RESOURCES: 10 bras to try if you have a chronic illness
Image courtesy of Creative Commons, used with permission from Kathy Chareun
How many days do you wake up like this? Spend the day like this? Go to bed like this? And ladies – does it help to have to wear a bra every day? Not in my book, but it is a societal norm, so I try to conform, when I have to.
Luckily, the wonderful folks over at The Mighty asked chronic illness warriors for some bra brands they recommend. Hopefully keeping this post in mind when you go bra shopping (I recommend tequila first), will help you wade through the morass of choice.
- True & Co, True Body Collection, ~$45 – a user said, “True Body is the only bra I can wear anymore. I don’t know how much money I wasted buying hoards of bras until I found something that didn’t hurt.”
- Glamorise, sports bra, ~$50, a user said, “Anytime I try to wear a different bra within a couple of hours the pain becomes unbearable.”
- Aerie, unwired bralette, ~$35, a user said, “Aerie has some amazing [bralettes] that are priced fair and are a quality product from my experience.”
- Reebok, sports bra, ~$40, a user said, “…it’s not constricting, and it’s a very soft material…”
- La Senza, lightly lined full coverage bra, ~$25, a user said, “La Senza is the only brand I can wear. It’s not too thin that it cuts and the bras with and without underwire seem to not hurt me until the end of the day. Plus they still give me that yummy cleavage!”
- Rosie for Autograph, padded plunge bra, ~$45 (may only be available in the UK), a user said, “So, so comfy and pretty, too.”
- Miss Mary of Sweden, soft cup bra with front closure, ~$50, a user said, “When my arms are tired or painful I can’t handle a back fastening bra, even fastening it at the front and twisting it around isn’t an option.”
- Champion, Spot Comfort sports bra, ~$30, a user said, “No underwire. Adjustable straps. Soft and comfortable.”
- Genie, Genie Bra, ~$20, a user said, “Inexpensive and extremely comfortable.”
- Pact Organic Camisole (at Target), super soft cotton women’s camisole with shelf bra, ~$17, a user said, “That’s what I wear under my shirts instead of bras. And sometimes even that’s too much pressure on my chest!”
So there you have it, from your fellow chronic illness warriors. I have to say, I’m liking the camisole idea and just about any sports bra or front closure. What’s your favorite bra? Tell me in the comments!
RESOURCES: Three myths about decluttering and organizing
Image courtesy of Creative Commons, used with permission from TrixSigio
Clutter – and aren’t the types increasing every day? – are one of the worst things for us chronic illness warriors. Yes, clutter and excess “stuff” is bad for everyone, but for those of us who battle fatigue and pain 24/7, it’s even worse. We don’t have the energy to keep up with basic tasks like the dishes or laundry. How can we be expected to keep all the crap that comes into our homes under control?
There are ways to keep control, though. Overcome the hurdles.
- Understand there’s no need to have hours and hours to declutter. The key is to start. Start somewhere. Start anywhere. Then plug away.
- You can buy cute matching containers or devise a complicated color-coded system, but it’s not necessary. Ordinary, common items like banker’s boxes (or ones from Amazon – we all have those lying around!), are perfectly useful for getting your life in order.
- Know that decluttering and organizing never stops, because the things coming into your house never end. Understand that even after you’ve separated important papers from recyclables, more important papers will appear and way more recyclables will turn up like clubbers at a free rave.
Now, this sounds extremely simplified. It’s not. And yet it is. If you keep these three things in mind, and base your efforts on them, hopefully you can dig out from underneath the mountains of stuff threatening to overwhelm us every day.
RESOURCES: Being an informed patient – is it a good or bad thing?
Image courtesy of Creative Commons, used with permission from Azeez Akanbi Dende-Raji
When battling a chronic illness, it can feel like you’re fighting everything around you, including your medical practitioners. They say one thing, you think another, and it can be an incredibly frustrating experience.
On the pro side, the more you know about your illness, the more productive your myriad doctor’s appointments should be. Hopefully you have doctors who appreciate that you’ve taken the time to learn about your condition. If they don’t, or act as if their word is law, find another doctors when possible.
