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As a blogger it may be obvious that I love to write, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t need to hone my skills.  I was delighted when I was offered the chance to review a new online course from Life In Slow Motion that helps people with chronic pain learn to get in touch with their true self through expressive writing.  I was provided with complimentary access to the class materials in order to create an honest opinion of the class 31 Days of Expressive Writing for People with Chronic Illness and Pain.

Topics Covered in 31 Days of Expressive Writing.

Each topic includes 5 lessons. Four of these lessons are simple prompts that can be journaled through in 10-15 minutes, or more if you’d like.  You can be as light or as deep with your writing as you desire.

  • Tell Your Story
  • Grief and Emotions
  • Faith
  • Relationships
  • Strength, Hope, and Joy
  • Goals
How Long Does The Course Take?

One of the things that I liked about this course is the flexible pacing.  Writing every day for 31 days in a row is the best to create the habit. However,  not everyone can realistically achieve that pace.  This easy online class allows students to move along as its best for them.  Flexibility in scheduling is so important to people with chronic illness and I really loved that this course acknowledged that from the get go.

  • Option 1: Write 5 out of 7 days a week for 6 weeks, plus one day at the end. Take 2 days off each week to refresh and recharge. For example, you might write on weekdays and then take the weekend off.
  • Option 2: Write every day for 31 days in a row.
  • Option 3: Take the class at your leisure. Journal when you feel like it and as you have time.

Thoughts About 31 Days of Expressive Writing

I found this class a nice journey into self reflection and overall life with chronic pain.  My feeling is that it best serves those who have been living with chronic pain and are looking for new ways to move forward.  There comes a point when people fighting chronic pain feel stuck in their illness.  This expressive writing course is a great tool for evaluating where you are and how you got there, in an effort to help you move forward with a new perspective.  A change of mindset can often lead to new opportunities for health and self-care, and this course will help people feeling stuck to open up their view.

“The benefit you receive from this course depends so much on how deeply you choose to engage with your own thoughts, feelings, and perspectives.”  Like so many things, what you get out of it depends on what you put in.

What I didn’t like.

The only issue that I really had with this course was the general use of the term “God” and “him” in the faith section.  I found that this phrasing limited the friendliness of the course for use by people that don’t prescribe to one of the “big three” religions.  That discomfort is only in the specific verbiage I mentioned.  The course is not not preachy in any way, and can easily be applied to people with a broad variety of religious leanings.

More Courses from Life In Slow Motion

31 Days of Expressive Writing for Chronic Illness and Pain is not the only course available from Life in Slow Motion.  The company offers an 8 week chronic pain self-management course called What Really Helps People With Chronic Pain;  as well as the useful A Complete Guide to Pacing for Chronic Pain.  Courses from Life in Slow Motion would be fantastic gifts for loved ones struggling with chronic pain or illness.

The post Review: 31 Days of Expressive Writing for Chronic Illness and Pain appeared first on By Star & By Sea.

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One of my favorite single days of travel was when my husband and I spent one day in New Orleans.  For a big part of my life, I’ve traveled in this “Disney Cocoon” of happiness, cleanliness, and security.  I know that it exists, and I am perfectly happy to maintain the fantasy.  When we made plans to visit New Orleans though, I knew would be stepping out of my comfort zone.  New Orleans is a gritty, urban city.  Steeped in history that I adore, a lifetime of stories lead me to the heart of the French Quarter.  I love history, and the fabled charm of this environment called to me.

Cafe du Monde

The day in New Orleans began as any good NOLA day should, with beignets and had coffee at the original Café du Mondé.  The line went on and on, stretching out from beyond the cafe and down the block, as tourists queued up to get their authentic taste of this customary treat.  Luckily the employees here know how to hustle and it all moved fairly quickly.  Before long we had out plates piled high with airy fried dough covered in a mountain of powdered sugar, and cafe au lait to wash it down.

My Sanctuary Preservation Hall

I’ve always been a jazz lover, and as such Preservation Hall was one of the places that I longed to see. That old, dirty greenish building, shuttered in weathered wood below , is Preservation Hall.  The Hall was founded in 1961 to be dedicated to the preservation of New Orleans Jazz.  The building was “originally built as a private residence in 1750 [and] has evolved into a tavern, inn, photo studio and an art gallery. The inside of the hall contains portraits of the musicians who first filled it with the beautiful sounds of New Orleans Jazz”.  It’s not something Disney made to look old and worn, it’s the real thing. It’s where you can find the soul of Dixieland. Music pervades every crevice. The years and the struggles are palpable here, as are the music and the musicians. As a jazz lover and the mother of a trombone player, it swept me away.

