Lupus and Self-awareness: Finding Patterns and making things happen!

If you were to ask me the basic tenets of living well with a chronic illness, I would start with the concept of keen self-awareness.

Much of living with lupus is about managing our symptoms. To do that successfully, we have to pay close attention to our bodies.  We have to listen for clues, take note of changes, and zero in on what our bodies are really trying to tell us. In doing this, we can ideally catch symptom activity at its very beginning, before it progresses too far into flare territory.

Maybe you notice a food that you think sparks a slight lupus reaction - you cut it from your diet before the symptom worsens. Or perhaps you see your symptoms spike after a few days (or hours!) at the beach. You change your behavior to avoid the sun, and your body slowly starts to heal. Or maybe you experience increased joint pain every afternoon with a new medication. You catch it in time to alert your doctor before further damage is done. 

Tracking symptoms in this way – by making correlations between external factors and our symptoms – let's us use our body's feedback to establish patterns, which can lead us to discover cause and effect relationships.

Now, I know, I know - most of us feel no control over how or when our disease kicks up. But you have to agree that there are some factors, behaviors, foods, and medicines that are more beneficial to lupus bodies than others. In fact, some may be down right damaging! (Sunshine, I'm talking to you!)

So take a closer look at those factors over which we DO have control (like diet, sleep, exercise, sun exposure, etc.), and see how they play into our disease activity. The goal? Identify a pattern, and alter the behavior in an effort to preempt even one symptom.  Even if it simply initiates a conversation with ourselves, our doctors, or our loved ones, it's one step toward positively impacting our disease.

In my next post, I'll give you a personal example of putting pattern discovery to work – my first of 2020!


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