Do you ever feel overwhelmed about your illness? Fibromyalgia isn’t a fatal disease, but there’s no cure. That means that every day, we have to think about it. We have to “count our spoons,” manage our energy, monitor our pain levels, and so on.
Why not take a minimalist approach?
I met Andrea when my book was being published. She was starting to write her book, Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis, the same time I was finishing mine. I liked her immediately. For one thing, she’s funny, insightful, and has a warm and caring heart for helping others. (Wait! That’s three things!) In addition, Andrea has the same attitude towards her illness and health as I do.
I am so excited to share this blog post with you. Andrea has MS, but every word she writes here applies to living with fibromyalgia, or any other chronic illness. Like Andrea, I always expected that my fibromyalgia would get better. I never realized how much of a difference that probably made for me until I read this.
The Minimalist Guide to Better Health
Guest post by: Andrea Wildenthal Hanson
MS Life Coach
As someone living with a chronic illness, I like to keep things simple. I believe that being proactive in our health and happiness doesn’t have to be complex. But I haven’t always had that belief.
I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000 when I was 22. At the time, I was in the middle of graduate school, grieving the death of a loved one and trying to plan the rest of my life. I was pushing myself—hard.
Over time, I realized that pushing myself to the limit wasn’t only bad for my MS—it was bad for me as a human.
Now, my goals of staying healthy, living well, running my business and having a happy family—all while smiling—can still feel like a juggling act. Throw in MS and it’s a juggling act on a highwire. But I’ve found that using this one easy technique gives my health a boost and allows me to juggle life like a pro.
The day I was diagnosed, I decided that MS was not going to take over my life. I expected to live well even though I had a chronic illness. It may sound audacious to some. But I took full advantage of being young, rebellious and somewhat naive about MS. That expectation of health became my secret power tool for living well with MS.
Our expectations control way more than we may realize. You’ve heard of the placebo effect. It occurs when a person takes a sugar pill, believing that it’s medication, and their symptoms diminish. The efficacy rate of a placebo can be as high as 50 percent.
The same is true in reverse. Someone can take a powerful drug and believe it’s a fake—and even though they have real medicine in their system, they don’t get the full effect of the drug. Either way, a person’s belief affects their symptoms.
We create our own personal placebo effect when we believe in the effectiveness of the therapies we choose. What you expect to happen influences what actually happens.
Why not expect health?
You may think, “wait a minute—I have a chronic illness. How can I expect health?” But living with a diagnosis doesn’t mean we can’t expect health. Nor does a relapse or a problem with our health mean we’ve failed our expectations.
Health can mean whatever you choose. Health to you may mean feeling less pain, or finding a medication that works. For a client of mine, it means expecting to get on her bike every day. For me, it means I expect to feel great and to continue to live in remission for the rest of my life.
Bumps in the road happen. But when you expect something great, that’s all they become—bumps in the road that you can move over quickly.
When I was first diagnosed, I expected my neurologist to figure out a treatment that worked for me. And he did. I had a role in finding that treatment as well. If I had expected everything he did to fail, my approach to his suggestions would have been very different. I would have looked for—and found—a treatment that failed instead of one that worked.
Researchers have discovered that once we have the belief that something will work, we subtly change our approach. We begin to put more focus, time and curiosity into getting a positive result. One little expectation can change how we approach everything.
Take the first step.
Start by noticing what your expectations are now. What do you expect to happen with your health over time? Do you like that answer? If your answer is, “I have no expectations,” then ask yourself why you’re not expecting something good.
We all have expectations, whether we know it or not. And they’re working either for us or against us right now.
Jumping into expecting your health to be fabulous may be too much at first. It’s important that you truly believe your expectation. Think about what you’re doing now that you can expect to positively impact your wellness.
Find something that’s easy for you to believe. Then practice. For example every time I work out, I believe it’s the best thing I can do for my mind and body. I think about how it heals me on a cellular level, protects me, and gives me strength for the future. I do the same when I take my medication, drink my green smoothies, and work with various healers.
Just thinking this way makes me feel powerful and vibrant. That’s definitely how I want to feel when it comes to my health.
Expecting health doesn’t cost a dime. It doesn’t take much time or even effort. It depends on nothing other than our own choice to believe that what we’re doing will work. But positive expectations are powerful, proven and can help you feel good while you’re practicing. It’s the perfect, simple tool that can pack a big punch. Try it for a week and see how effective it can be for you.
Andrea Wildenthal Hanson is a master certified MS Life Coach and author of the best-selling book Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis: How to Manage Stress and Live Well with Multiple Sclerosis. Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000, Andrea has learned that the key to managing your health is not being an expert in MS—it’s being an expert in you. Andrea takes her experience from five years of life coaching and combines it with her knowledge from 15-plus years of living with MS to help people live their life, not their diagnosis. Get your free video series 7 Things Your Doctors Don’t Tell You About MS by visiting AndreaHansonCoaching.com/Seven.
Note from Tami:
If you’re reading this, you probably have fibromyalgia. But if you have MS in addition to fibro, I highly recommend scheduling a complimentary discovery session with Andrea. She is a fabulous coach and an MS veteran. She can help you sift through all of the noise and make sense of it all. Andrea says, “There’s a difference between letting MS run your life and running your life that happens to include MS.” If you want to know more, schedule a session with Andrea.