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A person wrapped in a tartan scarf takes a moment to reflect amid fall foliage.

A Fall Preparation Guide: Entering the Season With an Attitude of Gratitude

I’ll admit it. Fall has never been my favorite season. The falling leaves carry with them a very heavy weight for me. The end of summer typically means the end of feeling my healthiest. The warm weather and sunshine seem to keep viruses and bugs away from me and my family. I feel my best in the heat and spend much of my summer outside, even if it’s only to sit in the shaded area of my porch. All summer, I reluctantly flip my calendar pages from May through August, feeling more and more attached to each month.

Despite my dread, the summer is over. Fall is here, and this year I’m dedicated to practicing a better outlook on this colorful season. Maybe fall doesn’t have to send me into survival mode. Maybe I can find just as much enjoyment out of the falling leaves and cool weather as everyone around me. I’ve prepared a checklist of ways to help prepare myself for fall.

Get your flu shot

As easy as it is to access a flu shot, it can just as easily be forgotten. Along with the annual flu shot, I take the time to ask my care team if I’m due for other immunizations. I’ve noticed that because I don’t see a primary care physician as often as I see my CF clinic, my immunizations can go unchecked by both parties. This means that I need to be on top of my game when it comes to my preventive care. It’s easiest for me to get everything caught up in the fall, because it makes it easier to keep track of and minimizes the risk going long periods of time unprotected.

Create a wellness day

While medication and breathing treatments are a part of my daily regimen, I try to create a day to take a little extra time to help manage my wellness through the fall and winter. My wellness day is on a Wednesday. Every Wednesday, I complete my daily care routine and begin to take care of other business: filling pill boxes, nasal saline flushes (which I try to do weekly, regardless of whether or not I am experiencing nasal congestion), and bullet journaling about my health.

Wednesdays are my days that I aim to schedule port flushes, check-ups, conversations with my health insurance company, pay medical bills, and other various health-related tasks, as needed. Using this one-day-a-week system helps break up overwhelming tasks into bite-sized weekly responsibilities.

Begin bullet journaling

Bullet journaling is an easy way for me to keep track of important details of my week or day. It’s also incredibly helpful when a doctor asks me how long a specific symptom has been going on. I can keep the journal on my phone or in a small note in my cabinet, where I keep my all of my medication, so it’s easy to access while I’m fulfilling my weekly tasks. Here’s an example of a weekly bullet journal entry:

9/18/19

Coughing at night. Exercising normally. Small decline in appetite (started mon. 9/16). Weight down 4lbs.

9/25/19

Normal cough. No shortness of breath. Appetite normal. Weight back to BL (baseline).

Stock up on essentials

We all have our go-to items for when we’re sick or desperately trying to avoid sickness. I try to take advantage of the calm before the storm to stock up on:

  • Tissues
  • N95 masks
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • On-the-go snacks
  • Vitamin C supplements

This way, I won’t have to get out and about while I’m not feeling well just to get some of the essentials. If I’m sick before I’m able to stock up on these items, I order the needed items to be delivered to my door. I keep myself and others protected, without having to go without my favorite comfort food or resorting to using paper towels as Kleenex – ouch!

Have a healthy home

I invest some time into preparing my home for the season. While seasonal decorations are perhaps one of the warmest, coziest things about this time of year, I make sure that those decorations aren’t interfering with my ability to keep my home clean and free from germs. I’ve found lovely places for all of my seasonal decor, all of which are out of the way of sticky toddler hands, daily food preparation, or commonly utilized (AKA contaminated) surfaces of the home. Other ways I create a fall-friendly home:

  • I take my shoes off at the door.
  • I keep a multipurpose cleaner on the counter, out and ready to wipe down my daily-used surfaces (light switches, door handles, refrigerator doors, etc…)
  • I change out of my clothes after being out in public and find something clean and comfortable to wear at home (I use this practice for my daughter as well).
  • I wash my hands as soon as I get home.
  • I invite my friends, family and neighbors to practice some of these precautions with me. Another option is to create a thoughtful sign for the front door, kindly stating these preferences. If I have any hesitation with this, I try to remember that my loved ones want to keep me safe! They’re counting on me to let them know how they can help. I’m making the choice to shrug off my feelings of insecurity and to step into the role of advocacy for myself and my health.

Know when to say “No”

If you’re anything like me, you may find it difficult to say no to different obligations. Even when I know that saying yes could compromise my sleep, my routine, or even my health. This is rarely because someone is pressuring me to commit to something, and is more often my own will. I’m a total extrovert, and love any to take part in any excuse to interact with others. From volunteering in the nursery at church, to hosting holiday gatherings in my home, I naturally want to do it all. Saying no makes me feel like I will miss out, and not just miss out, but miss out because of CF.

I’ve never wanted CF to define my life, so even when I feel the slightest tinge of that being the reason, my knee jerk reaction is to rebel against that. But this is simply no longer an option. It’s my responsibility to look after my health. Not only that, but committing to something that you can’t follow through with may create a burden for others.

Choosing to only take on what you know you can do, will help you stay on top of your health, so that you can commit to more later. Flu season isn’t the ideal time for me to volunteer to work with lots of babies (who by in large, place anything and everything in their mouths), but if I care well for my health, I may be able to in the summer. “There is nothing in nature that blooms all year. Don’t expect yourself to either.” – Unknown

Stay positive

The change of seasons is not easy on me. I live in the Pacific Northwest and with fall, the long season of rain begins. Though there are beautiful parts to fall, it also kicks off the hardest time of year for me. Between the weather, the flu, RSV, and most recently, measles, there is almost nothing redeeming to me about this time of year. Despite that, I think that one of the best, most helpful things to do to prepare for this, is to go into it with a positive perspective and a posture of gratitude.

This year, I’m not going to let the burden that I carry weigh me down to a place where I don’t appreciate the magic of the moment. I’m going to aim to stay present and know that I can only control what I can control. I’m going to sit down with my friends and family and create a fall bucket list and be honest about the negative feelings I’m processing about the season. I’m going to share my hopes and dreams for the season, as well as my fears. I’ll include some of my hopes and fears about this season.

Hopes:

  • Bake pies
  • Take Lively and Liam to the pumpkin patch
  • Give away (some) king-sized candy bars for Halloween
  • Read books by the fireplace
  • Get Lively on the waitlist for pre-school list for next year
  • Have hot cider
  • Make homemade chicken noodle soup
  • Take family photos
  • Rainy outdoor adventures

Fears:

  • Getting sick & needing IV antibiotics
  • Frequent exacerbations
  • Low energy levels
  • Needing to sleep during the day
  • Lively getting a respiratory virus
  • Struggling with thermoregulation – BEING COLD ALL THE TIME
  • Not getting outside enough
  • Not wanting to exercise
  • Not having friends over because they’re sick
  • Family and friends not getting protected against the flu

I’m committing to building a fondness for fall and all the beauty it has to offer like never before. This year, I’m not just going to survive through the season, but thrive through the season. I hope you join me.

Happy fall, ya’ll!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Cystic-Fibrosis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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