Friday, June 6, 2014

Managing Stress in the Workplace

Recently, I started a new job within my company in the Communications Department. I am super excited and proud to be a part of such a smart team of people. My department has their hand in nearly every major project in the company, and I love being behind the scenes planning strategic and smart communications.

Thankfully, my Crohn's is well managed at this point in my life, and I am able to focus on a new job. Although my health is in a good place, managing stress in a new environment when my routine has complete altered is new challenge. Being the type A personality that I am, managing stress in all areas of life has always been a bit of a struggle. I easily acknowledge that I tense up easily. But the key for me is to notice when I am tense and tell myself to physically relax. Take deep breaths.

When starting a new job, it is perfectly normal to feel a bit overwhelmed. I expected that. Soaking in new information takes time and patience. And feeling stressed at work when you have been working for ten years in that position is normal too! Work can be stressful at times.

But how can you learn to manage stress well in the workplace so that you're not collapsing with exhaustion by 5:00 pm each day?

I'd like to share some tips that I have learned along the way:

Eat Breakfast
I'm sure you have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I believe it. I never miss a breakfast. My morning must start with some fruit and protein. When I have a full belly, I am better able to concentrate. On mornings when I dive right into a project or answering emails for an hour, I feel more stressed and my concentration levels are low because my stomach is grumbling. My breakfast and coffee always start my day off well.

Make a List
I know, I know, this is a very "type A" thing to do. My husband makes fun of all my lists. I can't imagine going to the grocery store with no grocery list! The idea of trying to remember every single item we need for the week stresses me out.

There is something internally soothing about writing down all the craziness of things to do that day, visualizing them on paper and checking them off one by one. When I see a plan in place for the day, I have confidence that I won't forget anything and my tasks will get done, because a list is keeping me accountable. At work, I make several types of lists. I make a list on Monday of all the things I need to accomplish before Friday. I make a list each day of the tasks I need to check off for that day. I keep a lists in front of my at all times. I never let it get buried under piles of papers or thrown in the trash. That list is my roadmap for the day.

Take a Quick Leisurely Walk
I work in your standard office environment. I sit at a desk and work at a computer most of the time. When I have been hunched over working hard at a project and my brain feels like it is spinning, I often force myself to stand up and take a walk around the halls. Go get a drink of water, get a snack, look outside, maybe go stand outside for a minute and smile up at the sun, or briefly say hello to a co-worker. Walking around and taking a mental break is essential to relieving stress that may be building during a workday. Then within five to ten minutes, I am able to come back to my desk with a clear head and renewed concentration.

There Will Always Be Work
When the work seems never-ending and always building, I remind myself that there will always be work to do. There are only so many hours in a day. The important thing is learning to prioritize your most important tasks for the day or week first and working down from there. I feel good if I get to the end of the day and my top three most important duties are complete. If I have a few more items on my to-do list that did not get accomplished but do not necessarily have a strict deadline for that day, then I know that it is ok to pick those up the next day or a few days later.

Since work is really never-ending, it is vital to your personal health and happiness to know when to close up shop for the day, turn your phone off, stop checking email and spend time with your family. Go play with the kids. Cuddle with your husband. Watch a move or read a good book. And don't talk about work. Don't even think about it! Get a good nights rest, wake up, eat your breakfast and start the day fresh. My body needs physically relaxation time to stay healthy. I have to have time to recharge, chill out and focus on my relationships.

At the end of the day, the relationships in my life are what is most important to me. At my funeral someday, I would rather be remembered for how much I cared for and loved people than how good of a worker I was. Although career accomplishments are great achievements to be recognized at the end of one's life, life is really meaningless to me without making an impact on other's lives, loving people and developing deep relationships with my husband, future children, parents, siblings, friends and co-workers.

Managing stress at work is no easy task. Some struggle with it more than others. It is a choice to wake up each new day, take deep breaths, take a walk, prioritize your list and keep a clear perspective of what is important in life.

Friday, May 16, 2014

These Are The Good Times

Lately, I have to remind myself that I still have Crohn's disease. My main symptoms have mostly subsided and my gut is not inflamed currently. I love it, and I do not take my energy and health for granted.

I remind myself, because I want to live in reality. My reality is that I do still have an illness, and it can and probably will come back at some point. I have accepted that. But during the good times, I will enjoy life and be so thankful for those good times.

Right now is a good time in our lives, and good things are happening. Isaac and I are both coming up on job changes. We are remaining with the same large oil and gas company, but moving up within the company to different departments. Recognized for our hard work ethics and skills, we were offered new jobs quickly and in areas that will grow and challenge the both of us.

Since I began my career, my goal has been to work in the communications department at my current company. After nearly four years, I am in. I was recently offered a position as a Communications Representative, and immediately accepted. I start my new job in two weeks.

