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I’m back home after an amazing week in Maryland with my family for Thanksgiving and I’m exhausted.
I pushed myself really hard and I’ve been paying the price for a few days now.
Usually, I need at least few days of rest to recover after vacations. This trip was no exception – I veered off my diet, I didn’t sleep that well, and I pushed myself to do too many things. And even though I’m sitting here a bit dizzy, with ear fullness and brain fog, I feel like it was worth it.
I knew there would be consequences, and I made the decision to push past my limitations with open eyes. It’s not always worth it, but it definitely was this time. I’m lucky to have a supportive and loving family, so I always try to take full advantage of the limited time I get to spend with them.
And now that I’m back, I’ve been thinking a lot about my Meniere’s disease triggers and the idea of living with unwanted limitations.
Nobody wants to live with limitations. And it can really hard to let go of the person you used to be. But a life with unwanted limitations doesn’t have to be a bad life.
So I wanted to take a few minutes to talk to you guys about finding your triggers and limitations, and more importantly, how to test the boundaries of your limitations on a regular basis.
It’s an important part of living well with Meniere’s disease. Because when you understand the exact nature of your limitations, you can make better decisions, and raise your quality of life.
How to find your triggers:
First things first, I want you to understand that when you experience a Meniere’s episode, whether it’s a full-blown vertigo attack or a minor flare up, it may seem to have happened randomly, but that’s not generally the case.
More often than not it was triggered either by something external in your environment or by a problematic aspect of your health or lifestyle.
I normally advocate for implementing a temporary lifestyle cleanse, where you preemptively eliminate as many possible triggers as you can from your lifestyle. This way you are likely to avoid at least some of your actual triggers. But it’s also important to identify the specific things that worsen your symptoms.
The problem is that triggers vary wildly on a case by case basis. What affects one person may not affect you at all, or might improve your symptoms. There are also a ton of variables to consider, which makes it extremely difficult to track everything in your head.
For example, if something you ate for breakfast triggers you in the afternoon, you aren’t automatically going to notice the connection. Too many other things happened in-between. And this this kind of missed association happens all the time.
But when we have the right information in front of us, organized in a helpful way, we’re actually very good at spotting patterns.
To help you find your triggers, I created a free tool to keep track of all the important variables in an organized way. All you have to do is fill one out every day, and then go back and compare your worst days to look for patterns.
Understanding and testing your limitations:
The other piece of this puzzle is understanding your new limitations.
What most people don’t realize is that their limitations change over time and can fluctuate day to day. So it’s crucially important to find your limitations so that you can avoid triggering your symptoms and enjoy your life more fully.
The best way to do this is to test your limitations with what I like to call lifestyle reversal experiments. All you have to do is reintroduce things that triggered you before in a small and controllable way.
I’ll give you a personal example. I love coffee, but caffeine has always been a trigger for me.
What I’ve discovered by experimenting, is that on a good day I can tolerate a cup of coffee perfectly fine. Two cups is pushing it, but I’m usually okay. Anything more and I’ve triggered my symptoms.
Yet on a day like today, when I’m recovering from my trip and experiencing a flare up of my symptoms, a cup of coffee would likely make everything worse. So I avoid it.
The trick is to reintroduce slowly, testing a little bit more each successful day, until your symptoms start to reappear. But you should also occasionally test again, especially if you had to give up something you enjoy, because as time goes on our triggers can change.
You may suddenly find that you can tolerate things that triggered you before, or vice versa, that you have new triggers that weren’t a problem before.
Either way, the more you know about your limitations the better.
At the end of day, this practice is ultimately about finding the outer boundaries of a better quality of life.
When you know exactly how everything will affect you, you can make better decisions. You can avoid the things that will most likely trigger your symptoms and add more of everything that helps you to improve.
And you can also decide to push past your limitations in certain circumstances with open eyes, knowing exactly what it will cost you. You can make the decision to participate in some activity, fully accepting the consequences in advance, as I did on my trip.
It might not always pay off. But you get to decide, not Meniere’s disease.
So, I ask you: what are your limitations? Because if you aren’t sure, or if you haven’t tested them in a while, you might just have more freedom than you realize.