How to Look Great and Feel Better

The LoveKarmaFood blog brings people together with chronic illness, struggling from some of those secondary issues that many of us have, with a focus on healing through food – holistically. Reach out today to find out more!

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How to Look Great and Feel Better

Are you struggling with your self-image? Do you constantly feel tired or lack motivation? Or maybe you just want to take yourself to the next level. Making changes to your physical and mental health can help you look and feel your best – and here are some suggestions from LoveKarmaFood on how to do just that.

Exercise Regularly

Work up a sweat most days of the week to feel and look better. Not only does regular exercise keep your body in top physical condition, but Insider notes that it also puts you in a happier place. Exercise ramps up your endorphins to create a positive feeling while strengthening your muscles. 

Practice Self-Care

Self-care is something everyone should practice to stay mentally healthy. Here are some self-care tasks to try:

  • Sleep. The CDC recommends getting at least 7 hours of sleep to feel rested and energized.
  • Get outdoors. Fresh air and nature views can help you feel better.
  • Find support. A professional counselor or a support group are common examples of support options, but you can also seek support to help with your setting. For instance, paying a professional landscape company to spruce up the property is a great way to improve the appearance of your home, which can give you more stress relief and boosts your overall positivity. 
  • Connect with friends. Spending time with friends can lower your stress and improve your mood.
  • Focus on gratitude. Focusing on the things you’re grateful for can give you a more positive outlook. 
  • Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness involves staying in the moment and taking control of your thoughts. Practice being aware of your surroundings and not rushing through moments as part of self-care.

Clean up Your Diet

What you eat impacts your overall health and how you feel. Eating lots of junk food often makes you feel sluggish. Let yourself splurge a little so you don’t feel deprived, but keep most of your diet healthy and nutrient-rich.

Set Goals

Setting goals using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) method can boost how you feel about yourself. It gives you something to work toward and creates a sense of accomplishment. Perhaps you want to switch careers, but you don’t have the right degree. Enrolling in an online program can help you get the education you need to pursue a new path.

Try Something New

Try a new hobby or learn a new skill to improve your confidence. Hobbies give you something fun to do with your spare time, and they can provide a new perspective while enriching your life.

Keep Up With Care

Don’t wait until you have a health problem to go to the doctor. Scheduling a well-care visit yearly gives your doctor a baseline to make it easier to diagnose health issues early. Your doctor can provide customized recommendations on diet, exercise, and other factors that help you look and feel better. 

Control Stress and Anxiety

Having uncontrolled stress can leave you feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Find ways to manage stress, such as breathing exercises, visualization, yoga, and meditation. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults experience anxiety disorders. If anxiety is taking over your life, see how Mind Atlas’ mindfulness program can help.

Explore Your Style

Looking and feeling great can come down to your physical appearance. Explore your personality by testing different clothing and hairstyles you love. Expressing yourself through your outward appearance can help you feel confident. It’s also about feeling comfortable, so choose clothes made of quality materials that are also versatile. If you’re a new mom, for example, go with dresses, nightgowns and PJs that make nursing easier, no matter where you are. 

You Can Feel and Look Great

Taking charge of your mental and physical health helps you look and feel your best. The two go hand-in-hand. When you feel better about yourself, you live a happier life and accomplish more, getting you closer to your maximum potential.

Hello January!

So, how’s your New Year kicking off? Everyone happy and as healthy as they can be? It’s been a slow start for me in the writing and writing goals department, but you know what they say about slow and steady? And I’m very familiar with being slow! My cane and I were never accused of being fast.

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Let’s see, to start off with I had a mammogram in/around October and the results were meh. I have to have another mammogram done with ultrasound of the left side. Fun times! By the way…every time I see or hear mammogram it just sounds like someone dressed as a boob should be dancing around and singing Happy Birthday to someone. I know, weird, but that’s me. Anyways, I’m not too worried about it yet- about 10-12% of women are called back after a mammogram for more tests and fewer than 1 in 10 women are actually found to have cancer after that second appointment (www.ngrmc.org). But breast cancer, however remote the possibility is still scary. I lost two friends/coworkers to it, after they both fought very long battles with it. But worrying before there’s any hard evidence seems counterproductive. Of course, when it’s 1 a.m. and I can’t sleep, try explaining that to my over active brain and anxiety.