My company is going through massive changes right now and has been for a year. So, communicating to the media and to employees well is critical to the success of the company. It's a busy time, a tense time for many and a great time for growth. This job is an answer to prayer. I am so happy to also be feeling at my best with energy levels to dive into my new job.

Both Isaac and I share similar work ethics. We are both hard workers who strive to do our best, continue learning, and be professional, honest employees. This likeness that we share I believe attracts us to one another and brings harmony to our relationship. I respect my husband as a hard worker, and this is a very attractive attribute to me.

It is necessary to share common morals and ethics. It is not necessary to agree on every single decision and belief, but it is pertinent to see eye-to-eye and be united on the "bigger picture" morals and beliefs of life, like religion, infidelity, divorce, abstinence, life after death, abuse, etc.

The other night while we were taking a walk with Izzy, I was thanking God for all the blessings in our lives. He always blesses us and we have so many things to be thankful for, but especially right now, I am very thankful for these good times.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Migraine Prevention: Butterbur

Recently, I decided to try and new supplement called Butterbur, which is an aid for preventing migraine headaches.

Butterbur is a plant found in the daisy family. Daisies remind me of the movie You've Got Mail when Meg Ryan says to Tom Hanks that daisies are the friendliest flower. I've always agreed. And apparently, the plant has healing qualities as well. 

Below is the butterbur plant. Pretty, huh? 

"People use the leaf, root, and bulb to make medicine. Some butterbur preparations contain chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which can damage the liver and cause other serious harm. Only butterbur products that are certified and labeled “PA-free” should be used.

Butterbur is used for pain, upset stomach, stomach ulcers, migraine and other headaches, ongoing cough, chills, anxiety, plague, fever, trouble sleeping (insomnia),whooping coughasthma, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), and for irritable bladder and urinary tract spasms. Butterbur is also used to stimulate the appetite (WebMD)."

II have suffered from migraines for a few years now., and decided to give the supplement a try two weeks ago. 

I have tried multiple triptan prescriptions drugs, like Maxalt, Frova and Imitrex, Excedrin, ibuprofen  and drinking more water. I hated the side effects I had from the riptans and Excedrin. They gave me anxiety, sweat, rapid heart beat and insomnia. Pain killers, like Loratab, will always decrease the migraine pain. However, I cannot function properly during the week on Loratab, because it is a drug with strong side affects of sleepiness, dizziness and nausea. When I am getting migraines several times a week, I cannot rely on pain killers. Another remedy I have found that sometimes works for me is coffee and ibuprofen. If I take ibuprofen and a cup of coffee the moment I feel the onset of a migraine, I am usually able to feel relief. Unfortunately f I get a migraine late at night, I don't want to drink caffeine for fear of not being able to sleep. 

So, I decided to give an herbal supplement a try and see if migraines can actually be prevented. I honestly never tried this before, because I did not believe prevention was possible. 

I have been taking 75 mg of butterbur, two pills, every day for two weeks now. So far, no migraine! Seems too good to be true. I'm not sure how long this will last or how often I will get migraines while taking this herb. For now, I am happy with the results :) 

It has been nice to wake up with a clear feeling head. It feels so good to be able to work at a computer screen all day long at work with no pounding achy head by 3:00 pm. 

I found my 30 day supply for 15 dollars at Whole Foods here in Oklahoma City. 

It seems this herb may have inflammation healing properties that could help my Crohn's disease as well. This is a plus for me!

If you suffer from migraines and you have not found a great resolution yet, please try this supplement. Every person is different, and we all respond to things differently. So, it may help some and others not. 

Please let me know what other remedies you use! I'd love to know. No one really understands how bad and debilitating a migraine can be until you have suffered from one. So, let's help each other out!

By the way, I was not paid to advertise for this herb. :)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Arthritis of IBD

After a long awaited appointment with a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in arthritis, I received an official diagnoses of arthritis last week. I made this appointment at the end of November, and this was the quickest I could get in to see this type of doctor. It can be very difficult for a new patient to schedule an appointment with a specialist for the first time.

I have written in previous posts that I started experiencing joint aches and pains almost a year ago in April 2013. My pain was mostly noticed in my wrists and in my left thumb joint. Slowly the left thumb joint became more stiff and painful to do certain tasks, like opening a jam jar. The pain started right after I weened off my last steroid Endocort, a drug I had been taking for quite some time. So, it seems steroids were helping. However, steroids are not a longterm answer.

In November 2013, I was having a difficult time washing heavy dishes, folding laundry and picking up a mug. My thumb really hurt, and it was swollen. A previous bone doctor who had seen me gave me a steroid shot into my joint. And that helped! I still had to wait three months to see a specialist to confirm the pain was indeed arthritis.

I have what is called arthritis of inflammatory bowel disease, also known as Enteropathic Arthritis.

