Last year around this time, I wrote about how to maintain good health during this season full of added demands. This year, I’d like to add to that the importance of overall wellness. Good health surely depends on keeping your medical appointments and taking medicine as prescribed. But it also means keeping your body and mind healthy overall. Living life with wellness in mind keeps you healthy and helps you cope with stress.
What is wellness?
Wellness can be defined in many ways. Wellness is an “…active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life,” according to a definition from University of California-Davis.
The World Health Organization also provides a good description of wellness as "...a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being …."
On November 16, 2013, we at the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation held an event focused on wellness, Balanced Living with Lupus: A Day of Wellness. For those who missed it, topics covered:
- Yoga Breathing
- Restorative Yoga
- Low-Impact Exercise for Arthritis
- Lupus Medication Review: Chat with Pharmacists
- Healthy and Delicious Smoothies: Demo & Tasting
- Eating a Healthy Diet
Exercise, stress management, and nutrition are three big pieces of the wellness picture.
Exercise is helpful for keeping your heart healthy. It can also help reduce pain and strengthen muscles. It can also be helpful in reducing stress and improving your mood. Gentle, restorative yoga, is often recommended for people with lupus. Be sure that your instructor is aware that you have lupus and can modify any of the movements for you. The same goes for any low-impact exercise. Low impact exercises can include low-impact aerobics and tai chi, and these can also be done in a swimming pool. Our Foundation has offered these both in and outside of a pool. Benefits of water-based exercise can include decreased pain.
Before starting any new physical activity, talk with your doctor. Also know your own limits. Don’t push yourself beyond them, especially if you have issues of mobility, flexibility, or pain. What do you feel you are capable of? What is comfortable for you? Do not do anything too demanding or extreme.
Yoga breathing is a type of yoga that takes little movement. It focuses on breathing and meditation. Here is a meditation video, done by Jenna Ritter who led the Yoga Breathing workshop at Balanced Living with Lupus: A Day of Wellness. This is a very simple video that you can follow along with at home.
Studies have shown that meditation can lessen stress and pain. And meditation is a tool you can take with you anywhere and use it almost any time
Laughing also helps to lessen stress and feel good. I am a firm believer in using humor as a first-line coping skill. This is why we invited Carla Ulbrich, the Singing Patient to be the humorous keynote speaker. Get a chuckle by listening to one of Carla’s songs at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yCfpDp1bIA
Good nutrition is another big wellness building block. What we put into our bodies impacts how we feel and how our bodies function. Often, with lupus, it is hard to feel well. So it’s better to put things into our bodies that will not make us feel worse and can help our bodies feel better. Research shows that eating well can help reduce inflammation, prevent nutrient deficiencies, help maintain strong bones and muscles, and more. Hospital for Special Surgery summarized a presentation about lupus and nutrition. Among many things, the article includes tips on how to add certain nutrients into your diet. If you need help figuring out what to eat, Dorian Romer, who led the workshop Unraveling the Mysteries of a Healthy Diet, has a list of healthy recipes on her website.
As you can see, wellness includes a wide variety of topics related to caring for both the mind and the body. The mind and body are connected. Some physical activities like low-impact exercise and yoga can help you feel good mentally as well as physically. If what you eat helps you feel good, then feeling good can help you feel happier.
If you are in the New York City metro area and would like to participate in future S.L.E. Lupus Foundation activities such as support groups, educational events, and wellness events, please call 212-685-4118. We have three offices – Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. Or you can contact a lupus organization nearest to you.
These are just some of the ways to promote wellness; getting enough sleep, paying attention to how you look, taking care of your skin, hair and nails are others. Not pushing yourself too hard also helps. Visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/lupusny to share ways you take care of yourself. We could all do with a healthy dose of wellness!