On the con side, knowing about your condition inevitably leads to self-diagnosis. It’s almost impossible not to, but try to resist. Go to your doctor, get suggested tests (whether you suggest them or they do), and move forward from there. Be especially wary of the possibility your research will tell you that you suffer from 100 different possible diseases/conditions. We’ve all been there, right? OH NO I HAVE CANCER!!!! WebMD says so! Yeah, don’t give in to the temptation and worry that will follow.
On the pro side, being an informed patient will hopefully make you more open-minded about treatment options. We’ve all seen those commercials for medications, where at the end some person who can speak way too fast mentions a litany of side effects you may get if you take the medication.
“Possible side effects include nausea, dizziness, trouble swallowing, joint pain, locusts falling from the sky, and being eaten by a wooly mammoth.”
Who’d want to take that medication?
But it might be the best thing for you, and it seems the FDA requires these drug companies to divulge all possible side effects. In my opinion – and my opinion only – hearing about the most common side effects is a good thing. But those listed under “Extremely Rare Side Effects” on the information your pharmacy gives you are probably not applicable unless you’re predisposed to having side effects to every medication you take. In that case, please understand all possibilities before starting a medication.
Don’t be afraid to print articles you’ve read to bring with you to appointments, or to challenge your doctor about how they arrived at your diagnosis and why they ruled out other possibilities. Again, if your doctor can’t handle this, get another doctor.
How do you handle your doctor-patient relationships? Tell me in the comments!
RESOURCES: 5 ways to make homemade ice packs
Photo courtesy of The Make Your Own Zone
I’ve got five easy ways that you can make a homemade ice pack and they’re all easy to do with using common household items that can be put in ziploc bags and then popped in the freezer. If you want a little extra security against leakage, you can also double bag your ice packs by putting the ziploc bag inside a second ziploc bag, with the zippered side facing down toward the bottom. And one of the methods is even easier – just use a wet sponge!
1. Corn Syrup
Corn syrup (here’s a highly recommended brand) makes an excellent gel type of ice pack. It stays nice and squishy and flexible and doesn’t change texture or color in the freezer. It also contains nothing harmful if it would accidentally puncture or leak in a lunch, aside from things getting a little sticky. It can be made using any size ziploc bag. Simply pour some corn syrup into the bag, seal, and put in the freezer for several hours. This is my favorite method for making a homemade ice pack and I keep one in the freezer all the time. It’s especially good for injuries because it stays flexible and can be molded around ankles, knees, wrists or other sore areas.
2. Dish Soap
Dish soap (I recommend Dawn Blue since it can be used to make lots of other DIY things) makes a simple homemade ice pack and depending on how long you leave it in the freezer, it can be more gel like and flexible or firmer and icier. I prefer to take it back out of the freezer after just 2 hours because then it will still be flexible and squishy (much like the corn syrup). If you leave the dish soap ice pack in the freezer for longer than a couple hours, it will be much more icy and firm. So the time frame for this method is more important, depending on what type of ice pack you want. Either way, it’s a simple method that can be made in any size ziploc bag by just pouring in dish soap. No measuring is needed. I’ve tried this method with both Dawn dish soap and Ajax dish soap which both worked well, and I would think that other brands of dish soap should work for making an ice pack too.
3. Rubbing Alcohol
The addition of rubbing alcohol to water will keep it from freezing completely which makes it an easy way to create a homemade ice pack. To make this method in a quart size ziploc bag, combine 1½ cups of water with a ½ cup of rubbing alcohol. Seal and put in the freezer for several hours or overnight. I made this version in the smaller snack size ziploc bags and simply cut the recipe in half, combining ¾ cup water with ¼ cup of the rubbing alcohol.
For a really cheap and easy DIY ice pack, simply add some ordinary table salt to water. Salt is another ingredient that when added to water will keep it from freezing completely. Use a sandwich size or quart size ziploc bag and add 2 tablespoons of salt to 2 cups of water. Seal and put in the freezer for several hours or overnight.
