Monday, August 14, 2017

Blog Acknowledgment

I've been blogging a long time about my journey with rheumatoid arthritis. Sometimes though, it still surprises me that people read what I am writing. Thank you to all who do. You are appreciated.
Being included in the amazing group of advocates who participate in Joint Decisions has been a real thrill. Not only have the other bloggers been amazing, but the folks at Janssen have really listened to our voices and made us feel welcome.

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My fourth year of being included in this list. Thanks Healthline! It is a true honor.

Wow! This is great. How did I get so lucky?
 Check out the other 40 here.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Transitioning from Natural Remedies to Medications for RA

Trying to control my rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with diet alone taught me valuable things about RA, and about myself. While I share the diagnosis of RA with many, my journey with this disease is uniquely mine. My approach to RA may be considered by some to be irresponsible at times, but it has allowed me to follow my heart so that I could make decisions about medications and the way I live my life without regret. Join me over at HealthCentral to read the rest of this article.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How to Stop Yo-Yo Exercising with RA

In October 2017, I turn 50! My sister recently asked me what I want to accomplish before turning a half century old. “I want exercise to be a part of my life again. I want to feel strong,” I said. Until six years ago, regular workouts had always been a part of my life. I wanted them back. I was tired of yo-yo exercising — starting a workout plan, stopping, and starting again.

Sharing this goal out loud somehow made all the difference in the world to me. I was ready. To succeed, I had to take some realities into consideration, such as the fact that I would be 50 soon and that I have rheumatoid arthritis (RA). I stopped working out years ago when my body started responding negatively to exercise. I had to find a plan that would work for my current body.  To read more, check out my newest post at RAHealthCentral. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Happy 50th Birthday to Me...Almost!

In October, I turn half a century old! Despite society frowning on aging, I am EXCITED. Why?

  • I am proud of my life and all that it includes - my family, friends, home, job...everything!
  • Without time, I would never have had the opportunity to grow my relationship with my husband of 29 years who still makes my heart patter.
  • 50 years has given me a chance to experience love as a mother and to watch my children grow into the two most amazing people ever.
  • The older I get, the more I realize we are always growing and always changing. I love that.  
  • Although I never felt I was going to die from rheumatoid arthritis, I had mornings were I wondered if I would ever be able to move again and to live in a time of fabulous medications is a good time to be alive. 
  • I have 50 YEARS of MEMORIES that make me smile. 
I am not officially 50 until October, but for this special birthday, I get to celebrate twice. Last week, my extended family traveled here to help me celebrate. We kept busy with outings but also took time to sit back, drink wine, and enjoy each other.

My sister and bestie - she made this a very special weekend.

My Chicago Scavenger Hunt team. 

The gang - two brothers and their wives, a sister and her husband, two nephews
and two nieces, my two kiddos, my husband, my border collie, and me.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Newly Diagnosed With RA? Common Concerns and How They May Change

A diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can set off a wide range of concerns. While you may feel completely alone as you try new medications and learn all about your condition, it may be nice to know that those who have lived with an autoimmune diagnosis for some time also experienced similar fears at first. For the most part, they now see their disease in a new light. 

To read more, check out my article Newly Diagnosed With RA? Common Concerns and How They May Change over at RAHealthCentral and find out how community members view their diagnosis today. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Dog Helps You Live Better With Chronic Illness

For 10 years now I have shared my life with a border collie named Izzy. She was welcomed into our home at a time when my rheumatoid arthritis (RA) seemed under control. While Izzy is technically a family dog, she is really my dog. I am the one she follows around the house, or “talks” to at night when she wants out or is scared by a storm. It’s my side of the bed she sleeps on during the day. I believe Izzy came into our lives for many reasons, but most importantly, she came for me. She came to teach me how to live better with my chronic illness. 

To read the entire article, visit me at RAHealthCentral.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Life Keeps Moving Forward with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Way back in 2008 when I started this blog. I had no idea where I was going with it. All I knew was that I had a lot of emotions sitting in my heart and mind that needed to be released and writing helped me to make sense of all of them. I had been living with rheumatoid arthritis for four years and felt that medications had failed me. I was about to embark on a two year journey without medications to give alternative medicine a chance. In my quest to live a healthier life, I was also looking more within to find the one true Cateepoo. It is a journey I will never regret! In 2008, I was also a homeschooling momma to two and active in our groups as well as a part-time adult education instructor.  A lot was happening.

