quality time with loved ones, caring for their needs, and supporting their growth.
  • Exercise: Physical activity is essential for maintaining good health and energy levels. Include tasks related to exercise or any physical activities you engage in to improve your well-being.
  • Work/Commute: This category revolves around tasks related to your job or profession. It includes activities such as work projects, meetings, commuting, and professional development.
  • Social Life: Allocate a category for tasks that involve socializing and spending time with friends or participating in community events.
  • Household: This category encompasses tasks related to managing your living space, such as cleaning, organizing, cooking, grocery shopping, and home maintenance.

As you group your to-dos into categories, pay attention to overlapping tasks. For example, you might eat breakfast on your way to work, combining the self-maintenance and work/commute categories. Similarly, folding laundry while talking with a friend on the phone can fall under both the household and social life categories.

Identifying overlapping tasks can be advantageous as it allows you to maximize your time and accomplish multiple things simultaneously. However, be careful not to overload yourself with too many multitasking activities, as this can lead to feeling overwhelmed and not fully present in any of the tasks.

By grouping your to-dos into categories, you gain insights into where your time and energy are predominantly allocated. This awareness can help you assess if your current time allocation aligns with your priorities and make adjustments if necessary. It also allows you to see if any category consistently takes up more time or energy than desired, helping you identify areas where you may need to reprioritize or seek support.

Remember, these categories are not set in stone; you can customize them to fit your unique circumstances and responsibilities. The goal is to clearly understand how you spend your time and energy and make intentional choices that align with your values and well-being.

3. Identify necessary tasks and energy producers.

Our energy is significantly influenced by the types of activities we do. Some activities uplift us. We feel lighter and more energized. Conversely, other activities or tasks drain our energy, leaving us feeling heavy and depleted.

It’s important to consider how each task affects our energy so we can organize our day to prioritize our values, support our preferences, and propel us through the less energizing tasks.

Take note of how each task affects your energy, no matter how slight the change may be. Did the action give you a lift in energy, even if it was small? Or did it drain your energy? Some tasks may have a neutral effect.

By being mindful of these energy shifts, you can begin to identify patterns and make informed decisions about which tasks are necessary and which ones you can potentially eliminate.

A black woman portraying a lot of positive energy

This process is highly individual and unique to your own experiences and needs. What energizes one person may not have the same effect on another. Therefore, listening to your body, trusting your instincts, and making choices that support your overall health and happiness are essential.

4. Cut out tasks that drain your energy.

Tiredness and fatigue can be all too familiar for those living with autoimmune diseases. That’s why taking control of our energy and time is crucial. We can do this by pinpointing the tasks that drain us and exploring options to eliminate them. While it may not be easy initially, the rewards will be well worth it.

It’s time to take a closer look at how we spend our precious energy. Start by assessing your daily activities. Consider which tasks leave you feeling exhausted or depleted. Is it spending hours on social media? Or perhaps saying yes to every request, even when it stretches you thin? Take note of these energy-draining culprits.

Next, it’s time to prioritize. Determine which tasks are genuinely essential and align with your goals and values. These are the tasks that deserve your energy and attention. Giving yourself permission to let go of the non-essential tasks can be liberating. Remember, this is about preserving your energy for what matters most to you.

As you strive to cut out tasks that drain your energy, being gentle with yourself is crucial. Progress may not always be linear, and that’s okay. Focus on taking small steps and celebrating every win, no matter how insignificant.

In the challenging journey of autoimmune diseases, conserving our energy is a powerful tool. We empower ourselves to focus on what truly matters by eliminating tasks that drain us. So, let us take charge of our energy and create space for the activities that invigorate and inspire us.


5. Set it and forget it. Automate anything you can.

In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, automation is paramount. It’s time to take advantage of the wonders of technology and automate those repetitive tasks that drain our energy and consume our precious time.

Imagine never having to scramble to put dinner together or wasting time standing in line at the pharmacy for prescription refills. With Invig Resource: Misfits Market, you can automate your grocery or meal delivery, ensuring that nourishing food arrives at your doorstep without lifting a finger. And why not let a trusty robot vacuum take care of never-ending cleaning tasks?

By automating these daily tasks, we can free up our time and conserve our energy for the things that truly matter. Just think of the stress that will melt away and the extra energy you’ll have to devote to self-care, hobbies, or creating meaningful moments with loved ones.

6. Delegate tasks to others.

Asking for help can be challenging, we know. But let us assure you, my dear friend, that learning to delegate can be a game-changer in reducing stress and conserving energy. Take a moment to identify tasks that can be delegated to others.

It could be asking a coworker for assistance on a project or assigning household chores to family members. And don’t forget about the power of community support.

Invig Resource: Give InKind is an excellent care coordination tool to get support with whatever you need. Let us embrace the power of coordination and delegation. Doing so allows us to focus our energy on what truly matters!

7. Outsource whatever you can.

Outsourcing can be a game-changer when it comes to managing your time and energy. While it may not always be feasible to outsource every task, it is worth considering those tasks that drain your energy or add unnecessary stress to your life. Outsourcing tasks can help reduce your workload, free up valuable time, and allow you to focus on the things that matter most to you.

Consider outsourcing household chores such as laundry, cleaning, or yard maintenance. These tasks often require physical effort and can be time-consuming, especially for individuals with autoimmune diseases or chronic illnesses. By hiring someone to take care of these tasks, you can conserve your energy and allocate it to activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.

Outsourcing can extend beyond household chores as well. You can outsource tasks like grocery shopping, meal preparation, or prescription pickups. These errands can take up a significant amount of time and energy, and by delegating them to someone else, you can save both.

Outsourcing doesn’t have to be expensive or involve hiring professional services. Get creative and seek help from neighbors, friends, or even local community organizations. For example, maybe a neighbor’s child could take out your trash or mow your yard for a small fee.

Additionally, resources or services may be available in your community specifically designed to support individuals with chronic illnesses or disabilities.

When deciding whether to outsource a task, it can be helpful to calculate the cost-benefit. Assess the advantages of outsourcing, such as reduced stress, saved time, and conserved energy, against the expenses involved. Evaluate whether the potential benefits outweigh the cost, both financially and emotionally.