"Many people don't realize that the gastrointestinal tract contains the largest immune system in the body. The immune system is the body's natural defense against foreign invaders, and it is somehow altered in people who have these conditions. Some researchers believe that the long-lasting inflammation found in the intestines of people with IBD damages the bowel, which in turn may allow bacteria to enter the damaged bowel wall and circulate through the blood stream. The body's reaction to these bacteria may cause other problems including inflammation in the joints and/or spine, skin sores and inflammation of the eyes. Currently this hypothesis is neither fully understood nor confirmed by rigorous scientific study("

When my Crohn's symptoms were flaring, bacteria escaped out of the damaged bowel wall, circulated through my blood stream and affected my joints. Thus, aches and pains in my left thumb joint and wrists. 

Although it does not change the outcome, I always feel better and empowered when I have a deeper understanding of my illness. Knowledge gives me some kind of peace. I do not feel out of control when I understand what is happening to my body and why. 

When I asked my doctor if my thumb would ever feel normal again, he said, maybe, maybe not. He said that inflammation is very stubborn, and it may take many years for the pain and stiffness to subside. In the meantime, I can continue to be injected with steroid shots if I wish. He wrote me a prescription for a gel to rub on the joint three times daily. The gel contains Advil and steroid medication, which topically melts into the joint from the skin. I'm interested to see how the gel makes a difference. 

Knowing that bad inflammatory Crohn's bacteria can escape the bowel wall and travel through the blood stream is one of the most important reasons to do whatever it takes to keep IBD symptoms under control. Eat a healthy noninflammatory diet, regularly take prescribed medication and do not learn to live with the symptoms. The bad bacteria can affect the entire body and intensely lower quality of life. Not only can arthritis arise, skin, eyes and other organs can also be negatively affected. 

I challenge those who suffer from any illness to do what you can to be your best kind of healthy, because a long quality life is worth it. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Lie I Believed

I have struggled most of my life with believing a lie that I am weak. Several factors in my life have contributed to that lie, especially health problems.

At four and a half years old, I was diagnosed with Supraventrivular Tachycardia (SVT). I even learned how to say that long word at a young age!

"During an episode of SVT, the heart's electrical system doesn't work right, causing the heart to beat very fast. The heart beats at least 100 beats per minute and may reach 300 beats per minute. After treatment or on its own, the heart usually returns to a normal rate of 60 to 100 beats a minute ("

I remember having these episodes often as a child. They occurred so often that in kindergarten I had to carry around a heart monitor in a blue jean Hello Kitty fanny pack. I also had to take pills to keep the episodes under control three times a day. During lunch time at school, I stopped by the office to swallow my tiny nude-colored pills before heading out to the play ground. I was always afraid to run around too much at recess in fear that would create an episode - and that did happen a few times.

My condition was embarrassing and scary. But most of all, it made me feel weak. Not only did I have a serious heart condition, I was very thin growing up. Kids sometimes said things like, "You're too skinny; you have toothpick legs." This made me feel physically weak, although I was not.  Funny though, I have never even broken a bone.

When I was eleven and had just started at a new school, I underwent a nine hour surgery called an ablation to repair my heart. All was successful. However, it took about a month to recover, and I missed school. Immediately, all my new classmates knew me as the new girl who had heart surgery. Health problems. Sick. Weak.  I know now that most of them probably don't even remember that about me and it was an internal label only I gave myself, not them. It was a lie I was believing about myself.

In my teen years and some in college, Satan used my quiet, introverted spirit to tell me I am weak. I don't have a voice. I have nothing important or funny to say. It wasn't until I got to college, that I made friends who encouraged me, brought out my confidence and my voice.

At 21 years of age, I was diagnosed again with SVT plus Atrial Fibrillation, a condition when the heart's rhythm is off for periods of time. I chose to undergo the heart ablation for a second time right after college graduation. I wanted to get it over with and move on with my life. No more health problems. But my body had a different plan.

Two years later, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. However, I had been living with the symptoms since college. The diagnoses was a blow to me at first. With all the new medications I began taking,  I felt especially weak. And tired. And sick .

But, I have found my voice. I have found my strength. My strength only comes from Jesus. I do not live defeated, because He is not defeated. I do not live weak, because He is in me and He is strong. And the more I talk about my struggles, my health condition and not hide, I feel more empowered every day. When I feel weak, I remind myself of His truth in the bible. When I am weak, He is made strong.

I have important things to say, and I have a God who speaks through me.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Wanna See My Guts?

Ew gross! No really, I would like to share with you what my Crohn's disease really looks like!

I had my colonoscopy almost two weeks ago, and I received a great report! It has been two and a half year since my diagnoses and first colonoscopy, and I have come to a good place with my health. Praise Jesus. Below I would like to share with you real photos of my intestines and colon. 

