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Valerie Bachinsky was diagnosed with osteoarthritis at 27. She was an avid hiker who started having pain when walking downhill – so she decided to go up. Her rock climbing passion began 17 years ago and she hasn’t slowed down since. Valerie is also a nurse who chats with us about surprising causes of inflammation, why a good night’s sleep starts the minute you wake up, and what pain in our bodies really means. Don’t miss this inspiring conversation full of tips to help you feel your best – and maybe become a rock climber yourself. 

Guest Spotlight: Valerie Bachinsky

Valerie Bachinsky

Valerie Bachinsky is an arthritis wellness specialist who serves women seeking to reduce joint pain and inflammation so they can live their best life. She holds a master’s degree in nursing and a bachelor’s degree in health education. She is a certified health coach and has practiced as a registered nurse for over 25 years. 

Faced with her own diagnosis of arthritis at the age of 27, Valerie has spent many years researching ways to lessen arthritis symptoms and slow its progression. A recent escalation of her own symptoms brought on by the additional occupational stress that accompanied the pandemic taught her to explore the ways in which psychosocial factors and past trauma contribute to arthritis symptoms and the ability to make healthy choices. Through it all, she has been able to maintain her active lifestyle and pursue the activities she is passionate about, mainly rock climbing and hiking.

Valerie now shares her accumulated knowledge and expertise coaching other women with arthritis to develop the habits needed to live their best life. She passionately believes that no woman should have to throw away her dreams because of joint pain or a diagnosis of arthritis.

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NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by an AI tool. Please forgive any typos or errors.