Less stressful but more annoying has been the fierce pain in my left shoulder that makes it impossible to sleep in any other position than on my back. Also, heel pain in my left foot which has been going on for months but I’m sure y’all are familiar with self-triage. If you’re not, my definition is: when there’s so much crap going wrong with your body that you have to decide what is most important and/or life threatening and you take care of that first. I did purchase a U-pillow from Amazon that has made sleeping better. I kid you not, we have like 12 pillows on our king size bed, not including my Squishmallows and every night has been this epic game of “where do I stick this pillow, so I don’t hurt.” Not a very good game title, but you get the idea. I also play that game with ice packs.

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I am still having gut/Crohns issues. While I have a great functional gastroenterologist, who I believe really listens and wants to help, the tests she wants me to do are not covered by my insurance and at roughly $400 a pop, I can’t rationalise the expense. I mean seriously, the question becomes pay bills or take these tests. I don’t have $800 bucks lying around for tests that may or may not tell me what is going on. So, I do what many of my Spoonie brethren out there do, I ignore it until I can’t anymore and try alternative ways to alleviate symptoms or hope that there might be a different test to take. It’s really a no-win situation but I haven’t found a better alternative.

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Okay, now that I have complained, let’s look at the positives. I’m writing in my blog. Yay! Woohoo! Pats myself on the back. Seriously, it can be difficult when you have a busy life and also the weight of being chronically ill and/or in pain. Additionally, there’s always this mini-dialogue going on in my head wondering if what I am writing about is meaningful/important. Besides this, I’m steadily working on my reading challenge this month. I haven’t gotten as far along as I’d like to, but I think trying to read at night is not a good time. I’ll have to make some time in the morning or early afternoon when I am not so tired. Even if tired doesn’t mean sleepy, it means my body and mind just want to zone out and not focus on words. Not to mention my RLS is sometimes so bad I can barely watch television at times. Good times, right?

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Other good things…the fam is happy and healthy. That is definitely something to be cheery about, especially in the age of COVID. The kids are doing great. Going to school and working. Oh! I have a list of topics I’m gearing up to right about. I am hoping having a list will help keep me organised and on track. That’s about it. Thank you for having patience with me and cheers to a new, and happy year!

See you in a week or two for my post on: Cervical Health Awareness Month

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Making Halloween Spooktacular

For the kids and you when are struggling with chronic illness

What do I mean by less spooky? No, not supernatural. Less exhausting. Less plagued by anxiety. Less painful, because being in pain can really take the fun out of Halloween and give a different  meaning to Boo. And for your teens or little ones who struggle with having a chronic illness or autoimmune disorder this can be particularly challenging.

My children and I escaped the knowledge of our having chronic illness/autoimmune disorders until we were well into adulthood. I do not envy the very difficult task of keeping little ones away from the tempting sweets and artificial colours and high fructose that can often be found in candies. Children are bombarded with the talk of Halloween several weeks before hand and there’s chattering amongst them about what costumes they will wear and what they will be doing and who is going to what house for a party. I can’t fathom the stress of a parent who wants to make the day fun, special, spooky but safe for them. This difficulty increases by ten-fold when you are dealing with children.

However, it’s not just children who want to have fun on Halloween, it’s the teens and adults. Don’t worry, I have tips for everyone to make this Halloween Spook-tacular!

