Style Tips for the Chronically Ill

I want to share some practical style tips for looking good, even when you feel less than your best. Being sick can be difficult and exhausting. For most people, illness means messy hair, ratty sweatpants, and an overall feeling of yuckiness. After all, when we feel terrible, it’s tough to even consider putting our limited energy into showering or getting dressed in “real clothes.”

But in my journey with chronic illness, I’ve found that my self-esteem takes a dip when I look the way I feel. There is not a day that goes by that I feel 100%. Sometimes I daydream about what I would do if I had 24 hours of feeling “normal” again. But I don’t want to look as pale, bone-tired and discouraged as I feel. So I made the decision to change my routine and put some effort into my appearance again. Yes, there are some days I spend in my pajamas, but that’s not typical for me anymore. I almost always shower, fix my hair, and put together an outfit. I don’t do it to impress anyone or to live up to a particular beauty standard; I do it because it helps me feel more human. When I like the way I look, it’s easier for me to engage in the day and feel motivated to do the best I can with what I’ve been given.

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Style Tips for the Chronically Ill

  • Choose functional clothing. You can look and feel good while still considering your needs. Embrace your personal style and get creative! For example, if you are overly sensitive to certain textures or fabrics, don’t buy them. You’ll look and feel much better in clothing that makes your life better, not more complicated. I wear pants with loose, elastic waist bands most of the time because jeans are not comfortable for me. I’ve taken the time to find fun, printed pants for myself, similar to theseIMG_20150114_150605
  • Wear layers. Symptoms aren’t always predictable, and neither is the weather. I suggest being prepared by incorporating the use of layers into your wardrobe. I often wear a fleece jacket, cardigan, or loose sweater over a tank top or blouse because my body doesn’t regulate temperature very well. Sometimes I even wear long johns under my pants! Since I can go from sweating to freezing in a matter of minutes, I keep that in mind when I choose my clothing. I tend to wear solid colored outer layers that I can easily mix and match them with my tops, which allows me to have more outfit combinations to choose from.
  • Wear clothing that doesn’t wrinkle easily. Let’s be honest, ironing is a time-consuming chore and it requires a good deal of energy. Those of us with chronic illness have to carefully plan what we do, and eliminating certain chores makes life easier. When you’re looking for new clothing, look at the tag that outlines how to care for the item. If it requires dry cleaning, regular ironing, or special washing, consider putting it back on the rack. If you fall in love with the item, invest in a clothing steamer, or at least some Downy Wrinkle Releaser Spray. In my opinion, a clothing steamer makes it easier to target and eliminate clothing wrinkles instead of ironing the entire item. And Downy Wrinkle Releaser Spray gets out set-in wrinkles like a charm! IMG_20150201_162752
  • Liven things up with accessories. When I want to add something special to an outfit, I put on a scarf, nail polish, statement jewelry, or some other touch of color. I instantly feel a bit happier when I do it. I promise that the little bit of extra effort goes a long way in feeling brighter and more put-together. Also think about adding some bright colors to your surroundings, especially if you spend a lot of time at home.

Living with chronic illness is difficult; there’s no sugar-coating it. But taking some time each day to focus on yourself helps you feel a bit better and more in-control of your day. And I think that makes a big difference!

(To read about 10 Must-Haves for Living with Chronic Illness, click here.)

Do Something Good

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My heart breaks every time I learn about injustice. I am a deeply empathetic person– it’s just the way I am wired. I can see that people all over the country are experiencing pain and feeling misunderstood. There is a lot of hurt these days, and it seems to keep spreading. As I’ve watched the news this week, I’ve felt moved to make a difference, so I’ve been thinking about what I can do to bring positive change in my community. I’ll have to be creative, since my illness causes me to spend a lot of time at home, but I am determined to bring a bit of light into the darkness we face.

I don’t understand why people think that hostility and hatred will bring change. It won’t bring understanding or grace; all it can bring is more hurt. When I watch the news and listen to the people around me, I don’t think we need any more pain. We need kindness, we need forgiveness, and we need to feel heard. We need to know we’re not alone, even when things get messy. Deep down, we have a lot in common.

I know that injustice, racism, and inequality are complex issues, and I still have a lot of learning to do. In the meantime, I’d like to offer a few ideas for bringing hope into our communities.