The first photo is a drawing my doctor gave me to visually show me where my Crohn's inflammation is located. I am a very visual person, so this helped. Inflammation and ulcers can appear anywhere in the GI tract and mine is mostly in my colon and small intestine. 

The next three photos are from my most recent scope. You can see the inside of my small intestine and my colon. See how they are fairly pinkish-white looking? That is good. They are not inflammed and red. Also, you can see yellow arrows where she points out some inactive Crohn's ulcers.  I still have the illness; it is just not inflammed right now. 

The last three photos are from my scope when I was first diagnosed. See how much more red they are filled with yellow mucus? Yuck. I have come a long way. :)

So, does this mean I am in remission? That was the first question I sleepily asked my doctor when I awoke from the anesthesia. She said that technically according to the photos, no. But symptomatically, yes. My symptoms seem to be under control for the most part. This might be the best I will ever get, and that is fine with me. :)

Remission does not mean I am healed. Remission does not mean I don't get sick anymore. Unfortunately, I still have Crohn's, and I still am having arthritis issues in my hands. The illness affects my whole body. It does mean my symptoms are managed well and under control for the most part temporarily. (Hopefully, a long while!) This is good! Glory to God!

The colonoscopy prep was awful as expected. The three bottles of magnesium citrate I drank made me very bloated and extremely crampy. I was in a lot of pain for nearly two days. I prayed a lot, thanked God for where I am at in my life, sang songs to him with my music on in the bathroom, and also thought about french fries. Ha. I'll admit I was a little cranky off and on, and I hated the prep.

Isaac did not eat for most of my fast. He cheated a little. He only ate some when he was not around me. ;) I am okay with that, because he was scraping the popcorn off of our ceilings and working really hard to make our home look pretty.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Friday, January 10, 2014

How to Really Prep for a Colonoscopy

This Sunday, is my colonoscopy prep day. This is one of those days most people do not want to hear about when it comes to having Crohn's disease. Most people don't even want to know I am having a colonoscopy at all. Just leave that part out. TMI!

I can't though. I just can't. It is so much a part of having Inflammatory Bowel Disease and a part of my young life right now. 

Those of you who don't know what a colonoscopy is, let me enlighten you. 

Usually young people are unaware of this procedure, because unless you have a reason, like me, for a doctor to look inside your colon and intestines, you will not need a colonoscopy till later in life. Medical professionals encourage adults to have a colonoscopy regularly after they turn 50 years old to test for things like colon cancer, polyps, tumors, imflammation etc. 

Colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine camera (rectum and colon). He or she uses a thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope to look at the colon. 
The colonoscope is a thin, flexible tube that ranges from 48 in. (122 cm) to 72 in. (183 cm) long. A small video camera is attached to the colonoscope so that your doctor can take pictures or video of the large intestine (colon). The colonoscope can be used to look at the whole colon and the lower part of the small intestine. 
Before this test, you will need to clean out your colon (colon prep). Colon prep takes 1 to 2 days, depending on which type of prep your doctor recommends. Some preps may be taken the evening before the test. For many people, the prep for a colonoscopy is more trying than the actual test. Plan to stay home during your prep time since you will need to use the bathroom often. The colon prep causes loose, frequent stools and diarrhea so that your colon will be empty for the test. The colon prep may be uncomfortable and you may feel hungry on the clear liquid diet. -
I had to have a colonoscopy in order to be officially diagnosed with Crohn's disease so that the doctor could point out and actually see the inflammation lining my intestines and colon. This time, I am hoping they see that the inflammation has subsided. 
It's true though, the prep, the day before the procedure, is the worst part of it all. Not only can I not eat solid foods all day long, but I have to drink a strong laxative that removes all the bowels inside my intestines. So, I will be on the toilet for quite a while Sunday. I even am prepping for the prep! I bought a book to read, soft toilet paper and wipes. 
Tonight as I am thinking about and dreading Sunday, I ask myself if I want to go to church on Sunday morning. Immediately I think, no, I'd much rather sleep in to make the day go by faster and stay near a toilet. 
But then I heard God say to me, Come worship me, and I will feed you. You will hunger no more. 
I'll admit, I hate fasting. I have never had the desire to fast. Never saw the point. Never wanted to. I want to eat. I want food! I can still love God, put Him first and eat food. So, screw that. 
On Sunday, I will have no choice but to medically fast. But I feel that God is also calling me to take this opportunity to spiritually fast - to sings songs for him, to read his Word, and to lean on Him when I am hungry and in pain. 
And that is what I will do. 
I am writing out my plan to spiritually fast publicly so that I can be kept more accountable to follow through with God's request. 
I will write a follow up blog post next week to report back how my colonoscopy prep went and the results. Please say a prayer for me on Sunday. If you personally know me, do not hesitate to text me to ask how my spiritual fast is going. ;) 
My sweet husband has even offered to fast with me to make the experience easier on me. Let's keep him accountable too! 

Thank you!