Become a Symptom Sleuth
In my post earlier this week, I talked about the importance of practicing something different when what we are practicing isn’t improving or stabilizing our health. When it comes to practicing something different, we need to become private investigators of our own symptomatology. This may include keeping meticulous notes about the effects of medical and alternative treatments on the symptom. It may mean continually and relentlessly changing how we treat the symptom until we find a solution through experimentation. In my own case, I have run a few studies with “an n of one” (a study with just one participant). For example, I have spent years trying new self-administered treatments for migraines, fatigue, cardiac dysrhythmias, severe malabsorption, a spondyloarthropathy, three autoimmune diseases, and other symptoms, continually changing whatever failed to work.
Although I’ve been a great symptom sleuth and continually experimented with different approaches, I haven’t cured myself of anything. However, I have stabilized certain conditions that otherwise would have severely limited my health and well-being.
As a result of this self-experimentation, here are a few things I’ve learned about altering my own practices. I begin my exercise routine every morning around six o’clock. What determines the type of exercise on any given morning are my symptoms. If I’m in an arthritis flare, I use the elliptical cross-trainer. If certain other symptoms are present, I wait and do my exercise later in the day. Another adjustment concerns the significant fatigue I live with. If I’ve already had an early afternoon nap and still can’t keep my eyes open, I go out back and do a little gardening, or if I’m not up to that, I use the elliptical cross-trainer for fifteen minutes. It’s important to keep trying something different until something works.
The same idea that works for physical states applies to psychological ones. Often, when I’m with people older than I am who are able to do all the things I haven’t been able to do in many years, I find myself engaging in self-pity. Physiologically, this is very unhealthy, so, I immediately call to mind people I know who are in wheelchairs and are even more limited. If that fails to get me out of my self-pity, I allow myself to fully experience the self-pity and come to realize that I can choose to take those thoughts more lightly. There are many techniques, but the most important thing is to recognize the opportunities we have to do something different from whatever it is that is not working, and to continually try new things.