10 Lifestyle changes that help me manage my Endometriosis

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Please note, I am not a healthcare professional. I'm just someone who lives with endometriosis, and the information I'm sharing here comes from my experience, from knowledge that has been shared with me by healthcare professionals, and also from studies, articles, films, and podcasts that I've come across. This shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before beginning new treatments or making lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle is important

"Historically medicine has really separated mind and body; you have your psychologists, your psychotherapists, then you go to your physician for your body. It is so important to bring those aspects together" (Endo What? film). Mind & body are one, and we need to address both to have a healthy life; we definitely need to address both to manage endometriosis symptoms.

Endometriosis can affect those with it in so many ways; in addition to the symptons, it can affect your family life, social life, work. I find it helpful to know that I can do more than just take pills and pain killers, makes me feel like I have some control. It's important to understand that there is nore cure for endometriosis and so far, I've not found something that has eliminated the pain completely.However, there are many things we can do to reduce the severity of endometriosis symptoms ~ I've tried a few things and actually find that I am now having pain free days!

I've found that in addition to the endometriosis diet, these lifestyle changes can really help too:

1) Self-love & Self-care

One of the most important things is self-love and self-care; you must take care of yourself. Prioritise comfort, make sure you rest, and do your best to reduce stress and relax as much as possible. This could even be just getting a hot water bottle or asking someone to help with daily tasks you may be struggling with; or letting yourself have a good Netflix binge; or cooking a lovely meal for yourself.

Prioritising my mental and physical health has been key to my wellbeing, and the best way to do that is through self-care ~ I try to always ask myself "is this good for my heart, mind, body, and soul?" It helps me make the best decision for myself. Pausing to question if things are good for me has really changed my life, it may sound easy and like a small thing to do, but it is no small task, and I wouldn't be able to do it without talking therapy and support from loved ones (I talk more about this later in this post).

Choosing self-love and self-care has resulted in me getting better sleep, taking the right medication, seeing the right professionals, eating healthy meals, avoiding harmful products and people, focusing on my health, asking for help and accepting it. And all of this has contributted towards the reduction of endo pain I experience.

2) Reducing stress levels

"The body produces stress hormones ~ cortisol. And when the cortisol rises, it also increases the cytokines ~ which is an inflammatory protein that causes inflammation. So, stress has a direct correlation to inflammation" (Endo What? film).

I have noticed that whenever I am stressed, my endo pain gets worse ~ not only that, but I get aches and pains all over my body too Stress affects my sleep, affects my self-care routine, and once that goes then all my health issues deteriorate. Not only that but I end up getting new health issues! By prioriting self-care and self-love, my stress levels have gradually decreased. And thanks to talking therapy, I can now manage stress in a more effective and healthier way.

Mindfulness & yoga can be helpful too, or even doing things like setting up a Trello account where you can schedule your days, and organise your diary and time better. I'm someone who likes to visualise things so I've found it helpful to be able to see my weekly schedule in front of me.

3) Sleep 

Sleep is extremely important, it is recommended that we get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every day. If you're not getting enough sleep, you won't feel well.

I try to get at least 8 hours every night ~ I aim to be in bed by 10-11pm as often as possible. And I've noticed that when I don't get enough sleep, I end up really tired and stressed which has a knock on effect on my general health, including my endo pain; it gets a lot worse when I'm tired and stressed. Feeling too tired and stressed also gets in the way of my self-care, so things start to spiral rapidly.

4) Exercise 

Exercise can help some people, and it can worsen symptoms for others. You must listen to your body and find out what works for you.

I used to think that exercise had to be strenuous and in a gym. But, luckily, I know better now; exercise doesn't have to be a struggle, it doesn't have to be complicated or boring or in a gym! Exercise is as simple as moving your body a little extra ~ it's that simple, I KNOW! It can be yoga, or gentle stretching, or walking. When I found that out, I let my body tell me what it wanted to do, and that is how I've quit the gym and fallen in love with walking. That's what works for me, but there is nothing wrong with the gym, if that is your thing then go for it!

