Healing, surviving myeloma therapy and drugs, and staying as healthy as possible means eating right, getting exercise, and, yes, de-stressing. Stress causes inflammation, which causes your immune system to weaken, which leaves us prone to all kinds of viruses and illness. Here are some tips on how to live a calmer, happier, and healthier life. 1. Exercise Do not be a couch potato. Especially when we're fatigued, have neuropathy, or simply aren't feeling well, this can be a tough one. Nonetheless, to the extent possible get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. If you can't run or life lots or weights, walking is terrific. If the weather is decent and you're not severely immune compromised, get outside. Fresh air and vitamin D is great for the body and soul. Try yoga or swimming (doctor approved, of course). Anything you love, go for it! Even walking around Costco will count in a pinch. The important thing is to move around. Exercise releases endorphins, elevates your mood, strengthens your heart, and makes you stronger. These are all fabulous reasons to move, move, and move some more. 2. Sleep Getting a good night's rest is essential for health. It's when your body repairs itself. And it's also when we emotionally repair and rejuvenate, too. Lack of sleep causes tremendous emotional and physical stress. Take naps when possible and when needed. Listen to your body. You may need six hours or ten hours. Whatever you require, get it. 3. Take Time For You Do something you love that calms and centers you (and don't feel guilt for doing it). This can be reading a book, taking a "stay-cation" (vacation in your own city) solo or with a close friend. Take a hot bath or go for a horseback ride or movie. Be selfish, it's ok. After all, it's hard to properly care for others if we aren't taking care of ourselves first. 4. Smile and Laugh (A Lot) Laughter actually calms our souls. So if you can't find anything in your own life that's particularly joyful in the moment (and with a myeloma battle, this can be hard), go see a funny movie or read a light and happy book. Go play with a friend's puppy. Whatever it is that makes you smile, do it. Do it often. 5. Limit Criticizing Others Even when you're tempted to gossip or speak poorly about others, refrain. Ok, vent (a little) when you must. But then move on. Putting others down, harboring anger, resentment-- all of these emotions are terrible for the soul. And it'll stress you out and make you sad. 6. Get A Massage or Hit The Spa Massages are mentally and physically relaxing. If you haven't indulged, do it. You'll love it. You'll forget what you were worried about when walking in. Or if you remember, it won't seem quite as important afterwards. 7. Get Therapy Sometimes speaking about our frustrations, fears and anger with a neutral third party is incredibly helpful. Know when you need it and don't make apologies to anyone for getting help. 8. Help Someone Else Few things take our thoughts away from our own stresses in life than helping someone else out. Make dinner for someone who is sick or struggling. Walk dogs at an animal shelter. Offer to care for someone's child for the afternoon. Play games with seniors at a retirement community. Mow someone's lawn without asking. 9. Pray or Meditate Turning your struggles over to a higher power is incredibly de-stressing. Find a quiet place that inspires you and take 30 minutes to simply pray, meditate and think. Leave your cell phone at home. No distractions. Go alone. 10. Commune With Mother Nature Get outdoors and view the natural beauty that surrounds you. Take time to stop and look, breathe and listen. 11. Take a Vacation Get away from your troubles by visiting some place you love or that you've never been. It can be somewhere local (like a museum) or somewhere far away (like another country, an approval from your doctor first, of course). 12. Diffuse a Scent While Sleeping Invest in a diffuser and pick a calming sent before going to bed. Try lavender or lemon. 13. Get Rid Of Unhealthy Relationships If someone is weighing you down, consider ending the relationship entirely. Not all people should be in your life and it's ok to walk away. 14. Clean and De-clutter It's hard to relax when your physical space is a mess. If you can't clean yourself, consider hiring a maid or professional organizer to get you caught up. 15. Take a Hot Bath Warm water is reduces inflammation and is calming to the soul. Add Epsom salts and a deliciously smelling scent. Turn down the lights and simply breathe and clear your mind. 16. Turn Off Your Phone Take some time to leave your phone at home and be present to what's around you. The light from your phone or computer late at night can actually stimulate your senses. Definitely put everything electronic away at least 30-minutes prior to bedtime. It'll help with insomnia. 17. Avoid Traffic and Crowds Traffic and crowds increases heart rate and is a huge stress inducer. Plan driving around peak traffic times as much as possible. Go to dinner earlier or later than most, and avoid peak shopping times. 18. Don't Watch Violent Movies, TV Shows, or Read Books Before Bedtime An action flick, news story about a violent incident, or a controversial book before bedtime can make it almost impossible to fall asleep. Save those things for earlier in the day. 19. Wear Comfy Clothes, Shower, And Get Presentable How we look and feel often impacts our moods in a huge way. Make sure you're wearing something comfy but that makes you feel great, get showered and cleaned up, and be presentable even if you're staying inside. It helps. 20. Breathe When all else fails and we're angry and frustrated, don't forget to breathe. Big, deep breaths. Close your eyes. Picture your happy place and mentally go there. Just make sure you're not driving when you do this.
about the author
Lizzy Smith was diagnosed with myeloma in 2012 at age 44. Within days, she left her job, ended her marriage, moved, and entered treatment. "To the extent I'm able, I want to prove that despite life's biggest challenges, it is possible to survive and come out stronger than ever," she says.