You’ve probably heard the saying, “health is wealth.” This is actually one of my favorite sayings, because I learned firsthand just how powerful those three words are when I realized that my quality of life was suffering as a result of my asthma. I realized I had to commit to a more holistic plan — one that addressed my mind and my body — to help get my asthma under control and live the lifestyle I wanted.
I’ve learned a few important things over the years that have helped me take better care of myself, because of asthma. Here are a few things I’ve found incredibly useful on my health journey.
Being attuned to your body’s needs is more than just managing asthma symptoms. I think chronic illness encourages reflection — you think about a time before those symptoms began and what your life is like now. Maybe you’ve asked yourself questions like, Why me? What could I have done differently? How do I manage this part of my life? I know I have asked these questions of myself. The practice of reflection has been a great healing process for me, through which I remind myself of what worked and what didn’t.
In my reflections though, I’ve realized that the most important question is, How do I learn from my experience? For example, what happened when I had an asthma attack and couldn’t find my inhaler? How did that exacerbate my symptoms or affect my mental state? Acknowledging what I could have done differently and making a plan for the future shows personal accountability. It helps me better align myself with my goals, health-related or otherwise.
Sometimes you have to face things you don’t want to — that’s when you really get to know yourself. You may want to start small, perhaps with journaling. Writing things out can help give you clarity and make things more “real.” You might also consider talking to your doctor or another healthcare professional. Whatever method you choose, remove any distractions and focus on where you are — physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper.
Movement looks different for everyone, whether you’re doing squats in your living room, walking through your neighborhood, or running a marathon. Even with asthma, physical activity is beneficial and encouraged for most people! Talk with your doctor to figure out what works for you and how you can safely incorporate more exercise into your routine. Sticking to an engaging fitness routine has always been therapeutic for me and setting fitness goals helps me become stronger and gain more perspective about my mind and body.
Depending on the activity, exercise can also be another outlet for reflection. I’m able to release stress or anxiety and find positive and constructive ways to channel my emotions. There are a ton of different types of workouts — from yoga to boxing and much more in between. It might take some time to get used to, but you and your doctor can find something that makes sense for you.
When I say “diet,” I’m not talking about the latest fads or trends — I’m using this term to describe the types of food I like to eat that make me feel my best and that nourish my body. For me, that means a lot of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. A burger and fries or even pizza is great sometimes, but not consistently. I like to feel strong, capable, and light on my feet. Eating the right kinds of foods helps me accomplish these goals.
If you feel like your current eating habits are getting in the way of achieving your overall health goals, you may want to try switching things up a bit. For me, eating right helps keep my mind at ease. It makes me feel more in control, and like I’m doing something good for my body.
It may sound cliché but trust me — being patient with yourself and your process is tough. It seems like the more you want to be patient, the more you’re tested. Taking good care of your mind and body and finding ways to get your asthma symptoms under control can be a long, constantly changing process. But in chaos, there is opportunity. Patience is an essential quality on your journey to good health.
Understanding your asthma symptoms, triggers, and treatment plan and how they affect your overall health is one part of your story. To me, good health starts with the mind and echoes through the body. What you feed your mind becomes the tools you use to take care of yourself. Choose them wisely, whether it’s the activities you do, the materials you read, or the company you keep.
For more information on how to manage asthma, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
RESP-US-NP-00105 MAY 2019