Outsourcing is not a sign of weakness or inability to do things independently. It’s a strategic decision to prioritize your well-being. Then, you can create space for activities that bring you joy, fulfillment, and better overall health.

8. You do what you schedule. Plan out your day.

Now that you have narrowed your list to the necessary to-dos and activities that fuel your energy, it’s time to plan your day. The phrase “you do what you schedule” is incredibly accurate.

By planning what you must accomplish each day, you can note the essential tasks and allocate the necessary time to them. Organizing your day in this way can help you prevent overcommitment, conserve energy, and reduce stress.

One of the biggest hurdles in planning your day is being realistic about what you can get done in a day. It’s essential to be mindful of your energy levels and adjust your plans accordingly. Your priorities might even change throughout the day, depending on how you’re feeling.

To ensure you don’t overcommit yourself, it can be helpful to physically limit the space you use to manage your to-do list. While digital task managers like Microsoft’s To-Do list are convenient, they provide endless space for adding tasks. Consider using a paper calendar, so you have a limited space to fill. This can help you prioritize and focus on what must be done.

9. Reprioritize  

Life is constantly throwing new things at us, and we often have to adjust our plans on the fly. When a new task comes up, take a moment to consider whether it truly belongs on your list.

Evaluate if it aligns with your priorities and belongs to your to-do list. If it does, make a conscious effort to determine where it falls within your priorities. Look at your categories and identify which one the task belongs to. Then, take a long look to see if it can be automated, delegated, or outsourced.

Tip: Do a Double-Take. When a new task comes up, ensure it belongs on your list. Does the request align with your priorities and belong to your To-Do list?

Regularly checking in and reassessing your list is crucial. Priorities can evolve, and what seemed important a week ago might not hold the same weight now. By reevaluating and reprioritizing, you can ensure that your energy and time are aligned with your most important goals and responsibilities.

Productivity Tip: Take breaks!

Remember to give yourself breaks throughout the day. Taking quality mental breaks is essential for maintaining productivity and avoiding burnout. Research has shown that our brains have limited focus time, and pushing ourselves to concentrate excessively can result in impulsive behavior, creative blocks, and poor collaboration.

According to Srini Pillay, M.D., an executive coach and CEO of NeuroBusiness Group, taking “unfocused time” has numerous benefits. It allows our brain to wander, sparking creative thinking and enhancing problem-solving skills.

So, make sure to schedule regular breaks during your day and engage in activities that allow your mind to rest and recharge. Avoid getting distracted by mindless social media scrolling and instead engage in activities that truly help you relax and rejuvenate.

Crafting a Personalized System for Optimal Time and Energy Management

By following these nine steps, you can create a personalized system that works for you and helps you use your time and energy best. Prioritizing is crucial for individuals with autoimmune diseases or chronic illnesses, as it allows you to conserve energy, reduce stress, and focus on the things that matter most to you.

All of this is easy in theory. It’s sticking with it and giving your To-Do list the thought and effort needed to spend your valuable time on the things most important to you.  

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. We are standing beside you, ready to lend an empathetic ear, share helpful tools and resources to empower your journey and provide a supportive community to lean on. Together, we can navigate the challenging terrain of autoimmune diseases and reclaim our lives.

5-Step Resilience Plan – A Toolkit to Put Yourself Back Together After “Failure”

5-Step Resilience Plan – A Toolkit to Put Yourself Back Together After “Failure”

Karin W

September 19, 2023

Failure is inevitable. It comes with the territory of developing habits and routines that cultivate health and wellness. More directly, failure means you tried something and now have an experience you can learn from, which is the foundation of personal growth and development.

Our mantra at Invigorate is to take it one step at a time. The idea is that not if but when we misstep, we can brush it off without a big deal and get back on track with our next step or the one after that if we need a beat. Taking sufficient time is key to processing setbacks in a healthy way.

Here are Five Steps to help you Cope with and Process Uncomfortable Emotions after a learning experience.

  1. Reframe How You Think About Failure
  2. Develop One or Two Anchor Thoughts to Help Ground Yourself
  3. Give Yourself Some Space to Decompress
  4. Reflect on the Experience
  5. 5-4-3-2-1 Go!

Step 1: Reframe How You Think About Failure – Shift to a Growth Mindset

Failure is an inevitable part of life, especially when making changes and taking risks. Thinking of failure as an opportunity to learn something new can help you keep an open mind to new ideas and ways of doing things.

When we try something new, of course, it will be a disaster. We’ll trip ourselves up and get in our own way, but we’ll get through it and come out the other side better for it.

By focusing on our efforts vs. the outcome, we focus on our journey vs. the destination.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

Ernest Hemingway

Our experiences are the primary way we learn and grow. They challenge and stretch us. It’s a fact of life: we’ll make mistakes along the way. That makes life grueling at times but more rewarding than ever imagined.

We must push ourselves out of our comfort zone and be prepared to fall. The more things we try and fail at, the more we’ll learn and grow.

Even though we know failure is inevitable and critical for our development, it doesn’t change the fact that failure doesn’t feel good when it happens. However, we can tap into a couple of tools to help us cope with the difficult emotions that often come with setbacks.

Step 2: Develop One or Two Anchor Thoughts to Help Ground Yourself

After particularly rough falls, a reminder that failure is the key ingredient to growth and progress can be invaluable to getting you back on your feet.

Anchor thoughts or affirmations reinforce our values and why we continue to challenge ourselves. They’re an act of self-care as they help us process anxiety and other uncomfortable emotions to regain perspective.

But when our energy is low, finding a silver lining is often a heavier lift than we’re willing to carry.

Writing down inspirational quotes or encouraging notes ahead of time can increase your likelihood of referring to positive messages when you’re disappointed or frustrated.

Woman sitting at desk writing in notebook

Here are some Affirmation Examples:

  • “I don’t know what will happen next, but I’ll learn something from this experience.”
  • “I don’t keep a scorecard.”
  • “I treat my body with love and respect.”
  • “I am committed to my health.”

Spending a minute or two reading them out loud and internalizing their messages can help shift your mindset. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it should get easier with time.

Try different ones if they don’t or aren’t resonating with you. They should change with you and your experiences.

