The Ultimate Battle: Autoimmune Versus Stress

Do or do not. There is no try.

Most of you have probably experienced the annoyance that stress causes physically on you. Whether or not you have an autoimmune disease (which can often be brought on by stress), stress can create annoying physical symptoms such as pain and fatigue. For those of us struggling with an illness, stress tends to make these things worse. So how can we de-stress to help control our symptoms and make our lives a bit easier?

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One way is to list out things that are causing you stress, and coming up with a game plan to make each one less stressful.
Things that have been causing me stress lately:
1. Work – how to de-stress: try not to take it home with me. I’m a retail supervisor so I turn off all working messaging and only check it when I want to, plus I purposely do not have work email on my phone.
2. My roommate, because he’s messy and can be inconsiderate of shared space – how do de-stress: try not to take it too seriously, vent to the appropriate people, remember that he is 6 years younger than me and a boy and an only child
3. My illness – how to de-stress: do what I can to take care of myself by eating healthy, getting rest, going to all my healthcare providers (including a psychotherapist), and taking a sick day when I need it.

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Other great ways to de-stress include daily meditation, for a minimum of 10 minutes. I find I’m more aware, more relaxed and more engaged when I have a good meditation session in the morning. Take a bath. They are relaxing, especially if you light some candles, use some bubbles (or epsom salts) and read a book in the tub. Play some music (or create some art). Whether or not you’re a musician, music can create a similar response that exercise can! Finally, get some exercise. It creates endorphins, which in turn make you happy. A run, a walk, the gym, kayaking, hiking, bicycling, whatever floats your boat. Getting your heart rate up will help you a lot.

IMG_2922One of my favourite ways to relax is to go on an epic hike with my friend Mike (who also happens to be an extraordinary photographer).

Got anymore de-stressing ideas? Comment on the post or send them in an email and I’ll include them in the future!

Natural Anti-Inflammatories

If you’re anything like me, you hate taking pills. And if you have an autoimmune disease or other type of chronic illness, you’re probably taking a million of them. This is for your actual illness, this is a pain killer and/or anti-inflammatory, this one does this and that one does that. Then you add a naturopath into the mix and now you’re also taking a magnesium pill and vitamin A-Z, etc. etc. and by the time you’re ready for work in the morning your stomach is praying you never have to take another pill (except that you inevitably will… probably later that day).

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So how do we avoid so many medications? You probably can’t avoid them all, but I like to sub in certain types of foods, herbs and spices so that I can take less medication. This has become incredibly important since my rheumatologist took me off my anti-inflammatory because it was causing me stomach pain (something that anti-inflammatory medication eventually does is screw with your stomach and liver). What I’ve compiled today is a small list of some of my favourites, because they are a) delicious, and b) great anti-inflammatories that help!

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Herbs & Spices:
Tumeric is my favourite of them. It has an interesting taste and the compound curcumin in tumeric is a great source of anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, it’s delicious and portable as a tea, or fantastic in most Indian foods.
Ginger and garlic are easy to add to most meals, and add a lot of flavours. The additional advantage to garlic is that it keeps away the vampires.
Cinnamon. Did someone say cinnamon buns? Okay, maybe try not to eat too much gluten, but cinnamon is delicious and can easily be added to many breakfast dishes.
Are you a fan of spice? Cayenne can kick it up a notch and give you those anti-inflammatory properties that you need!

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Fruits & Vegetables:

Pineapple tops my list because it’s my favourite fruit. My friend made fun of me at work the other day because I always bring a half pineapple when I can get it on sale. Healing and delicious, what more could I ask for?
Blueberries are also a fruit that is both delicious and magical. Plus they are much more portable and are great on pretty much everything.
Lemon is probably the best thing to put in your water, especially if you’re looking for an anti-inflammatory. Bonus: lemon water is way more delicious than regular water,
Leafy greens – spinach, kale, all of that deliciousness is chalk full of healthy goodness outside and inside the anti-inflammatory world. Perfect for salads, and smoothies (I’m not a fan of smoothies but they are highly recommended by naturopathic doctors). Kale chips are easy to make and an actual healthy way to eat chips.

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Salmon tops this list without a doubt. It’s got a ton of health benefits, from antioxidants to anti-inflammatories and a whole lot in between. Cut down on your red meats and increase on your salmon intake. (I love fish and seafood so I’m going to promote the heck out of it).

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There a number of other foods, herbs and spices that could be added into this list, but this is a great place to start. I recommend heading to a naturopathic doctor if you’re interested in more information!


Autoimmune Disease and the Workplace

Maneuvering work when you have a autoimmune disease can be difficult. You may even be good at making it look easy (like me) so no one let’s on that it isn’t as easy to do everything your job requires, as it once was. How do you make work, work? When do you push back a bit to ensure that it’s a win-win for yourself and the company you work for? Depending on the job, there may be easier to get some accommodations made than at others.

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Take me for example, I recently accepted a promotion at the retail store I work at. I did not apply for the position, it was offered to me. It was also offered to me on the condition that I never call in sick. And my boss knows I have an autoimmune disease. I accepted, work hard, and kill my body in the process. Part of my new position does require some manual labour as well. Yes, I delegate as much as I can. But when we sold 50 air conditioners on Saturday evening, I didn’t have much of a choice but to help get them on the sales floor.

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Technically speaking, no boss (or company, etc) can tell you not to ever call in sick. And I’m sure there will be points where I need to. And workplaces are legally supposed to accommodate for people with disabilities. If you work a desk job, sometime providing an ergonomic workstation is a good accommodation. In any job, extra breaks (or longer breaks) can be helpful. If you have the ability to work from home, or that’s an arrangement that can be made, take advantage of it. It’s not worth making things worse for your health in the long run for a job. We all need a source of income, but set up a conversation with your workplace (HR is the best place to start) so that you can find out together what the best way to go about it is.

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I also want to note, that in no way am I trying to throw my boss under the bus. He’s great, it’s just a small bit of understanding he’s missing. And my company has amazing health benefits that cover 90% of the fees for all my appointments and medications. My point is to acknowledge the good things, but to encourage a conversation in areas that can be helpful. It’s better for both you and your company to help you stay a productive member of the workplace as opposed to you having to go on disability which is a nuisance for everyone.

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I hope you all have a great work week! Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians, and Happy Fourth of July to my American friends and followers!

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Top 25 Workplace Accommodations for Individuals with Autoimmune Conditions