Written by Andrea Molloy
Andrea was diagnosed with endometriosis at the age of 24, following seven years of symptoms, since the onset of her period. She has had numerous laparoscopies for the excision of endometriosis, plus a range of medical treatments and therapies. When Andrea was 36, she had a hysterectomy, retaining her ovaries. A month later her daughter was born via surrogacy. She is the author of Endometriosis, a New Zealand Guide (Random House 2006). @andreamullermolloy
Living with endometriosis (endo) often means chronic pain and a disruption to every aspect of your life! It doesn’t matter if you are recently diagnosed or have lived with endo for years, your wellbeing is top priority. But, living with endo can also challenge even the best intentions. Endo can easily sabotage your study, work and social life by interrupting all of your plans. So, how can you live your best life? Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, so here’s six ways to manage your wellbeing.
(1) Lift your mood
No matter how debilitating your symptoms, don’t overlook your mental wellbeing. If you’re feeling drained or overwhelmed, discover how to instantly boost your mood. Do this by listening to your favourite song, dance, sing, smile, have a laugh, give someone a hug (pets included), get outside, walk around the block (or to the letterbox!), stretch or call a friend. Try a few quick fixes until you discover what works best for you and add it to your wellbeing toolkit.
(2) Know your endo
One of the best things you can do is increase your awareness and take control. Track your symptoms, listen to your body, stay informed and talk to health professionals. If you track your period (app or paper) and related symptoms, you will soon have useful data for your next doctor’s appointment. This will help empower you and inform your choices. Always refer to trustworthy sources for the facts, the latest research, self-management tips, surgical and medical treatment options and to help you better understand endometriosis, including fertility. Sharing your story and learning from others can also provide reassurance.
(3) Create new habits
Add self-care to your wellbeing toolkit and prioritise it by scheduling time for yourself. Make an action plan for your mind and body including moving, nutrition and sleeping well. Set reminders to help create your new routine. Don’t forget to include rewards for building momentum too!
Ensure a good night’s sleep by having a regular bedtime, ditching the devices and finding quiet time at least an hour before sleep. Also keep moving and stay active with yoga, running with friends or join a sports team. If you’re new to exercise, choose the easiest option, walking. It’s easy, free and fits into any schedule.
(4) Find support
Ask for help, whether it’s a friend, partner or whānau. Discuss the practical support you need – someone to listen, comfort, discuss treatment options, run errands, attend appointments with you, fill hot water bottles, physically assist you or just be there! Reach out for further help and support from ENZ. Also, consider starting an Endo Support Group at work. Keep talking and stay connected with friends and whānau.
(5) Create a calm moment
Feeling anxious, overwhelmed or stressed? Find your way to slow down and manage these feelings. Your calm moment may be sipping a cup of tea, creative journalling, deep breathing and other mindfulness strategies. Try one idea and if it doesn’t work, try another until you find your own moment of calm. Add what works to your wellbeing toolkit for those moments when you need to calm yourself.
(6) Celebrate your wins
Living with endo can bring the lowest of days, when you can’t get out of bed, stand, or leave home. Prioritise dealing with the symptoms that affect you the most. Work closely with your support team and build a personal roadmap for addressing these challenges. Regularly check in and evaluate what’s working and what’s not.
Reclaim your life by fine tuning your wellbeing habits and include alternatives and back up plans.
During your worst flare ups, you may not be able to attend your favourite group fitness class, but your Plan B may be gentle stretching or an easy walk.