Treating Yourself Kindly with an Autoimmune Disorder

Those of you with severe autoimmune diseases like Multiple Sclerosis know that many things can throw you over the edge! Little tasks that other people with good health take for granted can be incredibly taxing for those with celiac disease, Hashimoto’s, diabetes, and other AI conditions.

Be Kind to Yourself

That’s why it’s important for those of us with autoimmune disorders to be extra kind to ourselves and observe how we feel in our day-to-day activities. Or as the medical profession refers to them, ADLs (activities of daily life).

House Cleaning = Exercise

Even little things like housecleaning can be a form of exercise for people with autoimmune conditions. When I cleaned out our fridge and pantry the other day, I didn’t think it was a big deal. That was my mind talking! When I checked in with my body, I realized I was tired and needed to rest.

Don’t Push Yourself

This is a lesson that has taken me some time to learn! If you have an autoimmune disorder or any sort of health issue, it’s important to rest and not push. I remind myself of this every single day!

Don’t Worry About Others

Sometimes people ask why I don’t just push through it and exercise more. What they don’t understand is that I’ll get a full body migraine the next day or my leg will go totally numb, definitely NOT worth it.

Competition vs. Compassion

When we worry about what others think of us, it’s not about them, it’s about us. That’s because we’re being competitive instead of compassionate. Focusing inward on how I feel in my body, rather than what’s going on in my mind is key for me in slowing down.

Cultivating Patience

If you’re dealing with an intense inflammatory condition it’s so important not to push yourself. It can take time to cultivate the skills to be kind gentle and patient with yourself. It’s a practice I cultivate every day.

Your Tips?

Do you have an autoimmune disease? What helps you slow down? Leave a comment and share your autoimmune survival skills and strategies here!


66 responses to “Treating Yourself Kindly with an Autoimmune Disorder”

  1. I have autoimmune disease which often leaves me feeling wiped out. My husband is a physician and reminds me about what he refers to as ‘energy equity”. He says that AI can use up to 60% of the body’s energy, especially during flare-ups, which leaves very little left for day to day living and that rest and relaxation are essential. I often feel as if I’m being lazy but I know he’s right. Relaxation is different for each person, I find that doing the various fiber arts that I enjoy really help me improve my energy level and my mood.

    • Sue, thanks for your wonderful comment and also for the reminder that relaxing and enjoyable hobbies can be very nourishing :-)

  2. Elana, you wrote: “Sometimes people ask why I don’t just push through it and exercise more.” Oh my gosh! They clearly know little about MS! It is so important to do exactly the opposite! Many folks with MS can become so much worse from such well-meaning but ignorant “advice.” As you clearly know, one needs to find a balance between exercising to maintain muscle strength without over-exerting which not only depletes but harms.

    It sure is terrific that you are willing to educate the public in so many ways!

    • Pamela, thanks for your incredible comment! As I’ve become more open in discussing MS with folks I’ve realized that most people don’t really have much knowledge about this disease.

  3. Elana – I’ve been following your posts for over a year now, but this is the first time I’ve posted a comment. Your post obviously hit a chord – I was diagnosed with MS just over 2 1/2 years ago, and things I used to do as an after-thought, now make up my day (…and that’s on a good day!). So, I COMPLETELY understand, what you mean about how a little task, is NOT a little task for somebody who has a a chronic condition. Along with MS, I also suffer from chronic migraines, which also challenges my ability to function.
    Your comment about being kind, is a good one – some days I’m better than others at achieving this. I have found it especially difficult, as I went from a Director at a pharmaceutical company, where my husband & I had even moved to Switzerland for my job, to being on a medical leave with these 2 diseases, unable to function.
    My husband, my family, a wonderful family physician, therapy, and mostly time have helped me adapt to this “new normal”.
    Thank you for sharing your story – it makes me feel not so alone!

    • Megan, thanks for your comment and for sharing your journey with MS and migraines here. I’m so lucky not to be isolated by being on this path with you :-)

  4. What a wonderful post! Such good advice. I am loving your approach to life’s unpredictable changes. Thanks for your on-going help to us.

  5. Thank you so much for this article Elana. It so resonates with me. Woke up this morning and felt unwell (as usual) and was wondering will I have any energy today to do anything. So much need doing in a house and life in general and as you say little things that healthy people just do consumes so much of our energy. I suffer from CFS but it’s more of an autoimmune version of which I had for 18 years. I used to do yoga but has been suffering with labyrinthitis for 6 months so that’s off the agenda as well unfortunately. Reading this Elana has really helped me and also made me realise I’m not the only one suffering from this. Would love to know what’s in your fridge! Looks fantastic and very organised.

    • Jo, thanks for your comment! You definitely are not the only one going through this, there are so many of us and we need to stick together :-)

  6. I love this, competition vs compassion… I am guilty of letting my ego goad me into doing more than I should and suffering for it the next day. Obviously, cultivating patience is something I need to focus on! Thank you, Elana, for the poignant post. A good reminder for those of us who struggle with chronic health issues.

  7. Elana, I didn’t know Celiac disease could have a taxing affect on the body. Thank you for sharing that. I’ve been thinking, “why am I so much more tired and ready to sit down anytime from 3-5 pm compared to others? and feeling a bit judgmental about it. “I’m too young to have so little energy” I’m done with that! This is another area of self-acceptance that I am shifting toward thanks to you.

    • Diane, thanks for your comment! It’s so important for those of us with autoimmune diseases to stick together, share perspectives, and support each other :-)

  8. This is so timely for me. As I sit here “actively” resting from the day. I have rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroid, raynaud’s and am a yoga instructor. I have/am working on honoring my body by sitting with it and honestly asking what it needs and then just being quiet and listening. In the past I could clean the whole house for hours and just feel wonderful, now I choose what I’m able to clean and do that.
    I believe the best thing you can do for your body is to love your body. To listening and honoring what it needs. Take those rests, slow walks, naps and celebrate what you’re able to do in the moment! :)

  9. Hi Elena,
    My refrigerator looks pretty much like yours. I spend a lot of time with food prep and enjoy it as i know it’s mine and my families path to health. I have Hashimos, as does my husband. We have dramatically changed what we eat and help others in our Wellness Clinic to heal as well. I no longer do pounding exercise and practice Pilates and yoga which does not burn out my Adrenal Glans and helps my Cortisol levels. I’d love to connect verbally and do a story about you and your healing journey. I have 5000 Instagram followers. My website is
    In vibrant Health,

    • Linda, thanks for your comment! I am with you on the exercise and find that Pilates and yoga are perfect for my body too. We will be in touch with you about the story :-)

  10. Thank you for the reminder Elana! I have a very autoimmune disease – dermatomyositis.
    Approx. 1 in a million people have this. I remind myself that because this is so rare, I get to be special, unique and that I am a warrior:) If I push through my pain and fatigue and overdue it – it sets me back. I am still learning this – even having this for only 2 years.., so my husband reminds me that even warriors have to rest:) So this little warrior listens to that. If I take care of me and rest and listen to my disease ( I call it dermy – I do not like dermy!), I handle life much better. I remind myself all day long, I am a warrior, and that has become my mantra. Also, my husband, my biggest support leaves me sticky notes around the house that say, I am a warrior. :)

    • Ellie, thanks for your wonderful comment and for sharing your story here! I totally agree with you, warriors have to rest even more than others, because we’re so busy being warriors! Your husband sounds amazing and I hope I get to meet the two of you when I go on book tour again :-)

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