In this episode of The Feel Good Effect, Jessica Murnane is sharing tactical strategies for how to have more good days!
Listen in to the episode or read the article to learn her made-for-real-life tips.
how to have more good days with jessica murnane
Who couldn’t use more good days? I feel like a lot of us find ourselves struggling just a little bit right now – so this episode with Jessica Murnane is arriving at the perfect time.
You may know that Jessica & I both have endometriosis (or “endo” for short) – a condition which affects 1 in 10 women. We talk about what it’s like to live with a chronic health condition, but the tools we share are for anyone who wants to live a happier, healthier life. This conversation left me feeling empowered & with hope for more good days ahead. Hope it does the same for you too!
“There are a lot of ways that we can do mindfulness and stress-management that is not sitting & meditating or going to yoga”.
meet guest: jessica murnane
For Jessica, writing a book about endo brought up a lot of stuff. Those of you with any sort of autoimmune or other chronic health condition may be able to relate to that experience. She had gotten very good at compartmentalizing that part of her life. So when she started really diving into it and accepting it, it felt overwhelming and traumatic. It’s something that is not in our control – which is difficult, especially for people who are big achievers.
Endo is an invisible, women’s health condition. For those of us who live with it, it can feel like something other people around us have to be reminded of. It’s not as easy for others to see how much work goes into managing the pain that comes with it. For so many out there with chronic health conditions – you don’t want your condition to be an impact on others in your life. And yet, at the same time, it’s also such a problem when people don’t know what’s going on in your body. The symptoms can be inconsistent, too, having several good days and then suddenly a bad day, which can be confusing for others to know what is happening.
Whether you have endo or not, the tips in this episode are truly universally applicable. A lot of Jessica’s book is about accepting where you are, defining what your “best” is, fostering self-compassion, and building better stress management practices. Things we can all benefit from having a refresher on.
We’ve all been physically, emotionally, mentally affected by this year, and these ideas will benefit anyone trying to be a human in a difficult world.
“The wellness world is amazing but I just don’t think that is a reality for a majority of the United States”.
a feel-good toolkit
In Know Your Endo, Jessica lays out five foundational tools in addition to several other tools like practices from Chinese medicine, lymphatic work, pelvic floor therapy, and other areas you might need help with. But these foundational tools are things you can do on your own in your home.
They are laid out as a five-week toolkit, and Jessica has been kind enough to give us a glimpse & walk us through each one!
week 1: know your endo
Really, you can replace ‘know your endo’ with ‘know your ’.
When we have a chronic condition, we sometimes combine the weight of our symptoms into how we perceive who we are. For example, a symptom of endo, Jessica used to frequently pee herself and thought of herself as a gross person. But when she was diagnosed with endo and learned that urinary urgency and frequency was a symptom, she was able to separate that from her identity. It became a symptom of a condition she has instead of part of her self-concept.
It is important for us to separate what is a condition and what is us. Fatigue is a huge symptom of endo, which a lot of people with endo don’t know. So they may think they are lazy, bad at planning, or antisocial – when in reality fatigue is a huge symptom. Connecting with your symptoms and truly knowing your chronic condition can be such a huge ah-ha moment for your life. We are in a society that expects us to be working all the time and when we can step out of that, it can be powerful.
Jessica provides worksheets in her book, one of which is telling your “symptom story”. Many with chronic conditions have a story about things they used to negatively attribute to themselves before learning it was a symptom out of their control. When you know yourself, your symptoms, and how they show up, you can work them into your life.
“it’s so important for us to begin to separate ‘what is the condition?’ & ‘what is me?'”
week 2 | stress management
Jessica intentionally decided to focus on stress before food or movement. In wellness, there is sometimes a push to start with food, but if you are overwhelmed with stress and in a lot of pain, you’re not going to be able to prioritize other areas of health.
Stress and pain are very connected. Stress can increase our pain, pain can increase our stress, and concepts like pain catastrophizing (which has to do with stress perception) have been found to lead to more distress, disability, and pain intensity. One way to intervene in this pain-stress cycle is with stress management, specifically with a focus on self-compassion.
Not everyone is designed to meditate, especially if you have a history of prolonged stress and trauma – breath-based meditation can increase anxiety in those cases. Instead, in this chapter Jessica talks about other meditative activities people can engage in to focus on something besides the pain.
With endo, there is increased pain because of stress perception, which causes a cycle that meditation might not be the best intervention for.
week 3 | good food
“Good food” is very simply food that does not make you feel bad.
Jessica does not have a specific endo diet plan, nor is there one out there that is likely going to work for every person. Instead, she recommends digging in and finding the foods that work for you. She also makes it clear that if you find the foods that make you feel good and you don’t choose to eat them 100% of the time, that does not make you or the foods bad. And, your good foods might change over time.