Finally, you can create an ice pack by using a clean sponge, getting it wet with water and putting it in the freezer. This is a good method for an ice pack for lunches as it’s just water with no other possibly harmful substances. The sponge will be hard and firm with no flexibility when first taken out of the freezer. As it warms up it becomes moist and soft again, but not drippy. You can put it in a baggie if you want, but it isn’t absolutely necessary.
If you’re looking for homemade heating pads instead, try this post.
RESOURCES: Things to do when you’re feeling down
There are, of course, a kazillion things listed on this infographic. However, rather than going through all of them, I’m just going to highlight the groupings, since I think it’s easier and less overwhelming to pick the group you want to employ than to try to scan through all the individual ideas. Once you’ve narrowed the choices down to one, you can check out just that area.
Nurture Yourself: Self-nurturance is quite simple. It means seeking out pleasurable activities that are self-satisfying. Yet women in our society, even those battling chronic illness, feel quite guilty when they take time out of their schedule for personal development or satisfying activities. Things you can do to nurture yourself are to take a bath, color, or play with your pet.
Engage Your Brain: Engaged means fully occupied or having your full attention. An engaged reader really focuses on the words and maybe even jots down questions or comments in the pages’ margins. If you’re busy or involved with something, you’re engaged in it. Examples of this in regards to chronic illness include playing games on your phone, doing Sudoku or crosswords, and the like.
Move: Get to know your body well through trying different movement practices and honoring your unique circumstances. Everyone with chronic illness has different needs and energy levels, and you need to listen to your body. Examples of movement include gentle things like walking, tai-chi, and water aerobics.
Be Social: This has to do with being around other people, doing something that you find pleasurable. Unfortunately, for those of us with chronic conditions, social activities can be a huge energy drain, but doing things like meeting a friend for lunch, giving a donation of any kind to charity (doesn’t have to be monetary, charities need tons of different types of help), or inviting friends over for a gab session all apply.
Get Creative: If you do something creative you are basically doing anything original, making something new or imaginative. You can doodle or draw, go see a movie, make a craft, or cook a new recipe. Your options are nearly limitless.
Be Spiritual: Spirituality is different for everyone, but the basic premise is to affect the human spirit or soul as opposed to being consumed by material or physical things. Some examples of this (as you can see, they’re not all religious in nature), include meditation, listening to music, or getting together with others to celebrate your spirituality.
Now that you know some things you can do the next time you find yourself feeling low, keep this list handy. We can all think of these things without the list, but I find that when I don’t feel well it’s hard to divide out individual thoughts at all. My wish with this blog is to give other chronic illness warriors the tools they need to handle their conditions and live the best life they can, and I hope it does that.
Do you have specific things you do to pull yourself out of a funk? Tell me in the comments section!
RESOURCES: Let’s talk about magnesium
Any chronic illness warrior should be making sure they’re getting enough of vital nutrients to not only keep themselves healthy, but also to treat specific parts of their illness. Magnesium is probably one of those vitamins that you don’t think of very often. We hear so much about the B vitamins, vitamin D, etc that magnesium and other minerals get overlooked.
But magnesium is absolutely essential to achieve good health, and especially in those battling a chronic illness, it’s something you need to take seriously. Not only is magnesium a part of three HUNDRED different bodily functions, but it’s also something only 25% of Americans get enough of in our diets.
And magnesium can be leached from your body if you eat a lot of processed foods and sugary drinks. We all struggle with eating properly – I had a margherita pizza for lunch – but don’t make it worse by allowing yourself to give in to those cravings. Reach for a snack packed with magnesium instead. These include nuts (peanuts, almonds, and cashews have the highest amount), plus oatmeal and other foods. See the infographic above for more information about them.
RESOURCES: How to save on your grocery bill
Show of hands – who loves grocery shopping? Even perfectly healthy people hate it, so yeah, us chronic illness warriors are generally not fans of slogging through stores every couple of days. Now, if you’ve been following this blog, you know there are many ways to limit those trips (let’s hear it for Prime Pantry and Subscribe n Save!), or at least, to have a smaller amount to buy.