Valerie Bachinsky

[00:00:00] Welcome to the live your life, not your diagnosis podcast. I'm Andrea Hanson, author, motivational speaker. And master certified coach. When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I was told. I would never reach my goals. But I did. And I'm on a mission to prove that life with a chronic illness can still be expansive and quite remarkable.
Everyone has their own unique path. I'm talking to people, living with a chronic illness that come from different backgrounds, have different points of view and are achieving amazing life goals of all kinds. Do you inspire you? To achieve what you thought was impossible. These stories are raw. Uncensored and judgment free.
This means that there may be some adult language sensitive topics and
possible triggers for listeners. Listener discretion is advised
Andrea: I am here with Valerie Bachinsky. Valerie is an arthritis, a wellness specialist who serves women seeking to reduce joint pain and inflammation so they can live their [00:01:00] best life. She holds a master's degree in nursing and a bachelor's degree in health education. She is a certified health coach and has practiced as a registered nurse for over 25 years faced with her own diagnosis of arthritis.
At the age of 27, . Valerie has spent many years researching ways to lessen arthritis symptoms and slow its progress. A recent escalation of her own symptoms brought on by the additional occupational stress that accompanied the pandemic, taught her to explore the ways in which psychosocial factors and past trauma contribute to arthritis symptoms and the ability to make healthy choices through it.
All. She has been able to maintain her active lifestyle and pursue the activities she is passionate about. Mainly rock climbing and hiking. Valerie now shares her accumulated knowledge and expertise, coaching other women with arthritis to develop the habits needed to live their best life. She [00:02:00] passionately believes that no woman should have to throw away her dreams because of joint pain or a diagnosis of arthritis.
Hi, Valerie, how are you?
Valerie: Good. How are you?
Andrea: Good. I love that last part because it's really something that I am also very passionate about and why I even started this podcast. It's because I think that nobody with a chronic illness should have to give up on their dreams or just their passions or even things that bring them joy.
Valerie: I agree completely with that.
Andrea: Yeah. And I have to just go straight to this because it's like the biggest part is you are a hiker, but also a rock climber. So if there's anything that says that you shouldn't give up on your passions because of your illness, it's the fact that you're a rock climber.
Valerie: So I've been rock climbing now for about 17 years and it actually, I started rock climbing after. I was [00:03:00] diagnosed with osteoarthritis. So I already had the diagnosis. And what's funny is that one of the ways that I built the momentum at the beginning was my knee was acting up and I had a big backpack through the Sierra planned and it hurt me to go downhill. So I cancel that. I'm backpacking that dream, bucket list, backpacking trip. And instead I decided I would take rock climbing lessons in Yosemite national park.
Andrea: That's quite a substitution.
Valerie: Yeah. Well, I could, I was fine going up.
Andrea: What kept you going instead of saying, gosh, I can't go anymore because my knee's acting up and I have this diagnosis better stay home. You didn't do that. You almost like doubled down. You're like, well, if I can go up,
Valerie: So I was diagnosed when I was really young. I was 27. So that's young for osteoarthritis. I was an avid hiker at the time and I had some knee pain and I went [00:04:00] to my primary care provider and she did the x-rays of my knee. And, I can remember her looking at me and looking at the x-rays and saying, Maybe you should put your feet up and relax. And that wasn't an option for me. I mean, what I, I was outdoors that's that was my passion. That was what healed me. I loved being outside. I love getting deep into the woods. Just sitting and putting up my feet was not an option for me.
And and also I was 27.
Denial was probably a big part of it at that time. And I was stubborn and just refused to take that advice and, thank God I did because now we know that, keeping moving is one of the best things that you can do for osteoarthritis
You know, I really resonated with that part of your story. I was also diagnosed young. I was 22 when I was diagnosed with Ms. And I got similar advice. The nurse that came in.[00:05:00] Basically told me you're no longer going to be able to, to take hot showers because some people have problems with that.
With Ms. You can't take a hot shower. You can't exert yourself. You have to do something like yoga.
Valerie: Water
Andrea: You got to calm down. , I think it's a benefit of being diagnosed early because I immediately. I didn't say it out loud, but in my head, I was like, you're full of crap.
Who are you to even tell me that I can't do this? That's ridiculous. And within a couple of years I was doing jujitsu, hiking up to Machu Picchu.
I mean, I was doing all sorts of things , But I think it's the benefit of. Being younger. And I think you're right. Maybe part of it was a little bit of denial, although I don't know
Valerie: of that rebellious Snus from a teenager is still is still there, I think, in your twenties,
Andrea: And I think it served both of us. Well.
Valerie: Yeah, I agree.
Andrea: Yeah. Cause you'd be at home with your feet up and your right. I think. Movement is so [00:06:00] important. And, back when you and I were diagnosed, it wasn't so evident that that was actually, it was, it almost sounded like it was counterintuitive
Valerie: So it's almost by chance that we were doing the right thing.
But now the site, the last 15 years, the science that has come out regarding arthritis and I'm sure a lot of other chronic illnesses is that it's better to keep moving,
Andrea: Tell me why specifically with arthritis, it's better to keep moving.
Valerie: It keeps the joints lubricated. So when you're moving your joints, if your joints are producing a snow veal fluid, which is the thick. Fluid that keeps your joints lubricated. That's our main. Lubricating fluid in our joints is synovial fluid. And then also, just to keep the joints mobile, but also the keep the muscles strong and, the muscles provide more support to the joints than any brace ever could.
So it's really good to keep the. The joint strong, one of the reasons [00:07:00] why I think I don't have that much pain in my knees right now is because I have quads of steel and they're really good at supporting my knees. It seems those bigger, my, my quad SCAD or the, in my other muscles, you have to pay attention to the other muscles, the less pain that you'll have.
And then also moving. The joint also helps like those pro-inflammatory chemicals get out of that joint capsule instead of just sitting around and causing inflammation.
Andrea: Wreaking havoc. Now, you were a nurse, are you still a nurse
Valerie: So I was in a position where basically, I was managing all the employees. Who were, being tested and who came back positive for COVID on top of everything else. The stress was really bad. Also. I had a big infection control background so that my job really pulled a lot on me.
And it was, it was too much, I had no time for self [00:08:00] care. I was under a lot of stress all the time and I really felt my. Joint pain, increasing, almost joints that never hurt before started to hurt. I was under a tremendous amount of stress, it was really hard to leave.
That was a big challenge, but I moved, I moved from New York to Las Vegas to be closer to the mountains. And I saw my dreams slipping away. I was getting farther away from them than I was getting closer to them. So I made the decision to leave my job as a nurse.
I still consider myself a nurse. I think once you're a nurse, you're always a nurse.
I, I still have a nursing license and I also always have. If I need to go back to nursing, I can do that. So to answer your question, I would still consider myself a nurse.
Andrea: Yeah, for sure. Everybody that I know that is a nurse is the same way.
Valerie: It's a
part of you,
especially if I, I was, I've been doing it for 25 years, so it is a part of me. [00:09:00] It's just as far as Coaching and what you can do with this within the scope of practice of a nurse. I have to be careful with

