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Monday, 24 October 2011

Non-Exercise Tips for Those with Chrongic Disabilities

On Friday I spoke out against exercise advice as being the only advice as not everyone is able to exercise.  As such I figured that I really should share some a few tips of what works for me in improving my health.  Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that exercise won’t improve your health, I believe it’s a vital component to a healthy lifestyle but for those of you unable to exercise regularly, these are ideas that you might be able to try.

  •   Drink plenty of water.  Since I’ve upped my intake of water, I have had more energy and am also eating less.  For those of you who can’t stand plain water, try herbal or fruit teas – there’s a flavour to suit almost everyone. 
  •  Cut down on caffeine.  I only have one mug of coffee a day on most days and I always have it in the morning.  If I feel I need a pick-me-up during the day I usually opt for a redbush tea.
  • Take breaks from looking at a screen.  I spend a large portion of my day in front of my laptop – writing, reading, socialising and playing games.  I take short breaks every half hour where I give my eyes a rest.  Workrave is a neat little application you can download for free which will remind you when to take your breaks (at intervals and lengths of your choosing).
  • Have a sleep schedule.  This is another of those pieces of advice you find a lot and that’s because it really works.  I used to have great difficulty getting to sleep but I figure that’s probably due to spending the majority of day in bed.  Therefore, to get my sleep schedule sorted I took a very small dosage sleeping pill (prescribed by my Doctor) which helped me evaluate how long I need to sleep for and to get me in the habit of going to bed at the same time every day.  I now continue going to bed and get up at the same time everyday (I fall down if I don’t get up as then my body doesn’t realise it’s tired enough).  If you suffer from insomnia it is not a weakness to seek help.  Other than that, my main advice would be to stay away from technology before bed as this stimulates the brain, making it much more difficult to relax.
  • Meditation.  I don’t meditate as often as I would like but when I do I notice the effects.  When my mind is still and peaceful, my body naturally follows suit and relaxes.  Meditation doesn’t have to be done sitting up in the lotus position – it can be done anywhere and in any position you find comfortable.  I would recommend finding somewhere you won’t be interrupted when you first start out as trying to focus in a busy or loud area can use a lot more energy.
  • Smile.  Smiling and laughing release endorphins that are guaranteed to make you feel better, plus it’s much better to get your highs from laughing than from chocolate as you will no doubtedly be left feeling guilty for over-indulging.
  • Eat dark chocolate.  When I feel I have a chocolate craving coming I eat a square or two of dark chocolate (my favourite is Divine) as obviously this is much healthier than splurging on a whole bar of Galaxy.
  • Eat your fruit and veg.  Now, I don’t usually make it up to the ‘5 a day’ that we hear so much about but I try to get in a few portions every day as they are necessary for our body to perform correctly.
  • Take vitamins and supplements.  I currently take Vitamin B Complex and an Iron & Vitamin C every day.  I don’t know if they are actually helping but I like to think they are (and I know they’re not doing any harm so better to take them than not in my opinion).  If you are on a lot of medication or are unsure ask your Doctor or Pharmacist for advice as they are qualified to help you.
  • Get some sunshine.  Getting outside and soaking up some rays can be very beneficial to our mental health.  I often can’t really go out so most days just take a step out the door and stand in the sun for 5 minutes.  I am hoping to save up for a sun lamp (often used to treat S.A.D - Seasonal Affective Disorder) for those days when I can’t go out at all (or when there’s no sun).

Hope you found these ideas useful.  Please remember that I am not an expert so before taking any drastic lifestyle changes, please consult your Doctor or Pharmacist.  Have I missed anything that works for you?  Let us know in the comments.


Chelle said...

Hi Tamara,

I have fibromyalgia and am going to the doctor tomorrow to ask him to consider that I might have ME or CFS also (which one is the correct term?)

I have found that although it is incredibly hard to exercise, if I sit and don't move all day, I feel absolutely horrible. So I do try to walk as much as my ankles and feet will allow me around my house. If I am able to get out to the store (just one, maybe), I usually feel better than if I sit in the recliner all day. Also, I feel better on laundry days because I have to take frequent breaks from sitting. I know this isn't always going to be possible, but it does help me if I can do it.

We have also installed a used hot tub (it was actually given to us by my parents as they are moving) and it is an amazing thing to have for sore muscles. It's also very peaceful. If you can find a way to spent time in a hot tub somehow, I really recommend it. This is obviously a luxury that I am very grateful for. If you have a warm water pool in your area and can somehow get there for just 10 or 15 minutes (which I did for about six weeks), it does feel really good. Maybe someone can take you if you have a close friend or relative who is willing.

The sleep schedule is really a good idea, if you can do it. I have discovered that I need 8-10 hours of sleep per night (although I still feel exhausted when I wake up), but I have a lot of trouble getting to sleep at night. I usually go back to bed after my kids go to school, since I am not able to get up and stay up at 6:30 in the morning.

Turning off the computer completely for awhile also helps me mentally, because sometimes it can be as overwhelming as going into a large store. There is so much going on online now. If I shift over to hulu to watch an old show or just read a book instead, sometimes it's actually a relief.

Don't know if I offered anything new or additional. But I too am upset by people who tell me I just need to exercise (my husband). It's not possible and I get so tired of him believing it.


Christine Murray said...

Tamara thanks so much for this post. So agree with you on the smiling. Having a bad day and reading this made me feel less alone.

Hope you have a high energy low pain/fatigue week x

February Grace said...

important reminders, all.

thanks so much for this post!


Unknown said...

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Chelle - it honestly depends on the person to whether you call it M.E. or C.F.S, personally I believe that C.F.S. is a very large umbrella that includes M.E. but is not limited to it (plus the name is just not good in explaining the pain and mental difficulties associated with M.E.)

I do agree that a little exercise or movement can help much more than just lying still the whole time as this can seize up muscles which causes more pain. As for a hot tub, I wish I was so lucky. Unfortunately the only pool nearby is part of a gym and you need a membership to be able to use it (which would be pointless and very unaffordable for me) but remember this tip for the future.