I get lots of questions and emails about chronic pain and how to workout and stay healthy through it. I am not able to answer these with much wisdom as I am not personally experiencing it, however, my friend Stacy from “Finding Purpose in the Pain” knows! I met Stacy from when I was an editor over at Candace Cameron Bure’s online magazine, Roo. She is also a fellow Ohioan! I think you will be encouraged by her words!
Have you ever reached a critical point in your life? A time when you knew everything needed to change? That was me in February 2012. I had been living with severe chronic nerve pain (fibromyalgia) throughout my body and debilitating fatigue for 18 years since I was 11 years old. I had tried every medication my doctors prescribed as well as every form of treatment you can imagine from acupuncture to chiropractic to massage and I only got significantly worse with each passing year. And yet, I knew God didn’t want me to give up hope that one day I could be pain-free. That month, I made a decision to trust God like never before and pray big for total healing. It’s been an amazing journey the last almost 2 years one that I attribute entirely to the power of God. I know there are millions of people in the world living with chronic health challenges and while I know my story isn’t exactly like yours, I do believe we can learn from other journeys so today I wanted to share some things that helped me improve my health.
If today you find yourself struggling with pain or a chronic health condition, what can you do to see a change in your health?
1. Seek God
As Christians we seek God in every other area of our lives but why do we think our health is somehow exempt? Clare does a great job on this site of reminding us to include God in our eating and exercise regime. And once I began to seek God for my health everything changed. I felt God calling me to go off my medications, which is something I had tried before with bad results. But I took a risk anyways, stepped out in faith, went off all my medications and started using essential oils and supplements and not only have I been off my medications for the last 18 months but my pain is significantly better. And while I don’t tell anyone to necessarily do exactly what I did I do encourage people to seek God for their own health. And be mindful of your attitude in seeking God. If you believe nothing will ever change you are putting God in a box and saying He is not able. God calls us to take Him at His word. He says to remain in Him (John 15:5) and with His strength all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
2. Don’t Do It Alone
I highly recommend for everyone to get a prayer partner. Not just to pray for you through your health journey but to pray for every aspect in your life. We weren’t meant to live this Christian life alone. There is such power when people come together to pray for one another and sharing your struggles with another person helps you stay accountable to doing what God is calling you to do. I’m so thankful for how God has used my prayer partner in my health journey.
3. The Weight Battle in Won in the Kitchen
Oh friends this is a lesson I have to remind myself of daily because I love to eat! I’ve found, particularly when you have a chronic health condition weight can be struggle. Until I started using essential oils and supplements I was on medications for years and every one of them had a side effect of weight gain. At one point I gained 40lbs in 6 months after starting a new medication. Because I was in such extreme pain at the time even simple exercise was hard for me and I knew if I was going to lose weight it had to come from eating differently and I was able to lose just under 50lbs just through diet alone without exercise. Although I think exercise is hugely important (see my next point!), I also know as a person with a chronic health condition I can’t workout intensely enough to burn that many calories so I have to be extra diligent in watching what I eat to keep my weight in check. This is where prayer and accountability is huge! I exercise for my mental health and increased strength and flexibility. I consider my exercise days successful if I meet these goals and any calories burned is just an added bonus. It helps me to not be so hard on myself to set realistic expectations for why I exercise which leads me to my next point.
4. Focus on What You Can Do Physically
This has been huge for me. I will go on Instagram and see friends doing marathons and mud runs and get so frustrated because my body can’t do that-at least not right now. Even though I’ve seen huge healing in my life, I still struggle with occasional vertigo and running or any high impact activity is a trigger for my dizziness and pain but instead of dwelling on my body’s limitations I focus on what I can do. I know particularly when chronic pain is out of control it’s a challenge to exercise at all but any movement of any kind is better for you than doing nothing at all. Just remember to pace yourself, do what you can and stop the comparison game! Be proud of yourself for exercising at all with your limitations. Not sure where to start with exercise?
Best Exercises for Those in Pain
Sure it doesn’t burn a lot of calories but it’s low impact and walking some is better than doing nothing at all.
I happen to love yoga. It’s a great workout because it’s slower and won’t be hard on hurting bodies. I know it can be a bit controversial in Christian circles but there are other options like Holy Yoga or just focusing on the positions themselves without the meditation component if that bothers you. Learning breathing exercises has also been great for pain management and stress reduction in my life.
I just started embracing this but again it’s a great way to tone your body in a low impact way.
4. Water Aerobics
Want a higher intensity workout but without the impact on your joints and muscles? Do it in the water! It allows you to workout your body in ways you never could on land and is perfect for those in pain.
5. Do Higher Intensity Workouts with Frequent Breaks
I have an elliptical and will do very high intensity sprints for a minute followed by two minutes of rest. These short bursts of activity followed by rest allow me to raise my heart rate without aggravating my vertigo and pain, which cannot handle long periods of intense, or even moderately intense movement.
5. Lastly, Celebrate Your Weakness!
We live in a society that celebrates strength and self-reliance but we serve a God who tells us to embrace our weakness because in weakness we get a chance to be dependent on God and rely on His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). While it’s taken many years for me to get to this point, I now see what a gift it is to have struggled for 19 years with pain and fatigue because it’s taught me to fully depend on God, moment by moment, and in that I’ve had the chance to see the strength of God enable me to do things I never could have done on my own. Anything that keeps you depending on God and relying on Him fully is a gift worth celebrating! On the surface your health situation may look impossible, mine did, or you may lack the ability to make changes. Great! God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness so remain in Him, seek Him for your health and see what He will do.
After this long health journey with God, one that I’m still very much on with Him today, I wrote a devotional book called 21 Days to Finding Purpose in Pain. It tells my story of finding God’s purpose in the midst of struggle. I would love to giveaway a paperback copy to one of you! To enter leave a comment sharing how you stay healthy while living with a chronic health condition. And since this devotional deals with so much more than just physical pain, I want to make this giveaway open to anyone. If you don’t have a health challenge and want to enter, leave a comment sharing how God has helped you through a difficult time. Clare will randomly select a winner from the comments on Wednesday, March 19th. I look forward to hearing your stories!
Stacy lives in Central Ohio although she’d like to be somewhere warmer half the year. She loves Jesus, traveling, the ocean, essential oils, seeing God answer prayer and encouraging others! She currently works as a writer for her online ministry, health coach specializing in natural healing options and sometimes nanny and virtual assistant. She is the Creator of Finding Purpose in the Pain. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook! Or check out her devotional 21 Days to Finding Purpose in Pain!