Does playing seem like a waste of time to you?
Do you feel like there are better things you can do with your time?
Let me tell you, whether you're an entrepreneur, empty nester, or someone with rheumatoid arthritis, unstructured, spontaneous play can be a game changer for you. How? Let's take a look.
One of the first benefits of play, according to this article at HelpGuide.org, is reducing stress. As we know, stress can be a major factor in triggering flare activity for any autoimmune condition. If you don't have an autoimmune condition, reducing stress in your life allows you to think more creatively and helps you take your body out of "fight, flight, or flee".
If you're not familiar with the term "fight, flight, or flee", it essentially means a heightened sense of alarm your entire body goes through when it senses danger. Its role is to protect and prepare your body to defend itself if necessary. This is fine in small doses, but increasingly it is becoming a long term issue for many.
Another reason it's important is that it helps you think more creatively and problem solve. This is the same clarity you get when you're in the shower. This can help you think through your problems in a rational, logical manner and take action when needed.
It helps your connections in relationships when you practice play with friends or family. The more good things you can combine, the more endorphins, or even oxytocin, the bonding hormone, is produced. This can also help you feel better and reduce flare activity.
The last thing it can help, if it's active play, is getting your lymphatic system moving. This is vital if you spend a lot of time at a desk, computer, on your couch or bed. Moving lymphatic fluid through your body helps reduce limb swelling, inflammation, and fluid retention (aka cankles).
There are many more benefits - these are just a few. Can you see how important play can be and how its benefits help reduce the things that produce a flare? This world could use a few more people willing to play, don't you think?
One of the things I hear most often when I message friends living with chronic pain is, "Thanks for listening and reaching out. I was really (lonely, sad, feeling alone, etc.) today. Many of them want to go out and be social, but physical limitations (and now COVID mandates) are keeping them from hanging out with friends and loved ones.
Winter is the worst time for this because the cold and pressure changes often disables those with chronic pain. This increase in pain generally leads to a decrease in social activity or availability even though the desire for connection is there.
Loneliness is defined as, "a state of sadness due specifically to the emotional experience of being disconnected from others, of feeling and/or being, in reality, all alone". The interesting thing here is that you don't have to be alone to feel alone, but generally speaking it is due to social isolation.
If this is you, what can you do to feel more connected to the outside world?
1. Create/Join a Virtual Walking Group - I belong to an exercise membership group called Autoimmune Strong and we have daily emails, a private FB page and regular Zoom meetings. It's really nice to gather and share our experiences. We have a shared interest in getting stronger and more flexible and can help each other when we're struggling. I would honestly pay double for what I get from Andrea and this awesome group.
2. Have your friends or family over - You could host a book club, spa night, game night, even get together with others with chronic pain to meal prep. The options here are endless! It doesn't have to be a big deal, just invite your friends and host for how ever long you're comfortable.
3. Follow people with chronic pain on social media - I know, I know, social media's kind of a mess right now, but stay with me. I've connected virtually with so many who are struggling through the things I'm dealing with or have dealt with and even though we've never met, I count them as some of my deepest, dearest friends. They cry with me, pray for me, and encourage me when I'm not sure I can handle another day.
Some of my favorites are:
Phoenix Helix - weekly recipe roundups, podcast, and resources
Autoimmune Sisters - support, recipes, real life stories, and stories from others with chronic pain
Hashimoto's Hope - coaching and support for people with Hashimoto's
Crystal Burchfield - wellness warrior who shares her struggles and what natural things she's using to heal
The Tim Frie - education and advocacy
4. Create a 'chronic pain' playlist - I love music and it brings me peace and great comfort when I'm not feeling well. This is my favorite playlist of songs from the worship team at my church on those days when I need encouragement or a good cry. If you prefer a playlist with popular music, I love this one too. Both are equally important and can provide as much support as a trusted friend when you need it. It's at your fingertips whenever you need it!
5. Meditate, pray and practice mindfulness - While it isn't a social activity, it can help you feel more centered and calm in a similar way that socializing does. I get up a little bit before anyone else, read my Bible, pray and meditate. It helps me start my day in gratitude and increase endorphins that can help ease my pain. I've had meditation and prayer sessions where I've gone in with a lot of pain and came out with nearly zero pain. It's pretty wild when that happens!
6. Adopt a pet - now, this isn't something to be taken on lightly. A pet is still a big responsibility, but can bring you so much joy. Even our old obstinate cat will come snuggle with me, purring gently when I'm hurting. It's like she knows I'm not feeling well and just need a cuddle.
I'd love to know what things you're doing to combat loneliness. I can always use some more tips.
Today I want to talk about something a little different - alcohol intolerance and some killer mocktails. I was never much for social drinking. Or if I did, I'd have one or two at the most. In the last year, I've realized that not even wine - yes, even the healthy stuff, works for my body. #sadface
It works against it in a BIG way. All of that to say, alcohol is a no go for me. Alcohol intolerance is common for those with chronic pain.
I missed the social aspect of a happy hour and love the taste of a good rum punch or pineapple mojito. So what's the solution? Kombucha mocktails! It might sound like something out of a SciFi movie, but I can assure you they're not. They're delicious and nourishing at the same time. Pretty good trade off, yeah? You can read more about the benefits of kombucha here.
When I was first thinking about writing this, I realized I hadn't MADE one. So I went to my resident mixologist (aka my husband) and asked for his advice. Being the simple man he is, he said, drink your favorite kombucha. Thanks, babe, but not exactly what I was looking for! He was trying to be helpful, bless his heart.
I mentioned my two favorite drinks earlier, and those are the ones I wanted to recreate. I mean, I've seen some great recipes online, but I wanted something of my own. You know what I mean?
So I set off in search of just that. And honestly, came up a little flat. I was going to have to create my own. Not an easy task for someone who sometimes can't decide what to wear in the morning.
My first one, the rum punch, is based on this recipe from Health-Ade kombucha. This one contains alcohol, so I swapped out tonic water for both. I was so skeptical when I tried it, but it turned out pretty good if I do say so myself.
The other drink is a pineapple mojito. This one from Flavour & Savour was pretty close. It calls for Triple Sec, so I subbed out orange kombucha for that. I think a blood orange kombucha would be fabulous with this one.
So there you have it—two of my favorite cocktails made into good for my body mocktails. Comment below with your favorite cocktail, and you just might see it in a future blog post. Don't worry; I'll make it worth your time! :)