  • Focus on listening to others. Instead of spending your time thinking about the “perfect response” during a conversation, listen to the other person. You’ll be surprised what you learn when you take the time to focus on someone else’s need to be heard.
  • Look for volunteer opportunities. If you want to make a difference in your community, you may need to do some groundwork. Most charities and community organizations are stretched pretty thin, so they don’t have a lot of time for recruitment. If you care about people experiencing poverty, look into the food pantries in your area. Consider donating food to them every month or set up a time to talk with the director about helping distribute food. If you want to help children, see if there is a chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters nearby. You need to add your volunteer work to your schedule so that it becomes a part of your life. Otherwise, it’s easy to put it off.
  • Get to know your neighbors. These days, we often connect online, and we sometimes forget about the people who live next door. It can be a bit awkward to say hello to someone for the first time, but most people will say hello in return. Think about baking some Christmas cookies as a friendly gesture– it’s a great way to break the ice. This time of year can be tough, so think about ways to be kind to the people who live nearby.
  • Collect items for a worthy cause. Hygiene items are in high demand for people with little or no income. Consider collecting toiletries from friends and family to donate to a local charity. Or put together baskets of feminine care products, hair brushes, lotion, hair spray, etc. for a domestic violence shelter. Socks are also a much-needed item at shelters. Ask loved ones to give a pack of new socks with your holiday gift and then bring the collection to local homeless shelter. You can also call specific organizations to see what they need most so that your collection can be especially helpful.

I encourage you to set aside time this week to do something positive for someone else.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -Gandhi

Quiet Strength

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My favorite television shows include passionate, strong female characters. I enjoy watching the shows because they convey that women can accomplish pretty much anything. And I love that. Oftentimes, the characters barrel into a room during a crisis and boldly tell other people why their cause is important. These women solve problems with their strong convictions and unwavering determination. When I watch these shows, I imagine myself as one of the heroines. I want to solve injustices as quickly as these women, even though I know most problems worth solving take much more than just a passionate speech.

For years, I wished to become someone I would consider courageous. I wanted to be able to convey my convictions by using my words. I hoped that I could get respect by following the formula for strength that I’d seen in television shows. But over the past few weeks, I’ve had a revelation: There is more than one way to be strong, and words alone rarely solve problems. True character is built when we choose goodness over and over again. I do not stride into rooms full of people ready to share my life-changing agenda. But I do have a different kind of strength.

My strength is not particularly bold, and it may not be noticed by the casual observer. But it is still there. Try as I might, I am incapable of looking intimidating–I am just too friendly. However, I have the quiet strength that comes from choosing hope, even when things look beyond repair. I know how to sit next to a friend in tears, understanding that my presence means more any platitudes I could recite. I can bake cookies with trembling hands because I want to show a loved one that I am grateful for their presence in my life. I understand how to listen to a long-winded stranger share his opinions because I know what it is like to need someone to hear me. I have walked through dark places and I’ve made it into the light. These are the things that make me strong. These are the things that allow me to live with happiness, even while dealing with chronic illness.

I don’t think we celebrate quiet strength enough. It is tough to consistently choose love over fear, and it takes strength to live with compassion. I am guilty of not recognizing the courage it takes to live with grace and kindness, but I want to change that. Quiet strength often goes unnoticed because it becomes deeply ingrained into a person’s character– it is part of them. Still, we need to acknowledge those people in our lives who show quiet strength.  They deserve to be celebrated. It is just as noteworthy to make daily sacrifices out of love as it is to show one large act of bravery.

Today, I choose to embrace my quiet strength, and I encourage you to do the same. I let go of the idea that power and strength are the same. I remind myself that I do not need to make powerful speeches in order to change the world around me. I choose to show love. I look for hope when things seem grim. And I am grateful for the women who have shown me the power of quiet strength, because they have impacted my life more than the heroines on television.

10 Must-Haves for Living with Chronic Illness

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!

Grocery Shopping Oct 2014

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):

Contigo Mug Danielle 2014

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.

Porch Summer 2014

3. Sunshine

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).

Meds Rice Pack Bear pic

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.)

Essential Oils

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.

Choosing Hope stone

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.

Cats collage 2014

9. Pets

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!