  • Find a Trunk-or-Treat: During trunk or treat events adults decorate the back of their cars for Halloween, load up on candy, and come sit in a parking lot for kids to “trick or treat” from car-to-car. It’s like a tail-gate with candy and costumes and the kids have an absolute blast. I’ve heard of trunk-or-treat events where kids show up by the hundreds. Parents typically have to reserve a parking lot or at least make sure they can use it for the event if it’s private property and you just hand out treats to the kids. This great for parents who struggle with chronic illness and kids who are fighting it too. For example, if your child is food sensitive, or you are doing your best to keep them from candies and store bought sweet treats, get a group of friends together with the same problems and have a trunk-or-treat with them. You know your child is safe then. This is also an easy and wise choice if your child can’t keep up with going around the neighbourhood but they still want to go out.https://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/6287-how-to-organize-a-trunk-or-treat
  • Pace yourself: This is for both of you. Don’t leave things for the last minute, however you decide to celebrate Halloween. Even giving yourself a week is better than leaving it until the last minute. Your body will thank you. This goes for your child too. And remember that goes for Christmas and putting up the tree on Christmas Eve. Decorating the night before might seem like a nostalgic tradition, but your body will think it’s torture and scream at you.https://www.yahoo.com/now/taking-holidays-day-day-spoonie-232047353.html
  • Stay home: If this is an option for you, make it an event. Like-wise, if this is an option for your teen or even your little one, don’t let it go by just being another day. Halloween is about the magic as well as the spookiness. Dress up in costumes, pass out candy to the kids, watch scary movies and have tasty snacks.
  • No Pressure: The best thing to do with an older child is to do your best to help them not feel pressured into doing something everyone else is doing. I know, I could feel the eye-rolling from here. But it’s easier than it sounds with Halloween than other things. Give them options. Fun options and they will be more willing to take it easy. But if they don’t, comfort them and help them use it as a learning moment.

How You Get Through Is Enough

In my most recent blog post, which you can find here: http://lovekarmafood.com/2018/08/03/chronically-comparing/ I talk about the pitfalls of comparing ourselves to those not struggling with chronic issues. But I think it is also important not to compare ourselves to our fellow warriors, which is also easy to do. Many of us don’t have the benefit of surrounding ourselves with chronic illness/pain warriors in our daily lives so we surround ourselves with them in various forms of social media, read blogs, and try our best to stay connected. After all, these are the only people who truly understand our plight. The problem I find, which can cause us to struggle even more, is trying to compare how we are dealing with things to how our role models in the community are dealing with them. I’ve found myself on more than one occasion thinking, “Damn. They really have it all together.” Or, sometimes it’s not about having it all together, but how they deal with things emotionally.

The most poignant example that I feel illustrates my point is as follows: I have shared a little about my dear friend who recently passed away from a very long battle with cancer. I met her at work and she was my assistant manager at the time. Initially, I did not know she had breast cancer. She was in remission and was doing well. There is no other way I can think of to describe her, other than “a force.” Older than me by a few years, she had the energy of a five-year-old who’d just consumed 3lbs of sugar. We called her the Energizer Bunny. But more than just her energy was her spirit. She was vibrant and happy and always had a huge smile on her face. When she relapsed with her cancer and was going through chemo, she never missed a day of work and never, ever lost her smile and spirit. She is the reason I have a blog and the reason I started writing about chronic illness and pain. I watched her handle everything with such grace and beauty and be such an inspiration to so many people, I wanted to be like her. And here is where the but- comes in. But, I am not her.

It was during my time still working there that my health took a dive and I went through surgery and was searching for answers and trying to deal with my health and work and I was frustrated with myself because I was not dealing with it like she did. Here I was, not struggling, as I perceived then, on the same level as her and cancer, and I was flailing badly. Instead of power-housing through it like she seemed to, I was crying and beating my fists against the wall wondering why me. And then, I learned my most important lesson from my friend that I would only truly come to understand later. Talking to her at work, all before I would receive my two most impacting diagnosis, she would tell me very matter-of-factly, like I should have been aware of this all along, “You aren’t me. And I’m not you.” I’m pretty sure I laughed and maybe scoffed a little. Of course, we weren’t the same, right? I knew that. She continued to tell me that everyone deals with things a different way and that it was okay to scream and cry and ask, why me? She’d done enough of that too, but that she’d always been an inherently happy person and so it was natural for her to continue in that same vein and be optimistic. She added that it does help to look on the bright-side especially when the deck of cards is stacked against you but that I shouldn’t feel like I wasn’t measuring up because my way of dealing with things was different.