Valerie: What I call myself now.
Andrea: Well, and I think it's, it's worth noting that as a nurse, you put yourself first as your number one patient. I think that's very brave and very Valiant and not a lot of people do that. So I think that was a really courageous move to say, this is making me sick. I need to change this part of it because you had the eye on the prize, which is the mountains and hiking and rock climbing and all of this amazing stuff.
And to realize something like your current career is standing in the way of that and to leave that is, is huge. How was it to make that actual decision? How did you feel? What were you thinking about.
Valerie: It was, it was very scary. I [00:10:00] had the job here. I wouldn't say it was that great of a job, but it was well paying.
Andrea: Which is important.
Valerie: Yes, which is important. And it allowed me to do what I wanted to do financially. And I have a strong attachment to financial security.
Andrea: Yes, which I think is very healthy and we should all have a strong attachment. So financial security.
Valerie: I was very lucky. My, my significant other, he was great. A lot of it came from his encouragement. I mean I would be, Crying every night with just, it was just so much the stress of the job. And he's like, this is killing you. You can't keep doing this. How long are you going to keep doing this for? So I, there was a lot of encouragement there. And also I had been saving up my money. So I was almost for a year I started, I decided I was. Cut down on my expenses so that I could do this.
Andrea: Yeah, it's a [00:11:00] common theme. I think among, a lot of people that I talk to, and I think among a lot of listeners where we're in a job, be it something like nursing, or, if you're in any kind of a healthcare profession or like me, I was in corporate. , a lot of people are in, even if they're in like nonprofits, it's the idea of noticing staying in this environment is killing.
It's making the stress worse, which in turn makes the inflammation worse, which in turn makes the chronic illness worse. And it's seeing that direct line and realizing the hard, hard decision, which is I've got to get out of here. And sometimes as a mindset coach, I know that we can do all sorts of things to make ourselves feel better about where we are. Mindset tricks and positive thinking and gratitude and all sorts of things that are great. But sometimes we use that to keep [00:12:00] ourselves in an actual situation that we just need to get out of.
Valerie: I did a lot of work on that. And I did very good before COVID at doing that, , the mindset and the challenging, the thoughts, and that self cognitive behavioral therapy and stuff like that. But it seemed when COVID came on, like they wouldn't accept my boundaries.
So that, that was probably the final straw is when I was, trying to set boundaries, which still was a lot of work I was doing and I was starting to push back, but when they wouldn't accept my boundaries then, it was hard with COVID because as a healthcare professional, you saw so many other healthcare professionals making sacrifices. At that time and seeing on the news, what people, there were so many healthcare professionals that are like martyrs,
I'm working 80 hours a week and it was kind of hard to see [00:13:00] that. And then at the same time have to put myself first. So that was, that was a challenge.