Steps to Grow Your Affirmation Stamina:

  • Read your affirmations silently.
  • Read them aloud.
  • Read them allowed looking in a mirror.
  • Memorize them and say them to yourself throughout your day.

“Together, with honest self-reflection and concrete action steps, positive affirmations can be a wonderful part of one’s behavioral change regimen.”

Anna Yusim, M.D.

By getting yourself to a more positive state, you set yourself up to reflect openly. That’s where vital learning and growth happen.

Step 3: Give Yourself Some Space to Decompress

You dropped the ball, royally embarrassed yourself, and want to bury your head in the sand for whatever reason. After experiencing a tough setback, giving yourself time and space to decompress is critical to process emotions.

Allow yourself some time for self-care and engage in activities that help you relax and take your mind off things healthily. You can refer to 10 Tools to Nurture You Through Autoimmune Disease Flares for ideas on how to unwind mentally.

Young man sitting outside an industrial area staring off into the distance

Give yourself time and space to process your emotions without feeling pressured or rushed into doing something else right away. Our general rule is to give yourself space for at least 24 hours. A good night’s sleep can help bring logic and clarity to what previously seemed to be a dramatic situation.

If you feel stuck in a loop of negative emotions, try breathing deeply and focusing on your breath for a few minutes. This will help lower blood pressure and release tension, allowing you to shift into a more relaxed state.

Reference the Invigorate Mental Health Step for breathing and other mindfulness tools to help you decompress.

Step 4: Reflect on the Experience

It’s important not to do this step until you’ve had ample time to decompress. If we start the process too early, we don’t have the clarity, nor can we gain true insights from the experience.

After you have time to decompress, perhaps for a few hours or days, reflect on the experience. It might sound counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to overcome disappointment is to think about it.

Sitting with our uncomfortable emotions is uncomfortable, but when we do, we heal and grow.

This is especially helpful if you feel like your emotions are getting in the way of clear thinking. It’s OK to start, stop, and revisit. In fact, it’s great because your perspective will change, and your insights will deepen.

Writing down our thoughts helps us process the situation.

Like doing a complicated math problem, breaking it down on paper helps our brains organize and make sense of the information to solve it.

There’s no need to get hung up on the details. Let your thoughts flow without judgment; the insights will present themselves if you’re open and honest.

Reflecting on failure involves asking questions like:

  • What happened?
  • Why did this happen?
  • What can I learn from this?
  • What do I need to change to improve my chances of success next time?
  • What can I do to best move forward?

Simply start writing in a journal or talking to a friend. Don’t get hung up on details. You may surprise yourself with what you uncover when you let your thoughts flow freely.

If reflection feels daunting, setting a timer for 5-10 minutes can be enough to get started and potentially through your process.

Reflection is a powerful tool for learning. It allows us to gain new insights, connect past and current experiences, and see things from different perspectives.

By reflecting on failure, we can learn from our mistakes and improve our chances of success in the future.

Step 5: 3-2-1-Go!

We shifted our perspective on failure, decompressed, and processed the situation, and now it’s time to get back on our feet and go again. But maybe you’d rather revisit the decompression state and throw on a couple more nostalgic shows…

As we stall, our motivation dwindles, and depression symptoms can creep in. It’s a continuous tug-of-war between temptation and doing the thing that will get you back on your feet.

“5-4-3-2-1, Go!”

That simple saying can help get you moving, and once you’re in motion, momentum builds rather quickly because taking action fuels motivation. The 5-second rule can be applied to anything, from getting out the door to starting a project.

When we’re in the moment, emotions influence our decisions. But when you take action, those emotions subside, leaving you with a clear mind to make better decisions.

Failure is a Requirement to Make Progress and Grow

Remember, failure is not the end but a stepping stone toward growth and personal development. When you have setbacks or missteps, a resilience plan can help you bounce back quicker by giving you a roadmap for handling setbacks.

Planting seed in garden with bare hands patting the dirt around the sprout

By reframing how you think about failure, giving yourself space, developing anchor thoughts, reflecting on the experience, and taking action, you can put yourself back together to continue your journey more experienced and better off than before your “failure.”

Continuous failure is a vital part of a successful, fulfilling journey. We can make the most of our experiences by learning to navigate them with acceptance and curiosity. When we learn to accept failure, we can move forward with an open mind and heart, knowing it’s all part of the process.

Let’s give it a 3-2-1 -Go!

Keep Striving, Survivors,
Karin

Sources

Guiding Principles: A Realistic Approach to Autoimmune Disease Remission & Better Health

Guiding Principles: A Realistic Approach to Autoimmune Disease Remission & Better Health

Karin W

September 8, 2023

Our guiding principles provide direction and support to empower your journey in navigating autoimmune disease and chronic illness. 

We embrace an incremental approach to holistic health, disease management, and remission. Our programs are built on a foundation of small, simple lifestyle changes that anyone can do anywhere. 

A common misconception about autoimmune diseases and chronic illnesses is that you have little control over your health trajectory. Plan for a life of chronic pain, medications, and appointments. In reality, while you may have a steeper hill than others, you do have the power to reduce disease activity and, ultimately, achieve remission.

“We have a totally different diet, with processed foods, additives and fast foods. We’re more sedentary. There’s an obesity epidemic. We have a different pattern of infectious agents, even pre-COVID-19, with more emerging yearly. The environment is noisier, and there are more stressors.”

-Frederick Miller, M.D., scientist emeritus with the Environmental Autoimmunity Group at the National Institutes of Health

While your remission is our mission, we’re not focused on the destination. We’re dialed in on the journey. We focus on systematic, incremental, achievable steps to improve your health and well-being. 

We provide the resources to empower your journey that’ll be shaped by your experiences, specific situations, personalities, and preferences. 

The ideal path to remission is sustainable. You don’t beat autoimmune disease in one day; you take it one step at a time, #oneaction at a time, until living a healthy, fulfilling life is second nature. And one day, you’ll realize how far you’ve come. We promise. 

A Different Approach to Creating Sustainable Habits

Five stages of a sprouting plants in soil, sunlight.

We focus on one step at a time, but even that can sometimes feel daunting. The good news is that we can break it down even further.