And the music keeps right on playing

‘Cause of all the places water wouldn’t fall

It wasn’t the churches or the chapels

It was down at the Preservation Hall

“This is my sanctuary”, you could almost hear the ghost

Of some old trumpet player say

“Lay down the burdens you carry In my Sanctuary”

lyrics by Marc Cohn

Mind the Cat

We saw a sign, that said to mind the cat because she bites.  However – the cat was oddly attracted to my husband. She followed right next to him for the whole time that we were there.  She was super sweet to Geordon; I think she must have known how much we appreciated every moment in her sanctuary.

We missed the show the evening that we had in New Orleans, but that’s okay because we will be back. Our next trip will be longer and catching a show here is number one on my to do list. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to return with my son. He would love this place. It has magic.

Quick Stops To Pay Respect

I really love it in New Orleans.  One day in New Orleans is not nearly enough.  Music, art, and culture seethes from the very ground you walk on in the French Quarter. It’s a little like Disney, only dirtier, grittier, and with more drunk college kids everywhere.

We saw Congo Square, which is the birthplace of jazz.

Respects were paid to the ancestors at New Orleans Cemetery #1. Sadly we arrived just as the cemetery was closing for the night so we weren’t able to fully explore.

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar

After that we moved on to the oldest continuing serving bar in America, which just happens to have once owned by the  famous Pirate, Jean Lafitte.  The bar was also on my NOLA must see list because I’m a pirate loving rabble rouser like that.  It’s a quaint little brick building with patchy stucco on the sides. The bar’s interior is cozy, in an old smokey pirate inhabited sort of manner.  You even hear hammering from days gone by when the soot stained fireplace was used as a forge, if you listen closely.

There was so much ground to be covered and still so much I want to see (and eat!) that we’ll have to go back.  The buildings are so old, and so beautiful in the Quarter.  The Ironwork balconies drip with flowers and it’s simply magical.   My one regret is that we didn’t get back out for dinner at Emeril’s.  That’s so on the list for next time!  You just can’t see everything with just one day in New Orleans.

Hurricanes at Pat O’Briens

I had a 1/4 of a hurricane at the famed Pat O’Briens and it kicked me on my butt!!  Seriously 1/4 of a drink and I wasn’t seeing straight.  I can put away some Italian Margaritas, but I didn’t even finish half of my “original” Hurricane.  I had expected Pat’s to be sort of gross. It’s one of those places that all the tourists go, but it was really beautiful.  Dueling pianos  wrapped in copper plating sit on a stage at the interior bar.  The two baby grands wait to entertain guests  long into the wee hours of the day. We sat out in the courtyard, which has a lovely fountain, and a garden-like atmosphere.  I love NOLA’s hidden courtyards and gardens, they are like a secret treasure that only the explorers discover.

Even though we only spent one day in New Orleans, it was a wonderland that I can’t wait to return to.  Have you ever been to New Orleans?  Leave a comment an suggest some places for me to visit when I return.

The post One Day In New Orleans Is Not Enough appeared first on By Star & By Sea.

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I’m no fitness expert, but for someone who lives with chronic pain and fatigue I try to stay as active as my body allows.  This has included years of on and off fitness routines, when I’m in a good place I can do a 5K without a problem, when I’m in a bad flare I’m lucky if I can do some gentle yoga in bed.  However, over the years I’ve learned a few important things along the way that I wanted to share.  Without further ado, here are 10 things I wish I knew before I  started working out. 

1. Make a goal.

Make a lot of goals actually. While running a half marathon was my main goal, there are milestones all along the way that help me get.  I celebrate every one and moving through the progress of them helps keep me going.  There are Many Ways To Measure Workout Success.

2. Half the fight to get it done is all in your head.

Staying positive is key to reaching your goals.  It’s not always easy to stay upbeat, but I swear, half the fight is in your head.  Give yourself pep talks throughout your workout. Simply believing that you can will carry you a long way.

3. Work out hard, but smart.

When those voices start telling you to stop, what you really need to do is reassess.  Scale back for a couple of minutes without stopping, slow down, and mentally scan your body. If you’re just tired stay at the slower pace until you can ramp back up.  However – if you feel like you’re injured or so tired that your motions are sloppy and dangerous it may be time to stop for the day.

4. Trust the plan.

Set up a solid training plan to reach your goal, and stick to it. Don’t rush your increases in speed or distance, that can cause injury.   Even if you feel like you are moving slowly, trust the plan and you’ll get to your goal.

5. Do something, anything.

On days that you don’t feel great or you are hurting more than normal you don’t have to completely give up on your work out, simply scale back.  Incorporate a gentle stretching routine for off days.  Using a shorter, lighter work out keeps your healthy habits going without over stressing you body.