I have never loved the name of my blog, but the other day it occurred to me that it fits. My blog has been about my life and my adventures, good and bad. Those who have been with me from the beginning have watched my children and border collie grow up, witnessed my rheumatoid arthritis progression with and without medications, and shared in my journey as a woman trying to do her best for her family, students, community, and herself.

Somehow along this journey I became an advocate for rheumatoid arthritis, chronic illness, and self-care. I have denied it at times because it wasn't something I set out to do, it somehow just became a part of my journey. But it is a part of my journey I am extremely proud of. I have always tried to be true to myself and nothing more. Sticking to this goal, it feels good to know that I have made so many friends on this path and been able to connect with other people living with RA to acknowledge my own fears and accomplishments as well as their own.

Starting in July, I am taking my health advocacy to a new place. I am really excited! I will be joining the Health Central team as both an RA social ambassador and a health guide. The release of  my first article this month is really what caused me to reflect on the name of my blog because the title is Are My Symptoms RA or Menopause? How did I get from writing about how my rheumatoid arthritis affects living with young children to discussing RA and menopause?  The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo is the right name for my blog.

I will still be writing here on my personal blog but hope that you will also join me on the Facebook page of RAHealthCentral.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Save Self-care Coupons, Not Demerits

As adults, we have somehow convinced ourselves that self-care is indulgent and there isn't time for it. When we do occasionally carve out a small amount of time for ourselves we tend to feel guilty and almost instantly focus on what we have done wrong.
  • "I ate too much today."
  • "I didn't make it to the gym again today." (Even though our bodies told us "No". 

Why do we forget the kind things we do for ourselves but remember the negative things so well? Why isn't self-care looked upon as a strength that is admired and encouraged?

When I taught fifth grade, my discipline plan was based on a reward system. Whenever I caught a student doing something positive for themselves or their classmates they were rewarded with a coupon that could be saved and used at a class party for goodies. Positive coupons could NEVER EVER be taken away. I wanted my students to know that my focus was truly on what they did right. Good acts should always be remembered and cherished. They are the very things that made us stronger as individuals and a group. When discipline issues did come up, we took care of them outside the reward coupons. Many thought this system would not work because children need consequences not rewards for the good things they do. As a person who has always believed people innately want to do good, I didn't believe this and my students proved me right! Children (and adults) love when they get caught doing something good. My students worked hard to earn coupons and overall, I didn't have a lot of issues. Best of all, the more good they did, the more they tended to grow in that direction.

What if we started saving self-care coupons that reminded us of each time we did something good for ourselves rather than always giving ourselves demerits for what we have done wrong? Would we love ourselves more if we could focus on what we are doing right?

Self-care is a practice that takes time and patience. We are slowly growing and discovering that self-care is an energy source that helps us thrive. Like a flower that naturally leans toward the warmth of the sun, we find ourselves leaning more towards the joy we get from being good to ourselves rather than what we are doing wrong.

During May, I shared a variety of low-cost self-care tips that hopefully at a minimum reminded you to be good to yourself. As you go forward, keep finding ways to be good to yourself but also don't forget to check in with friends and family and find out how and if they are practicing self-care. We have to hold each other accountable to self-care.

I hope you have enjoyed these self-care reminders. I had so much fun writing each one. My daughter said, "It's therapeutic." She is so right. Sending good vibes out to the world is definitely one of the ways I like practicing self-care.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Yoga at Lunch with Stacey

It's Arthritis Awareness Month! This month I am challenging you to take a little time each day and practice better self-care. Each day in May, I plan to share one simple way you can show yourself some love and appreciation.

On May 1st, I posted  Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Holding Each Other Accountable. I asked how often you ask your friends and family, "What are you doing for self-care?" So, I had to ask those in my self-care community.

My self-care journey is one that I share with my sister Stacey. Together we share ideas and motivate each other. Since we live 700 miles apart, we spend a lot of time texting which is self-care for both of us. On this last day of May, there is no other person I would rather leave you with. 

Yoga at Lunch
One of the many things I love about my sister is that she is always trying to improve herself and others. As a middle school social worker, that makes sense. 

This school year she set the intention of using her lunch break as time to focus on her own self-care by doing yoga in her office. Allowing herself this time has been a great way to re-energize so she can continue helping as many kids as possible. 

Extra Surprise!
Stacey is not a blogger so unfortunately you can't find more of her work . She is a full-time social worker, mother, wife, sister, and awesome person.  As a social worker, she helps the young teens she works with to practice self-care. And, since this is our last self-care day in this series, she is sharing her list of self-care practices she uses with her students. Take what works for you. I especially like "Buffet Thoughts"!!!

