I was in our storage room the other day and came across our son’s Lego container. Memories of his childhood flooded my mind as I remembered how much he loved building things with the brightly-colored knobby blocks! I wouldn’t need to ask him what he wanted for his birthday, it was always a Lego set! It made me think of how I am building my new lifestyle since my RA (rheumatoid arthritis) diagnosis.
With each block representing a different piece to my new way of living, I can see how any one block doesn’t improve my lifestyle much, but putting them all together actually does!
The big square platform represents my medication therapy. It is the foundation. It is my biologic that is interfering with the inflammatory response caused by the RA. This helps with the pain, swelling and prevents further damage to my joints. By decreasing the inflammation, I have less fatigue and can better function and participate in daily activities.
The red block represents my anti-inflammatory diet. I read a lot about these diets, there are a number of versions, generally recommending fatty fish, such as salmon, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains. I paid close attention to how my body reacted to what I ate. It didn’t take long to figure out sugar and processed foods made me feel lousy. Green leafy salads made me feel really good. I cut dairy products from my diet, but that didn’t make a difference. I consequently added them back in. I then cut out breads. I seem to be able to tolerate some, but not much in the bread category or I feel icky. Therefore, I limit breads from my diet.
The blue block represents exercise. I do a pilates session weekly and walk my dog daily. If I miss pilates, my joints tell me to get back to the studio! I have found I move better when I walk every day. When it gets icy outside, I will limit my distance. Walking makes me feel good. I can tell I feel better after the walk than when I started. I have mentioned I am working on getting a few women together to swim or water walk weekly.
The yellow block represents sleep. Making sure I get uninterrupted sleep has made a huge difference for me. I noticed when I got up in the middle of the night as the on-call pharmacist, my joints would not hurt when I first answered the page, but when I tried to get back to sleep they were screaming! It was evident I could no longer be an on-call pharmacist if I wanted improved health. That decision has helped my RA management a lot.
The green block represents stress reduction. I pace myself. I plan my schedule carefully, not over committing so I can manage stress better. This is a learned art! You will start recognizing your limits after you become aware of how even “good” stress can cause your joints to ache. That means rethinking relationships and affiliations. I’ve concluded it is better to be healthy.
Any one of these “blocks” improved my RA to an extent, but it wasn’t until I added them all together that I really started feeling like I could live a fuller life. It is my way of building an anti-inflammatory lifestyle!
I continue to be aware of my day-to-day living and take note when I feel good and when I don’t. I am convinced that my lifestyle choices make a very big difference in how my disease is managed. I’m continually making changes I think improve my situation. I also want to prevent further problems!
I know you have great ideas to elevate the autoimmune lifestyle. I’d love to hear of each and every one of them! XOXO Cathy