Valerie: So it seemed like we were in this battle here and that I'm , opting out.
Andrea: right. I think it's a really interesting thing to look at because part of it, I think is just our society where people tend to work. A lot. And sometimes you have to, because you're at a lower paying job and you just need to work, maybe multiple jobs. Sometimes you want to, because it's an industry that just calls for long hours.
And sometimes it's in an industry where you will look around and everybody else was putting in those hours. And so you feel like you have to put in these hours and it makes it really difficult because it's an added peer pressure that. It was coming from other people coming from our job, coming from the people that we work with it, but it's also coming from ourselves
Valerie: Yes.
Andrea: feel guilty about putting ourselves [00:14:00] first. So it's an interesting thing to think about, especially when it is a situation where, you need to take yourself out of that situation and, you need to put yourself first. And I think as people with chronic illness, putting ourselves first. That much more important.
Valerie: Yes. I agree with that. I mean, I think it's important for everybody. But if you are, if you have health challenges, it becomes even more important.
Andrea: Right. And I think that's always the argument is that really, like, I feel like me being diagnosed or developing this chronic illness made me change a whole much as far as how I take care of myself. I really everybody should take care of themselves that way. I feel like we would have a much healthier society.
If everybody took care of themselves
as if they had a chronic illness.
Valerie: It's taken me a while to own. That I have osteoarthritis and [00:15:00] that I need to own that need for the self care. So, at work or even when I'm rock climbing and I'm with a partner who is, let's say I'm never going to be as fast as them hiking up these, this Rocky trail because of how my joints are.
I have, I don't have full range of motion in my joints and. Once upon a time, I just would have pushed. I wouldn't have said anything. Or I would have felt shame or I would've felt like I was less than, than them, just like last week I was with, she's a lot younger than me too.
She's young, she's 31, I'm 48. And we, we climbed, we did a beautiful rock climb. It was a great, it was such a beautiful day. Down at the bottom of the rock climb was this waterfall. And it's only running in the spring because I'm in the desert. And we sat there for a while and it's kind of funny that I did this whole rock climb, but what ended up hurting me was [00:16:00] sitting too long at the waterfall. So then on the way out, I was. A little limpy. The, the trail was Rocky and I knew as soon as I got to just a level trail where I could just walk, I would be fine, but at the beginning I was really slow. And I said to her, I just said, my ankles stiffened up. When we were sitting here, it's going to take a few minutes for me to get back up to speed.
And she was fine with it. Once upon a time I would have felt ashamed of that. But now it's just part of me. This is who I am, take it or leave it. And most people, they don't mind it. Fear of someone having a problem with me being slower. It's in my head. It's not them. They don't other people really don't care.
Andrea: I think that that really speaks to something that a lot of us deal with arguably chronic illness or no chronic illness, but this [00:17:00] idea of what does somebody think about me
Valerie: Yes.
Andrea: and what do they think about me not being able to keep up? Am I slowing them down? Am I, am I ruining their experience
Valerie: are they going to want to climb with me again?
Andrea: Am I going to get the invitation again?
And it's always really interesting. I was the same way for the longest time. I worried, like, what is somebody going to do? They think I'm lazy. Do they think I'm, out of shape, just not trying what you know, and, and once just like you, it, once I realized like, oh, well they actually don't care.
Or like, my favorite is like, they weren't even thinking about it until I asked them something. They're like, what, what do you
Valerie: Or I have a 27 year old partner I climb with and he'll say, he said once to me, I think you're so bad ass because you still climb and you have this arthritis. So we're thinking they're thinking less of us, but in reality, [00:18:00] they're thinking more.
Andrea: Yeah. I love that. Now you mentioned a little bit osteo arthritis. How is it affecting you when it comes to being able to go out and doing things that you love? You mentioned not having full range of motion. Getting a little bit stiff when you were sitting, but kind of explain a little bit more about what that is.
Valerie: if I'm able to care for myself the way I need to, it's a lot better. So if I eat the right foods, I walk every, I have to walk every day. I'll get my like two mile walk in every day. Then it's not, it's not that bad. It really isn't. I sit at my desk for awhile.
I have to remember to get up and move, which is hard when you were starting your own business and you're working on your own stuff, you tend to get in to that groove and you want to keep going, but yeah. Getting up and moving as part of that self care so that you're not sitting for hours at a time.
[00:19:00] So if I'm able to do those things, it's not that bad. A little bit over a year ago when I was recovering from the effects of the joy of the job, it was pretty bad. I I've put a lot of weight on, I was eating poorly. I was doing a lot of emotional eating and of course, when we emotionally eat, we're not re reaching for the vegetables and the fruit.
We're eating the fatty and sugary foods that
cause inflammation.
Andrea: Salty, crunchy
all that stress release that
Valerie: Yes.
Andrea: food.
Valerie: So I was, I kinda got to a point. I had a bright to definitely have like a breaking point where I knew I had to change things.
W, my knee, I wasn't able to do what I wanted to do because I had the knee pain and my bad, my bad knee was at a point where it was pretty painful to hike.
I did have a rock climb planned was cathedral peak in [00:20:00] Yosemite national park, which is, it's like above a 4,000 foot day. And I couldn't do it. So, this is where it was kind of like my rock bottom, where I knew I had to start dedicating my life to my health. , living that lifestyle, adopting that lifestyle that would allow me to have to live my best life.
Andrea: Yeah.
