March is autoimmune disease awareness month.
For those of you who know or follow me, you are likely well aware that living healthful and well is a key focus area for both my personal life and professional niche. This may be in spite of having chronic conditions or underlying physiological dysfunction. The fact that I carry my own diagnosis and am a fit to “autoimmune wellness warrior” can present certain idiosyncracies to maintaining balance.
Professionally, I work with people to live better, well, and most healthful, while personally, I am often holding on tight while navigating through turbulent, bumpy roads all while working to keep it all together! Naturally, it can give me greater ability to express empathy, but it can also leave me feeling that I have a massive case of imposter syndrome.
A few insights on autoimmune related conditions are as follows (more can be found via the AARDA):
- Approximately 50 million Americans are afflicted with an autoimmune-related condition.
- There are over 80 conditions confirmed associated with underlying autoimmune dysfunction and the list is growing.
- Women are disproportionately affected.
- Late or misdiagnosis has been common.
- Despite supportive evidence for lifestyle interventions significantly influencing outcomes, immunosuppressant treatment is still common yet may result in devastating long-term side effects.
- The body of research centered on effects from environmental factors and the manifestation of autoimmune-related conditions is mounting.
For people who are able to put autoimmune conditions into remission, a 3-5 year timeline is common. This is typically curated through a “lifestyle-medicine” approach which will involve a range of shifts including dietary approaches, relationship with sleep and stress, reduction in adverse environmental exposures where possible, and a potential range of therapeutic related approaches to nudge the body closer to healthful homeostasis. For many of us, like myself, complete remission may not be realistic, but a significant reduction in the severity could be possible. Therefore, 5 years not just after a diagnosis, but from the time in which notable lifestyle changes are begun is kind of a relevant time to do a robust check-in.
This spring will mark 5 years since I have had a formal diagnosis for autoimmune related conditions, (which often cluster and may come with secondary conditions that are considered to be present as a result of the specific autoimmune condition(s) manifestation). In many ways, things are going relatively well. There may still be an occasional flare-up or mishap, but many of my symptoms have been significantly reduced, my antibody labs came back the best results I have seen since I started this journey, and I have indoctrinated the lifestyle changes to become my new normal without much mental anguish to think it all through.
Which brings up a good point. As much as these conditions are physiological, there is also a chaotic dance in store for the mindset. However, although sometimes haphazard with certain unexpected variables, it’s still one that can be orchestrated. Therefore, a few wellness tips can also be rather impactful!
Manage expectations through letting go of perfect. “Well” does not mean perfect. Hey type A-ers, I’m talking even a little more closely to you. Systems and plans can be fantastic for staying on track, but remaining flexible while having a sense of humor can also go a long way!
It’s ok to say No. Not everyone is going to understand what we are dealing with. It’s not personal, educate when it’s appropriate, but otherwise, let it go. Time and energy are much better spent on other areas in which we can enthusiastically say “yes”.
Focus on the unintentional gifts. For me, I have significantly more knowledge and perspective than I would have had otherwise. Also, I have been able to shift various focus and responsibility to a more meaningful purpose.
A few other bloggers’ posts that are a little similar to this one that may provide further insight and inspiration.