Rather than making dramatic lifestyle changes all at once, we focus on small things you can do to change your behavior and habits. Take it one step at a time and find the small victories in everyday moments, even if they’re micro-movements toward your goal.

This approach allows you to build healthy habits that stick with you for the long haul. 

Invigorate’s Guiding Principals are guidelines intended to help empower your journey but by no means dictate it. After all, we know a one-size-fits-all approach never works, so lean in and adjust, swap, modify, or do whatever you need to to make the most out of your Invigorate experience.  

Invigorate Guardrails to Empower Your Journey

1. Dial in on Your Journey, not the destination.

None of us know how long we’ll be here, and as much as we want to know where our paths will lead us, the only time guaranteed is now. This moment now is our life. 

Young woman leaning out car window as she's pulled over, making a heart with her hands. Mountains in the distance.

We strive to shift depressed thoughts of the past and anxious thoughts of the future to considerate thoughts of the present. We can take one step toward a more meaningful future by focusing on the present. 

Are you on a path that empowers your journey or one that makes it more challenging? Every decision we make and every action we take slowly but surely shapes the course of our journey.

Sometimes, we unknowingly tread on rough terrains that make our voyage harder. But remember, you have the power to change the path you’re on. Ask yourself, am I taking steps to better my situation? Remember, we only have this moment. The right time isn’t tomorrow, next week, or in the new year – it’s right now. Make the choice to foster self-care, give yourself the compassion you tirelessly give to others, and you’ll find the strength to navigate even the toughest of journeys.

2. It’s Your Journey.

The first step to better health is understanding that you have the power to choose. There are many paths and routes to remission, but your journey is unique. No matter where you’re in life now, know it’s never too late to change for the better.

Narrowly winding road with fall-colored trees on either side.

Each of us has our own experiences and challenges. Our perception of those experiences shapes our unique journeys. The power is in your hands to choose the direction you want to go.

Health is more than physical and emotional well-being—it’s also about understanding how we are connected to the world around us. Practicing healthy habits and self-care allows us to deepen our connection with nature, society, and our communities.

It’s not a race since we’re on different paths, but we can support one another in our winding journeys. It’s hard to make the determination and take the steps towards a healthier life. We can be our own obstacle, but be patient with yourself, focus on the next step, and lean into our community for support. 

3. We’re in this together.

The complexity and intensity of autoimmune diseases can fuel depression and isolation. These systemic diseases are not fully understood, making them hard to explain. Survivors tend to withdraw when they don’t have a supportive network.   

Five sets of hands, each cupping a sprouted plant in soil in a circle.

While our journeys are unique to us and our experiences, that doesn’t mean we must go through this alone. Our Invigorate community can relate and empathize with the challenges and uncertainties of navigating autoimmune diseases and chronic illnesses. We give each other the grace to fall, support to get back up, and encouragement to try again. 

Engage with our supportive community. We share our experiences and tips and have some laughs along the way. Together, we can overcome the challenges of autoimmune diseases and thrive, living life on our own terms. We can do this, and we don’t have to do it alone.

4. Unleash your inner explorer and get curious.

As you embark on this journey of personal growth and self-discovery, it’s crucial to approach it with an open mind. Something may not resonate with you now, but it might resonate with you down the road. 

Our perspectives change as we experience more, especially when managing the challenging health situations accompanying autoimmune diseases and chronic illnesses. An open mind can stretch us to think beyond our current thoughts. 

Try to channel your inner explorer as you journey through the labyrinth of autoimmune diseases. Embracing a spirit of curiosity can be a powerful tool in this voyage. Ask questions, dig deeper, research, and seek out multiple perspectives. This isn’t about finding quick fixes but about gaining understanding. It’s about exploring the many pathways to wellness and identifying what works best for you.

Four kids inspecting branches and pine needles with a magnifying glass.

Curiosity can also lead us to self-compassion, a trait often overlooked but critical in our journey. It involves being gentle with ourselves when we stumble and embracing our imperfections. In our Invigorate community, we encourage everyone to be kind to themselves, to recognize their efforts, and to applaud small victories. Remember, it’s progress, not perfection, that we seek.

Lastly, curiosity urges us to embrace change. Autoimmune diseases can be unpredictable, but we can adapt to new routines, treatments, and lifestyle changes with a flexible mindset. Change can be daunting, but it also brings opportunities for growth and reinvention.

So put on your explorer’s hat, stay curious, and open yourself to the remarkable journey of self-discovery.

5. Stick to one or two steps at a time. 

This moment now is when we can drive change by dialing in our thought patterns and daily habits. Slow and steady wins the race. We recommend focusing on one or two steps at a time, even when you can take on more. 

For example, if you want to incorporate diet and lifestyle changes, start with a few simple ones, like drinking more water or going to bed 30 minutes earlier. Once those habits become second nature, then add more. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do too much at once!

Stone steps leading up through wooded area towards sunlight.

Or, if you want to take a couple of steps down the same path, ensure one is an easier step to take. For example, if you’re looking to double down on physical activity, one step could be incorporating a stretching routine, and another could be walking three times a week.

Remember that the goal is to find sustainable ways to create healthy habits. This means taking one step at a time and adjusting as you go. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

While incremental change feels tiny, it adds up to big results. Trust the process! You are capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for. We believe in you. Now, let’s start on this incredible journey together!

Tip: Having an accountability partner or supportive friend can be key to helping you get over hurdles. Join our Facebook community for support, encouragement, and grace in navigating your journey.

6. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s when change happens.

Systems make change possible. When navigating life’s complexities with an autoimmune disease, mindset is everything. It’s about leaning into the sweet spot between comfort and discomfort. That’s where growth and transformation happen.

It’s about challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone, one small step at a time. You’ll be uncomfortable sometimes, but embrace the discomfort of growth and learning as part of the journey.

While each step individually is critical, having a plan and structure is also critical to success. Using systems and processes to simplify your life can help you embrace change. It also helps create structure, making it easier to get through tough health days.

If you don’t plan how to do it, you’ll likely give up before you start. Willpower is not a thing; we’ll fail if we rely on it. Discover the 6 Sources that Influence Our Behavior and learn how to control them for a higher chance of success.