1. Make a List
2. Focus on Sale Items
3. Get a Rain Check
4. Research First, Then Plan Meals
Then, again, if you follow my blog you know about the wonder of make ahead/freezer meals. If not, check out this blog post and this one. I also have an entire Pinterest board devoted to make ahead/freezer meals: https://www.pinterest.com/booksbycasscarr/make-ahead-freezer-meals/
5. Don’t Shop Hungry
6. Sale = Stock Up
Find out what day your supermarket marks down their meat, since that will probably be one of your biggest expenses. Mine does on Thursday, so I try to go on Thursdays when I’m getting low on meat. Right now my freezer is stuffed with meat since there were so many great deals at Wegmans the last time I visited. Guess who’s making freezer meals tomorrow?
7. Purchase Store Brands
8. Plan on Leftovers
9. Look for Manager Specials
10. Don’t Forget Your Rewards Card
And a bonus…coupons and couponing apps! I’ll do a whole blog post about my favorites soon, but for now, here’s a list of the ones I use most often:
Kellogg’s Family Rewards
RESOURCES: 5 tips for cooking with a chronic illness
This post was taken from the wonderful Ava Meena. I couldn’t have said it better, so when I started doing research for this post and found her words, I decided to use them pretty much as she presented them. Check out her blog here.
One of the most difficult things about living with chronic pain and illness is that life must go on no matter how terrible you feel. We must eat, drink, and have shelter – these things are fundamental requirements for living. Yet, those of us that are chronically ill know that cooking with chronic pain can be extraordinarily difficult, especially if you also have dietary restrictions, suffer from appetite loss, or are trying to feed a family.
Tips for Cooking with Chronic Pain.
1 | Cook in batches.
So many recipes begin with the same instructions, such as “brown one pound of ground beef in a pan” or “boil and shred one pound of chicken breasts”. The repetition of prepping meat for each meal has always driven me a bit nuts, but it was suddenly a huge energy drain after I became chronically ill. Thanks to batch cooking, I have replaced that first instruction with simply thawing out my fully cooked meat the night before.
To batch cook ground beef I spread it evenly in a deep pan, cover it with aluminum foil, and cook in the oven at 375˚F for 30 minutes (ish). If you purchase high fat content meat you may want to use a rack inside the pan. I cook meat in the oven instead of a pan because I don’t have to physically manipulate it (which results in joint pain) throughout the process to make sure it cooks evenly.
Once the meat has cooled, I strain it and set up my food processor. I add approximately half a pound of meat to the food processor at a time and pulse it for just a few seconds. This saves my hands from the manually chopping up the meat, since I like my ground beef to be finely crumbled. I dump all of the meat into a large bowl, and then divide it into freezer bags with one pound in each bag. I freeze them lying flat so that later I can easily stack them into bins in my freezer. ETA: If I’m doing freezer cooking, I’ll make the beef and the chicken the day before, or ask my spouse to do it, and then just pull it out of the fridge to put together the meals.
I cook around four pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts at a time in my crockpot for either six hours on high or ten hours on low. Either way, I plan for the chicken to be finished cooking around 6pm so that I can finish prepping before I get too tired in the evening. Once it’s done and cooled, I add two pieces of chicken at a time to a large bowl and use my hand mixer to shred it. Not only does this technique shred two chicken breasts in about 15 seconds, but I no longer have to use my fingers to manually shred. From there, I either divide the chicken into bags for later or use them in freezer meals I make that night.
I primarily batch cook chicken and ground beef because that’s what we eat most often. However, there are plenty of other options out there such as batch cooking stew meat, pork, or pot roast. Simply choose a few things that you eat frequently and optimize your own batch cooking method.
2| Make double portions.
For a long time I was sure that frozen meals wouldn’t taste very good. I no longer had the luxury of feeling that way once I began cooking with chronic pain (fortunately, my freezer meals have tasted fine so far). Now I double meals whenever I can and freeze half for later. Prepping twice the ingredients doesn’t take much additional time or energy – just a bit of extra planning – in exchange for a huge reward. I’m always thankful later in the month when I don’t have to cook as often.
But don’t just stick to doubling the obvious things, like spaghetti – keep looking for ways to get more done with less physical effort. For example, I always create an extra batch of dry ingredients when I’m making banana bread waffles. There are seven dry ingredients in that recipe, so it really cuts down on the time I spend taking things out of my pantry, measuring them, and then cleaning up the mess next time I make the waffles.