6. Eat to support your workouts.

You have to fuel the machine.  Don’t go into your exercise routine on empty, and be sure to boost your recovery with proper nutrition afterwards.  If you are going to be working out for more than an hour, no matter if you’re running, walking, or swimming your body needs more than just water to keep functioning well. Find the endurance fuel that you like best and work it in to your regular training schedule, it’s not just for races.

7. Use all the resources you can to stay on track.

Not only should  you have a training plan, but use all the resources you can to reach your goals.  Consider  seeing a physical therapist, massage therapist, and frequently looking up sports articles regarding nutrition, and sports psychology online.  There’s more to fitness than just getting to the gym, do your research and train smart.

8. It always sucks until you’re warmed up.

Not only does the warm-up always suck, but you can’t rush it for any reason.  Just keep moving forward and eventually the early work out aches with fade and everything will get easier. Every body takes it’s own time to warm up, so don’t compare yourself to others.  I have to be walking for at least 45 minutes before my body is warmed up and training feels good.  Embrace the early suck and strive to finish strong.

9. Find a buddy.

You may be excited about your workouts, but your family’s eyes will glaze over if that aren’t into fitness too. Have a designated buddy that you can talk about your training plan to.  Your buddy should help you to be and be accountable to for your workouts, and a great source of encouragement.

10. No one at the gym cares what you are doing.

Just go in and do your thing with confidence, because that’s what everyone else is doing. No one cares what you’re wearing, or what size you are. No one cares if you pause the treadmill so you can stretch a little more or tie your shoes. Be confident, and act like you belong – because you do.

The post 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Working Out appeared first on By Star & By Sea.

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I talk a lot about traveling with chronic illness.  In truth, travel can leave anyone feeling drained and under the weather.  Adjusting to different environments, hectic schedules, lack of sleep, stress, and contact with hundreds of strangers can stress even a healthy immune system to its limit.  Here are just a few of this traveling mama’s expert tips for staying healthy during travel.

Wash your hands frequently, and carry a bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Center for Disease Control says that washing your hands is “one of the best ways to protect yourself, your family, and others from getting sick.”  That’s true in any setting, but even more important when traveling in crowded tourist areas.  If you find yourself in an area without clean running water, you can supplement hand washing with alcohol-based hand sanitizers.  Travel sized bottles fit neatly into pockets and purses.

Don’t forget to get some sleep.

Yes, you want to pack all the fun possible into your trip, but don’t forget to relax and get some sleep.  According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute,” …your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy.”  Go ahead and give your body the downtime it needs, after all you are on vacation.

Put your feet up darling.

Spending the day touring your destination of choice is a boost for your soul, however it can take a toll of your body.  Be sure to take some time when you are back at your hotel to take care of your feet and legs.  A bit of light stretching, and elevating your feet at the end of the night can help to relieve  your tired legs and feet.  Have a long distance flight where you will be immobile for long periods of time and sitting in cramped spaces with little leg room?   Be sure to pack a pair of compression socks to help combat blood clots.

Stay hydrated!

Your body depends on hydration for survival; water is the best option (especially if you are traveling within your own country), but juices, milk, teas, coffee and soda can contribute as well.  Just remember that the cocktails you drink don’t quite count.  If you are traveling to an area with ample clean, potable water, carrying a water bottle with you is a great idea.  Not only will filling the bottle frequently and drinking from it keep you hydrated, but it will save you money too.

It should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway.  If you want to be sure you are staying healthy during travel, don’t share your beverages. Not even with friends and family.

Boost your immune system with a multivitamin.

The Cleveland Clinic says that studies have shown Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin E  are the three best vitamins for boosting immunity.  It’s best to get your vitamin intake through whole foods. When you can’t change your diet overnight, consider taking a supplement both before and during your travel.  I also give you permission to drink as much orange juice as you want.  Packed with Vitamin C it helps in both preventing some airborne illness as well as shortens the duration of the illness if you do get sick.

Resist the urge to over indulge.

We have a rule in our family: No diets on vacation.  However, it’s best to resist the urge to over indulge in rich food, sweet desserts, and an abundance of alcohol.  Go ahead and try it all.  Just remember a little moderation goes a long way.  If your stomach can’t handle spicy food without ramifications, that’s not going to change on vacation.  If you don’t usually drink, three cocktails at the hotel bar is not going to bode well.  You’re on vacation – have a blast!  Keep in mind  an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  No one wants to spend their holiday on the toilet.

Pack a pharmacy.

It’s best to plan ahead for illness.  I call it packing the pharmacy.  In addition to my standard medications my toiletry bag always has a stock of emergency pain medications.   Pack a supply of antihistamines, non-drowsy decongestants, zinc, throat drops, something to settle an upset tummy, first aid for blisters, and sun screen.  I want to point out that I learned to pack all of this the hard way.  Be smart, pack the pharmacy on every trip.  If you do get ill on vacation you will already have what you need.

