Wellness Month Wrap Up

This was a mixed month of results for me.

Dealing with the stomach infection took a lot away from my ability to fully engage with my month of wellness. I had hoped to kick my training into high gear for a major 10k in July and while I still have time, I feel woefully behind because of the necessary 2-week break due to medication side effects. But taking breaks are sometimes necessary to allow a body to recover.

No shame in that.

Now that I am back to feeling better, I’ve restarted my running and feeling better because of it. On Saturday I ran a 4-mile race with my mom and we both exceeded our timing expectations. No PR’s, but neither of us are behind in our training. This was a validating discovery.

I found the most successful aspect of the month was my phone detox. It reduced my overall stress and increased my productivity. I have even found that it’s helped me restart my love of hardcopy reading. I’ve been screen reading for so long that I’ve forgotten how much I love the feel of old-fashioned paper. Jai is also discovering books, so renewing my love is beneficial to both of us.

Revitalizing Resolutions

I think checking in and reaffirming resolutions every four months is a good idea. I don’t believe I need to spend an entire month to doing so, but perhaps in August, I can remember to check in and see how I feel about my progress.

Checking in gives me time to work on my habits and make effective adjustments, but also prevents me from self-nagging to the point of personal frustration or discouragement. One thing I’ve learned this month is that progressing slow and steady is more effective than trying to rush or push myself to fast.

The fable was onto something: slow and steady may not always win you the race, but it will get you over the finish line. Achieving my goals are more important than the speed in which I get them accomplished.

 

Wellness Within and Without

It’s important to remember that wellness begins internally, not just an externalization through exercise. By taking the month to check on my internal well-being with phone detox and promoting self-confidence, I am helping ensure the longevity of my external manifestations of health.

Building a strong internal foundation will help me work through moments of doubt or defeat. Being self-compassionate will also help me take it easy on myself when I am tempted to give up on my goals. We all have down periods, just learning to work through them and move beyond is key once we’re ready.

Wellness All Year

Focusing on wellness shouldn’t be a one month out of the year thing or at the beginning of the year for resolutions. It’s an all year journey, one that has its ups and downs, but being okay with the ebb and flow is important to maintaining motivation.

What are some of your favorite wellness tips or tricks? What have you learned about yourself while working on your New Year’s resolutions? Comment with your thoughts below.

Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Page for other articles and tips based on my weekly posts. It’s a great way to connect with others and me!


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Revisiting a Phone Detox

On Monday, I decided to take a much-needed break from my phone and putting restrictions on my usage for Jai’s sake and my own. I found the process both daunting and freeing and plan to keep the forward momentum I’ve gained by limiting my phone usage.

How the Week Went

Overall, I found myself to be more productive.

While I still found I spent a lot of time on my phone, it was doing more productive work like checking my social media accounts for the blog, interacting with other bloggers, and whatnot. But more importantly, I found myself no longer making excuses for getting ahead and working on some side projects that have been on the backburner for a while.

I am not surprised at how much of a distraction my phone is in my life.

I suspect that I use it as a tool to keep me from pursuing more important personal goals. I am someone who has an insecurity when it comes to the threat of failure, so I use my phone as a means to distract myself from the task at hand. If I don’t complete a task I’ve set out for myself, I can’t fail. It really doesn’t make sense when you look at it objectively.

The point is this: my phone was used as a means to keep me stagnant. I waste time doing unimportant tasks with no tangible benefit in order to avoid tangible productivity that pushed me out of my comfort zone. This week I turned towards more tangible tasks.

I worked off of my paper planner more which increases my productivity versus my electronic calendars and apps. Try as I might, I can’t get away from the allure of physically writing something down as a means to commit something to memory or plan something out.

The Most Difficult Part

Night time was the hardest time to manage because I tried to ration my time out with my various apps to save for bedtime. I have a very bad habit of needing to use my phone to fall asleep. Looking at a phone screen up to three hours before going to sleep can affect you sleep health and habits. I fall asleep most nights with my phone on and in my hand.

Not good.

I bought a dimmable book light and pulled some books I’ve been meaning to read and put them by my head to help facilitate the process of turning to books as a means of falling asleep rather than my phone. I’m not quite there yet, but I am getting there.