3| Only invest in a few quality gadgets.
Most of the posts I’ve read about cooking with chronic pain are gadget-centric. In my opinion, having lots of kitchen gadgets doesn’t necessarily make cooking with chronic pain easier. It’s better to have less to store, less to clean, and less to worry about in general. Ninety nine percent of the time I only need my crockpot, hand mixer, and food processor to make cooking easier. This is partly because I can use my food processor for so many different things, such as:
- creating creamy sauces
- mincing leafy greens
- crumbling ground beef
- making frozen yogurt
- mashing food (such as carrots for my bird or bananas for my waffles)
- chopping vegetables (just be careful to pulse them or you’ll end up with mush)
I love my food processor because it saves me from having to use my hands to do things in the kitchen. Take a moment and think about what you really need for your own cooking style. If you do purchase a new gadget, then try to choose a high-quality, multifunctional item.
4| Be strategic.
It is essential to work strategically in the kitchen when you struggle with things like chronic pain, fatigue, and brain fog. Here are some of the ways I’m strategic in streamlining my cooking process.
USE THE SAME INGREDIENTS.
I learned this technique from my friend Emily over at The Unprepared Kitchen. She uses a recipe pairing concept where you cook several different meals using the same base ingredients. This saves time and energy throughout the entire cooking process – from the initial shopping trip to the last meal of the week.
Bonus: You can try out Emily’s meal plans for free at The Unprepared Kitchen.
USE ONE POT RECIPES.
One pot recipes are an ingenious way to use less dishes while still creating a delicious meal. Melissa from No. 2 Pencil has an entire section of her blog dedicated to one pot meals.
SAVE IT FOR LATER.
If I only need half an onion for a recipe, I’ll quickly run the other half through my food processor and freeze it in water to use later. I freeze leftover wine, chicken broth, bananas, coffee, spinach – really anything that can be safely frozen. Be sure to look up the best way to freeze each food item and label storage bags accurately. It also helps to keep a list of what you have in the freezer so you don’t have to go on a scavenger hunt when you need something.
I try to pay close attention to what I’m doing in the kitchen (and why) instead of cooking on autopilot. This way I can analyze my process and hopefully find ways to improve it. When I can, I cook in the morning when my mind is typically clearer and more alert.
5| Grocery shop like a pro.
The cooking process begins at the grocery store. One thing I’ve learned is that I need to grocery shop and cook on different days, because trying to do both in one day really wears me out.
Since going to the grocery store can be so difficult for me, I shop in bulk and keep extras of things I use regularly. I have a storage space in my pantry for extras and I add them to my grocery list once I’ve taken the extra out to use. This helps me because I can go shopping less frequently and not have to worry about running out of things I need.
I also recommend using delivery services if they are available to you. I’m a big fan of ordering Amazon Prime Pantry Boxes and my local grocery store (Harris Teeter) has grocery pickup and delivery services for reasonable prices. Anytime I don’t have to walk around the store or carry heavy bags home is a win for me.
ETA: I use Amazon’s Subscribe n Save service in addition to Prime Pantry. There are certain items I *know* we’ll need on a regular basis, on why on earth would I want to buy them over and over at the grocery store when Amazon will deliver them to my door on a schedule that I can choose? I HIGHLY recommend checking out this service. If you’re not a Prime member, here’s a coupon code for a FREE 30-day trial!
But what about those times when you can’t go grocery shopping at all? I often find myself sitting at home while my husband goes grocery shopping alone. If you have to send someone to the store for you, try to give very detailed instructions on what to purchase. Don’t just say “almond milk”, say “unsweetened original Silk almond milk in the large container”. This prevents accidental purchases, food waste, and multiple trips to the store.
Also, try using a list application such as Google Keep, which can be shared with the person who is shopping for you. I gradually add items to my grocery list throughout the week and, since I’ve added him as a contributor, Mr. Meena can access the list directly from his phone when he is at the store. I don’t have to worry about forgetting to tell him I need something in the moment thanks to brain fog.