Valerie: so I lost the way I started the stick to the. Like an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, because there's, it's more than just diet. It's the stress and the sleep. And, , it's also the mindset. I had to learn how to love myself and make choices out of this deep love of myself rather than the shame, which is how I was up.
Andrea: Right.
Always comes from childhood,
Valerie: Yes.
Andrea: Always.
Valerie: And then, the choices, began to come easily for me. [00:21:00]
And I started living in a way that was much better for myself and my joints.
Andrea: Yeah. So how did it look like going into it? Cause I know making a big lifestyle change like that is never a straight line. Right. It's never just, I decided, and then I just started doing it every single time I made a decision.
Valerie: Yeah.
Andrea: Oh, there maybe, maybe with you. It was,
Valerie: Well, no, I mean, so this is so I've had arthritis for over 20 years and I was, I'm a nurse and I was able to do some research here and there, definitely got better. I got better at it once I got my master's degree, I would do a supplement here, but I knew I knew weight was very important.
And I also knew that how important diet was. Knowing what I was doing was hurting me and at the same time still doing it.
Andrea: Right.
Valerie: that was, very difficult. And that almost, that almost [00:22:00] starts the shame spiral, where it's really hard to get out of that. And I think acknowledging where that came from. Where, where that originated, which was, past trauma and, and, and my childhood that it wasn't just me. It was survival mode, my way to survive. Once I realized that it became easier to. Make the choices that I needed to make. And it was also that negative voice in your head that a lot of us have that
internal critic, of all, recognizing it because it was always going and he would just accept it as it being there, but starting to recognize it and starting to challenge it. So I think that was a big, a big step towards. Moving in the direction that I needed to move into
Andrea: yeah. It is [00:23:00] all about looking at. Internally and seeing, okay. Where did these habits come from? Cause very rarely when it comes to something or is this a habit that we just kind of developed out of thin air? No. Recently, like a lot of times it's something that has developed in childhood through a past trauma or through something that one person might have said to you at some point, and it just sticks with you, right.
It doesn't even have to be. A big event. And I think for me, knowing, knowing that when I was looking and trying to figure out, okay, what's what's going on with, like, with my eating habits. Cause I very much used food as a coping mechanism, especially with all the stuff that's going on with my illness and.
I had to say like, okay, I'm not looking for huge trauma. Like it's okay. If I look back and realize I have this [00:24:00] memory of this one time that somebody, somebody, usually some kind of an authority figure in my life said X. And I realized that I just, for some reason, I instantly internalized it when I was eight and I'm still eating from that
Valerie: or it doesn't even have to be trauma. It could be.
Every time you cried, your mother gave you food. So now every time you're looking for that soothing, instead of doing it in other ways,
Andrea: right. Don't cry. Have a cookie.
Valerie: yes,
they met. They meant, well,
Andrea: They did, they did. And, and that's the other thing I think is it doesn't mean that you're going back and, rejecting people or, a lot of times it was said out of well-meaning and from their perspective and their past traumas and their hurt and way they are, their whole thought process that has nothing to do with you.[00:25:00]
And. I think once I realized that I don't know about you, but once I realized that it didn't mean, once I was, I was identifying, oh, it's this, that made me feel this way. And this one thing happened. I wasn't, it wasn't that I was against these people that are still very important to me. It was just that it was something that was said for a reason that has nothing to do with me.
And it was internalized by me for some kind of a reason that I'm not sure. Yeah. It's just something to work through. It doesn't have to mean that you're rejecting and getting angry and have to confront people or do anything like that.
Valerie: Yeah. I agree with that. It's like, look at it in a blameless, way.
Andrea: Yes. It's also not blaming yourself,
Valerie: Yes. So you're not blaming yourself. You're not blaming other people because if you're not to blame by what happened to you, then they're not to blame because something [00:26:00] happened to them too.
It all just gets passed on.
Andrea: You talk about this anti-inflammatory lifestyle, which sounds like something that you went into once you realized. I've got to change things. My body is not happy. My body is telling me that everything's gotta change.
I know when we're talking about anti-inflammatory, we know, we all know it's things like stress it's things like food or different foods that your, your body doesn't like, it can be environmental, like. And things like that. But talk to us about what that anti-inflammatory lifestyle look for you.
And maybe some things that people would be surprised to learn actually, cause inflammation.
Valerie: For me, I think a big part of it was the weight loss. I put on a lot of weight and I think one thing with osteoarthritis anyway being overweight or having extra weight on has always been associated with osteoarthritis. Right. We [00:27:00] know it increases the risk of osteoarthritis and it used to be that they thought it was because of it would put more wear and tear on the joints. And now, recent research is showing that it's probably not.
They haven't ruled out that the, where the increased wear and tear isn't a problem, but that is because our fat cells secrete pro-inflammatory chemicals. And the more fat that you're carrying, the more of these pro-inflammatory chemicals are going to be secreted. So the less fat cells you have, the less pro and desokine s, the adipokines, the less of these are being secreted.
So, losing some of the fat, I think was really big and then sticking to the right diet. So more vegetables and more fruits because these all have. Phytochemicals and nutrients in them that fight inflammation and [00:28:00] then staying away from the. Things that cause inflammation, the foods that cause inflammation.
So I'm, I'm very science-based
dove into the research. And what the science seems to agree on is that, you want to stay away from sugar. You want to limit your saturated fat. No trans fat trans fat is very bad. It's artificial fat. And that also processed and preserve needs.