Lately, I find myself walking for 2-3 hours most days. This works for me at the moment but once this is no longer convenient, I will adjust and not force myself to keep walking 2-3 hours most days. Walking has really helped me with my symptoms. I have noticed that the more often I walk, the less endometriosis pain I feel ~ but I still feel pain, and some days are worse than others, so listening to your body is key in deciding when and how to exercise. I listen to my body and rest when I feel the need to and walk when the pain allows it; if moving is too painful then I don't force my body to move.

I spent most of my life beating myself up for not being able to do difficult workouts, but now I understand that self-care is listening to your body and not punishing it. So, if you don't do well with more complicated workouts, just find a form of exercise that works for you.

5) Talking therapy

Anxiety and depression can be a huge part of life for those with endometriosis. I've struggled with my mental health for a while, and I do believe that my endometriosis contributted to my mental health deteriorating. Yes, there were many others contributers, but it's important to acknowledge that endo can play a big part in our mental health.

Having regular sessions with a good therapist has changed my life massively, in a really positive way. I actually believe that if it wasn't for my therapist and for all the work I've done thanks to therapy, then I wouldn't have received my endometriosis diagnosis when I did; I think it would've taken many more years for this to happen. And diagnostic delay results in delay in treatment.

Talking therapy has taught me how to prioritise self-care and self-love, and given me the strength I needed to fight for my health. I used to do my best to suppress and ignore my health issues or I simply let others make decisions for me, now I'm taking charge of my health, and I've seen a huge improvement in the severity of my symptoms.

6) Support  

What I mean by this is the support you have in your life such as family, friends, healthcare professionals, support worker(s), community & support groups.

It can be really tough for those with a chronic condition to find others who understand what we are going through, sometimes we just need someone to say "me too!". This is why I recommend finding a good support group. I've recently started going to Endometriosis UK's Support Groups; I go to the ones in London. You can find a list of support groups and their locations here. But there are other support groups out there.

I've learned so much from others sharing their stories and what they've learned. It's also been empowering to share my story. Plus, it's a great way to learn more about what other options and support is out there. Just be careful and make sure that you are attending a good support group where you feel safe and understood, and not somewhere that makes you feel worse or that gives you wrong information and unhealthy coping habits.

I've also found many others writing about their experiences with endometriosis on social media and blogs ~ I'll be sharing a list of blogs, pages, websites that I've find helpful later today. I actually found out about the Endometriosis UK support groups from an endo blogger.

7) Healthy hobbies

I used to have unhealthy hobbies and ways to pass time and "relax", like drinking lots of alcohol or binge eating lots of processed foods. These things all have a direct effect on endometriosis symptoms, as mentioned in 'the endometriosis diet' post. Since starting therapy and beginning my recovery journey, I have picked up some new healthy hobbies which have been so important in helping me manage my health, thus resulting in not so unbearable endometriosis symptoms.

Some of my new hobbies include the following: 

  • Journalling & Writing ~ this is so cathartic and has led to me now working on my memoir 
  • Photography ~ either using my phone or my camera; it's been wonderful to focus on the world I live in and has me really noticing the beauty around me 
  • Walking ~ as mentioned above, under 'exercise', I've noticed that walking helps reduce my endo pain, and it's contributted to the drastic improvement in my mental health 
  • Researching ~ by this I mean researching endometriosis, healthier ways to live and eat., and just doing my own research on things I am interested in. I've recently been doing some research (just for fun) on the current state of social justice in my birth country; Brazil, and so far it's been mind blowing
  • Cooking ~ one of the best hobbies I've ever taken up! I've learned so much about nutrition thanks to my new love for cooking, which has led to me following the endometriosis diet. Also, I see cooking as science now ~ so the kitchen is my tiny laboratory; where I mix foods & spices and end up with some amazing healthy homecooked meals. And it's really rewarding to also say "Hey! I did that!"

