Resources

The Power of Self Care During a Flare Up

Living with endometriosis: simple ways to give your body what it needs, when it needs it.

Person with lots of thoughts between fire and clouds

Warning: Source links contain gendered language.

Anyone dealing with endometriosis or another chronic condition knows how easily additional stress can trigger a flare-up. Financial stress, being unable to work, caring for family members, and managing our health when the medical system is being stretched to its limits all take a serious toll on our physical and mental health.

When we’re under chronic stress — like the stress that comes from living with endo — our brains react more sensitively to pain. These wonderfully complicated organs are hardwired to recognize threats and react quickly to keep us safe and alive. When a threat to our species exists — like, say, a global virus pandemic – our brain shifts into fight or flight mode and is on tense alert for a threat to our health. Unfortunately for people with endo and chronic pain, this means heightened pain signals and an increased likelihood of experiencing a flare.

So, we can’t magically make coronavirus go away and have everything return to normal; how are we supposed to avoid flare-ups when it seems like the whole world is flaring up together?

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Meditate

Let’s be honest, we’re all sick of hearing that one person ask if we’ve tried yoga or meditation to help with endometriosis, even if we know the incredible benefits of meditation on depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.

But it works.

The thing about anxiety is that it lives in the future, the land of ‘what ifs.’ And when the world has essentially come to a halt, that leaves a whole lot of room for what ifs to grow. And when they weave with the existing what ifs of life with endo, that can quickly become overwhelming. 

The thing about meditation, is that it teaches us to be in the present moment. It doesn’t have to look like a pretzel-legged yogi with a stick-straight back chanting with their eyes closed – if it does, great! Sometimes meditating just means bringing awareness to the breath, or how you’re feeling in the present moment. It doesn’t mean stopping all thoughts, rather noticing them float by, like clouds on a gentle breeze. Maybe it means putting aside the phone when you have morning tea or coffee and just enjoying the inner warmth, or taking a few deep breaths in the shower while you wash your hair. Meditation looks different for everyone!

Flurry blanket with a pen and notebook with

Practice gratitude

A small moment of awareness and meditation can even turn into something we appreciate and look forward to. We’ve all heard the science the past several years about how practicing gratitude actually rewires our brain. Gratitude is about appreciating the positive aspects of your situation, even the very small ones, rather than comparing yourself to others.

Even in the midst of public health and economic chaos, it can help to write down as little as one thing you’re grateful for (but shoot for at least three) to ground you and give you something to hold on to. Did you feel the sun on your face today? See a pandemic meme that nearly made you pee your pants? Make it through a panic attack? Spend the entire day in your underwear? It all counts!

Tonight, instead of scrolling through your Facebook feed for more shares of the same news, take three minutes to scribble down something you’re grateful for. Or just think it. Hold it for a moment and then notice how you feel afterward. Try it at least once every day.

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Phone a friend

These days, chances are if you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or scared, someone you know is feeling that too. Most of our lives as we know it have moved online and it can be overwhelming to know where to start or how to transition. For many of us with endo, the transition to isolation mode hasn’t been *that* shocking, but the impact of losing access to health-care services is tremendous.

If you have a trusted friend or family member that you usually turn to in times of stress, give them a call – remember phone calls?? Chances are pretty high that they’ll be glad to hear from you and find common ground, and maybe even have a good laugh or cry.

Already exhausted your vent quota of nearest and dearest for the month? Make a new virtual friend! There are some wonderful online support groups (like ours) on Facebook, communities on Instagram, and other online platforms.

Sign that says joy

Choose joy over fear

Yes, it’s a lot easier said than done these days while communities mourn, conspiracy theories abound, and medical appointments fade away. It’s definitely important to stay up-to-date on the latest information as it relates to us, but getting stuck in an infinite scroll of bad news is enough to make anyone afraid. 

Spending even more time than usual on your phone (like most of us)? With so much content bombarding us from every angle, it’s more important than ever to choose what we consume. 

Pretty much anything essential you need to know about COVID-related news can be found on Health Canada’s website as well as local public health and government websites. There may be an awful lot of fear, misinformation and anger, but there is also a lot of support and messages of hope and belonging.

Notice what happens to your mood when you start to shift the focus to funny animal memes, stories of human kindness and quirky illustrations – or whatever else floats your boat. If you haven’t been watching John Krasinski’s Some Good News videos, that’s a fantastic place to start (we’re not crying you’re crying).

Naked women facing away hugging herself

Give yourself a “big feelings break”

Sometimes a flare-up is just inevitable, and prevention can be almost as stress-inducing as the flare itself, so don’t work yourself up further by worrying about meditating or choosing joy or things you’re grateful for. It defeats the purpose. Right now there are a LOT of Big Feelings floating around the collective consciousness and it’s hard to know what to do with them. May we suggest:

Feel them.

Ignoring, escaping or denying how we feel often leads to more stress, and that’s exactly what will make a flare-up worse. It’s scary to feel your feelings, especially if they’re negative, and living with endo brings a lot of negative thoughts and feelings without the added pressure of social isolation. Guess what? That’s okay.

Take the time to feel whatever it is you’re feeling – anger, frustration, sadness, fear, pain, joy – take a cue from our pals at Sesame Street, and give them all a big hug. They deserve it.

Notice: The content of this post does not provide or replace medical advice. It is important to follow up with your doctor with any healthcare concerns you may have and to work with medical professionals to develop treatment plans that are right for you.