If it isn’t clear by now, her words had a profound impact on me. Even more-so now, writing for my blog and writing for sources whose primary readership are those battling chronic illness and chronic pain because I have read the comments left for me. Things like: “You are an inspiration to me.” “Your words are exactly my thoughts and feelings.” “I don’t know how you do it, I’m struggling just to get out of bed every morning.” I hear those words and many times I will write back and say I am just like you. There is nothing magical going on here and I struggle every day, just like you. I think sometimes people read these blog posts and wonder how I have the time, or how I manage my family on top of writing. My secret, that I will share with all of you reading in your little corner of the universe, is two-fold: 1.) I don’t manage every thing that needs to get done all the time. Sometimes chores sit undone. Sometimes I can’t write and need a long break. 2.) Sometimes I write to the detriment of other things that need to get done because it is therapeutic for me. When I get it out of my system, I feel a little better and feel like I can take a breath and tackle life again. I don’t want people who read my blog or other writings thinking I am Wonder Woman, because I’m not. I’m just a girl trying to keep herself afloat the turbulent waters of chronic illness.

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The Injustice of Multiple Chronic Issues

Dealing with one chronic issue is enough, but many of us struggle with two or more chronic issues. I am one of those people and it often feels overwhelming. It can also make a situation where you are already wondering, “Why me?” feel even more despairing. It can also make some people more inclined to feel as though their situation is somehow worse than the person only dealing with one or even two issues. I have seen this on many social media groups for chronic illness/pain and have watched as people from both sides, if you will, and also male and female, be reduced to this childish argument over who hurts more or who is in worse shape. I am here to tell you that we’re all in the same boat of injustice, where we are the lucky winners of chronic illness/pain for probably, a lifetime. It does absolutely no good to anyone, to argue about it.

The Snowball Effect of Chronic Illness

The majority of my life I have dealt with some chronic conditions, like asthma and bipolar, as I shared with you in my previous post, Chronic Pain Un-Filtered. However, these issues were, for the most part, well controlled and it never weighed on me the way my current situation does. In the beginning, what started out as hip and back pain seemed to snowball into this overwhelming list of issues that was accompanied by an even bigger list of medications. I remember distinctly feeling like “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” I felt like I was a relatively good person in the grand scheme of things and actually contemplated some reasons for my ill-health as my not being Christian or having neglected myself over the years with diet and exercise. But these are no more valid reasons for why I have some of these chronic issues than it would be to say that hurricane Harvey was the result of people’s diminished belief in God or some decline in morals over the years. I am not altogether certain why I have so many chronic health issues, but I do and what is important for my future health is not to place blame on myself and something I failed to do, but try to do things which will improve my quality of life for the future.

My Chronic Illness is Worse than Yours

I’m sure when you read this you will hear how silly this is but I think some of us and me included, have felt like this at one time or another. Now to be fair, there are some chronic issues that are worse. They can inflict more pain in someone than another person or require far more hospital visits or doctor visits, but even pain is relative and while one person may feel pain on a 3 level, another person might feel the same as a 7 level. Which then only leaves the argument of doctors and hospital visits, and because there are multiple chronic issues going on, you have the potential for all sorts of problems. Medication interactions that might be bad, flares that can stress on the body of a patient with multiple chronic illnesses and which might wreak havoc with other issues. Ultimately, this argument is moot. Even though we might share one, two or three chronic conditions, we are not the same. Which is why one treatment may work for your friend who has the same chronic illness but may not work on you. I think it is imperative for us to stick together. In solidarity, we have a better chance at bringing to light chronic issues and perhaps encouraging even more research. In solidarity on social media and groups for people with chronic issues, we can show one another support and raise each other’s spirits rather than breaking them down.