Kat, a blogger at the Lily Cafereminded me of this on Monday: remove the phone from the bedroom altogether. Having at least one phone is a good idea in case of an emergency so it would have to be Ash’s, but I should probably leave my phone charging in the kitchen at night.

It will prevent me from reaching for it when I wake in the middle of the night. I find that once awake and on my phone, I have a harder time falling asleep. I start thinking about things as I read social media or I get wrapped up in banal game tasks that an hour or two has passed without me falling back to sleep.

Known Personal Benefits

On the nights I didn’t instinctively reach for my phone I found that I slept better and felt more refreshed in the morning. This, in turn, helped boost my productivity.

By reincorporating books in my daily life I am rediscovering the joy I had of reading. I’ve been listening to audiobooks for the past couple of years because it’s easier to have on in the background when chasing a toddler.

Jai is also helping reignite my love: he will sit for extended periods of time in his room just flipping through his books. He’s not reading, we’re nowhere near that yet, but he is looking at the pictures and seems to enjoy whatever is internally playing out in his head.

Some days I am able to entice him to naptime by putting a favorite board book in the crib and he’ll sit contentedly flipping through the book until he falls asleep or throws it out of the crib.

This week I’ve taken to reading my books to him. They are dry, boring parenting books, but books I’ve been meaning to read for the blog and for myself. I read during the times I would be on my phone to distract myself while he engaged in independent play. Sometimes he wants to hear me read, other times I read silently.

Either way, it feels good to be doing that again. I feel guilty about reading books while in graduate school because I feel like I should be reading academic books rather than pleasure or enrichment books. I am learning to let go of that guilt and just enjoy the hobby that drove me to graduate school.

I also feel my time spent with Jai is more meaningful and no longer squandered. Sitting in a corner of his room while on my phone always felt like I was taking his toddler moments for granted. My biggest fear is to look back on my life and regret spending time on my phone rather than interacting with him.

I do not believe every waking moment should be spent interacting with Jai, having the independent play and alone time away from mommy is good for his development, but I also would rather spend my idle time doing something productive and less distracting. My absorption in my phone is so full that it can be hard to break away versus I find it easier to put a book down when he needs my attention.

Moving Forward

This week was a small step in decreasing my dependence on technology. I had my moments where I had to pause app limits because it was necessary to spend an extra five minutes on a problematic app for communication purposes.

I find that I still used my phone more than I would like, but it was getting down to a more acceptable time sink.

I plan on keeping my app blocker and further limit my technology usage by incorporating productivity extensions on my browser. I don’t want to stop using technology for fun altogether because as I stated on Monday, technology has always been a hobby since childhood, I just want to manage that time better and make sure it doesn’t take up all of my time.

Technology isn’t the enemy in my life, it’s a fantastic tool that I want to use and embrace. I just want to make sure that I am being healthy both as a means of achieving my personal goals and avoiding stagnation while modeling balanced behavior for Jai as he gets older.

 


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Personal Health Check-In

Today I will be reflecting on my overall health, how I am feeling physically and mentally, and also talking about my MS Symptoms and if I’ve noticed any changes with the lifestyle changes I’ve made.

Physical Health

I am close to peak health right now. I have lost enough weight that I am no longer in the “overweight” BMI range but in the “normal” range.  I haven’t seen this number since before high school.

I have found that I feel lighter and less sluggish, though that may have more to do with my metabolism. Regardless, I wanted to find a natural way to get more energy and I have succeeded.

With the good, comes the bad: I had a couple of days where my stomach hurt after eating and I wasn’t sure what was going on.  After visiting two different doctors, I found out that I have h.pylori. I suspect I picked it up from contaminated water caused by a water main break back in early March. We boiled water and followed the warnings, but the county was slow on placing a boil advisory and probably too quick in lifting it. I am currently on the recommended antibiotic regimen, and I wouldn’t wish those horse pills on anyone.

To balance that out, since I am destroying my gut bacteria, I have upped my probiotic intake via supplements and drinking a lot of kombucha.

I do suspect that I might have a lactose sensitivity in addition to this infection because my stomach would hurt almost every time I had dairy. The source of the pain was inconsistent because it would happen after eating other foods too, but after eating something high in lactose it would inevitably cause some sort of pain.

On the days where I don’t eat any dairy, I feel absolutely normal. Especially during this minor reset: I haven’t had any stomach pain since Wednesday.

