How do we overcome the endless daily challenges that surface in dealing with RA or an autoimmune disease?
Every day, every single day, we will be faced with more challenges, more difficulty than the average bear.
I’m preaching to the choir, aren’t I?
Challenges from “Which shoes can I be comfortable in today?” .. To “I can’t lift my arms up to even wash my hair,” .. And all the way to “I simply can’t get out of bed because of this excruciating pain.”
I get it. I’ve not walked in your shoes, but I get it.
In preparing to write this piece, I brainstormed ways that I rise to and overcome challenges… As I sorted through, I came to realize that most – if not all – of my coping mechanisms and solutions revolved around lessons learned in the gym.
Don’t worry – although I’m a BIG believer in fitness because of its profound impact on my disease mitigation, this is not going to be a “Now, go to the gym” post. Rather, it will center on the lessons I’ve learned (and use daily) from my love affair with the gym.
Truly, my journey with fitness has taught me so much.
1) Perseverance. There are days where I’d rather poke my eyeball with a sharp stick that set foot in that dang gym. This morning was one of them. I was tired, I was cranky and I simply didn’t feel too good. But I knew that I needed the gym to de-stress. So I got up, slapped my gym clothes on and drove myself – half asleep – to the gym. About 10 minutes into my workout, I smiled. I was so glad I showed up. By the end of my workout, I had a new outlook on the day. I felt good. I was smiling. I was ready.
2) Patience. Results never come overnight – with projects, with work, with feeling better, with fitness. There is no miracle cure. There is no 2-weeks-and-I’m-A-okay. There is no such thing as a “quick-fix.” But there is comfort… In knowing that when you continue to do something that’s good for you (like working out or engaging in a fitness plan), you will see results. You will feel better. You will begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I say that because I’ve been there.
3) Be Proactive. No one can take care of you for you. If you don’t make time to take care of your health, it will fall by the wayside. Plus, if you don’t take care of you, how can you take care of your loved ones? Setting foot in the gym each day is my way of staying proactive with my health .. It’s something that I control – it’s my decision. (And it isn’t always easy.)
4) Seek solutions. Ask questions, don’t follow the status quo, walk the road less traveled. Be your own best advocate. Cardiovascular training may not be for you – perhaps it’s too hard on your knees .. Try swimming. Start slow, start small, but start. Rise to the challenge, and it will flow through every facet of your life. I happen to love strength training .. I lift weights and love the way I feel. It works for me. Seeking solutions in life is rising to the challenge. It’s swimming against the tide; it’s finding another – better – way. It’s participating. It’s working hard to make things great.
5) Determine your own mindset. What will today look like for you? Wouldn’t you rather pick your own mindset than letting the emotions of others choose your outlook today? What if you simply decided that today will be a great day? Instead of jumping on Facebook first-thing in the morning, lace up your walking shoes and get some fresh air. My time in the gym is my ME time. I have my headphones and my iPod .. Those are my moments; they are my recharge. They help shape my mindset for the entire day. I am in control of my thoughts and actions.
6) De-stress. We all understand the critical component that stress plays in RA flares… And, yes, some stress is absolutely unavoidable. But let me tell you what… My daily grind at the gym helps release tension before it even begins. It fights stress before I even know it’s headed my way. It also helps me blow off steam .. It equalizes me. It allows me to burn off the stress hormones our body produces in stressful situations. And less stress is always best…
7) When it’s hardest, keep going. Perseverance (#1) halfway covers this, but it’s crucial enough to cover again… Each time I train, I do 34 walking lunges and sprint back to my starting point. Around lunge #26, I can really feel a burn. It is intense. My quadriceps are shrieking and I’m panting. At lunge #30, I feel like I can barely walk another step. Then at lunge #33, I just want to fall over in a puddle of sweat. But I keep going. I push harder. When I’ve completed lunge #34, I sprint as fast as I can – back to where I started. The rush from pushing through the hardship releases endorphins, and it feels great. Sure, I’m out of breath and my muscles are tingling, but I’m also grinning from ear-to-ear. Not even kidding. 🙂 So many times in life, we feel crushed by pressure, our disease, our circumstances. The most important thing to do at that very moment is to keep going. Push forward, even if it’s the last thing on earth you want to do. Never quit. Finish strong. Trust me: by pushing through, you will be rewarded.
8) Smile more. Okay, okay, maybe this one sounds a little foofy… But, seriously, don’t you feel better when you smile? After my workout (even during), I’m smiling. The endorphins that my body is releasing from the physical activity are powerful. My head is clear, my heart is open and I’m grinning. I’m ready for the day. Bring it. 🙂
9) Do all the right moves. We only have one life. This.One.Life. Every choice has an influence on how we feel. Choose wisely. Just as in the gym, your weight lifting form is critical. Slow, deliberate movements are important. Choosing the right exercise for your body and goals are crucial. Every movement matters. Every moment matters. What we put in our bodies matter. The best choices aren’t necessarily the easiest ones, either. But if we focus on what’s right, we’re able to overcome almost anything. We’re able to rise above.
I love this passage by Ralph Marston:
“Great success is not achieved by just doing the easy stuff. Great success is the result of being willing to, and even enthusiastic about working through the challenges. Each challenge you encounter can either be a reason to quit or a pathway to achievement. Through your attitude and your actions, you decide which it will be. Difficult, complicated, challenging work is not a curse, but rather is a valuable blessing. It is your chance to learn, to grow, to become stronger and more capable, and to achieve. In every challenge is a way for you to make a meaningful, positive difference in the world. Welcome the challenges, and you welcome the potential for new richness into your life.”
Start today. Rise to the challenge. You’ve got everything you need to make this day great.