A healing lifestyle is a choice to dedicate the life you lead to your healing and health. When it come to chronic illness the road to recovery can be a long and winding one with set backs as well as successes. How you manage your day-to-day life and the changes you make to help your body heal along the way, as well as manage and minimise your symptoms, can be crucial. Here we will discuss how to manage your chronic illness with your lifestyle choices — including M.E/CFS.
What is a healing lifestyle?
So what does a ‘healing lifestyle’ mean?
Well part of the joy of a healing lifestyle is that it doesn’t have to mean just one thing. As each persons body, illness, and requirements are different, your choices and needs may be different to someone else’s. In essence it is you choosing to make the changes necessary to provide you with the best quality of life possible and and constantly noticing what is working and what isn’t, to enable you to keep making improvements and consistently moving towards health.
It is lifestyle management.
It is choosing to make small changes to manage and reduce your symptoms to give you relief. Choosing to put yourself and your health first in every situation, because you know right now that is the most important thing.
A healing lifestyle includes things like reducing your stress levels, eating nutritious and healing foods, removing toxins and processed foods, moving your body, getting good sleep, slowing down, using supplements to support your body, listening to your body and what it needs……. and much more.
So do you know what you need to change, what steps are best for you, to create a lifestyle that suits you and your healing journey?
What does a healing lifestyle look like for me?
My healing journey started nearly 5 years ago. I’d worn myself out and was repeatedly sick with chest infections or cold and never felt like I recovered. It all came to a head when I passed out in the street on the way home from my usual morning at the gym! At the start, also the peak of my illness I felt lost, frustrated, and like a failure.
But now I can see it was where I needed to be to find a way of life that is more true to who I am. It hasn’t been an easy journey by any means, but I’m glad I can look back now and be grateful for the lessons it has taught me!
A brief history
At first I tried to keep pushing myself, keep working full time, & keep working out. But that was completely unsustainable. Of course!… and in the long run made me worse.
When the inevitable crash of rock bottom came about 1 1/2 years after my initial diagnosis it left me depressed and lonely. The only thing that kicked me out of it was deciding that “this wasn’t it, I wasn’t going to let this rule my life. i was going to fight it with everything I had!” At this point I wasn’t working, I wasn’t creating & I had no inspiration to create, I wasn’t really going out, and I definitely wasn’t seeing friends or socialising. Nature was (and still is) my saving grace, it kept me sane!
I had seen specialists and was starting to use pacing and a mindfulness practice. But progress felt slow or non-existent, and it didn’t even begin to cover the whole host of other symptoms and issues I was dealing with.
Although my stubbornness to ‘Not let this thing win’ was a good driver for me to keep learning and researching, it only got me so far, after a while I just felt exhausted of ‘fighting’. This, I think, was the turning point when I started to accept and use my situation to my advantage — and so began my own learning and research into alternative and natural ways to heal.
Now I incorporate a whole host of different elements that all contribute to maintaining my health and healing. Of course everyone’s journey with illness and their body is personal so you must choose the exact pieces that make up your healing lifestyle, but below are the practices I credit the most with healing me heal and therefore the one I recommend that you try first. And if they are a fit for you, keep using.
Firstly let me put your mind at rest and quiet your protests: you do NOT need to be flexible to do yoga! Yoga will help you to become more flexible. It is a gentle practice that focuses you in your body. Throughout a practice you focus on your breath work & the pose. It is a combination of balance, strength, and flexibility.
In terms of your body and illness it works to release tight, stiff, and painful muscles, and even a short practice can leave you feeling relaxed and peaceful. Start with a short 15-20min if you are a beginner and work your way up to more intermediate and advanced levels when you are ready.
If you have no idea where to start I would recommend the FitStar Yoga or Playbook apps, and I also have my favourites saved to my YouTube that you can use too : Yoga Playlist
As I mentioned, nature is my saving grace. It really is a miracle worker. It can help to keep you sane and feeling balance and grounded. Not to mention encouraging you to slow down and take a deep calming breath or two. It is a wonderful thing to feel the sun on your face and the wind on your skin.
To begin with you may not be able to walk or go far, but thats ok. I’m not suggesting you go off hiking. Even just sitting out in a park can help in the beginning. A change of scenery is a wonderful thing for your soul.
This can be part of your pacing practice. Decide how far you can manage to walk, and then just stretch that a little bit further each week and see how rewarding it feels! and if you can’t go out on your own, get someone you trust and enjoy being with to take you and be there for support.
.Managing my sleep
When your body is dealing with M.E / CFS or a chronic illness your sleep is so important! Your body heals when it is asleep, not to mention that the exhaustion from M.E makes you feel like you could sleep all the time!
The worse thing you can do for your body though, is sleep all the time. What you need too be doing is working towards a regular sleep pattern. At the start of this journey you may need to nap during the day. This is ok, but ideally you want to be weaning yourself off naps if you can.
Decide what sleep pattern you want to work towards; are you naturally a morning person? or a night owl? Do you feel better getting up at 6am, but having an early night? Or would you rather get up later in the morning and stay up to 9pm?