As Ash says, I’ve reset my body to the point that I cannot enjoy some of the foods I used to; my body is now a finely tuned machine and I need to be careful what type of fuel I put into it.

This stinks because if I had always wanted to go back to eating dairy products, I really can’t because I don’t like how I feel afterward. I know there are some measures I can take to cheat now and then, but it is clear that my body is treating lactose the same way it treats sugar: beginning to reject the stuff. This isn’t a surprise because I always suspected I had a dairy sensitivity since I was a kid, but like with sugar, I would ignore any symptoms I had in favor of eating cheese.

I am looking at this as a plus: by removing dairy from my diet I am lowering my flare-up chances. Back when I did research for the week I dropped dairy, I found out dairy contains a protein that can increase my chances of a flare-up. Basically, I can’t cheat and have a nibble of dairy whenever I want.

I am one of those people that, even if I can handle it, I tend to not want to do anything that could inconvenience myself. It’s just easier to avoid dairy and sugar than deal with the consequences of how I feel afterward. I may try lactaid if I absolutely want to eat something with lactose, otherwise avoiding the matter altogether is easier for my well-being.

Mental & Emotional Health

These physical changes have helped with my mental health.;

I am feeling better mentally, with the occasional down moment, but overall I am doing well. Keeping busy with the blog and feeling productive has helped improve my mood. I think by feeling productive, I don’t feel like my MS is bothering me as much as it does.

 

I am finding that I am working very hard to be more compassionate and self-compassionate. That has helped lower my intense emotions significantly. I am finding things don’t bother me as much as they used to which has been really helpful in getting through the day. I feel that I’ve been providing Jai with a good example because of it.

MS Health

Overall, I don’t really notice a huge difference in my symptoms since my last check-in. I find that by removing certain things from my diet helps give me a minor energy boost because I am not feeling bogged down. But the difference tends to be negligible.

I still have issues with fatigue and mental fog, but my L’Hermittes Sign and MS Hug haven’t made a reappearance since February for which I am grateful.

I have an appointment with my neurologist later this month, but without an MRI, so I will be updating with his assessment of my overall condition. I count not needing an MRI as a personal win: I don’t hate getting them, but it means my neurologist believes my condition is stable enough that an MRI is unnecessary.

I talked about restarting my drug-therapy once Jai weans from breastfeeding, but I am finding it hard because of how good I’ve been feeling without it. Not going back on Tecfidera means that I will be putting my long-term health at risk of progressing into SPMS, so there is a lot of important things to consider if I do decide to hold off a while longer.

The Takeaway

That’s how I am feeling overall and I would say that I am feeling pretty good. It’s been a lot of work to get here, but I would have to say taking it a little bit at a time has helped. Remembering not to put too much pressure has helped keep me going on the lower-motivation days.


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Checking In: MS Symptoms

What good is discussing diet and lifestyle changes if I don’t reveal the ongoing results?

Doing an honest self-assessment of any sort is hard, particularly when trying to find ways to manage an unmanageable disease. There’s a huge desire to make everything a “success” or engage in placebo effect-like thinking, but that isn’t always the case.

Overall, I feel like I am managing my MS better, but on a day-to-day basis, my mileage may vary because of various external factors.

Current Health Self-Check

Currently, I am not doing so well. Not necessarily because of the MS, but I have a weird seasonal head cold. Drippy nose, sore throat, and exhaustion. I can only assume that if a person without MS gets a cold like this they may feel wiped out but are able to go about their daily lives with minimal interference.

With MS and any illness, I get so wiped out that getting out of bed is a hardship. Ash had to stay home until Jai went down for his morning nap on Tuesday because I was so worn out. I needed the extra couple of hours of sleep this afforded me before I was able to start the day and take care of a toddler. Jai and I stayed in our PJs and read lots of books and minimized movement so I wouldn’t overdo it.

This is a key example of why getting sick with MS is “dangerous.” It won’t necessarily cause any physical harm, but infections are a key cause of flare-ups so there is a risk of needing to get steroids to treat the inflammation. I don’t get avoidant if I know someone is sick, but I do recognize that even a simple cold can knock me off my feet for a couple of days that might just inconvenience someone else.

Normally I wouldn’t write about getting sick factoring into how I am currently feeling because I tend to not get sick all that often, but since having Jai it has become a more common occurrence. 

