I know not all of us lupies are female. Nevertheless, the majority is.
As a woman, I tend to take care of others despite how I am feeling. As a professional, I have been independent and decisive for years, which makes it hard to ask for help. This is not a helpful daily combination when I need to avoid flares.
We all know that our muscle and body pain, emotional struggles, medication side-effects, and drop-dead fatigue days are real, but unfortunately, these symptoms are all invisible to the human eyes. That’s why I believe we are the ones in charge of setting the boundaries, saying what’s enough for today and take a break to care for ourselves. People around me cannot read my mind, so it is my responsibility to step up and say it.
It’s easy to get burnout, and it is a dangerous route. We all have been there.
When I got up this morning, I began thinking about all the choices I make every day. Life fills our days with so many options that we forget to take chances and try new things.
Force of habit is a double-edged knife. While my instinct helps me think faster, potentially avoid previous mistakes, and optimize what needs to get done, it can also blindside me. Life has changed, and so have I.
During summer, I was on vacation with my beloved ones and family in Brazil.
Lately, I have spent much more time at home and with my dog. My large Rhodesian Ridgeback, who is sweet and goofy, bringing a smile to everyone around him.
He knows when I am not in my best self, he quietly crawls by my side, lays down, sets his entire body close to mine. That’s his way of saying “I am here for you”. Pets are sometimes much better than humans, you know.
Why is he such a wonderful friend? What makes him look out for me, want to stay by my side and above all, want to take care of me when I am unable to play?
I believe it all started with his puppy training. There were two simple ways to make him follow directions: immediate reward and discipline …
Using both tactics I had an AHA moment. A reward was much more effective.
By giving him an immediate reward, he got happier and repeated the same given action. By praising him, I was providing a clear path on how to get another dog treat.
I truly believe that little acts of love have built a strong bond between us, that only grows stronger as time passes. The more he feels loved, the better he wants to behave, and be by my side.
But what if instead of positive incentives, I used anger or yelling when he made a mistake? Would he be such a wonderful loving dog with me and others? Probably not.
When I get angry at him, his first reaction is to stop, lower his ears, tail and go straight to his bed. He puts on a guilty face and immediately gets sad. He shuts down.
While I still believe reprimanding is part of the learning curve, when he knows he may get another bone, he behaves better in the present moment.
Why not use this simple reward technique with ourselves?
Why not remind ourselves how amazing we are, and celebrate every single small win. It helps us feel stronger, more powerful, and improve.
Let’s be nicer to ourselves. Let’s focus on what we are doing right, and use it to get us fired up and do more of it. Take time to celebrate!
Writing a Happy List
Look for things you did right in the day, take notes of happy thoughts, and mindfully focus on your positive side of things.
Pay attention to the type of reaction your body gives you when you intervene in a loving way.
Track what makes you feel better, and how your thoughts of self-compassion improved your future decisions.
I have noticed that when I track my positive actions, it gives me more hope by showing me there is an opportunity of progress. It also gives me a sense of control, which is so important when having a chronic disease such as lupus.
I know there is not one single answer to a given question, but the millenary teaching of loving ourselves has surpassed the challenge of time, and it is a good way to feel better and become a better person.