Life can present unforeseen challenges that we must adapt and adjust to in order to maintain a balanced life. When a chronic, inflammatory disease enters the equation of life, it may create a mix of emotions that can leave one feeling scared, hopeless, and frustrated. But the good news is, you are not alone. Teens such as Andrew Roe are choosing to stay motivated and focused on the future ahead. Andrew copes with a chronic illness, but refuses to be defined by it.
How can you stay positive and motivated about the future? Here are some tips Andrew shared with SAA on how he stays motivated.
- Find Your Passion:
Finding something you are passionate about really helps. You’ll never be motivated by something you don’t enjoy doing. My goal is to play D1 lacrosse in college, so I have made working out a part of my daily routine. My faith, gratitude, and keeping my challenges in perspective have also been key for me to stay motivated. I also like to take a walk with my dog, hang out with my friends or listen to music when I feel down.
- Don’t be defined by the illness:
My mom has told me that every path worth taking has some obstacles.
My goal of playing lacrosse in college keeps me inspired to push and move forward. I know I cannot better myself if I give up or feel sorry for myself. I have moments of doubt, but I try to look at those moments as a part of the process.
- Be honest with yourself:
If you try to downplay your symptoms or ignore illness-related stress, they don’t go away. They just get worse. That’s why it’s important to be honest with yourself and others when you don’t feel well mentally or physically. I have learned to only share information about my AS with people I truly trust to be supportive. Unfortunately, not everyone understands or wants to understand autoimmune illnesses.
- Find your balance:
Being healthy means finding a balance between pushing yourself, taking breaks, and resting. Treat yourself like you would treat a good friend. Setbacks are part of any journey, and probably more so if you’re living with AS. Low energy and lack of motivation days can be opportunities to learn your limits.
- Keep to a daily routine:
I start every day with a warm shower to loosen up my muscles and joints so I can move better throughout the day. Before any workout or practice, I stretch and hydrate. I end most days with a soak in the hot tub to keep my joints loose. I’ve also found that getting good sleep helps. Finally, I like to take my medications when I get home at night, so my stomach isn’t upset at a practice or game.
- Stay Active:
Being active and getting regular exercise makes a huge difference, along with getting on the right combination of medications and taking them on a schedule. Regular exercise is important for people with AS, and I think that working out six days a week has helped me cope.
- Set Goals:
Setting goals gives you purpose. As an athlete, setting goals is important because you must work hard even when you’re bored, tired, dealing with pain, and tempted by other distractions. It’s easy to say that you want to be a successful athlete. It is much more difficult to make it happen. Goals help you take small steps toward the long-term outcome you want.
- Remember: Challenges are temporary setbacks:
AS is something I must cope with, but it doesn’t define or limit me. When facing adversity, I think the three most important mindset qualities are: acceptance, positivity, and grit. The sooner you can accept the realities of a chronic illness instead of fighting them, the more energy you must work with, and the easier and smoother life becomes. Noticing what is going well is hard during a challenge but keeping optimistic and embracing little successes goes a long way. Sometimes it’s really hard to go on but if we have grit, we can get centered. Any challenge is temporary, and grit means we can get through the circumstance with determination and resilience.
- Remember, You’re Not Alone:
My parents have been my biggest support system. They know that I have good days and bad days and they are patient when I’m frustrated with my condition. I talk to them when I’m worried and I always tell them if I notice new symptoms.
- Know your body:
It’s important to check in with yourself and make note of any changes in how your body feels from day to day. It’s important to take note of any changes, no matter how minor they seem.
- Make the proper adjustments:
I have learned some strategies for modifying how I play and train. Some of my medications made me feel nauseous so I take them at night after practice and sometimes adjust the dosing by a day or two if I have a game. I must think about how I will transport my medications that need refrigeration when I am traveling with my club team. Additionally, I always make sure to stretch before and after practices and competitions. I let my sports trainer at school know about my condition, so he helps with stretching recommendations too.