Everything affects everything. Five hundred crunches alone won’t get you a six-pack, but some crunches and a salad will, eventually. Everything is interconnected, so we take a multifaceted approach to health and well-being. Throughout the Invigorate experience, we note Ive+ habits, keystone habits that benefit beyond one action’s direct impact. Best-selling author Charles Duhigg discusses the benefits of leveraging keystone habits in his book The Power of Habit.

Systems fail, so turn tough times into tools for the future.

We can want with all our hearts to change, create the perfect plan, and muster up the courage to take a step or two, only to find our faces smashed into the ground without realizing what even happened!

Women who fell face-first into the mud.

This happens more often than not, especially when we’re just starting out. It’s okay. We can use this as an opportunity to grow and learn. Failures are only failures if we don’t learn from our experiences. If we reflect on why we failed, then we can course correct to try again.

Instead of blaming yourself or giving up, take stock of the situation and ask honest questions about why it happened. What did you do right? What could have been done differently? The answers will help you adjust your approach for the next step. By continuously reflecting, refining, and implementing, you’ll develop systems that work for you.

Remember, the more you fail, the more you learn and grow, and that’s how we blossom. 

7. Embrace the season you’re in.

A realistic approach to this journey includes recognizing and accepting the season we’re in.

We’re used to planning things in hours, days, weeks, months, and years, yet our experiences go by in moments, scenes, and seasons. Those moments blend and melt together to form our memories.

Depiction of the four seasons. Spring is cherry blossoms. Summer is green wooded area. Fall is branch with leaves changing to orange. Winter is barren branches covered in snow.

Located in Minnesota, we get a full four seasons; yes, even summer. In the heart of winter, below-zero temperatures and plummeting windshields can make for a long several months.

While we sometimes need to hunker down to get through it, there are many times we brave the elements to enjoy the snow—sledding, skating, skiing, or having an outdoor fire. It can be bitterly cold sometimes, but we embrace the season as it is, knowing it will change again.

As we navigate through our own healing seasons, let’s remember the power of our mindset and the remarkable strength we harbor within ourselves. We can create wonderful memories during our darkest periods, knowing this season shall pass, too, but it didn’t pass us by.

8. Practice selfless self-care for tireless service and compassion.

To serve at the highest level, we first must serve ourselves. That starts by looking within. Self-care should involve a healthy dose of self-reflection and awareness. When we pick the weeds and dig out the soul, we unearth fresh soil to plant new seeds.

“Sugar, by nature, is sweet, and water, by nature, is liquid. When we perform an activity and function which is per nature and as how it has been designed, one experiences harmony. That harmony produces the greatest efficiency, and so the soul, by nature, is designed to serve when we engage in serving and pleasing. That effect of serving and pleasing produces the greatest joy from within.”

How To Achieve SELF MASTERY | Gauranga Das & Jay Shetty Podcast

Selfless self-care—such as practicing mindful meditation, meaningful movement, and sustenance for the soul—will help us become more in tune with our external world. We can then share our own light and energy to impact those around us positively.

Hand letting water drip onto sprouted plant.

So the next time you feel guilty about taking care of yourself, pause and reflect on how caring for yourself will allow you to be a better parent, friend, coworker—human being.

9. Enjoy the music.

Autoimmune remission is a process. It’s not just about reaching remission but living a life that nurtures our health and well-being. 

Life is hard. That’s the point. We’d be bored and complacent if we didn’t face our challenges, struggle, fall, and get back up. That’s a dangerously destructive place to be. Our hardships guide and teach us life lessons—nurturing us to deepen our roots, strengthen our stems, grow leaves, and eventually, blossom. 

We’ll grow without noticing as we embrace our challenges and face our fears. When we do eventually notice, we’ll be further ahead than we ever thought possible. As you embrace the present challenge, remember that this moment now is all that matters. 

So go ahead, sing out loud in the car, and dance in the kitchen with your kids—life is too short not to enjoy the music and dance along the way. 

Dance on, Strivers,
Karin

How to Turn Bad Habits into Healthy Habits by Addressing 6 Sources that Influence Our Behavior

How to Turn Bad Habits into Healthy Habits by Addressing 6 Sources that Influence Our Behavior

Karin W

August 4, 2023

Change behavior expert and best-selling author Al Switzler shares how we can manage those sources and have more control over our actions.

Of course, we want to eat healthy, exercise, and go to bed early to effectively care for ourselves regardless of whether we have an autoimmune disease.

Despite knowing all the health benefits and harmful effects of our unhelpful behaviors, willpower goes out the window when a colleague brings in a box of donuts, or you opt for the couch instead of the treadmill after a long work day.

We think if we can summon enough willpower, we can change our habits overnight. The problem with this approach is that when we try to make too many changes at once, we feel overwhelmed and give up.

Instead of trying to achieve drastic transformations overnight, Switzler advocates for the “vital behaviors” approach, which focuses on identifying and mastering the few key behaviors that can bring about significant change in your life.

“If we can control the sources that control us, we’re more likely to control our own behavior.”

-Al Switzler, coauthor of four NYT bestsellers, including Change Anything.

Identify the Vital Moments Derailing Your Progress

Re-hashing your “bad” decisions isn’t fun, but pinpointing triggers is a necessary step. Recurring incidents can shed light on behavior trends and habits. By recognizing when we’re most vulnerable, we can proactively design strategies and interventions to support the hard decisions when temptation lurks.

A man in a casual white t-shirt and glasses is writing with a pen on a piece of paper.

Triggers aren’t always obvious, though. Triggers can be visuals, smells, body sensations, specific times, places, or memories challenging our motivation. There may be several, and one or two might be flying under the radar.

To help uncover hidden triggers, start with simply jotting down who, what, when, and where you were. Think about how they influenced your behavior in these moments. What were the thoughts and feelings that led up to acting? How does this moment differ from others? What factors make this moment different from all others? Get a notepad and pen, and take a few minutes to write down what you notice about the situation.

How to Manage the 6 Sources that Influence Our Behavior and Habits

Once we’ve identified these defining moments, we can develop a plan to address the six sources that influence our behavior to increase our success rate of making tough choices in our most vulnerable moments.