Staying healthy during travel.

A vacation is time to relax and enjoy yourself, explore new locations, and make memories that last a lifetime.  Following the simple tips offered above will help to make sure you can revel in the experience without unfortunate consequences.  Of course, I can’t promise that you won’t get sick.   But I can say that with a little care, staying healthy during travel is something we all can do.

The post Expert Tips For Staying Healthy During Travel appeared first on By Star & By Sea.

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Most people don’t think of iron as being a critical nutrient. The truth is that an iron-poor diet can slow growth, impact motor skills, make thinking more difficult, reduce work capacity, affect visual and hearing functioning, and cause crippling fatigue. Our bodies need iron to create the hemoglobin in red blood cells, which carries oxygen from our lungs to everything else. Without adequate dietary iron, our bodies don’t work right, and if left without care, can even lead to death. Living with Iron-Deficiency Anemia sometimes seems like a never-ending battle to me. It’s important to know that it can be managed for a full life.

My Iron-Deficiency Anemia Story Rock bottom

In 2013, I thought that my fibromyalgia had taken a serious turn for the worse. My fatigue was out of control. Focusing my mind was difficult and confusing. I was weak, dizzy, and short of breath. There were frequent episodes of my vision blacking out. While I struggled to maintain some sense of a normal life, in reality, I barely left my house. When I did leave, it was only for short trips, and I was afraid to do so alone. A trip to the grocery store would lead to a 4-hour nap. Socializing with friends for a few hours would wipe me out for the next several days. All of my symptoms could be attributed to fibromyalgia, so I put off going to the doctor. I was afraid to hear that I would have to continue living in such a degraded condition.

In February 2014, my daughter and I took a luxury cruise, and I slept almost the entire time. On the day we docked in the port I was most excited to visit, I ate breakfast in the main dining room. That alone wore me out and I returned to the room to sleep. Though the room was nice, I was crushed at my inability to make it to the beach. Later in the trip I developed severe bruising. I decided enough was enough and I needed to see my doctor as soon as we got home.

Diagnosis

The doctor didn’t think my downward spiral was caused by my fibromyalgia. Instead, she ordered a battery of blood tests. Soon we confirmed that I had a rather severe case of Iron-Deficiency Anemia. The doctor and I chose a conservative route and put me on a year-long course of therapy to rebuild the iron in my blood. I was able to rebuild and maintain my red blood cell count living with Iron-Deficiency Anemia through managed care. I continued to take an iron supplement, but never really kicked my fatigue. That lingering symptom was attributed to the fibromyalgia.

lash forward to a month ago, in 2018, when I had a sleep study scheduled. After a very thorough discussion with the specialist about my medical history, she was convinced that my battle with Iron-Deficiency Anemia was ongoing. More blood work showed that she was absolutely correct. My hemoglobin levels had recovered, but not my ferritin levels (the stored iron). Due to gastrointestinal abnormalities I have, my nutrient malabsorption would be ongoing. After 4 years of daily iron therapy designed for a “normal” person, my body was still struggling to build up the stores of iron it needs to function at an optimal level.

Lifelong Management

Iron-Deficiency Anemia is something that I will have to keep an eye on for the rest of my life. However, with therapy, I can manage it to the point that I am symptom free. I am still fighting, but thanks to the sleep specialist, I have a new supplement regimen to better support my needs. My grocery shopping has changed to include more iron rich foods, and my husband bought me a fun little tool to help increase iron in our food. I feel like I have a more energy these days, though I’m not going to be running any marathons. In a couple of months, I return to the clinic for another round of blood tests. I won’t know how well the new supplement regimen is working until then. Living with Iron-Deficiency Anemia takes care and attention, but then, shouldn’t we be treating our bodies with care anyway?

9 Things You Should Know About Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia results when iron demand by the body is not met by nutritional iron absorption from the diet. It’s important to include iron-rich foods in your diet.

Low iron is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide.  According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10% of women in the USA are living with iron-deficiency anemia

Iron deficiency can occur in anyone, though women and children have the most risk to develop anemia. Starting at adolescence, a woman’s daily iron needs increase due to monthly blood loss.

Never-ending fatigue is one of the most obvious signs of anemia. Other symptoms include headache, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and sometimes even a fast heartbeat.  Another interesting symptom (one that I had) is the quirky compulsion to chew ice, called “pica”

Venus Williams, Selena Gomez, and Angelina Jolie have all shared their stories of struggling through living with iron-deficiency anemia.

Lean beef, chicken, shellfish, white beans, cashews, pumpkin seeds, leafy greens, and dark chocolate are all great sources of dietary iron.

Increase the level of iron in foods cooked by using cast iron cookware. This works best when cooking high-acid foods because the acids encourage the leaching of iron out of the pan.

