Interview: How Coaching Could Change The Way You Live With AxSpa (Part 1)
As a duo of a Life Coach (Julie) and a Health Coach (Lana), we have decided to write a series of articles together. We want to share our stories with AS/AxSpA, our learnings and experiences helping clients through their own health and life challenges.
We hope to offer some insights and inspiration to everyone going through the ups and downs of their condition and to empower you to take small steps to take control of your life and health again.
Could you share a brief overview of your journey with AS/AxSpa and how you are feeling now?
I was diagnosed with AxSpa in 2014, however, I started to have symptoms in 2008. First, I had one misdiagnosis (hypermobility in my joints) and finally got the answer after asking for a second opinion. Seven years later I feel in control and equipped to cope with my symptoms (old and new) and live better with AxSpa. I have learned a lot by attending AxSpa courses led by healthcare experts on rheumatic diseases. I have developed a holistic approach to manage my condition with an adapted treatment, regular physiotherapy, and hydrotherapy with a group of people with AxSpa, a self-care routine addressing my sleep hygiene and my diet. I also use tools to manage chronic pain and look after my mental well-being.
In 2015, three years after the onset of my back pain, I was diagnosed with AS. It was a shock, and I felt scared about what it would mean for the future. The first couple years after diagnosis were the toughest, consulting several different doctors, doing numerous tests, and trying out various treatments. After lots of personal research, I decided to follow the Functional Medicine approach and look at diet and lifestyle changes to support my body. Things I can control such as my diet, stress management, sleep, movement, etc. Fast forward to now, I am managing AS well and as a Health Coach, I am following my passion, sharing my experiences and learnings, and helping others on their journey with chronic health issues.
What are your biggest learnings regarding your health journey?
Acceptance is a key step in health management. Once I did accept my diagnosis, which took some time, I was able to adapt and help myself. Then came the learning curve of pacing myself, registering that I could not live my life like I used to. I started watching how I spend my daily energy and spreading my commitments (of any kind) over the week with care. Finally, another big learning was to reinvent my way of planning my activities and embrace the uncertainty of what tomorrow with AxSpa may bring.
That I have the power to be the best advocate for my own health. To focus on the things I can control, and which can positively impact my well-being. To trust and listen to my body and to connect to my feelings and needs. This means sometimes taking time off for my body to rest and recover, and other times I can enjoy all the activities that I want. I have also learned to ask for help and the importance of building a strong support network to get through the ups and downs of life.
What is one aspect of your life you are continuously working on to support your health?
I think the work/life balance is an ongoing process for me where I keep experimenting and learning. Working part-time suits me, yet I am currently involved in several projects. I feel stretched sometimes, and that can impact my physical and mental well-being. So, I know my next step for that will be to make the time to reflect and take some decision about letting go of some commitments and create more space for self-care.
Maintaining balance in my life. This means finding the right state of flow in how I approach my days (between relaxing moments, and more productive moments) and the best ways for me to fuel my mental and physical well-being. I am always trying new experiments to improve my vitality and stay away from flares, through what I eat, how I move, how I approach stress management etc. There is so much to learn about the body, and how each one of us responds differently to treatments, approaches, diets, exercise and more. I am staying curious, open-minded and motivated to keep optimizing my health and disease management.
Can you tell when a flare is coming?