those are the, that seems to be what science agrees on. And then stress is also very important. I think a lot of people don't realize that how much stress can contribute to inflammation, but then also sleep is a big, big factor. Just one night. Have they done studies and
one night of poor sleep can cause inflammation levels to spike. So it's really important to get good sleep. A lot of people do not prioritize sleep.
They see sleep as something that they can [00:29:00] give up that is expendable, that they, they sacrifice it for whatever their definition of success is. or just for that mindless.
TV watching or whatever keeps people up at night, but it, and it takes, it does take discipline to say it. I go to bed at like eight 30 every night
Andrea: I do too.
Valerie: to me the day the day's done,
Andrea: I am the same way. If you, if you like text me or something after I'd say like nine o'clock talk to you tomorrow.
Valerie: I don't get it.
Andrea: So talk a little bit more about good sleep because. I know it's something that I'm always trying to prioritize and work on, but it's hard. It doesn't always come naturally. And when you read about it, some people are great with five hours.
Some people say if you're not getting nine hours, it's crap. And it seems like all across the board. So talk
Valerie: Yeah.
Andrea: is good sleep. What does that mean?
Valerie: I think seven to nine hours. It's very rare that you're going to find somebody who can get [00:30:00] by on less than seven a night, routinely. I think that I can get by on five hours a night. I think that's one of those martyr statements that
look what I can give off to be successful.
Andrea: Yeah.
Valerie: There's probably a few individuals out there who can, genetically they can go by on less sleep than seven hours.
But the vast majority of the population, we need to get that seven to nine hours of good sleep.
Andrea: And what if people wake up like during the nights
Valerie: There's several ways to improve your sleep. These are called it's called sleep hygiene. Um, I think a lot of people focus on the hour or so before bed, but getting good. A good night's sleep starts the minute you wake up. And one of the big things to do is to make sure you get that a good dose of bright, natural light in the morning, or like early in the afternoon.
So. I get my walk [00:31:00] every day, I go outside and get my walk. That really helps. But if you can't do that, just opening up the shades and getting that bright light in also sticking to regular mealtime. I really helps and not eating, you know, an hour or two before you had the bed,
but, sticking to regular mealtimes gets your it's all part of that rhythm of our body.
So if we eat at the same time and then our body's going to start to expect, okay, this is what I'm going to go to sleep. So it's all part of that, that rhythm,
Also. Well, caffeine is a big one. And, as
Andrea: guilty.
Valerie: as far as caffeine goes, I think it's a really good idea to keep, like, if you have trouble sleeping to keep like a sleep journal and keep track of these habits, keep track of the bright light and the exercise that you get during the day and your caffeine intake. No. See exactly what contributes to your sleep or your lack of sleep at night. See if you can [00:32:00] pick up any patterns. Getting the exercise during the day also helps. Alcohol is also a big thing that can be detrimental to sleep. A lot of people think that glass of wine in the evening helps them sleep, but actually it helps you fall asleep, but
then you're waking up at 1:00 AM and you can't go back to sleep. So it, and I got to look at this, but it was brought to my attention very recently that marijuana might do the same thing.
So I have to look into that. I, I. Done any research on that, but we'll have to look into that. And a lot of people, a lot of places now that's an option to a lot of people and a lot of people are turning to CBD or THC for sleep, but it might have a negative effect on your total sleep for the night.
Andrea: For some people it's assumed that if you have trouble sleeping, it's because you have trouble falling [00:33:00] asleep and then you have to get up at a certain time. That's not flexible. And so that can, that can affect your sleep. But a lot of people I'm the same way falling asleep.
Falling asleep is not my problem. It's staying asleep.
And I tend to, I know we have those REM cycles, right? Like those four hour REM cycles. And then in between, it's like, you're really, it's like a very light sleep. And then you go into the next REM cycle. And I feel like I, I wake up in between REM cycles and all the time I can go back to sleep.
But for a lot of people it's staying asleep. That's, that's a lot.
Valerie: That was my problem too, during the whole COVID thing I had, no, I'd be exhausted. I'd have no problem falling asleep, but about midnight, 1:00 AM I'd wake up. And I would, I don't know if I was dreaming about the job or I would ha I was called my list was my list of all the people I was following at the time I would wake up and I would just see that [00:34:00] list.
And then, the stress which is start pouring in and it's so hard to. You know, Even if you can calm your mind, cause you can grab that meditation recording or, and that can all help. But I think the chemicals are going, it's hard to put those back down so that you can go back to sleep.
Andrea: Is there something. That people can do either in the morning, which I think is fascinating, right. Start working on your sleep. Right. When you wake up. I love that. But before they're going to say, is there something that people can work on that can help them not wake up at one, two, and then start thinking about the important stuff that you have to think about at two o'clock in
Valerie: Yeah. I mean, I think it works well to just, create like a really relaxing sleep environment. So, make sure it's dark make sure it's free of noise. We live in Las Vegas and, we're, it's more like a suburb where we are, but still the it's all straight streets and people are [00:35:00] drag racing at night and motorcycles going by.
And so we got a. white noise generator and that really, it's amazing, just the sound that it puts out and it's just, it blocks out other sounds and it creates a really nice environment for sleep. In fact, if I walk into my bedroom right now, that machine is going, I almost immediately feel relaxed and like I'm ready to sleep.
Cause you start to make that connection. That association between that noise and sleeping. So it's almost like you treat everything around sleep, like it's sacred. I, I really think people need to get the TVs out of their bedroom,
Andrea: Yeah. We have no TV in our bedroom.

