We’re sliding into October, which means I’m pulling out my favorite cardigans, dusting off my knee-high boots, and buying fall-scented (and flavored!) everything. But when you live with a chronic illness, it can also mean gearing up for a worsening of your symptoms. It’s a phenomenon in the chronic illness community called the October Slide. So today, I thought I’d talk about what exactly is the October Slide, how it affects my chronic conditions, and ways you can cope with the change in seasons and your symptoms.
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What Causes the October Slide?
A couple of factors come together to cause the October Slide and the subsequent chronic illness flare-ups. One of them is that the weather changes: The barometric pressure drops, and it gets cold and wet outside. With this change in weather, you may feel less tempted to go outside. Less time spent in the sun means you may get less vitamin D, and low levels of vitamin D can cause fatigue and muscle pain.
The change in weather may also cause you to lose motivation to keep up with exercising, and exercise is really important for overall health. October also marks the time when cold and flu cases start to increase. Plus, sometimes anticipating the long and cold winter months ahead can negatively impact your mental health. I know it does mine.
How the October Slide Affects Me
For me, the October Slide is a blessing and a curse for my POTS. On the one hand, the winter and the colder months can be better for my POTS because the heat — which can really worsen blood pooling associated with POTS — is gone. While I absolutely hate the cold, I find that I feel better going out in the cold because my legs and feet don’t hurt from blood pooling. And I feel less faint and lethargic. Does anyone else feel this way too?
But this time of year can also cause other symptoms to worsen, like joint and/or muscle pain. Plus, as I said before, I tend to get the winter blues in January and February, and I can feel sad or anxious in the fall anticipating that. On top of that, I often don’t want to exercise as much in cold and wet weather, despite it being crucial for me to exercise with POTS.
And who else likes to indulge in big meals more this time of year? I love all the comfort foods that come with the fall season, but large meals don’t always love my chronic conditions.
Ways to Cope With the October Slide
So, October’s here. You may be wondering, what do I do to prepare myself? Keep reading to see some ways I cope with the October Slide each year.
Build up Your Immunity
Because fall marks the start of cold and flu season — and being sick often makes chronic conditions feel worse — October is a good time to boost your immunity. Incorporate a few ways to get your immune system in tip-top fighting shape for the months to come. For example, get plenty of vitamin C in your diet. Making a smoothie is an easy and yummy way to get a vitamin C boost in your diet.
Talk With Your Doctor
When October hits, it may be a good idea to connect with your doctor or medical provider. What symptoms do think are getting worse as the seasons change? Which symptoms are most concerning or distressing? These are great questions to reflect on and bring up to your doctor for discussion. They can address how you’re feeling, adjust any medications accordingly, and provide other helpful advice for dealing with the October Slide.
Keep up With Your Exercise
When the days begin to shorten and get colder, exercising outside becomes less and less appealing. This can sometimes lead to falling off of a regular exercise routine you’ve been following. But it doesn’t need to be that way! Make October the time to reinvigorate your workouts. Try something new, take a new class, or update your exercise plan if you’re the type to schedule workouts a week or a month in advance.
If you have POTS, it’s especially important to keep up with your exercise in the colder months, as it’s often vital to managing this condition. Around this time of the year, I like to create a new exercise calendar to hold myself accountable for completing workouts. This year, I signed up for a Halloween-themed 5k at the end of October to spark my motivation to keep running.
Take Vitamin D and/or DHA Fish Oil
Consider supplementing with DHA fish oil and vitamin D during the fall and winter months. If you find yourself feeling more blue in the winter, DHA fish oil may help with your mood. And if you live somewhere where you don’t get outside very often throughout the winter, you may consider taking a vitamin D supplement. As always, check with your doctor before taking any new supplements, as they may or may not be right for you.
Shop vitamin D here.
Shop DHA fish oil here.
Revamp Your Self-Care Practice
I love making seasonal bucket lists full of big and small activities that I want to do each season. This helps me to look forward to the fall and winter days, which is the time of year I tend to feel moodier and less motivated because I love spring and summer (and sunshine!).
If you feel similarly through the cold winter months, October marks a great time to revamp your self-care routine. Make sure you’re setting aside some “me time” every week and reserving it for activities that lift your mood. As an example, check out my fall bucket list below! I don’t need to do everything on the list — bonus points if I do! — but it’s a way to keep my self-care practice at front of mind.
Prepare a Pain Management Kit
The cold often makes joint pain and muscle aches worse. So now is a great time to stock up on your best pain management items for the fall and winter months. I love reusable microwave heat pads, as well as magnesium bath salts, BioFreeze, and my tens unit. What’s your favorite forms of pain management? Let me know in the comments below!
Shop Microwave Heat Pad here.
Shop BioFreeze here.
Shop iReliev Tens Unit here.
Limit Large Meals
This tidbit of advice is a hard one to follow this time of year because it’s filled with occasions where big meals are often at the center of gatherings. But large meals can trigger my POTS symptoms. So I particularly have to be careful about overeating this time of year. I feel much better if I graze on food
throughout the day (or over the course of a gathering) instead of eating a large amount in a short time.
While this time of year can mean that some people experience a chronic illness flare-up, it’s also a fun time with lots to look forward to. Preparing for the October Slide is one of the best ways to set yourself up well to cope with the change in seasons.
How does the October Slide affect you and your chronic condition(s)? Let’s chat about it in the comments! And don’t forget to pin this post for later reference!