  1. Personal Motivation – Why am I doing this?
  2. Personal Ability – Can I do this? If not, can I learn a skill to do it?
  3. Social Motivation – Do I have encouragement and support?
  4. Social Ability – Do I have someone to coach me, give me feedback to improve?
  5. Structural Motivation – What rewards/incentives will help keep me going?
  6. Structural Ability – How can I change my environment to make my good behavior easy and my lousy behavior hard?

Personal Motivation – Why am I doing this?

The first and most important source of influence is identifying *your why*. Whether you want to reduce pain, have more energy for your kids, or live healthier, ask yourself why. Significant, meaningful reasons will fuel your motivation and “willpower.”

Dig deep and get specific. Our reason for doing something challenging has to be MUCH bigger than whatever temptation is in the moment. Otherwise, we’ll dive into bagels, pizza, candy, whatever your vice, every single time, regardless of how much we try to talk ourselves out of it.

Write down your reasons to carry with you or record them in a notes app to remind yourself of your reasons in those pivotal moments. Re-reading them or, better yet, saying them out loud can get you past your trigger point.

The key is staying busy. Physical activity can help burn off anxious energy and help calm your nervous system. The more we practice healthy ways to get through cravings and make healthier choices, the easier it gets over time. Eventually, it’ll be habitual and second nature, so you hardly think about it.

Resources to Identify Your Why

Personal Ability – Can I do this? If not, can I learn a skill to do it?

Personal ability includes your skills, abilities, and experiences. We won’t always have the skills to make the good decisions we strive for. You can improve this source of influence by learning new skills and acquiring new knowledge. The more skills you have in your wheelhouse, e.g., those that come quickly to you, the more influence you will have in making good decisions.

A young woman is looking at her laptop with a stack of books next to her on her bed.

For example, if you want to get a raise at work, you could read books or listen to podcasts on negotiating with managers so that when it comes time to ask for a raise, you’ll know the kind of information to have on hand to help your chances best. Or, if you want to start an online business but don’t know how to write code, reading about programming or taking a class can help you build the skills needed for your business.

Learning new skills also increases confidence and inspires motivation when working toward a goal. It can also help you develop patience, communication, and persistence. It builds self-esteem and makes you feel good about yourself — which can motivate you even more!

Invigorate TipPersonal Growth and Professional Development steps offer resources to support your growth and development, including podcasts when you can only manage to listen, webinars when you can stay vertical for short periods, online courses when you’re up for it, and more.

Social Motivation – Do I have encouragement and support?

Building a support network is one of the most powerful ways to achieve your goals. You may achieve your goals faster and more efficiently by getting the people around you on board with your plans. Three and four sources of influence are peer and social pressures around us.

Humans are naturally social creatures, and the people around us heavily influence our decisions and behaviors – good and bad. We can leverage the power of social influences by getting the people around us on board with our goals.

Let them know what you’re up to and how they can help. These like-minded folks can help keep us on track or at least not derail our efforts.

Social motivation comes into play when trying to change bad habits because it gives us an external force that keeps us accountable for our actions. If everyone around you knows about your goal, they will be more likely to help keep you on track or encourage positive behavior than if they didn’t know what was happening with you.

Social Ability – Do I have someone to coach me, give me feedback to improve?

Coaches understand that making positive changes can be challenging, especially when dealing with autoimmune diseases. But they believe in your potential to overcome obstacles and refuse to let those conditions define you.

By providing additional tools and tips, coaches become your partners in your journey toward self-improvement. They don’t claim to have all the answers, but they possess a wealth of experience helping individuals overcome their bad habits and achieve their goals.

Through their guidance, coaches help you identify your unique strengths and weaknesses, unlocking your full potential. This newfound awareness translates into better results empowering you to excel despite the challenges posed by your autoimmune condition.

A smiling young man speaks with a professional woman on a video call.

More than just advisors, coaches serve as crucial sources of support during tough times. When you feel discouraged or overwhelmed, they’ll lift you and restore your belief in yourself. Acting as your accountability partners, coaches help you maintain focus on what truly matters, ensuring that you stay on track toward your goals.

Their guidance goes beyond just motivation and encouragement. Coaches equip you with the practical tools necessary for success. Whether it’s devising personalized strategies or teaching you practical techniques, they provide you with the resources you need to thrive.

Coaches not only possess expertise in their field, but they also understand the unique challenges faced by individuals with autoimmune diseases. Their guidance is grounded in empathy and backed by professional knowledge, making them an invaluable ally in your journey.

Remember, you don’t have to navigate this path alone. Reach out to coaches who can support you, provide valuable insights, and help you make positive changes that will empower you to live your best life, regardless of your autoimmune condition.

Structural Motivation – What Rewards & Incentives will Help me Strive?

As people with autoimmune diseases, we often face daily challenges requiring us to make difficult health decisions. It can be challenging to stay motivated and make choices that align with our long-term goals.

That’s where structural motivation comes in. By utilizing incentives and rewards, we can give ourselves the extra boost we need to make those healthy decisions.

According to sources five and six, structural motivation can provide a sense of reinforcement that can go a long way in our wellness journey. Rewards trigger the release of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that helps regulate motivation and pleasure.

This is why receiving a special reward when we achieve a health goal can make us feel good and motivate us to continue making positive decisions.

A young woman in athletic clothes blows confetti.

There is no “one size fits all” approach to positive reinforcement. What works for one person may not work for another, and you may have to experiment with different approaches before finding the ones that work best for you!

The key here is to find something that works for you and your unique situation. If you have trouble motivating yourself, get creative and try different ideas! A reward doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive; it just needs to be meaningful enough for you. When it comes to positive reinforcement, it’s all about finding what works for you.

Structural motivation can be a powerful tool for building positive habits and achieving goals. Incorporating incentives and rewards into our wellness routine makes us more likely to sustain healthy behaviors and improve our health outcomes. It’s important to remember that these rewards do not have to be extravagant, but the satisfaction of receiving a little boost can do wonders for our motivation.

Structural motivation can help us stay focused and make smarter, healthier decisions. Whether it’s the thrill of receiving an incentive or the relief of achieving our goals, rewards can motivate us to stay on track and optimize our health.

