Take One Step at a Time

Small Steps in the Right Direction
You have worked through your New Years resolutions, thrown out the preposterous and are working on the sensible.  Let’s lower bad cholesterol and increase the good, get more exercise and reduce the blood pressure and stress.  All of these goals seem easy to achieve but when you have lupus they may appear impossible.
Setting targets within your reach is the key to success.  Having lupus may mean you need to take it slow and easy.  Look at each step, regardless of how small, as a step in the right direction.  Compliment yourself no matter what the achievement is.  How you talk to yourself is important, try to be positive.  
If at all possible have a buddy.  Confiding in a friend or receiving a push in the right direction can boost confidence and keep you on track.
Eating right to stay healthy should be on the top of everyone’s list.  Don’t set impossible goals; don’t begin be reducing bad foods.  Simply add good foods.  Eventually the bad food will disappear.  You have removed the stress of change by slowly altering you eating habits. 
A lifestyle change in your eating practices can have long reaching affects that you might not even be aware of.  For instance, a government report recommends having at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day to help prevent hypertension.  Eating the following foods not only provides a percentage of that amount, they also contain much needed vitamins.   
Spinach, cooked, 1 cup 840
Potato, baked, with skin, medium 800
Sweet potato, baked, medium 700
White beans, ½ cup 600
Yogurt, nonfat, 1 cup 600
Halibut, cooked, 4 oz. 600
Brussels sprouts, 1 cup 500
Orange juice, 1 cup 500
Lima beans, ½ cup 475
Banana, medium 475
Broccoli, cooked, 1 cup 460
Squash, winter, ½ cup 450
Avocado, ½ medium 440
Cantaloupe, cubed, 1 cup 430
Tomato sauce, ½ cup 400
Grapefruit juice, 1 cup 400
Corn, 1 cup 390
Milk, nonfat, 1 cup 380
Lentils, cooked, ½ cup 365
Salmon, baked, 4 oz. 350
Cereal, bran, 1 oz. 340
Pork chop, cooked, 3 oz. 320
Kale, cooked, 1 cup 300
Tomato, medium 290
Mushrooms, ½ cup 275
Orange, 5 oz. 250
Grapefruit, ½ large 230
Carrot, 2.5 oz. 230
Strawberries, ½ cup 230
Almonds, 1 oz. 210
If at all possible, even people with physical limitations should exercise.  Exercise improves lung and heart function, decreases anxiety and depression, controls weight and lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, says the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability.
Maintaining some level of fitness within the context of your illness can be a powerful tool.  Start by understanding the barriers that hold you back.  Does the sun bother you, is fatigue a big problem?  If you are uncertain about the level of exercise that would be healthy for you, consult your doctor.  When movement is painful, stop exercising, try breathing exercises and stretching.
Breathing exercises can be beneficial both physically and mentally.  Relax, take deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.  Focus on your breathing; don’t let today’s problems intrude.   
Melvin Tabilas, a martial arts instructor who recently conducted a Qi Gong class in West LA for Lupus International, recommends the fluid motion of Qi Gong as a well rounded and unintrusive way to exercise.  It combines breathing patterns with simple movements and postures to cultivate the mind, body and spirit.
Small changes can make a big difference.  They can improve your mobility, stamina, appearance and health, just to name a few.  
Try working a little more movement into you daily routine with these tips.
* Leave the phone receiver in the kitchen so you will have to walk to it when it rings.
* Don’t use the remote to change the TV channel.
* Park at the far end of a parking lot and walk to the store or office.
* If they aren’t too heavy, carry your own groceries to the car.
* Get up from your desk during the day to stretch.
* Play motivating music when cleaning your house.
* If you only need a few light weight things at the supermarket, carry a basket instead of pushing a cart.
* Make exercising a hobby.  Take up yoga or Qi Gong, ride a bike, window shop in a mall!
* When grocery shopping walk down every isle.
* If possible use the stairs instead of the elevator
* While watching TV, extend your legs out in front of you and hold them there for a few seconds then lower your feet back to the floor.
* Strengthen your upper body by using hand weights. Start with very light weights and just a few repetitions.
If you are healthy enough and enjoy walking, take the dog for a stroll.  Listening to music or a book on tape makes the time pass quickly.  Also, mixing up your exercise schedule will help your routine from becoming monotonous.  Occasionally try lifting light hand weights instead of walking.
Are you looking for atmosphere and exercise and you aren’t bothered by the sun?  Grab a friend and head for a botanical garden in your area.  A stroll surrounded by the splendor of trees and flowers offer serenity and a beautiful place for a leisurely walk.  Many also offer exercise programs, to find a botanical garden in your area go to the Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta’s Website, www.aabga.org.  
To limit sun exposure, try using an enclosed shopping mall as your track.  Water exercise is a great alternative.  Your body is buoyant and the water offers resistance to your movement.  Join the YMCA or YWCA, many have heated pools.  
While beginning these programs with the best of intentions, you will have relapses.  Don’t be disappointed when this happen, learn from them.  Ask yourself “What can I do to avoid them?”  Plan ahead whenever possible.  On a day you plan to take a walk or go shopping, get some rest before you leave.  When grocery shopping prepare your menu ahead of time and buy food that is healthy and fun to eat (try something new).
Finally, the safety tips.  Drink plenty of fluids (preferably water), let someone know where you are going, wear appropriate clothing and take very good care of your feet, when outdoors wear bright clothing and move against traffic.  Choose an activity you like and give your body time to adjust to your new routine.  And most importantly, enjoy yourself.