Spiritual and Emotional Wellbeing
Managing Grief, Anxiety, and Sadness
Living with an Autoimmune Disease presents a lot of emotional challenges that can pull us off our path and purpose. This section offers tips and tools that may help you with your mindset to live your best life full of your purpose. This section highlights Meditation, Mindfulness, Yoga, and Coaching.
The Emotional Journey of Chronic Illness
First, there is a long road to diagnosis, especially for Sjogren’s patients. Then there is the grief process of coming to grips with how the disease alters your life, goals, and dreams. Next is the impact on relationships with family and friends. Having an Autoimmune Disease does bring emotional challenges along for the ride! However, change is inevitable in life, and finding the support you need to manage your emotional journey is so important!
I have found that meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and coaching are all wonderful tools to help manage the emotions that come with autoimmune disease. These tools can help us move beyond our anxiety and fears. These tools can help us learn to respond instead of reacting to stressors (which can help prevent flares).
Patients Report that Sjogren's Adds Emotional Burden to their life
Meditation has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression. It has also been proven to help people with chronic illnesses feel better! There are different kinds of meditation and I encourage you to find what works for you. Whether sitting quietly in meditation or listening to guided meditations, the benefit comes with long-term committed practice. Don’t worry about “things popping into your mind”! This is a practice so do keep practicing! Instead of exercising your muscles at the gym, this is a practice of calming your mind in a quiet space. Learn more ideas in this article about building resilience with meditation here.
Mindfulness is the discipline of living in the present and being very aware of your surroundings, of others, and of yourself. When living with chronic illness, it is very common to have anxiety and feel somewhat threatened. After all, our health has been compromised and it often causes changes in our income and certainly increases costs. This anxiety has us projecting into the future and in some cases creating stories that make that future look bleak. Mindfulness keeps us present and engaged with the world around us. We can notice and appreciate the beauty in nature, we can fully listen to friends and family, we fully experience each sense, and we can calm our system and help prevent flares.
I have practiced Yoga on and off for 30 years. When I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s I was only attending very gentle yoga classes due to fatigue. These classes helped me a lot! As I became more familiar with living daily with Sjogren’s I began to increase my yoga practice to challenge my muscles. My diagnosis took so long and I became so exhausted that I had gotten out of shape; yoga was a wonderful way to begin building again. As I built my practice, I got stronger, more flexible and I noticed that my inflammation was decreasing. My flares would arise with major stress events or heat/sun exposure and when I went to a calming Yoga class, I felt so much better. After a few years, I was so impressed with the positive impact on managing Sjogren’s that I became a Certified Yoga Instructor. This is also where my meditation and mindfulness really took off!
There are many Yoga programs online and I happen to like Yoga International. There are many teachers and some of the country’s leading teachers on this site. I recommend Hatha Yoga level 1 to begin your Yoga journey. For pure restful yoga, select a class called Yoga Nidra which is a “sleeping yoga” that is extremely calming to your body and mind. When you are seeking more of a workout, you can go up levels in your Hatha yoga or try Vinyasa (which is all about the flow of the poses together with your breath). For autoimmune patients and especially Sjogren’s patients, I do not recommend Bikram or Hot yoga
I am a huge fan of hiring a coach to help people move forward and achieve more of what they want in life. I spent a number of years trying to figure out what I wanted in my life since Sjogren’s changed my career plan so drastically. I thought, “I’m smart enough and persistent enough, I’ll figure this out”. But I had a hard time getting out of my own head and I unknowingly kept placing limitations on myself. A coach helped me get out of my head, set goals, and make those goals a reality. Coaching effectiveness has been backed by research and there are many schools and programs that offer training, research, and more. Take a look at the Institute of Coaching associated with Harvard Medical School I was so impressed by the discipline of coaching that I enrolled in the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching and became a certified leadership coach.
In the article 5 Ways a Coach Can Help Patients Live Their Best Lives, I highlight some information that may help you determine if a coach is a tool for you.
Therapy is another tool that can be important for patients, especially if you have unresolved history or traumas in the past, or you are challenged with depression due to your Autoimmune disease. Past traumas can compound the grief of having a chronic illness diagnosis and make it difficult to move forward. In this case, seeking help from a trauma therapist may be a wonderful tool to employ! After therapy, a coach can then help you move into the future that you envision!
I live in the Seattle area and frequently travel when able!
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do know that I cannot give any medical advice as I am not a medical professional, but a patient just like you.
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