If you take iron supplements, absorption occurs more readily when taken on an empty stomach. Vitamin C can boost iron absorption. If you don’t want to add even more pills, try drinking big glass of orange juice.

It’s not recommended for adults to take more than 45 mg of iron a day, unless they are under close medical supervision.

Listen up Spoonie Squad!

To all my spoonies and chronic babes out there, if you have any of the symptoms of Iron-Deficiency Anemia please talk to your doctor about it.  Don’t assume that it’s just a new part of a diagnosis that you already have.  That’s an easy trap to fall into.  If you are experiencing new symptoms, or more intense symptoms than before, you should let your medical team know what is going on.  Iron-Deficiency Anemia can be diagnosis with a simple blood test, and for most people brought under control quickly.

Here are some sources for more information.
  1. American Family Physician Iron Deficiency Anemia
  2. National Institute of Health Iron Fact Sheet
  3. Mayo Clinic Ferritin Tests

The post Living With Iron-Deficiency Anemia appeared first on By Star & By Sea.

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I have suffered from severe restless leg syndrome for over 30 years, so taking care of my legs has always been important to me.  As an avid traveler, I know the toll that standing and walking for long hours, followed by long periods of immobility can take.   Daily life can really beat up your lower extremities and it’s important to have a routine to relieve tired legs and feet.

There are many issues that can contribute to leg fatigue. Some of the most significant issues include causes that effect the circulatory system.  When you are standing all day, circulation in the lower part of the body has to work extra hard to return blood to your heart. This can cause swelling and aching in feet and legs because cellular fluids leak from the blood vessels into surrounding the tissues and your lymphatic system struggles to keep up.  Let’s take a look at some helpful solutions.

Proactive Tips To Relieve Tired Legs and Feet

When talking about leg fatigue, swelling, and edema the best case scenario is to avoid it in the first place.  However, that isn’t always realistic, especially for people living with chronic illnesses.

Check Your Diet

I’m not preaching here by any means, but keeping your diet in check can help to avoid this problem in the first place.   Excess salt consumption can be a key factor in excess swelling.  The recommended amount of sodium consumption that people need is 10 grams for men and 8 grams for women.  If you feel like you’re a bit on the salty side, cut back and up your potassium with foods like spinach, avocados, and bananas.  Food rich in magnesium such as nuts, whole grains, and dark chocolate will also help to reduce water retention.   Increasing your fluid intake to stay well hydrated is another great way to help lower the concentration of salt in your body.  Try and consume at least 6-8 8oz. glasses of water a day.

Compression Socks

Compression socks and calf sleeves are a long held secret of athletes and medical professionals. They help to treat everything from leg fatigue to chronic disorders such as venous insufficiency (CVI), varicose veins, lymphedema and Post-Thrombotic Syndrome (PTS). Compression socks work by enhancing the legs’ natural pumping mechanism by squeezing the leg. This encourages blood to flow back up to the heart.

Compression socks great for people who are on their feet for the long haul.  They also help to prevent blood clots from developing in the legs during travel. Limited leg room on aircraft and staying in one position for a long period of time increases travelers risk for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) , a serious type of blood clot

These days, you can find compression socks can in many stores in either tan or black. To put more personality in your footwear, try your local running store to find exciting patterns and colors.

Switching Out Pairs Of Shoes

One of the best ways to reduce foot pain and leg fatigue is to make sure you have several pairs of supportive footwear. Yes, friends, I hear-by give you permission to go out and by lots of shoes. Changing footwear from day to day helps to work different muscles in your legs and feet via  subtle design differences. So switching the pairs of shoes that you wear on a daily basis helps keep your feet and legs fresh by changing up pressure points and giving your body time to recover.

Bringing several pairs of shoes is an especially great travel tip for when you will be doing a lot of walking during vacation.

Pamper Your Tired Legs and Feet

Of course, sometimes the swelling sneaks up on you. That’s when you’re left wondering “Now what?” and hoping that the pain will be gone in the morning. I’ve got some fantastic tips to help get you back in shape to take on whatever is next!

Hit the Water

Soak your tired legs at the end of the night to get the blood circulating. The warmth of the water relaxes the mind and promotes the healing of tense muscles. While soaking in the water, slowly stretch out your stiff muscles by alternately flexing and pointing your feet repeatedly.

Add some scented Epsom salts to your bath for a boost in luxury.  Many people believe that the magnesium in Epsom salt helps to decrease inflammation and swelling when absorbed through the skin. There aren’t a lot of studies to prove that Epsom salt soaks have benefits beyond generally soaking in warm water. That being said, fans of the salt soaks swear by the practice.

In addition, if you have the opportunity to spend 15-30 minutes with your whole body in a pool, the hydrostatic pressure will help to relieve pain and swelling. When traveling, this is a great reason to splurge on that hotel with the amazing pool.

