As someone with autoimmune illness, you know that flares will happen, no matter what, sometimes without any real reason, sometimes with reason, which can be many. Change of weather, stress, too little sleep, or just too many days of not eating right, but whatever the reason, it is always a trying time, emotionally and physically.
Flares can be a very emotional time, feeling defeated and lonely, depressed or just emotionally fatigued and very often a feeling of guilt, because we are in a flare, yet again. This is a good time to give yourself the most love you possibly can and be supportive of yourself. Remind yourself how you would be toward a loved one if they were in a flare. Would you be harsh or reprimand them? Make them feel guilty? Make them “just get over it”? My guess is you wouldn’t. Extend the same love and understanding you have for others to yourself. Be grateful for whatever is good in your life, remind yourself of all the things you have in your life that are wonderful and that you love, however small or big they are, being grateful is a sure way to soften your heart toward yourself and your life. If you have a hard time with feelings and working through them, this is a good time to journal or do some lying down meditation, or payer. Most of all, honor your feelings, accept them, and just let yourself be compassionate about them, this is all a part of your life and your journey.
Being in a flare is no small feat, not just emotionally but also when dealing with physical symptoms. Ranging from headaches to full generalized pain in joints and muscles, digestive issues, fatigue, rashes, to name just a few, and often having all of those at once, along with any number of unpleasantness and weird symptoms.
All of this impacts our ability to do daily chores, go to work, or generally participate in life at all. One of the most helpful things I found is asking for help.
If you are like me, you have a hard time asking for help, but I have learned to do so, and I recommend you do the same, it makes a huge difference, especially if you are the main person taking care of your household. Make sure you are vocal and honest about being in a flare with the members of your household, advising that for a few days, you won’t be able to do as much as usual or not at all, and that their help is required and very much appreciated. You’d be surprised how much they are all capable of taking care of everything when they know no one else ( you ) will. If however, you live alone, asking a family member or a neighbor to bring over groceries or walk your dog instead of you is something to consider, but if none of these are possible, and you have to do all of it yourself, give yourself a break and do only the necessary things and nothing beyond that.
FATIGUE AND PAIN
These are the two most common symptoms of a flare. If you are in pain and fatigued, and these often come together but not necessarily, you need to rest first and foremost. Fatigue is extremely difficult and anyone who experienced it knows that no amount of sleep helps, and for me, the fatigue can be so profound that it causes insomnia! While fatigued the need to just remain in bed is overwhelming, and I allow myself to do this, however, I do make sure that I get up and walk around every once in a while, about every hour or so unless I am asleep. If I feel well enough I will sit on my yoga mat and do very gentle stretches, and sometimes walk outside for 10-15 minutes, I do this on my very nice second-floor patio, if you have a yard, even better, you don’t have to put on any clothes, your pajamas are fine, go out and breathe some air, walk around, sit down and look at whatever is available, be it nature or buildings, stretch your legs and arms, do some neck rolls, and when ready go back to being in your bed or on the couch. Allow yourself to do things that you can do, whether it’s reading a book, journaling, or even watching a movie. It all counts as rest and is helping you get better, don’t feel guilty, or that you are being lazy. When I allow myself to do these things, instead of making myself work or do housework, my fatigue passes much quicker, usually within two to three days, rather than weeks. When I do start to feel better, I still take it easy for a few days, not pushing myself right away to do all that I fell behind in, it only puts me at risk of going back to fatigue. So take it slow and ease yourself back into your routine.
It’s easy to start to forget about proper nourishment during a flare, there is no energy or will to cook, and even small meals seem too big, and easiest recipes and chores seem too hard, yet it is more important than ever to feed yourself well.
Sometimes I don’t have much of an appetite but I do make sure that my fridge and pantry are well-stocked, with items like fresh fruit and veggies, like bananas, pumpkin, green peas, pears, and raspberries. All these can also be frozen, which makes it easy to whip up a smoothie or drop veggies on a sheet pan and quickly roast them, which always feels good and nourishing to me. When making bone broth, freeze some and then you can defrost and warm up and have sips of that when in a flare, it will be nourishing and provide much-needed strength. For my super easy recipe, click here.
Keep up with your protein, it is very nourishing and gives strength and helps you get over fatigue, and for me, animal protein comes second to none when it comes to easy nourishment, and it causes zero digestive upset. Fish tends to be my go-to choice, but chicken or any other meat is just as nourishing, whatever you feel you can eat is perfect. Batch cooking when feeling well is a great strategy because it lets me freeze meals and it makes it very easy to defrost and warm up when not able to cook, and it doesn’t only feed me, it feeds my family as well, letting me have that precious time to rest.
Don’t forget to hydrate, it is crucial to drink enough fluids, especially if your appetite is down and you are not eating enough. Water and herbal tea are my favorites, I like to have cooled herbal tea, it calms my insides as well as emotions, there is just something about the wonderful herbal taste and smell that calms me and has a positive effect on my overall well being
The bottom line here is, give yourself time, love, and care and you will get better much faster and much easier. However, if you have done all you can and you are not getting better or feeling worse, for an unusually long period, it is time to contact your doctor, don’t delay too much, listen to the cues of your body, you know best what is usual and what is not for your flare, and if in doubt, call anyway, it is always better to be safe than cause more harm and hardship to yourself.