There has been an increasing trend toward self-care. It is extremely important for the successful management of long-term illnesses. But, good self-care can be a challenge for many people. It can be especially challenging when you have a chronic illness like fibromyalgia. In this post, I will share the strategies I use to maintain physical self-care and how I use the free Health Storylines app to keep me on track.
After I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I expected my doctor to make me better. I think that most of us do. But after a while, I realized that conventional medicine doesn’t have much to offer. The medications only treat the symptoms. The more symptoms you have, the more medications you take, the more symptoms you have, and on and on.
I had to accept, my doctor couldn’t really help me. Either I had to learn to live with it or learn how to help myself. I chose the latter. Through trial and error, I learned the art of self-care. The definition of self-care is any intentional action you take to care for your physical, mental, and emotional health. For today’s post, I will be talking about the day-to-day decisions I make regarding physical self-care.
Physical self-care includes pacing myself, optimizing my diet, exercising, getting enough rest, and taking my medications.
I have been doing these things for quite some time but I wasn’t keeping track of my progress or how it was affecting my daily life. That was until I started using an app called Health Storylines which is a digital self-care tool for people with chronic illness. First, I will tell you a little about the app and then I will tell you how I use it to track and monitor physical self-care activities.
The Health Storylines app was created by Self Care Catalysts and is available on iTunes and Google Play. You can also sign up and log in on the Health Storylines website. There are some Storylines apps for specific conditions such as Asthma, Epilepsy, Hepatitis and a few others. If they don’t have an app for your condition, use the general Health Storyline app which you can customise to match your condition and treatment plan.
Some tools are included in your toolbox by default. You can customize your toolbox by going to the tools library and choosing the additional tools you want to use. I chose the daily asthma control, food diary, exercise diary, daily planner, and questions to ask (my doctor) tools.
My 5 most important physical self-care activities and the Health Storylines tools I use to monitor and track my progress.
- Medications & Supplements – With the Health Storylines app you can keep track of medications and set reminders so you don’t forget to take them. To add your medications you open the medication tracker and click add medication. As you start typing a drop down box appears and you can choose the medication by dosage and manufacturer. In the next step, you can set up a reminder which I did for two of my inhalers because I am always forgetting whether I used them or not. It was a little trickier to set up my supplements. I was able to add my multi-vitamin and vitamin D with no problem. But nothing came up for milk thistle so I typed in “liver” and I was able to choose “liver tonic” and type milk thistle in the notes section. I still haven’t figured out how to add a few of my supplements. It would be nice to have the option of adding a medication without having to select one from the drop-down list.
Tracking Symptoms – Tracking your symptoms is a good way to know if a self-care activity is helping or not. With the Health Storylines symptom tracking tool, you can add any symptom you want to monitor. For example, I want to keep track of my sleep, pain, fatigue, brain fog, headaches, and dizziness. If you can’t find the specific symptom you are looking for you can choose “custom symptom”. Every day you can rate each individual symptom and the impact of your overall symptoms on your day on a scale of 0 to 10. (If you want to keep track of your daily moods there is a separate tool for that.)
Exercise – Most of us get sick of hearing that our problems are because we don’t get enough exercise. Exercise is any bodily activity that enhances that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness. By that definition, I consider stretching and foam rolling to count as exercise. The Health Storylines app include an exercise diary, but walking is the only exercise listed that I do. Although, you have the option to add other modes of exercise. Then you record the time spent exercising. I wish there was an option to record steps walked instead of just the time. But that’s okay, I can use the daily planner or journal tool to keep a record of the steps I walk per day.
Diet – Eating healthy to maintain proper nutrition has made a huge difference in my health. I am not on any particular diet and I haven’t stopped eating any specific food groups. I just eat whole foods that are anti-inflammatory and avoid processed foods that fuel inflammation. I try to avoid sugar, artificial sweeteners, and other chemicals and food additives. I feel like I could still make some improvements when it comes to my diet. I started using the Heath Storylines food diary to record what I ate and any reactions related to the food which is really helpful if you have digestive issues. You can also include a photo of your meal and add additional notes.
Pacing – Pacing is to plan and prioritize your activities according to your energy levels throughout the day. It sounds simple enough but most of us struggle to stay within our energy limits. Part of pacing is finding your activity limits by knowing how much and what kinds of activity you can do without intensifying your symptoms. It is important to schedule rest as well as activity. Instead of resting in response to symptoms, plan to rest for set amounts of time during the day. I have found that keeping a record of daily activities with the Health Storylines daily planner tool to be very helpful to plan my day and stay within my limits. It would be perfect if reminders could be set for rest periods.
With the Health Storylines app, you can track your sleep, mood, physical activity, set medication reminders, keep track of your appointments and much more. It is the one health app I will continue to use to track my mental, emotional, and physical self-care activities. I hope you try it out as well.