Got Self Care?  Then you have Coping Skills
Meditation – There are many benefits to meditation.  Check out watchwellcastmeditation on YouTube or a free app called Headspace to find out how to meditate. 
Warm bath or hot shower – warm water can boost your mood.  It triggers responses in your body and mind similar to those triggered by emotional warmth.  Think of your next shower like a  “Liquid Hug”.
Dark Chocolate – Certain chemicals in dark chocolate help relax the blood vessels, which reduce blood pressure.
Repetitive Tasks – Studies show that completing a simple repetitive task allows your brain to pare down and focus.
Five Count Breath – This is a coping skill you can use anywhere.  You simply need to breathe in through your nose for 5, hold for 2 and let the air out of 7.  While taking these 5 breaths you are counting with your fingers and by the fifth breath you should be giving yourself a thumbs up sign.  Thinking about your breath gives your brain a break, allows you to get oxygen to all your muscles and slows down your breathing.
Yoga/Stretching – Muscles get tense under stress and doing Yoga or stretching can loosen them up.  Yoga has been proven to help you feel more mentally alert, happier and healthier.  If done regularly, it can help with lowing stress, lowering blood pressure and help with sleep.  
Talk or Journal – Many people are able to process these ways and hopefully replace negative automatic thoughts or at the very least, get it “off their chest”.
Help Others – Research shows that helping others has a significant positive effect on our happiness.  Some research indicates that it can help us live longer, lowers blood pressure, helps improve grades and self-image and gives us a sense of purpose and satisfaction. 
Regular Contact with Nature/”Forest Bathing” – Just quiet contemplation near trees. Scientifically proven to improve your health. Trees give off an oil that helps our immune system.  Studies found that forests lower our heart and blood pressure and reduce stress hormones.  It can reduce depression while boosting energy.
Sense of Smell – The aromas of spearmint and lavender have proven destressing effects.
Pleasant Imagery – Imagine a peaceful scene that has a calming effect (e.g., you are lying on the beach.  The sun is warm, and there is a slight breeze).  Type in Guided Imagery on Youtube for help.
Gratitude Walk - Take a walk (1, 5, 10 min.) and think of all the things you are grateful for.  No gratitude is too small.
Buffet Thoughts - Imagine your worries on a buffet line and decide which ones and how much you are going to put on your plate.  Ask yourself if you have too much and if there are any thoughts you can leave behind.
Smile – The act of smiling for 20 seconds can trigger positive emotions.  Smiling stimulates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress and unleashes a feel-good cocktail of the neurotransmitters.  Smiling is contagious, stimulating unconscious smiling in others.
Progressive Relaxation – Starting with your toes, flex your muscles as tight as you can for 5 to 7 seconds, relax them and do continue up your body, flexing each major muscle up to the top of your head. 
Listen to Music – Happy music that is in rhythm to your heart beat can help us relax.  Songs that promote relaxation, good thoughts or confidence are encouraged.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Playing Hooky with Lene

It's Arthritis Awareness Month! This month I am challenging you to take a little time each day and practice better self-care. Each day in May, I plan to share one simple way you can show yourself some love and appreciation.

On May 1st, I posted  Self-Care with a Chronic Illness: Holding Each Other Accountable. I asked how often you ask your friends and family, "What are you doing for self-care?" So, I had to ask those in my self-care community.

I have a very special self-care tip today shared by my good friend Lene of The Seated View. Because of our busy schedules, she and I schedule regular phone calls to catch-up. I always love when I suggest a day and she comes back with, "No, I am playing hooky that day." What a great thing to do for yourself.

Playing Hooky. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a nice pile of things to do when my body, mind, and soul need a bit of extra TLC. Heading out with my camera is the quickest de-stresser I know, sitting quietly with a purring Lucy on my lap is pretty blissful, and reading a good book is one of my favourite ways to spend time.

But my super-special way to take care of all of me is to play hooky. To take a day out of my work week and do something frivolous and fun. The grown-up way, of course, which means informing the people I work for that I won’t be in and making sure that everything I need to do is done (or can wait). But once that’s said and done, off I go on a long walk in nature, visiting a museum or the aquarium, or spending time with a friend.

This is not a vacation day, it’s not even the mental health day. Seeing it as playing hooky gives it an extra sense of delicious irresponsibility. And it turns out that that is incredibly healing.

*Be sure to also check out Lene at Health Central and watch her beautiful story in Live Bold Live Now.