Where balance and clarity are important touchstones for our process, it can be important to carve a path through it all to feel like you’ve got a sense of control in an area of your life where you may not feel “at choice.” So, how do we do that when we have an increasing breadth and depth of insight for our autoimmune healing journey? I am a bit of a process-oriented person myself, and I use the following techniques to try to “get my arms around it”:
1. Choose an area to tackle.
AI is a multi-factorial disease, for sure, and we’re more effective when we address multiple factors accordingly, to get a greater handle on inflammation and quality of life. But, when everything is new, is it reasonable to try to become an overnight expert in all areas at once? Choose one area to tackle first. Diet – the most influential – is, unfortunately, also the biggest area to tackle. If you don’t know yet what diet you’re going to pursue, or which works for you, or how you’re going to integrate this into your life, does it make sense to break down that area (or another) into smaller actions? Is there one step you can take that can help, like eliminating one of the big inflammatory foods (like gluten) while you learn about the bigger subject area? Once that one step is assimilated into your way of shopping and eating, can you then make another?
2. Break it down into manageable steps.
Once you’ve determined what area you’ll focus upon, break it down into a single, actionable step. For example, if you want to tackle the area of diet, but that seems like too big of a topic, focus first on eliminating one of the big inflammatory foods (like gluten). Once that one step is assimilated into your way of shopping and eating, you can then make another step, like increasing your nutrient intake through a step-up in the diversity and volume of vegetables in your diet.
Once you’ve moved a “big rock,” like removing gluten from your diet, you can rotate in one of the other key areas of focus you’d like to prioritize. Say, stress management, for example. Like diet, this is another big topic that significantly contributes or takes away from autoimmune wellness. So, it’s good to focus on managing stress as part of our daily lives. But how? There’s too much information about that and, perhaps, not a real sense of control on how to actually do it. So, again, choose one actionable step and rotate that into your practice. For example, do one of Sarah’s meditations. Then let go of the rest of all of the noise about what else you “should” be doing. You’ll come back to this area in a future rotation, and so will deepen your practice then.
4. Limit the time.
If you’re researching on the internet and elsewhere, limit the time you’ll spend perusing materials. Is an hour of reading on-topic per day reasonable for you? What time of day is that? When trying to learn something new, choose a time when you have the resources to learn, and are not depleted by yet-another-taskmaster when you’re already exhausted. Or, if you feel nourished by the exploration, choose a “me time” slot in your day to settle in and get some restoration. I use the alarm on my phone to notify me when it’s time to break from what I’m doing to honor my chosen time, and then another one for when that time is up (on days when it’s limited). This helps me to feel that neither this, nor whatever else I’m doing, is eclipsing the other, which helps me to maintain a sense of balance while still gaining fresh insight.
5. Get your filter on.
If nothing else, a healing-based approach to autoimmunity is an individual process. There are certain common denominators across all autoimmune workings, for sure, but specifically how they present in you, and what works to support your individual health, is just that – individual. Trust yourself. Trust your filter. There can be misinformation in the mix, and no matter what, too much to take in any one day. So, take what passes the straight-face test for you, and leave the rest. Even water is harmful when trying to drink it from a firehose. It’s OK to syphon off just what you can handle.
6. Remember that you’ve got time.
Healing autoimmunity is a process, not an event. You’ve got time to read and watch, to try new things, and to soak on it a bit. There’s a lot of information to learn, and more insights are being gained every day. It’s OK. This approach is not going away, and there will be resources here to help you.
7. Return to your touchstones.
Periodically return to the priorities you first set, and evaluate your activities for whether you’re still being active toward them. If you keep an eye on where you’re going, you’re much more likely to get there.
8. Know that you’ll gain in time.
You’ll gain knowledge, working mechanisms, recipes, movement protocols, supportive practices — things that feel new and difficult today will become routine in days to come. Breathe. Sleep.
9. Consider individual support.
If you continue to feel overwhelmed, or your vision feels clouded, consider working personally with a qualified professional to help you carve a clearer path. You may need to clear out some emotion, or get some help prioritizing what to tackle next. A certified health coach or licensed counselor who has specific experience with chronic illness can help. Family members and friends are often well-meaning, but are also close to you, and it may be hard for them to draw you in a new direction, or help you reset your comfort zone to get optimal results. It’s OK. Living well with autoimmunity is a new way of life, and there’s a lot of information to absorb. It’ll all part of the process.
A portion of this article first appeared in AutoimmuneTribe.com.