If you’ve been around the chronic illness community for a while, you’re likely familiar with the “October slide.” But what, specifically, is the October slide? The October slide is a phenomenon that is seen in patients with chronic illnesses. It is the gradual decline in health that patients with conditions like fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, chronic migraine, dysautonomia, and more experience as the month of October progresses. This can be seen in a variety of ways, including an increase in symptoms, a decrease in energy, and an overall feeling of being unwell. By understanding the chronic illness October slide, we spoonies can figure out how to cope with this decline.
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What causes the chronic illness October slide?
The cause of the October slide is unknown, but it is thought to be related to a combination of factors:
The Stress of the Holiday Season
The holiday season can be a difficult time for people with chronic illnesses for a number of reasons. First of all, the stress of the holiday season can be overwhelming. There is so much to do and so much to worry about, and for people with chronic illnesses, the added stress can be debilitating.
Changes in Barometric Temperature
For some people, changes in barometric pressure can cause an increase in symptoms. This is due to the pressure changes putting stress on the body, which can affect the immune system, nervous system, and other systems. When barometric pressure is high, it can cause the body to swell, leading to symptoms such as headaches, joint pain, and swelling. When barometric pressure is low, it can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as an increase in the number of sick days taken.
Allergies are an annoyance to most people, but they can be a real struggle for those who suffer from chronic illnesses. The symptoms of seasonal allergies can mimic the symptoms of many chronic illnesses, which can make it difficult to determine if allergies are the root cause of your problems. Symptoms of seasonal allergies can include sneezing, coughing, congestion, itchy eyes, a runny nose, and a sore throat.
Cold and Flu Season
The cold and flu season can also contribute to the October slide, as people with chronic illnesses are more likely to catch colds and other respiratory infections. This can lead to missed work and school days, further reducing productivity and engagement.
The Changing of Seasons
The autumn season can be a difficult time for people with mental health conditions, in particular, as the weather becomes colder and darker, and the days become shorter. For some people, this can lead to a feeling of loneliness and isolation, as well as a decrease in energy levels. The change in season can also affect people’s moods, with some people feeling more sad, anxious or stressed during the autumn months.
As the leaves start to change color and the days grow shorter, many people prepare for the change in seasons by stocking up on autumnal decorations and warm clothes. However, for the millions of people living with chronic illnesses, the onset of colder weather can bring about a noticeable decline in health. For people with conditions like arthritis, asthma, and fibromyalgia, the cold weather can be especially tough. Joint pain, shortness of breath, and blood sugar fluctuations are all common in the fall and winter months.
If you are experiencing the October slide, there are a few things that you can do to help improve your health. These include:
Prepare ahead of time.
If you know that the October slide tends to affect you, try to plan ahead. If you’re newly diagnosed or symptomatic and suspect it might affect you, try to plan ahead. Make a list of things you need to get done before the weather gets too cold and try to get as many of them done as you can. This might look like preparing some easy-to-eat meals or putting together a crisis kit for coping with a migraine or fibromyalgia flare.
If you’re looking for some new dinner ideas, be sure to check out our vegan-friendly recipe archive! While some dishes require more effort, there are many low-spoon options or meals that can be made in advance.
Get enough rest.
Getting enough rest is essential for everyone, but it’s especially important for people who live with a chronic illness. When you’re tired, your body is working harder than it should have to to keep you going, and that can lead to a flare-up of your symptoms. It’s easier said than done to get proper rest when dealing with chronic pain or symptoms but the benefits of getting enough rest are clear. Not only will you feel better physically, but you’ll also be less stressed and more productive.
Maintain a healthy diet.
It is important to maintain a healthy diet when coping with a chronic illness. To some degree, this depends on your unique circumstances—your particular condition or set of symptoms might benefit from foods that harm someone else. You should talk to your doctor(s) about what options are best for you and will keep you at your healthiest. It is also important to drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
Move when you can.
There’s no question that managing a chronic illness is hard work. It can often seem impossible, but when you’re able to, exercise can help you cope with the chronic illness October slide. Chances are, your healthcare team has recommended getting exercise. I know mine have! But it’s important to find the right type of exercise for you. If you’re not currently active, start slowly and build up gradually. If you’re not sure where to start, talk to your doctor or a physical therapist. They can help you develop a plan that’s tailored to your needs and abilities.
Keep up with your treatment plan.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to coping with a chronic illness, but it is important to keep up with your existing treatment plan in order to minimize the impact of the chronic illness. This means taking your pills, attending all of your doctor appointments, and following your treatment plan closely.
Stay in touch with your doctors.
The chronic illness October slide can be a difficult time for anyone coping with a chronic illness. As you learn to cope with the challenges this time of year can bring, it’s critical that you keep in touch with your healthcare team. They can provide support and guidance to help you manage your condition during this difficult time.
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Embrace the spirit of the season.
As we head into October, many of us are feeling the effects of the chronic illness October slide. One powerful coping mechanism is to embrace the slow, cosy tone of the season. This can mean taking extra time for self-care, enjoying simple pleasures, and spending time with loved ones.
Remember that this is temporary.
With chronic conditions, we know how it feels to be endlessly uncomfortable. It can be helpful to remember that the October slide, at least, is only a temporary phase. Eventually, this particular trigger will fade again. In the meantime, we should focus on doing what we can to make ourselves as comfortable as possible.