Valerie: Don't get into the habit of doing stuff on your phone.
Andrea: Right. Or like the TV on your phone. Right.
Valerie: Yeah. Or answering [00:36:00] texts or answering emails when you're in your bed. Keep that as a, like, I'll read my phone in my, in my bed, but not much. It almost seems like as soon as I laid down, I just want to go to sleep.
Andrea: cause that white noise.
I I love that idea. I'm going to do that. Cause we're the same way we're we're like outside of the burbs, we're not even in the burbs. But then it's you have like coyotes yipping And so it's amazing what will wake you up, but just random things that happen.
And I don't know about you, but we like sleeping with our window open because it just gets temperature is huge. me, at least temperature is huge.
Valerie: 60 to 68 is the ideal sleeping, temperature,
Andrea: We're the same way. And so I, and sometimes it's just better to have the window open, but then all of a sudden you hear everything.
Valerie: The cat fight.
Andrea: Yeah, gosh. Yeah. Like red and, and for me, it's like, if I hear something, I [00:37:00] can, sometimes I feel it like pulling myself out of the dream. Like, because I'm very, I'm a very lucid dreamer. Like I'm usually pretty aware of what I'm dreaming. And so it's almost like I can feel it pulling me out. Cause my brain is saying, wait, what's that noise?
What is that? Is that a cat? Is that a child? Is that you know what I mean? And all of a sudden my brain gets like fixated on what that noise is and then boom.
Valerie: Yes.
Out of that state.
Andrea: yeah, so I love that idea of white noise machine. I've never thought about it. I mean, of course we all know about them, but I've never thought about it in that way, as far as something that, that trains you to sleep. And second we wake up getting that bright light,
I think that's amazing.
Can you talk to the people who are listening that have been diagnosed? Not necessarily with osteoarthritis, it could be with anything, and they're thinking to themselves, I really want to continue. Hiking. I really want to continue doing something like [00:38:00] traveling or rock climbing, whatever it is.
What do you say to people when they feel like they can't do that anymore? Because they have a diagnosis,
or they feel like they can't do something because they have aches and pains or feel like they are going to make something worse
Valerie: Yeah, I think that's a big one. People are afraid they're gonna make work, make things worse. And pain is not always mean you're causing more damage. In fact, it usually doesn't.
Andrea: That's amazing. I almost want you to say that again I think that's a big eye-opener.
Valerie: So the pain does not equal more damage being done. Pain is very complex. all pain originates in the brain and they're looking now at medical imaging and they look at MRI results and x-ray results. And there's no, there's no correlation between. The amount of pain someone has and what their x-ray shows or their MRI shows.
There's people they do x-rays [00:39:00] on and they have significant arthritis and they don't have pain. And then you have the other way around. No, it is very hard to ignore pain. And sometimes there is a real injury there that you should have to pay attention to. One of my favorite sayings is keep moving, but read the road signs.

