Once, a wise woman (aka Angie Alt) advised me to learn how to “manage my highs.” This came about during a conversation where I was explaining how I often have troubles with my autoimmunity because whenever I start to feel even slightly better, I go from ‘zero to hero’ and start eating a lot more leniently, pushing myself to stay up later and do a million things at once, etc. It’s as if I’ve been held back for so long, that when the clouds finally start to part – even for a moment – I go crazy and charge full steam ahead, leaving me worse off than before.
If there’s anything to my autoimmunity + personality theory, then I’d bet most of you are probably smiling and nodding your heads along with me right about now. I think it’s probably a tendency of those of us with autoimmune conditions to push hard and overwork ourselves whenever we’re given the chance. 🙂
So, how do you “manage your highs” so that you don’t wind up in a ditch? I think there’s three main ways we can do this:
- Be aware. In my experience self-awareness is the key to mostly everything in life, so the first thing I think we need to do is to become aware of when we’re starting to feel better, and when our natural, self-destructive tendencies are about to take hold. If I’m feeling very good and even super “high” (aka very well, no symptoms, etc.), I take a moment to stop and breathe, and acknowledge what’s happening. I say, “Ok, tiger – glad you’re feeling grrrrreat today! But don’t go eating those Frosted Flakes just yet. Let’s enjoy this period in a responsible, sustainable way.” And that usually brings me back to reality and helps me continue making responsible decisions while feeling great about it.
- Relax, even when you’re feeling good. Sometimes it truly seems that our society only permits rest on A) Sundays or B) when we’re sick. In any other case, it’s just called being lazy, vegging out, ignoring your responsibilities, or being sloppy. If you read my postabout the role sickness plays in our lives, this will make more sense. The point though, is that I think we need to give ourselves permission to rest and relax even if we’re feeling good. I have to remind myself this during my “high” periods because often the first thing to go out the window will be my typical pace of life, which does tend to include frequent rest stops, great sleep hygiene, and low-impact activities.
- Step awayyyy from the Oreos. I briefly touched on this in point #1, but I think it’s worth reiterating again in a different way: just because you’re having a moment of clarity, a good week, or a decrease in symptoms, does not mean that you should throw your diet out the window and revert back to your old habits. This is often the biggest mistake I personally make, and that I see others in my support group and throughout the interwebs make. I don’t blame you / us though! I mean, following AIP or any type of semi-restricted diet can be, well, restricting. It’s easy to feel limited, bored, upset, confused, and disgruntled when your regular diet consists of what seems like 10% of the food selection you’re used to (or that you see your family and co-workers constantly enjoying around you). So when we’re feeling even slightly better and the opportunity comes to sneak a little bite of cheese, or sip of wine, or bite of freshly baked French bread – well, dammit, we’re going to seize it! “Carpe Diem!” “YOLO”, we say! Yet we quickly discover that the clarity and the wellness we were experiencing was due to our healing diet and lifestyle, and we’re not out of the woods quite yet. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Healing is a non-linear journey and one that takes time. But it’s well-worth it in the end. So resist the temptation now, because the payoff is going to be so much sweeter in the end.
So there you have it – the three things I’ve been trying to personally implement in my life to help me manage my highs.
I do want to say though that as with everything, this is a balance game. I’m not saying you have to hold yourself back or play it safe 100% of the time – part of living is being able to expand outside your comfort zone and gradually push yourself (in a responsible way) beyond the perceived limits of your illness; otherwise, we’d just be trapped in a perpetual state of stagnation and self-limiting beliefs forever, and that’s not ideal either.
I’m just saying that the goal – in my mind – of healing, is to eventually reach a stable, sustainable point. And to help ourselves reach that point of stability, we have to learn to manage our highs. After all, laws of physics state that “what goes up, must come down.” So it’s our job to eventually get to a place where all we’re the levels we’re feeling are “good, best, and very best”, instead of the “VERY GOOD!” and “OMG VERY BAD.” We have to break out of this pattern we often see with chronic illness.
What do you think? Do you notice a need to manage the highs in your own life? Or is this not really a problem for you?