Beyond the cold, I am feeling okay overall. There’s been some emotional disappointment in not being able to maintain my diet as strictly as I wanted, but doing what is best for my overall health is more important. My brain fog and memory issues haven’t gone away or lessened it, but that may be because I am not doing enough mental exercises to help stimulate neuron repair.

Fatigue is still an issue, but not so much on the days that I am more active. I find high-cardio days means that I have more energy throughout the day and days I do yoga there might be a greater dip in energy by the afternoon.

Being completely honest: I haven’t noticed many changes since my last check-in after my diet reset. I feel more active, happier, less sluggish, but no appreciable changes to my MS symptoms.

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Checking In: Adapting Eating Habits

One of the primary goals of this blog was to track my eating and exercise habits and see how it would help me manage my MS. I have found that some of the adjustments were easier to make, but there were other adjustments that were harder to maintain because of temptation or certain physical needs not being met.

I am still struggling with certain aspects of my diet, but after doing some research, I realized that it is more important to listen to my needs in a modified way than deny my body something it needs to refuel or heal from training.

Original Eating Intentions & What Worked

My overall intention was to drop all meats, dairy, gluten, sugar, and alcohol while maintaining a clean eating diet. The hope was it would manage my MS symptoms until I restarted my medication within the next year.

I started off strong, finding I had no problem dropping each food group week-by-week. I found that my weight would also drop because I was making healthier choices, and I was feeling somewhat better overall. MS symptoms abated and my neurologist was happy with the changes.

What worked best was dropping sugar, dairy (milk), and gluten; I found that I have issues whenever one of those items sneaks into my diet, intentionally or not. If I have cane sugar, my neck seizes up and I get a massive headache for the duration of the day; if I have milk/cheese, I find that I feel bloated and get a stiff neck; and if I have gluten, I find that my joints pop more and another stiff neck.

Clearly, my body does not like these food groups and so continuing to keep them out of my diet is to my benefit. I don’t know if it is an allergy per se, but there is a definite sensitivity correlation.

I am also happy to keep fried foods out of my diet as well, but this is mostly because of health reasons. I am still concerned about keeping high-cholesterol foods out of my diet and fried foods are unnecessary. I want to walk into my yearly physical with a low blood cholesterol level this year.

What Didn’t Work & Adaptations

I am in desperate need of protein.

I liked the idea of being plant-based for ethical and health reasons, but it was easier to maintain a vegan diet before Jai. When I was younger, I could spend a lot of time preparing high-protein foods that checked off all my nutritional needs, but between chasing Jai around the house and coping with fatigue, I really don’t have the time or energy to spend hours in the kitchen.

I found that I was sneaking meat-based proteins into my diet and when I “cheated” I didn’t cheat with “good” foods. It would be a high-fat beef dish or chicken that was smothered in salt/ high-calorie sauces.

So to stop this trend of making unhealthy choices, I’ve decided to reincorporate certain types of fish, chicken, and egg dishes back into my diet. Salmon is high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids which is good for brain health and chicken/eggs for running proteins.

I have decided not to re-incorporate any red meats, beef or otherwise. I will have the occasional “cheat” day, but by removing red meat from my diet I am eliminating a major inflammatory source that could affect my MS exacerbations.

Future Eating Habits

My diet will still be mostly plant-based, but once a week I will incorporate some sort of meat-based protein that will help satisfy any nutritional cravings I am feeling and prevent me from lapsing into unhealthy choices.

I have also hit a bit of a weight plateau and I suspect not being kind to myself with my eating habits is a source of sabotage. While I am a normal weight by BMI standards, I want to lose a little more to be solidly within the normal BMI range. By being more honest and adapting my diet to my individual needs I should start seeing my weight starting to drop again to a satisfactory number.

So while I had grand intentions to be gluten-free, sugar-free vegan, I am at this point a clean eating pescapollotarian that is gluten, dairy, and sugar-free.

I definitely recommend trying the diet shift, especially going slow through it so it isn’t a complete shock, but I am finding that it didn’t work as well for me at this point in time. I think once Jai is a little older I may have more time to focus solely on a plant-based diet again.

I don’t consider this giving up or losing – I consider this a win because I am accepting myself in this moment of time and doing what works best for my current needs.


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