Valerie: So you'll get to know your body. I think that's very important is to get to know your body. They'll, there'll be things on me that hurt and I keep going and then there's things on me that hurt that I'm like, oh, maybe I should shouldn't climb tomorrow. you start to, to really be in tune with your body so you can so you know, so that you don't cause yourself more harm.
But I don't think that anyone should have to stop what they're doing for. Diagnosis and at your dreams are still possible. They're just maybe things that you have to overcome or adjustments that you need to make.
Andrea: Okay.
Valerie: Like with hiking with me, I [00:40:00] always have my truck poles with me. Truck poles, the hiking
hiking sticks. Yep. I always have them with me. Even yesterday I carried them in my hand. I never used them, but I have them there just in case I do need.
And for me with hiking, to me, that's almost like survival gear because if something ever happened, I I'd still be able to get out with them. If my something happened, I did have something happen once on a hike where, and, I went to a couple doctors for this.
What happened? Cause you want to know when, of course no one ever really figured it out. But one of the doctors saw maybe the bones hit each other. Bone on bone and it was like a bone bruise.
Andrea: oh, wow.
Valerie: having the poles were really important because that's how I got out of the woods that day.
Andrea: And I think that's a really good point it's that it doesn't have to make you stop. [00:41:00] And there's nothing, there's no shame in being prepared, just carrying something that might help you.
Valerie: Yup.
Andrea: It's, it's just like carrying something that might help you if you were injured in and cause you, there was a rock slide or something, right?
Valerie: Will you carry a band aid? Some people just carry a couple band-aids.
Some people have to carry a ACE bandage also just,
Andrea: I carry an air horn because of mountain lions and animals and things like that. True,
Valerie: yeah.
Andrea: true story. But it's the same thing. It's, it's, there's no shame in bringing along things that help you and help you do what it is that you want to do.
Valerie: Yes.
Andrea: Saying, oh, I have to do it the way everybody else does it.
Valerie: Or needing different things than a total, a hundred percent Abe able-bodied I don't like that word, some people don't need that. Like yesterday I was [00:42:00] looking at my climbing partner's shoes and I thought, ah, she just had the regular market in souls, in her shoes, you know, the ones that she was came with.
And I thought, Imagine being able to just put on a pair of shoes and not have to put a special insert in it, but that's what I have to do. And if it still gives me what I get. I'm very happy to use the extra, insert or tracking poll or, I've, I'm brace free right now, but I've had to use a pretty significant knee brace in the past. And I probably will, again, if. Hopefully I can do a backpack. I can get out to the Sierra this year
Andrea: Ah,
Valerie: for backpack. And I think the knee brace is a good idea with the extra, 30 pounds on my back.
Andrea: I love that you're encouraging people to get out and do what they're passionate about. [00:43:00] State active, do things that they love. And at the same time you are living it. You're living. That absolutely you can do this and there's ways that you can make it better for yourself.
I mean, there's a lot of ways, not just by carrying tracking poles, but by eating a different way. And, and, by the way, it's, when you were describing your diet, it doesn't sound hugely restrictive.
Valerie: Yeah. There's a lot of all over it. You look all over the internet and there's different definitions of what an anti-inflammatory diet is. And some of them are. A little nuts. I see oil free now. And I keep seeing that I'm like, what, where does that come from? Olive oil is one of the most anti-inflammatory things you can put in your mouth.
And I can't imagine restricting that. And unless you have an [00:44:00] allergy or, you've proven that you're sensitive to olive oil, I can't imagine. Restricting yourself from the benefits of olive oil. So, that's just one example. And I think a lot of people look at other people's definitions of an anti-inflammatory diet, and they're really intimidated because some places you look, you really have to give up a lot.
I say, start with the science scientific studies have shown that this is what causes inflammation or this promotes inflammation. Scientific studies have shown that this reduces inflammation start there. And then if you're still having trouble, then start looking at your individual
triggers, like the dairy and the gluten.
Then people will tell you to start with that first, but I think it's better to start with the. Things that's, when they took a group of a thousand people and did a study on them, this, this was what we saw really did [00:45:00] inflammation these, in that group at a, like an average.
Andrea: Yeah, it's with, start with that low hanging fruit,
right? No pundit, no pun intended, but right. The easy, easy things like eat more fruits and
vegetables, which I know I can, a lot of people can, but I love that. I love that viewpoint because I think diet is one of those things that can be. It's intimidating is a very good word.
It can be very intimidating because there's a lot of people that make it very restrictive and then make it that if you don't follow this really restrictive diet, then you're not really serious
Valerie: Yes.
Andrea: it. And it does not have to be that
Valerie: And also expect that life is going to happen and allow yourself to go out to dinner every once in a while and eat what you want.
Andrea: Right.
Valerie: Or, you go to a wedding or it's a birthday party. And I think people get in and out where if they have like one piece of [00:46:00] cake or they eat one fatty steak that they failed. But it doesn't, you have to allow life to happen,
Andrea: Right.
Valerie: Prioritize your health and make decisions for yourself to be healthy, but allow yourself every once in a while, you know, kind of write that into the roadmap
Andrea: yeah, I mean, if you're too restrictive all the time, that is a disaster waiting to happen because that's where that inner critic comes in, that's where that mindset comes in. If you fall off the wagon, Then all of a sudden you feel like, well happened yesterday, might as well finish the ice cream today.
It doesn't matter. It starts to snowball into something much, much bigger instead of just like, Hey, have the, have the freaking cake it's okay.
Valerie: And sometimes if you allow yourself, you find yourself that you find that you don't want it. And like, one of my things is I love Tierra Mizzou [00:47:00] and I haven't had it in a while and I'm thinking, oh, maybe I'll have the tiramisu and no, I don't really want it.
And I also, like, I don't want to have anything inflammatory, like the night before I'm going to be doing a big climb or a big hike.
Once you see that correlation in yourself like, oh, I did, I had this and now the next day my joints hurt you. You decide what do you want more?
Andrea: Yeah, I think it's a really, it's a very important question.
Valerie: Yes.
Andrea: And, and to know that it, it does happen fast, just like eating a lot of sodium, you feel puffy, immediately eating a lot of sugar. You feel that inflammation. Pretty immediately.
Valerie: Yeah. Some things are pretty quick.
Andrea: nothing's worse than when you don't have something for a long time and then you think, oh, this is my favorite. I'm going to have it. And then you have it. And it's like disappointing.
Valerie: yeah, it wasn't as good as you remember.
And then you're like, oh, what's that worth it?
Andrea: Ah, [00:48:00] Such a bummer. Well, Valerie, thank you so much for being here.
Valerie: for having me.
Andrea: I've taken up a lot of your time. I want to keep talking to you about this. But I think you have given us so much to think about. And so many things that I think are a twist on things that people generally know, like stress and sleep, but you are giving us a different angle. You're giving us something separate to look at. That's going to help us that much more and dialing our health that much more. So we can do things like rock climb,
Valerie: Yes,
Andrea: you're like inspiring me. I want to go out and learn how to rock climb
Valerie: I think you can do that. I think people think rock climbing is this big thing
And the great thing about rock climbing is that it's all graded by numbers. So it's, you have climbs from everything from 5.0 up to five, 15 C or D, I think they're at right [00:49:00] now. And I'm around a five, eight.
I'm trying to push into five nine, and it says challenging for me. As it is for the people that were next to us yesterday, who are at five 11 and trying to push into five 12, like there's always a challenge there. So you can keep moving up this flat. It's really amazing. And, or you can be happy at five, four, and still have a blast and still get on the rock get to beautiful places.
Andrea: Yeah, I'm definitely going to go try this.
Valerie: And you can start at the gym to the
Andrea: That's right. Yeah. Yeah. That's right. Well, thank you again for coming and talking to us and opening our eyes to, I think a lot of things that people didn't even
Valerie: Alright, thank you. Thanks for having me.
Thank you for tuning into this episode of live your life. Not your diagnosis. If you like the show, don't be [00:50:00] shy. Please give us a five-star rating and review. Follow us on apple podcast, Amazon music or wherever you're listening right now. To see complete show notes and resources mentioned in this episode
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About Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis

Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis podcast

Hear inspiring discussions with people living with chronic illness. These people went after their passions and big goals -even when everyone told them they couldn’t. Listen to stories of resilience and gratitude in the face of uncertainty.

I’m your host, Andrea W. Hanson, Author, Motivational Speaker, and Autoimmune Rebel living with multiple sclerosis. You’ll not only fall in love with these guests, but you’ll soak up positive mindset tips and ideas to find your own unique path to success.

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