I'm hoping these can give you some ideas of healthy hobbies you can take up, or that it triggers your own ideas of healthy hobbies you'd like to try.

8) Mindfulness

When most people hear Mindfulness they think they have to sit in silence for hours with their eyes closed. I do try to sit and meditate regularly ~ from anything between 5-20 minutes every other day ~ but what I've found most helpful and effective is to actually be mindful by bringing my awareness to what I'm doing or experiencing. Some examples include the following:

  • Walking mindfully is a great way to practice Mindfulness ~ I love to close my eyes when walking (when possible! Please don't close your eyes and cross the street), whilst listening to sounds around me and feeling the wind on my face, and it's interesting to notice how with each step my body feels and moves differently 
  • Eating mindfully ~ I try to eat slowly and chew each mouthful 20-30 times ~ this aids digestion and helps me get better at listening to my body
  • Listening to the different sounds around me ~ I mean really listening; maybe even try to challenge yourself to find the lower hidden sounds. Right now I can hear kids talking outside my window, and the wind blowing the leaves on the tree outside my house, then I try to identity distant sounds...Ah, there's a car beeping on the busy road a few minutes away from me, and a train moving away from nearest train station 
  • Showering mindfully ~ I find it helpful to really feel the water; is it warm or too hot? Can I feel the drops landing on my body? 
  • Cooking mindfully ~ one of my personal favourites, along with walking 
  • Brushing my teeth mindfully
  • Doing any activity mindfully works! 

The opportunities to practice Mindfulness are endless. We can do this daily, and it can start with something simple like just breathing mindfully; listen to your breath and pay attention to how your body moves with each breath.

9) Keeping a diary

I often journal on a gorgeous glittery notebook ~ I love a good notebook, and it makes me happy that I get to journal on something so beautiful and special. So, I do recommend finding a notebook or journal that you love. I also use an app on my phone called Journey, this app allows me to write whenever wherever. I try to do this daily; noting my emotions, moods, endo symptoms, any events that may have come up during the day and how I feel about it. This has helped me to learn to better identify my emotions, as well as be more aware and in touch with what I'm feeling. Rather than have an automatic reaction, I now stop and think about what that emotion is trying to tell me and why I'm feeling it. It's helped me massively when it comes to managing my mental health, which has a direct impact on my stress levels which links to pain levels.

10) Reducing exposure to chemicals 

There are environmental toxins that are considered to act like oestrogen. This is known as hormone disruptors. Hormone disruptors are not our own hormones, they are chemicals in every day objects and foods that mimic our own hormones; they're synthetic hormones, which our bodies absorb daily. They can magnify, block or alter our own hormone function all together.

From the moment we wake up, we are exposed to these hormone disruptors. For example, our toothpaste has these chemicals in it, as does most soaps, deodorants, cosmetic products ~ I could go on and on. Non-organic foods have these chemicals in them too. But we can do our best to change what we are exposed to in our own home.

Ideally, we should reduce these chemicals in our lives. We can avoid these chemicals by eating organically as much as possible, and using products with less chemicals in them, such as natural products and non-toxic products, or you can make your own.

Helpful tip: It is a costly process to obtain organic certification, so some organic products have 'natural' or 'wild', rather than 'organic', on the label.

I'm trying to use "clean" products; products with less chemicals in them. It's quite daunting so I'm taking my time with this change; I'm starting with toothpaste, soap, hand cream, and food.

You can use the Environmental Working Group website to see how harmful your cosmetic product is. You need to click on the Skin Deep section, which has a cosmetic database where you can search a product and find out its rating between 1-10 with 1 being low hazard/less chemicals and 10 being high hazard/more chemicals.

1 comment:

  1. This really is a wonderful post. I've been so stressed lately and barely getting any sleep, then beating myself up for taking sick days at work because the pain is becoming too much. Reading this has reminded me that it's not a surprise I'm in pain with all the stress and lack of sleep.

    Thanks for all the helpful tips in here too. x


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