I’ve read advice from plenty of people with chronic illnesses, and I’ve learned some helpful tips from them. However, there are a few things that I would like to share that have truly helped me over the past 6+ months. I am featuring items that aren’t typically brought up because they are not medical in nature. They’ve made my journey with chronic much better and I want to share them with you. Please not that I am an official endorser of any products and I am not being compensated for recommending them. I just like these items!
But first, let me share one of my victories this week. I was able to drive myself to the grocery store and go shopping by myself for the first time in over six months! This is huge for me. My driving has been fairly restricted due to motion sensitivity and other symptoms, but I’ve had a few good days lately when I was safe to drive. And I made it through Aldi (a fairly small store) by leaning on the cart and walking slowly. I took a photo because it was such a milestone for me.
Here are my 10 must-haves for living with chronic illness (in no particular order):
1. Contigo brand mugs
These mugs are specifically made to be impossible to spill. I can hold my full mug upside down and nothing will come out of it because of the way the lid seals. I have three of these mugs, and I use them daily. On my shaky days when I drop things a lot or I have tremors, I can still drink hot coffee or tea without fear of spilling it on myself. I’ve gotten my mugs as gifts, but they can be found at Wal-mart, Costco, or online. The mugs cost around $20 each full price, but they go on sale often. I think they’re worth the investment.
2. Hot peppermint tea
I have digestive issues due to POTS and I also have seasonal allergies. Peppermint tea is my go-to for getting relief from these symptoms. The peppermint leaves in the tea help settle my stomach. I usually steep my tea for 10 minutes to get the full benefits. The peppermint in the tea also helps clear up my sinus pressure and congestion, along with other allergy-related symptoms. I like to drink the tea before considering taking medication because sometimes it can address the issue, and I already take plenty of medication.
Early into my illness, two of my co-workers came to visit. They encouraged me to spend time outside every day and they even brought me a chaise-style chair so that I could stretch out/elevate my legs while I sat on the covered porch. At the time, I was pretty skeptical that I could make it out the front door, much less be outdoors for more than a few minutes. But I followed their advice and it’s been helpful. Being in the sunshine lifts my mood. I’ve gotten to know my neighbors better, and I say hello to everyone that walks by my house because I want them to feel welcome on my street. It’s helped me feel less isolated too. I found out I am Vitamin D deficient, so now the sunshine is a even more necessary for me.
If I can’t make it outside, I open up the blinds during the day to let the light in. Even a little bit of sunshine helps me feel more connected to the world. And the sunshine always makes me feel a bit more happy.
4. Stationary and letter writing
My illness has affected my ability to get out of the house and see other people. At times, I feel isolated, which makes dealing with the illness more difficult. I have always enjoyed letter-writing, but I’ve started doing it more now that I am ill. I have a box of stationary that I’ve collected over time and I use it to send out letters to pen pals and family members. And I have some wonderful friends and family who send me cards regularly, which is wonderful. I’ve even written anonymous letters for strangers who need encouragement through an organization called More Love Letters (the letters aren’t romantic, just kind).
5. Cuddly stuffed bear
It may seem silly, but it can be comforting to snuggle with something soft when dealing with pain or exhaustion. I hold onto my stuffed bear when I am having a hard time, and it always helps me a bit.
6. Rice packs in a cheery pattern
Rice packs are great for dealing with pain. They can be heated or frozen and they can be manipulated to fit around most areas of the body. My mother-in-law sewed some ricks packs for me, and I specifically asked her to use some bright leftover fabric. It’s important to me to have pretty colors and patterns around me because it puts me in a better mood. It’s the little things that really lift my spirits. A simple tutorial for the rice packs can be found here. The tutorial is geared toward kid-friendly rice-packs, but it’s useful for anyone.
(There is a picture of one of my cheery rice packs in the above picture of my bear.)
7. Essential oils
Essential oils are natural and there are so many ways to use them to improve health and manage symptoms. I am just starting to explore how they can help me, and I’m already impressed! I won a do-Terra essential oil giveaway from Naturally Ashlie a few months ago. She was generous and gave me a few samples of oils to help manage POTS, along with Wild Orange Oil. I apply the Serenity Calming blend (not pictured) to my feet when I get overstimulated/anxious or need help falling asleep. It is magically helpful and starts working in minutes. I am even hoping to wean off my sleeping medication and use the Serenity blend at nighttime. Today I applied the Slim & Sassy blend to my stomach to help with digestive problems. It made my day much better. Keep in mind, it’s important to make sure essential oils are certified therapeutic grade, especially if they’ll be applied to the body or ingested.
8. Truth Stones
A few of my friends customize glass stones with kind messages on them, called truth stones. The proceeds from the stones benefit a local transitional shelter for women and children, called Dove Harbor. When I get overwhelmed or overstimulated, I hold a smooth stone in my hand and run my hand across it. The stones are especially helpful when I have trouble during car rides. Any type of smooth rock or stone can be used to help manage symptoms.
I am home alone a lot of the day, so our cats are great company for me. I think it’s helpful to have at least one animal in the house. They lessen feelings of isolation and they help increase motivation to get up and move on tough days. I am so grateful for two adorable, spirited cats. Plus, cats are the perfect pet for our lifestyle right now because they are fairly independent.
10. Heated blanket
My body struggles with temperature regulation, which means that heat and cold affect my body more than a typical person. During the summer, I have to be careful to keep myself cool, and I am getting nervous about the cold weather that’s coming soon. We live in an older home. It’s been updated in many areas, but it doesn’t hold heat as well as we’d like. I am getting creative at keeping warm without making the electric bill skyrocket. I’ve already started using my heated blanket when I get cold, and it is wonderful!
Please let me know if you learned anything helpful in this detailed post. I love helping people find ways to improve their quality of life!