Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, more commonly known as “POTS,” is a form of dysautonomia. This means that our autonomic responses are poorly regulated by our brain. Things a person doesn’t have to think about (such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, etc) are things that are controlled by one’s autonomic system. When this system malfunctions like it does in POTS, no part of you is safe from its effects. While POTS is generally not life threatening, it is certainly life altering as it can affect just about any system in your body. The most prevalent symptoms of pots include syncope or near syncope (fainting,) an increase of heart rate when standing sometimes in accompaniment by a drop in blood pressure, blood pooling in the feet, digestive issues, severe fatigue, dizziness, and so much more. Here are some ways I cope with this debilitating illness.
1. I wear compression socks. Compression socks prevent blood from pooling in the feet, thus forcing more blood up to your brain. This helps prevent fainting. I ordered some cute ones from amazon to make wearing them feel more fun.
2. Increase salt intake. Most posties know this already, but if you’re new to the illness, unlike most other illnesses we actually require a lot of salt. In conjunction with fluid intake, it helps us increase our blood volume. I keep pretzels handy to snack on.
3. Extremely light exercise. People with POTS generally have exercise intolerance. However, movement can be one of the best treatments for this strange illness. My POTS specialist recommended swimming or recumbent biking.
4. I refrain from over exerting. If I push myself too hard, my body will absolutely pay for it later. I will wind up bed ridden. Rest is crucial for potsie people. Learn your body’s limits, try documenting potential triggers, and rest when you need to.
5. Find a low impact hobby. Mental health care is crucial when you’re faced with a chronic illness. The effects of POTS and any comorbid conditions can be devastating. I find utilizing a healthy outlet regularly helps me cope with being sick. My hobbies include journaling, painting, drawing, movie binges, and socializing online to help with isolation.
6. Find an online support group. I’ve made several friends from a POTS group I joined on facebook. Having support from people who truly understand is helpful. It helps curb the sense of isolation, can offer new insight into your condition, and enables you to socialize if you’re too ill to leave your house or bed.
7. Try to have a sense of humor. My mom always told me “You can laugh or you can cry about things. I find I like to laugh better.” Of course you’re allowed a good cry, please validate your feelings, but being able to laugh at myself has always helped me cope with any situation. Outlook does play a role in how we feel physically. I do what I can to retain my sense of self and sense of humor in the face of illness. I like to joke about how much salt I need to intake.
What other tips would you add? And as always, thanks for reading!