Elevate Your Feet

Elevating your legs helps relieve the pressure that has built up after a day in the parks. Propping your legs up with a few extra pillows at night helps fluids that have backed up flow more easily.  The best practice when it comes to elevating your legs is the Viparita Karani pose, otherwise known as lie down on your back and put your legs straight up the wall.

Elevation of the lower limbs is often prescribed for health problems characterized by a pooling of interstitial fluids. The reason it works can be summed up in one word – gravity.  This position gives your lymphatic system a bit of a helping hand by allowing fluids to flow back to where they need to be.

This simple yoga pose is one of my favorite self-care tips of all time. The pose helps me by reducing pain, and forcing me to take a break to relax. Hot, humid locations may be a tropical paradise but my feet and legs take the environment as a challenge to retain water. When I travel I start my morning and end my night with my legs up the wall for 15 – 30 minutes. If I go back to my room to change for dinner, I fit in a short session then to. I started doing this pose as part of my travel practice, and now I use it at home too.

Massage

As a fibromyalgia patient, I was pretty nervous when I had my first massage. But a good rub down can help restore circulation to tired muscles and keep you moving. My advice is to start off small with a pedicure that includes a lower leg and foot massage. You can also look into booking a session with a certified massage therapist. Be clear with your therapist about your needs, and they will be able to help come up with solutions that are right for you.

When you are on your own and experiencing sudden leg cramps, one of the best methods is to push your fingertips deep into the muscle that is cramping and hold it for 15-20 seconds.  Once the muscle has released give the surrounding area a firm rub, moving the strokes from low to high.   “The Stick” self massage roller has its own cult-like following, well earned for the ease of use and great results.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are pretty trendy these days. The fact is that plant extracts have been helping to soothe minor ailments for thousands of years. Peppermint oil has anti-inflammatory properties with a bright scent that helps rejuvenate your whole system. Eucalyptus oil offers both pain relieving and anti-spasm properties, while clove oil also has pain-relieving compounds in it.

You can apply oils to your feet and legs in a couple of different ways. You can add a few drops of the essential oils into a tub of water and soak in it. Give legs some some overall care by using a lotion that has peppermint, clove, or eucalyptus oil in it. Or, apply a damp hot compress to your legs that you have sprinkled essential oils on. The main thing here is that the oil need to be applied to your skin.  Just smelling it doesn’t work.

Don’t be afraid the take a little extra time for yourself and caring for your legs; after all, they carry you all day.  Do you have top tips for keeping your legs feeling great at home or abroad?  Leave me a comment! Tell me what you do to revive sore tired muscles so that your ready to go again the next day!

The post How To Relieve Tired Legs And Feet appeared first on By Star & By Sea.

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Bloggers open themselves up to a wide range of criticisms. It’s just part of the job when you put yourself out there for the world to see. Chronic illness bloggers do so to an even greater extent. We open the book on deeply personal subjects, and delicate medical conditions. Some bloggers just journal their chronic illness experience. Others, like me, try to share tips and tricks that have worked for us, so that more people living with the same condition might get relief as well.

I got a comment the other day that really upset me. The gist of it was that the commenter had never known anyone with fibromyalgia to be able to do my suggestion A, let alone B or C. The commenter regarded my tips and tricks as outright laughable. I have been living with a fibromyalgia diagnosis for 15 years. It is my life on these pages, and the things I share work for me or I say they don’t. Commenting to me that the tips I’ve shared are laughable is just plain rude.

I’m trying not to take it personally. After all, the commenter doesn’t actually know me.  Depression and anxiety make it hard to do, but I am trying.  The commenter could be at a different part of their fibro journey than I am. Perhaps our symptoms are different; No two cases of fibromyalgia are the same, after all.   People are so fast to judge others, and it’s just not cool. None of us know what anyone else is going through in their life, and the best way to proceed is always with kindness. Whatever the case, whatever the commenters deal is, I don’t hold it against them. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt.

My approach to fibromyalgia includes never giving up. I am always fighting this disease, every single day. I do my best to take care of myself on many different fronts. If my doctor doesn’t have great answers I have to be my own advocate and always keep searching. Many times answers come from non-traditional medicine and lifestyle changes that go a long way to mitigate my symptoms. A large part of this blog is about just that, changes in lifestyle that allow me to live fully despite my chronic illness. I don’t want a blog that only appeals to other people with fibromyalgia. There are millions of people in the world who are perfectly well that can benefit from the same small lifestyle changes that help me daily with my chronic illness.

My purpose here is to help others find wellbeing, no matter what hand they have been dealt. Simply to be kind and have the courage to share my journey. It’s not nice to judge and ridicule others struggling with illness. If someone’s journey is different than the one you are experiencing that doesn’t mean that they are less, or don’t know what they are talking about. So if you can’t say something nice, just don’t post.