Remember to be kind to yourself, celebrate small milestones, and take advantage of structural motivation’s benefits.

Structural Ability – How can I change my environment to make my good behavior easy and my bad behavior hard?

Living with an autoimmune disease can be overwhelming. Managing symptoms, sticking to treatment plans, and making lifestyle changes can seem daunting. But what if there was a way to make it easier to maintain good behaviors and even harder to engage in bad ones? That’s where structural ability comes in.

Structural ability is the idea that our environment can shape our behavior for better or worse. By intentionally designing our environments to encourage good habits and discourage bad ones, we can make healthy choices the default option.

Invigorate Tip: Prepare for Decision Fatigue. We make hundreds of decisions each day, and as the day goes on, decision fatigue sets in, which is why ordering pizza Friday night seems much easier than figuring out a meal to cook for dinner. Have a plan, so you don’t have to make the choice.

Eating healthier is a common goal among people with autoimmune diseases, and simple changes can have a lasting impact. For example, switching to smaller plates to help with portion control or signing up for a grocery delivery service to help ensure you have healthy food.

A young woman eats out of a small ice cream container with a spoon.

You can also use structural changes to make bad habits harder. Throw out the container of ice cream to remove the temptation altogether. Or, if you want to spend less time on Facebook, block the site on your computer and put an app blocker on your phone so that it’s impossible for you to access it.

If you don’t give yourself a choice, you don’t have to make the choice. When you want to change your life, consider what small changes can be made to your environment to help you achieve your goal.

Turn bad days into good data – Continuously Monitor and Adapt

No one gets it right the first time. We need time to analyze, adjust and try again until we get the system right.

Behavior change is not a one-time event but an ongoing process requiring constant assessment and adjustment. By regularly evaluating our progress and making necessary tweaks to our strategies, we can ensure that we stay on the path toward our desired outcomes.

Invigorate Tip: 5 Ways to Cope through Cravings:

  1. Go for a walk outside.
  2. Take a shower or bath.
  3. Put on a yoga, cardio, HIIT, or another workout video.
  4. Roll up your sleeves and do some picking up and cleaning. Remember that it doesn’t matter how far you get; each step is progress.
  5. Get groceries, return Amazon packages, or run other errands.

Learn from your missteps to identify where you took a wrong turn and adjust your course for next time. Customize and personalize your plan to align with your goals, strengths, weaknesses, and environment.

Changing bad habits into healthy ones is a process that takes time and effort, but the rewards are worth it.

Let’s figure it out together, my friends.

Dance on,

Karin

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10 Tools to Nurture You Through Autoimmune Disease Flares & Other Tough Times Living With Chronic Illnesses

10 Tools to Nurture You Through Autoimmune Disease Flares & Other Tough Times Living With Chronic Illnesses

Karin W

May 22, 2023

It’s possible to be in remission for long periods, especially when living a healthy lifestyle, mostly eating nutritious food, staying physically active, managing stress, and maintaining meaningful relationships.

While living a healthy lifestyle is your best chance at keeping disease activity at bay, environmental triggers, life events, and overbooked schedules can each be enough to put our health into an unexpected tailspin.

One winter, I had been eating clean, managing stress, and plugging along just fine each day. Without warning, I was horizontal on my couch with what we thought was the flu. It’d been going around the office, so I wasn’t surprised I caught it. It’s difficult to avoid getting sick while taking immunosuppressants.

After three weeks of no improvement, I was admitted to the hospital, where they ran a gamut of tests. The worst part was my new “roommate,” constantly groaning in pain, sounding like a dying animal, making it impossible to get any sleep. Overly exhausted, undernourished, and missing my kids terribly, I felt every ounce of this autoimmune disease crushing my spirit.

In those moments of utter despair, it’s important to have tools to use anywhere at any time to help you cope with sensory overload and work through tough situations.

Go-To Tools to Help You Through Tough Times with Autoimmune Diseases and Chronic Illnesses

When your world feels like it’s crashing down, your focus should be comfort and self-care. That can be difficult when emotions are running high, so our community has compiled a list of tools to keep in your back pocket for the next time you unexpectedly need them.

1. Your Breathe

When we’re anxious, our bodies tense up, our breathing shallows, and an abundance of cortisone/stress releases into our systems. To reduce anxiety quickly, deep breathing is the surest, most effective way to reduce heart rate. Our bodies are very trainable; we must tell them what to do. The simplest way to do that is to breathe out longer than when you inhale.

Guided meditation videos and podcasts are a great way to learn various breathing methods. Training your mind and physiology through breath has been shown to reduce anxiety while increasing focus and concentration, which can also help with brain fog.

2. Change Views

Getting outside isn’t always feasible, especially if you’re stuck in a hospital room, but changing rooms, or even just chairs, can give you a quick boost in mood. Sometimes even the slightest shifts in perspective can spark a new and hopefully more positive chain of thoughts. Looking at positive images can influence your mood if you have limited mobility.

3. Get Thanking

There is always something to be grateful for. The simple act of noting or writing down a few things you’re thankful for helps squelch negative thinking and helps put things into perspective. It also creates an attitude shift that can positively impact everything from our relationships to our health.

Gratitude is an antidote to worry, stress, and anxiety. It also improves happiness by increasing positive emotions like joy, contentment, love, and pride. Gratitude helps people sleep better and increases energy levels and appreciation for others.

Two easy ways to practice gratitude:

1. Expressing gratitude verbally (to yourself or someone else). Thanking someone who has helped, been kind to you, or brightened your day goes a long way.

2. Note what you’re thankful for in a journal or mobile app. Any notebook will do, but journals and mobile apps like Gratitude offer prompts to help you get over any blocks.

4. Get Grounded

Have you heard of grounding or earthing? It’s the idea that connecting with the earth by walking barefoot or lying on the grass can positively affect the body. And it turns out; science is starting to back this theory up.

Research has shown that grounding can help reduce inflammation and pain and improve mood. Amazingly, something as simple as taking off your shoes and connecting with the earth can profoundly impact your health and well-being. So next time you have the chance, why not try it? Who knows, it might just make you feel a little better.