Endo, like other inflammatory conditions, will likely benefit from avoiding highly inflammatory foods. But if you want to, you can choose when to eat more inflammatory foods, especially spaced around your period. Her goal for this chapter was to provide some clarity so people did not feel so confused while also helping them ditch the idea that there is a singular endo diet.
There are two studies out there that have been published on the relationship between endo and food (one of which is on rats). Both concluded that there was not a clear answer. However, there has been more research done on inflammatory conditions and food.
Jessica talks about a whole food, plant-heavy diet while really diving into what foods work for you, especially with other conditions you may have. Research shows that whole foods and plant-heavy diets work really well for people with inflammatory conditions, but ultimately it is all your choice and worth seeing how things make you feel. Sometimes, we don’t like what our body is telling us and it really is your choice how you choose to eat.
When trying different foods, be aware of which foods make you feel bad – keeping an eye on symptoms of constipation, diarrhea, extreme bloating, swollen joints the following day, and sluggish fatigue caused by inflammatory overload on the body. No food is good or bad, but in your body, it might make you feel a certain way and it’s a choice you get to make.
“you can have this experimental mindset. no food is good or bad. but in your body it might make you feel a certain way. and then you get to choose ‘is that a choice I want to make?'”
Robyn Conley Downs
week 4 | movement
Out of all the chapters she wrote for this book, the chapter on movement was the one Jessica took the most personal value from for her own life.
Movement is so important for endo. When you are in pain, you are constantly scrunched up. Being able to move your body helps loosen up joints and muscles. The less that you move, the greater the chance of pain. There is also fear avoidance of having chronic pain that leads to fear of exacerbated pain and avoidance of movement altogether, which can lead to more pain. Jessica suggests tons of options for movement; it can be foam rolling, doing yin yoga – there are a lot of things you can do to movement your body when you don’t feel like you really want to move your body.
Jessica used to avoid movement when she was on her period. During those times it was knowing that she couldn’t do what she wanted to do, so she didn’t want to do anything at all. Now, after reading the research and writing this chapter, she brings her foam roller into bed with her and rolls out while she is in bed or puts her legs up on the wall. A lot of it is pacing and redefining what movement looks like during certain more painful times. Pacing is important to tune in and think about how you will feel after engaging in your movement of choice.
This isn’t looking at movement for weight loss; it’s instead just about movement to help your body feel better and have more good days than bad.
“tap in and think more about ‘what can I do today?’, not necessarily ‘what do I want to do’ & ‘what do I want to prove?'”
week 5 | kinder home & body
This is really thinking about what we are putting on or in our bodies, in terms of the products we use. There is a lot of conflicting evidence out there about certain products and ingredients.
Jessica likes to stay in the cautious camp, for example, opting for menstrual products that don’t have chemicals in them. Make a list of the products you use and think about which ones might be a little kinder to your body and planet. Just start to look at and think about those things, maybe swapping out one at a time.
finding knowledge, empowerment, and confidence
For people who live with chronic conditions and are in pain, it can be one of the loneliest, darkest places to live. In the introduction to her book, Jessica talks about a long period of time during which she didn’t even want to be alive in her pain.
This book is truly a love letter to anyone who has ever felt that way. It’s also about empowering yourself because so much of endo is getting the run around from your doctor and the medical system, telling you the pain is in your head and you have to get on the pill and take hormones. We don’t always feel like we have the right to ask questions or say no to things that don’t feel like a good fit for us, so it can be powerful to remember that we do have the right to be our own advocates.
Jessica hopes that people can use the book to get the most accurate, up-to-date information so they feel informed. And that they can feel confident just walking into their doctor’s office & asking for good care. She wants people to feel empowered, confident, and most importantly not alone.
what does it really mean to be healthy?
“I think just the current state of trying… I think being healthy sometimes feels like another side gig that I have. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing but today is one of those days where healthy, to me, is really trying my best.”
Jessica Murnane is the founder of Know Your Endo, author of the One Part Cookbook, and host of the One Part Podcast. She’s a sought after speaker and has contributed to and appeared in magazines and websites that include Bon Appétit, Goop, Shape Magazine, The Kitchn, Mind Body Green, The Coveteur, and Food52.
Know Your Endo: An Empowering Guide to Health & Hope with Endometriosis by Jessica Murnane
One Part Plant by Jessica Murnane
Tune into Jessica’s podcast, One Part Podcast
Tune into This is the Author a podcast about authors’ takes on reading their audiobook
If you ever have feelings about not wanting to be alive, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free confidential support at 1-800-273-8255
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