Moving Beyond the Personal Injustice

I want to stress here that we are all human. There are going to be days when we feel angry and sad and betrayed by our bodies. There is no getting around that and I am not here on some high horse to say that I never feel like it is unfair that I have multiple chronic issues. I probably feel that way at least once a week and maybe more when it gets really bad. But the important thing is to recognize it and give you reasons to get past it. No one ever said life was easy. No one ever said it was going to be sun-shine and roses all the time. I think the very nature of being human is very, very difficult and we are always going to find ourselves in difficult situations where our spirit and our ability to be compassionate are put to the test. I think what is important is that we strive to keep going even when we feel diminished and defeated and that we try to extend our compassion and understanding to those going through similar things. I also feel that when we do these things we feel the effects just as readily as when you give someone a hug and it makes you feel better too.

How not to lose Yourself to Your Illness

Tips on how to feel less like a patient

Besides all the other inconveniences of chronic illness that are difficult to deal with, what can often be most difficult is always being a patient and feeling like you are losing yourself to your illness. It is often times quite a helpless feeling as things you could once do with ease are stripped away from you. It is vitally important to your well being that you hold on to yourself as much as possible and find ways that help you fell more like you. I don’t have any hard and fast tips, because I think this a personal sort journey. We all have different likes and dislikes different hobbies and different things that make us smile. Still, I have done my best to come up with a few things that I think everyone will understand across the board and will help point you in the right direction.

Family
Remember that family deals with your illness too and probably mourn the loss of who you were prior to illness too. But instead of isolating yourself and feeling ashamed of who you are, reach out. You need your family, you need their love and their support and you need to remember that you are still the same person inside. It may take some patience and ingenuity to do the things you once did or enjoyed as a family, but it can be done.

Friends
The same goes for friends. Do your best to keep them close. Share with them activities that you might be able to enjoy even when you might be tired or in pain. Having options helps because many times friends feel as lost as we do and they know much less about their illness.

Work
Much of our self esteem is tied to what we do outside home and family. If you can still work i would encourage you to do so, even if on a part time or limited basis. If you can’t and many of us can’t, find something to do that gives you a sense of purpose and also keeps you busy. I started this blog as a way to give me purpose, maybe help some people along the way and to spread awareness about chronic illness. I also do what I can to support some of my favorite organizations from my computer. It keeps me busy and helps me to continue feeling useful and I think that is extremely important to our mental health.

Celebrate the Small Things
All your accomplishments. Realize that in times past you may not have celebrated certain events, thinking them insignificant, but now they mean a great deal more. We fight very hard for every small victory, so don’t let that go without acknowledgment. It doesn’t have to be a big celebration but recognize it and mark it with a friend or family or even just a treat for yourself. You need a reason to smile, so make one.

Self Motivate
Something I learned struggling with bipolar disorder, is that those days or weeks that I struggled with depression, I could have had my own cheer squad and often times did, with family trying to cheer me up but it didn’t do one damn bit of difference. sure, it helped sometimes but what got me through was digging deep and reminding myself those reasons to live. Be your own cheer leader. Remind yourself of those reasons not to get caught in the muck and sadness of your illness. Use post-it notes to remind yourself of each and every reason: Husband, wife, kids, dog, cat, mom and dad, friends. Every reason should be a silver lining. Why? Because you are loved and you are worth being happy. I am not saying that post-it notes suddenly changed my world, but it was a reminder of why I needed to try.

Dreams
That being said about self motivation, don’t give up on your dreams. Chronic illness may make things more difficult and challenging, but if you give up you are giving up on yourself. You must force yourself to change and adapt. Research ways you can reach your goals or redefine your goals. I live by this mantra: Face it. Embrace it. Defy it. Conquer it.

Breath of Fresh Air
Go for a walk if you can, or sit in a chair and just enjoy the beautiful day and the sunshine. Maybe look at the changing autumn leaves, and breathe in the crisp scent of leaves. Sometimes just changing your setting can improve mood and make you more relaxed especially after waiting in a doctor’s office.

Take a Break
Stop the all-consuming focus around your illness. Being chronically ill can flood your identity and you can very easily drown in the face of diagnosis. But you are not your diagnosis, remember that. Take time to do the extra little things you enjoyed to help remind yourself of who you are.