The post Journal Entry: My Purpose Here appeared first on By Star & By Sea.

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I love to travel.  One of my favorite destinations to escape to is San Diego, California.  I lived there when I was in my 20s, and I have missed the salt air and sunshine ever since.  When I decided to travel back, I knew that I needed to get in some serious time for relaxation at the Hotel del Coronado.

Relaxation at the Hotel del Coronado
The Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, California is a National Historic Landmark and, for more than 125 years, has been a symbol of Victorian elegance and refined luxury.  “The del” has been a destination for Presidents, Royalty and, in the Golden age of Hollywood, it was the “it” destination for glamorous starlettes and movie power.   An idyllic beachfront family retreat, just across the harbor from San Diego, it has earned a AAA four diamond rating, as well as a slew of other awards in its substantial history.   This resort is widely considered one of the top hotels in the world.  The conical turrets and orange roof against it’s white Victorian gingerbread even inspired Disney Imagineers in building Walt Disney World’s flagship hotel, The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.

This may be one of the most beautiful and luxurious resorts I have ever stayed in outside of Walt Disney World. The historic lady has not lost an ounce of her charm over the years.
My Guest Room
Our room was not in the Victorian building but instead was in a newer section of the property, off the main pool.   The inside halls had a comfortable feeling to me, reminiscent of the halls at Disney’s Grand Floridian, only in highlighted yellow instead of peach.  Walking into the guest room revealed an interior that was spacious and bright. The decor had a beach-y, turquoise and lime color palette with a mid-century feel to it.  The pretty, white shutters over the window let in ample amounts of light during the day.  Those shutters had their ups and downs though, because I had been looking forward to sleeping with black-out curtains, and these let in more light that I cared for early in the morning.

A Spa-like Bath
The large bathroom allowed plenty of space for two people to get ready at the same time.  The one puzzling feature to me was that the closet was inside of the bathroom, and hid behind the bathroom door when it was open.  It proved a slightly awkward location if nothing else.  But, the closet was large, with many hangers, had complimentary robes for us to use, extra pillows, and a small in-room safe.

  

Sun, Sand, and Water
Stepping out onto the balcony it became apparent that we had a great view of the main pool, turret building, and the ocean in the distance. How could you not be happy with that?  Plus PALM TREES! The grounds were an absolute plethora of palm trees. So many different types! I miss palm tress so much when I’m at home.  Somehow I never completely realize that until I arrive some place that has them. Guests swimming at the pool were really loud during the day.  But, swimming hours are over and the pool is locked up at 10pm each night so it didn’t cause a problem at all when trying to sleep.

Relaxation at the Hotel del Coronado is priority one, and staying here absolutely turned me into a beach girl.  The soft Coronado sand sparkled and glittered in the sun. The cool pacific waters were fun to play in, even though we only dipped out toes. The U.S. Navy was frequently running exercises off-shore.  I enjoyed watching helicopters, ships, and Navy SEALs training to protect our country.  My time beach time was fairly short but I am so glad that I did make the effort to stick my toes in the sand.  I preferred sitting under an umbrella on the sun deck with a cocktail in my hand.  I could easily lose hours or days just sitting back and enjoying the ocean view and breeze.

Capping Off Your Night
Turn-down service is provided to resort guests upon request, so I decided to indulge.  With a simple call placed to the front desk, when we returned after a night out our comfortable beds were turned down neatly.  There was even a small token of seashells on our pillows.  I love turn-down service, it always makes me feel especially pampered and it is one little treat I really appreciate. Though I often have trouble sleeping on vacation, this was not one of those times. The Hotel del Coronado has very comfortable beds and ample pillows for cuddling and support.
 

Without a doubt, my favorite part of my San Diego trip was the beautiful Hotel del Coronado. Taking rest days is so important to our health and well-being; I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to book another escape for a little relaxation at the Hotel del Coronado.  My time spent here was lovely and the perfect recharge, not to mention that the ocean views nothing short of spectacular.  The weather was absolutely perfect with steady ocean breezes and the smell of salt air.   It was everything I dreamed it to be.

Be sure to check out instagram.com/kristenannkirk/ for more pictures from my trip to San Diego.

This post was in the the July 20th Saturday Sharefest!

The post Rest and Relaxation at the Hotel del Coronado appeared first on By Star & By Sea.

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It can be hard for people to remember the importance of rest days.  I grew up, like many American kids, with a full schedule of activities and responsibilities.  As I developed into an adult life didn’t slow down at all, and when I became a wife and mother it felt like I had even more people that needed to be organized and engaged.  When my body started failing and I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia I had a lot of guilt. I felt like taking that time I needed to take care of myself wasn’t time well spent.  It seemed like I was being lazy when I needed to take a rest day.  Boy was that mindset wrong!  After a decade of suffering from fibromyalgia; I finally came to understand that I could actively engage with rest days.