Finally, be gentle with yourself. Don’t worry if your food doesn’t look pretty or if you haven’t tried a new recipe in a while. Just do the best you can and know that it’s okay to eat cereal for dinner when you need to. While these techniques help me to be more independent (and I know my husband appreciates it when I can successfully make dinner by myself), my health always comes first when it comes to cooking with chronic pain.
Do you have any tips for cooking with chronic pain? Tell me in the comments!
RESOURCES: Apps to help with managing chronic illness
We all need a little help managing our lives, and especially our chronic pain conditions. Sometimes it overwhelms me to think about my meds, exercise, eating right, and all the other “should do’s” associated with living with a chronic illness. Fortunately, I’m not the only one who feels this way, so a bunch people much smarter than I have made lots of chronic illness apps. I’ve highlighted several below.
Caveat: some of these apps are only available for iOS or Android, but not both.
My Pain Diary: I don’t use this app, but I know it’s very popular, so I’ll let a user who posted on The Mighty (a website you should definitely check out), talk about it. Other pain tracking apps include Catch My Pain, Manage My Pain, Chronic Pain Tracker, Fibromapp, Pain Tricks (helps if you’re scared about a medical procedure or even a blood draw), and WebMD Pain Coach.
You can log your pain score each day (you know that your doctors are going to ask) – but it does much more than that. In addition, it tracks the weather, so you can see if your pain scores change with the weather, and it allows you to track more than one condition at the same time.
You can then check off location, type, trigger, remedy for pain and even set more metrics that you may want to track. Each of those metrics is customizable, so you may have pain in your leg and want to differentiate between pain in your foot, calf, knee or thigh. You can put those into the location category. Maybe you
get different types of pain: burning, dull, and throbbing, you can enter all of those under the “type” entry.
There is a place for you to write notes and the ability to take a photo and add that to a daily entry. The best part, to me, is that you can send the info to your computer and either email it or print it out for your doctor.
Medisafe: This is one of many medication trackers. It lets you enter each medication you take and the frequency you take it each day. Then it will remind you to take it at the pre-set time. You can also use it to count the pills you have left in your bottle, which then helps you know when to order a refill.
Medisafe will give you information about each of your medications and interactions (of course you should get your primary info from your doctor or pharmacist, but it can provide a useful reminder). You can even get a compliance report, if you want to know how well you have been doing on sticking to your medication regimen.
These apps help with things you do at home to manage your condition, like yoga, music therapy, and more. Some apps not expanded upon here include HeadSpace, SmilingMind, YogAmazing, Accupressure: Heal Yourself, Simply Being, and TrackNShare.
eMTCP Music App: The American Chronic Pain Association reports on the eMTCP music pain app which was developed by researchers at the University of Malaga. Music therapy has long been shown to be an effective therapy for reducing chronic pain symptoms. This pain app allows you try this therapy directly from your phone, whether on your commute or while getting ready for bed.
MyFitnessPal: MyFitnessPal is one of the most popular and widely used of the diet apps that work, due in part to its features and ease of use. This app is used as a weight loss tool, tracking daily food consumption and exercise. With a database of over five million different foods, it is easy to track your daily calorie consumption over time. Exercises can also be tracked, either by selecting an exercise from a list or describing it. This app is free, available for both Android and iOS phones, and offers a supportive community online.
For other apps, try SimplyNoise.
SleepCycle: This app is available for both Android and Apple phones for 99 cents. SleepCycle tracks your sleeping patterns over several days and then uses that data when you set your alarm clock. Then it wakes you only during your lightest level of sleep. This prevents grogginess upon awakening.
FitBit: Fitbit tracks every part of your day—including activity, exercise, food, weight and sleep. I have a FitBit and I love it for tracking several of the things I’m supposed to be paying attention to. I especially like the sleep tracker, but let’s face it, the pedometer is a major motivator (though studies have shown some people are actually DE-motivated by it, so your mileage may vary). You can customize everything, look at results over time, etc. FitBit has a bunch of different products based on your wants and needs, though I will admit they are a little pricey.
What have I missed? Do you have a favorite app? Tell me in the comments section!