5. Watch Nostalgic Shows

We’re giving you permission to veg out! The familiarity of nostalgic shows can provide security and calmness, especially when life is chaotic. Mindless shows are also easy to turn on in the background to help decompress in the short term. Set a timer or show limit because too much screen time can exacerbate depression symptoms.

6. Listen to Music

Music has a way of affecting our mood like no other.

It’s amazing how a good beat and catchy lyrics can turn a bad day into a good one in minutes. Whether you’re into pop, rock, hip-hop, or classical, it’s all about finding what works for you. Sometimes, all it takes is a few tunes from your favorite artist to get you out of a funk. So pop in those earbuds, crank up the volume, and let the music take you to a better place.

7. Light Hobbies

You know those days when your body doesn’t want to cooperate? When even getting out of bed feels like a Herculean feat? Those are the moments when having a few go-to hobbies in your back pocket is essential. Maybe it’s knitting, puzzling, or coloring. Maybe it’s something else entirely. Having a favorite activity that doesn’t require a ton of physical stamina can be a game-changer. Not only do they help you pass the time, but they can also work wonders for your mental health.

When you’re feeling anxious or stressed, there’s something incredibly soothing about focusing on a creative project for a while. So next time you’re in need of a bit of zen, reach for your crafting supplies and get to work. Your body (and mind) will thank you.

8. Family and Friends

Relationships are the ultimate human experience. When nurturing and long-lasting, they can bring about a sense of belonging and purpose that is hard to come by otherwise.

The feeling of being seen and valued in a relationship is powerful, and it can boost our mood and self-worth in ways we may not realize.

When we have someone who listens, understands, and appreciates us for who we are, we feel more able to express ourselves and show our vulnerability. And, of course, having a supportive partner or friend can make all the difference in our daily life.

But did you know that chemicals in our brains are released when we form close and loving connections with others? Dopamine and endorphins are two of the many feel-good hormones that can make us feel happier and more fulfilled. Lean into your close relationships, especially during challenging times.

9. Faith and Spirituality

Faith can be tricky because it often intersects with religion, which people have strong opinions about. At our community, we believe that spirituality comes in different shapes and sizes, and you can lean into whatever resonates with you.

Whether it’s religion, the universe, or any other belief system, there’s power in positive thoughts and prayer that can help us find peace even in the midst of chaos. It’s amazing how letting go of the things we can’t control can strengthen our faith. So, take a deep breath and trust that your beliefs will guide you.

10. Develop a Flare Care Plan Before You’re in a Flare

Anyone with an autoimmune disease knows flare-ups and tough mental health days can be a real struggle. When you’re in the thick of it, it can feel like trying to climb a mountain with a backpack full of bricks. Everything seems difficult and exhausting. That’s why a plan is so important before you hit rock bottom.

When you’re feeling well, set up a support system and pick out activities you enjoy and find relaxing. That way, when things get tough, you’ll have a blueprint for caring for yourself during hard times. The simple act of having a plan can help us through.

Try the Tools Before You Need Them

You know what they say, practice makes perfect! The same goes for your toolkit. Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis to experiment with different tools. Take your time to try different tactics and see what works best for you.

The great thing about trying out new tools when you’re open-minded is that you may discover something you never thought would work for you. Plus, once you find what works, you’ll already be a pro when using it in a real situation. So don’t be afraid to get out there and try something new. Trust us – your future self will thank you.

Celebrating Self-Acceptance and Perseverance through Parenting with a Chronic Illness

Celebrating Self-Acceptance and Perseverance through Parenting with a Chronic Illness

Karin Wagner

May 5, 2023

Surviving: chronic fatigue, hair loss, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, nausea, dizziness, bouts of confusion and inability to focus, insomnia, memory issues, headaches, joint pain, etc.

Striving: a diagnosis! and treatment

How long have you been on your journey with autoimmune issues? While I haven’t been diagnosed, I’ve dealt with autoimmune issues for about a decade. At the very least, I’ve been dealing with something chronic for at least that long.

What was your turning point in looking to improve your health? Basically, now. This is a new journey for me. I’ve put on significant weight and have noticed that even light physical activity that I used to do easily exhausts me within minutes. As the mother of an active 6-year-old, I need to be able to walk alongside her while she scooters around town, sit on her bedroom floor for an hour and play ponies, carry her to bed when she falls asleep on me on the couch.

But I also do it for me. I miss looking in the mirror and not hating myself. What I see isn’t even an echo of what others see because whatever it is I’m dealing with has warped my own perceptions of myself beyond recognition.

And I miss having the energy to actively participate in my life.

What’s something you’ve learned along the way?

Something that’s been a rude awakening, but also freeing, is that what I’m dealing with is (mostly) invisible. It’s hard to offer others the benefit of the doubt when they keep nudging me to do this or that when I’m out of spoons or offer inane advice like smoothies and jogging, but the flipside of that is that what I am frustrated with myself for right now they don’t see.

I shaved my head because my hair loss became depressing. Others see a badass, someone who doesn’t care what others think, an artistic temperament, a free spirit. (And to some extent, they’re not wrong, even if I’ve lost track of her.)

I see dark circles under my eyes, thirty extra pounds, stretch marks, and patches of scalp. I see my calendar and all the events I missed out on. I see my daughter’s eyes when I let her know we have to head back inside because I’m just too tired to continue again.

I know what got me here, and I can hate it all I want, but here’s the thing: most people just see another human living their life. They meet you for the first time wherever you are in your journey, and that’s who you are to them. You see every moment of your own life, the behind-the-scenes exclusive; they see snapshots.

If they judge based on that, eff them. And honestly? I don’t think most bother.

What advice would you give someone starting in their autoimmunity journey?

Meet yourself where you are. It’s okay to want more and to work towards it, and the desire to improve your situation is crucial to seek out the support you need–but on those days where you just can’t? Don’t, and don’t feel bad for it.

What are you currently striving for?

Above all, a diagnosis and treatment–whatever that looks like. I have difficulty making it to appointments, and severe medical anxiety, so I know it will be a long road. But at the end of the day, having a diagnosis will give me a basis for making more informed decisions about my health.

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