Learning The Importance Rest Days

It took training for a half marathon to change my mind about the importance of rest days.  I learned through that process how badly a body needs time to repair itself.  The process a body goes through of building new muscle and balancing nutritional requirements doesn’t stop just because you’ve ended your workout.  In fact, when your workout stops, that’s when your body gets down to work making you stronger.  It was eye opening that I always saw the biggest gains after I had taken a day or two off from training.

As a person living with chronic illness, this lesson was like a bolt out of the blue.  I realized that because of  my illness, and the strains it puts on my systems, my body sees every day activities as a exercise that I needed to recover from.  Long drives or meetings, grocery shopping, doing laundry, even taking a shower are all regular activities that my body needs time to recuperate from.

How To Actively Engage With Your Rest Days

So – how can one actively engage rest or recovery day?  Here are five things that you can do to feel a little more like your rest days count.

Keep moving… gently.

Avoid strenuous workouts we are talking about rest days here.  It should go without saying that you need to do things that promote rest, while still being engaged . Gentle activity keeps you limber and helps the muscles in your body not to stiffen up stiffening up.  Create a light home stretching routine or yoga practice.  I have a gentle routine that I have created that I can even do while in bed.

My favorite rest day activity is spending 30 minutes or so with my  legs up the wall.  This helps to reduce swelling in the feet and legs by moving “draining” the interstitial fluid and lymph that is causing the swelling.  Yay gravity!

Stay Hydrated.

Just because you aren’t working up a sweat taking care of daily tasks doesn’t mean that your body doesn’t need water.  In fact being well hydrated to begin with allows your body to work even better giving you more energy to make it through the day.  Dehydration can lead to overheating, headaches, and muscle fatigue.

If you don’t have time to keep track of your intake on regular days, use your rest days to count those glasses of water and make sure sure you getting enough.  If you want to give your water a boost without adding too many calories, try infusing it with fruit, or using a hydration table such as Nuun.  Buy yourself a nice water bottle and be sure to keep it with you.

Eat well balanced meals.

The better quality of food that I put in my body, the better performance I will get out of my body.  Right now I am trying to eat closer to the earth with fewer preservatives and pre-packaged foods.  Focusing on this especially on my rest days allows me to stay mentally engaged with my goals.  Eating well supports your immune system, and allows your body to stock nutritional needs through food sources.  Sure – us chronically ill folks tend to have a cabinet full of supplements, but eating well is not just good for your body, it’s good for your soul.

Relax your mind as well.

Our bodies aren’t the only thing that needs a rest day.  It’s important for our minds to have some down time as well.  As a work from home mom for more than a decade, I know how hard it can be to put everything aside and give your brain a break.  When you have a rest day, use some of the time to explore new meditation techniques.

I have several YouTube guided meditations that I cycle through.  Some are designed to help me sleep, others to manage chronic pain and anxiety.  Meditation is an important part of my self-care routine and I have seen a lot of improvements since I began.  Check out my previous article on 3 Ways Meditation Helps To Reduce Chronic Pain.

Pamper yourself.

Finally, use your rest days for some luxe pampering.  Care for your skin by applying masks and lotions, give yourself a manicure, dip your toes in a spa bath, or use a self massage mat to help relax.  It’s not selfish to take care of yourself, and there is nothing that says when you’re home resting that you can’t treat yourself to a bit of a beauty regimen.

Get a proper sleep.

Sleep has a huge impact on performance.  An adequate sleep schedule can increase reaction times, reduce injury rates, and lessening your chance of catching a virus.   The increased human growth hormone produced during early sleep promotes the growth, maintenance and repair of both muscles and bones.  So crating good sleep habits is pretty important to a body.   Try and set a sleep schedule for yourself an stick to it.  The consistency will help your body get find a more natural cycle.

Create an inviting bedtime environment, with a supportive bed, comfortable pillows, soft sheets, and dim lighting.  Your bedroom should make you feel safe and secure, have some fun and redecorate to aid in your restorative sleep.  After all – it’s for your health.

Taking a rest day doesn’t mean you are lazy, it means that you’ve learned to listen to your body and understand when you have reached your limit.  The importance of rest days is something that we all need to come to terms with. Next time you feel like you need a day off, but just have to “do something” during it, keep this list of ways to actively engage with your rest days in mind.  There are lots of things that you can do for your health while still allowing your body some much needed time off.

This post is part of Saturday Sharefest

and Part of Fibro Friday #183

The post The Importance of Rest Days and How To Engage with Them appeared first on By Star & By Sea.

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