To start with you want to work towards being up for at least 12 hours, and sleeping 12. From there, one you find that sleep pattern manageable, start to decrease the amount of time you are sleeping. Do this bit-by-bit, just 10-15 mins at a time, and try to get your sleep to 9-10 hours a night, or even 8 if you can feel good and function on that.
The thing here is being aware of how each change you are making makes you feel. Do you still have the energy to get you through the day? Are you still able to enjoy the time you are awake? Can you get through the day without a nap?
This is a broad and seemingly endless category to try and cover in a few short paragraphs! The first thing I would recommend you do here is visit your Dr & ask for a a set of full blood-works (as well as requesting a copy of the results for yourself). This can give you a reading of whats going on inside your body and if there are any obvious issues you need to address when it comes to the essential vitamins & minerals your body needs to function at its optimum.
The main ones here would be your Iron levels, B12, Magnesium, and Vitamins C & D. All are essential in keeping your immune system working, protecting your muscles and nervous system, and are involved in the process of your body producing energy. Magnesium is also good to take to help you achieve restful sleep.
Once you have looked at the basics it really depends on your individual symptoms as to what you need. For these I fully believe plants & natural remedies are more effective and better for your body than most over the counter or prescription drugs.
Plant remedies are the natural supplements you can look to take in addition to any vitamins and minerals you may need.
I would recommend looking into Adaptogens to help support your body and your stress response. Supplements to manage your sleep, pain relief, and energy levels, and any supplements directly related to treating M.E (or your chronic illness…
If you are new to my blog the links above are a good place for you to start. But there are many other resources available to you here to help you on your natural healing journey.
Again these types of remedies and how they work are very much dependant on each person. So what works for one may not work for you. Start with low dosages, and use your ‘food & feelings’ journal to keep a note of what you are taking, dosages, & how it is making you feel. Plant remedies can take longer than chemical ones to start to take effect, so give each supplement 2-3 months of monitoring before you decide if it’s working for you.
Most people don’t realise just how important nutrition and the food you put in your body is. The food you consume can literally be the difference between health and disease! It is too easy today for us to opt for packaged food and unknowingly be eating chemicals and toxins that are bad for your body. Big food companies are sneaky, and there is a LOT of misinformation out there.
The simplest way you can improve your nutrition and help your body heal from the inside out is to eat fresh ingredients that don’t need a package. Fruits and vegetables. Foods that only have one ingredient: rice, oats, beans & pulses. Cut out toxins and foods that cause inflammation. Your body is dealing with enough inflammation already so you want to do as much as you can to reduce the stress it’s under. If you would like to know more ready about a healing diet.
Meditation is thankfully starting to loose it’s ‘woo-woo’ label as more research is done on its effects on your brain and how beneficial it can be. No longer is it just spiritual people who are meditating. I was sceptical at first, but now I cannot start the day without it.
Just 10-15 minutes is enough. Whether you choose to do it at the start or your day, the end, or both! that’s up to you. Do what feels most natural and fits in with your daily routine. Part of the process of your body bringing you to a standstill and beginning a healing lifestyle is being able to build a whole new routine for your day. One that works for your needs now. As well as improving your health and well-being. It is all part of your healing journey.
If you have no idea where to start there are many apps you can use; I would recommend headspace, Calm, or Meditation studio. You can also check out some guided meditations, some which are more advanced, that I have collected here.
Working to keep a positive mindset, being upbeat and finding things to be grateful for in your days is essential. Your thoughts and feelings can either drag you down or lift you up. Being able to stay positive through tough situations like a chronic illness isn’t easy, and of course you will have days where you are sad, or frustrated. You are allowed to feel those things. The trick is to let yourself feel them and let them pass by.
One of the most beneficial things I found at the beginning of my illness, and what still helps me today, is having a gratitude practice.
A gratitude practice is so very simple, but will lift your emotions and feeling of well-being ten fold. Very simply a gratitude practice is helping you be more present in your day. Notice the little things around you: the flowers and scenery, the butterflies and bees, a beautiful sunrise/sunset, the stars and moon, a big mug of hot chocolate you enjoyed, seeing the face of a loved one, a funny moment in your day. Anything that made you smile or brought you a moment of joy. These are the little instances in each of your days you want to notice and remember.
Whether you make a mental list at the end of each day, or add them in a journal, try and have 4-5 things each day that have brought you joy. It is all these little things that add up to a consistent feeling of well-being, positivity, and balance in your life.
.Always keep researching
As will all medical conditions there is always new research and advances in knowledge and healing so always keep researching and learning new things. You never know what may work for you.
If you would like to know more about any of these subjects I have a comprehensive resource coming VERY soon that includes everything I’ve learnt and all the knowledge I have collected on my own healing journey including a whole host of healing resources!
To be first to find out about it just pop your email address below:
With each of these practices it is all about noticing how you are feeling, what you are doing, and monitoring your results so you can tweak things as you go. Keeping a ‘Food & Feeling’ journal is the easiest way to do this & something I highly recommend. Learn to tune in and listen to what your body is telling you. Learn the signals and signs it sends you. Notice how each thing you try makes you feel; if you improve, keep doing it. If you get worse, stop straight away.
Its all a personal journey & only you can know what is right for you and YOUR body.