How hobbies improve your mental health when living with a health issue

How hobbies improve your mental health when living with a health issue

Have you ever thought about how hobbies improve your mental health? Living with the impact of a challenging health issue can be draining in many ways and adversely impact your mental health. The routine of illness/injury can quickly take over. It feels like the illness or injury dictates your life and is in control. Like parts of you are slipping away and you don’t recognise yourself anymore.

This is understandable. When you are living with the impact of a challenging health issue, it’s not like you know automatically what to do. You have to figure out new ways of taking care of yourself and what works for you. That can be time consuming. Also, life continues to happen around you and you have to deal with that. It can feel like there isn’t time left to focus on fun things like hobbies and personal interests. Life is just too busy or you’re too tired to focus on them.

But hobbies and fun activities can be the very thing that will improve your mental health and quality of life.

This is super important when you are living with a potentially life-changing health issue. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

Having been inspired by my own and a colleague’s experience, and others writing about their experience, I share the 10 ways hobbies and personal interests can help you improve your mental health, and restore some normality to your life, your quality of life, and your sense of self.

hobbies can improve mental health

How hobbies improve your mental health and quality of life

Here are 10 ways in which hobbies improve your mental health and quality of life. Hobbies can:

1. Provide an escape from symptoms

In the early days of living with Transverse Myelitis, I had bad fatigue, neuropathic pain and major sensory disturbance (pins and needles everywhere in my body). I could only sit on the sofa and watch daytime telly, which I found boring.

So I opened my laptop and despite my hands being badly affected, I started genealogical research. I was quickly absorbed and distracted from the pain and fatigue for a time. Even though I made loads of typing mistakes because I had constant pins and needles in my hands and so could not feel things properly (still do just not as bad), I was so absorbed in my work I didn’t mind. My focus was on the hobby, less so on my hands.

I once heard a story of a person with Parkinson’s whose tremors stops when she picks up a camera to take pictures. There is a respite from the Parkinson’s symptoms for a time.

A colleague with Parkinson’s told me about how when she rides her bike, she is free of symptoms. She forgets she has Parkinson’s and values this sense of freedom. The cycling is also great exercise.

2. Remind you of abilities you still have

Being able to engage in research reminded me my brain was fine even though my body wasn’t. I could still do research and use my brain in a way which I valued.

3. Process of learning and getting better provides a sense of mastery

With many hobbies you learn even if you have been indulging in the hobby for many years. I’ve been doing genealogical research for 9 years now and I am often learning something new about my family or how to conduct the research so I achieve what I am aiming to. That process of improving is very satisfying.

4. Provide achievement

Hobbies enable you to achieve something of value to you whether that is drawing or painting a picture; completing a cross-stitch, book or bike ride; gardening; writing a poem or story; creating music; going for a walk; cooking a meal; winning a game; finding that one rare stamp to add to a collection, etc.

hobbies improve mental health

Hobbies can improve your mental health and quality of life.

5. Provide an opportunity to socialise with people

Some hobbies naturally lend themselves to being with other people and may even need others so you can engage in the hobby. Like a team sport. Being with others doing an activity you all have an interest in fosters a sense of belonging. This is hugely important as sometimes when living with a serious illness, you can feel very isolated.

I adore kayaking because it gets me out in nature, it gets me moving, it’s a mindfulness practice for me, it’s hugely relaxing, and most of the time I kayak with other people. I find paddling very therapeutic for my body and mind. As a hobby it ticks boxes of what is important to me.

6. Provide a safe way to deal with unpleasant feelings associated with the changes in your life so they do not end up dominating your life

This is important to do. It enables you to get in touch with the experience of your illness/condition/injury so you integrate it into the story of your life without it being ignored, shut away or owning you in an unhealthy way. I wrote about how you can do this here. 

7. Provide enjoyment

I enjoy genealogical research. I love the process of discovery it provides. I enjoy sharing what I learn with my family.

8. Reduce stress and provide relaxation

When we do something we enjoy that is just for us, we often relax. The stress leaves our bodies as we focus on our hobby. So when you feel stressed, indulging in your hobby is a brilliant antidote to it as @HannahEliza1 finds with playing the piano.

9. Provide meaning

Regarding genealogical research, I feel like I am the keeper of the family stories and it’s my job to record them and pass the on so current generations can do that too. That gives meaning to me and my life. It also allows me to live my value of the importance of family.

10. Restore a sense of normality to your life

Hobbies are part and parcel of life. Most people have them. So they bring a sense of normality. Although your life may have changed substantially due to a serious illness, hobbies can still be a part of it. They may be hobbies from pre-illness/injury days or new hobbies chosen due to the changes you’ve experienced because of your illness or injury.

Hobbies can provide all of this. And do you know what all this does?

Hobbies feed your self-worth

Those 10 things hobbies do for you are good for your psychological wellbeing. They improve your quality of life. They feed your sense of self-worth.

Hobbies allow you to be you, to do something for yourself, to express all the richness that is within you, and to feed that richness so you can keep expressing it.

So claim back time for your hobbies and interests. Your mental health and self-worth are too important. They matter because you matter.

hobbies improve mental health chronic illness

The value of hobbies to your mental health when living with serious illness or injury.

What’s it like for you?

Has a hobby helped you to deal with the impact of your illness or injury? Did you pick up any new hobbies as a result? Or are you trying to adapt a hobby so you can still indulge in it or searching for a new hobby to restore a sense of normality to your life? Share below as a comment and you may end up helping someone else.

If you are living with a chronic illness or the after effects of a serious illness, or are caring for someone who is and would like support to enhance your sense of emotional wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Pass it forward

Know someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2017

How to find a hobby to improve your mental health

How to find a hobby to improve your mental health

A month ago I wrote a blog on the 10 ways in which a hobby can improve your mental health when living with the impact of a serious illness or injury.

But after writing the blog, I thought of something I did not address in it. It was a question put to me by someone living with a neurological condition.

How do I find the right hobby for me?

new hobbies after serious health issue

Finding new hobbies after a serious health issue changes your life.

Great question! You may not have a hobby or have found the right one for you. You could be busy with the routine of your health issue, work, family and/or life in general. Which is normal and happens to a lot of people.

But maybe you are at the stage that you like to find a hobby to give yourself a break from illness, family, work, whatever. Or you may want an activity just for yourself or to restore a sense of normality in your life.

So in this post I am going to continue the theme of how a hobby improves mental health by answering that question.

How do you find the right hobby for you?

First, a recap from the previous blog the 10 way in which hobbies improve your mental health and quality of life.

hobbies improve mental health

10 ways hobbies can improve your mental health

These 10 ways provide an insight into the criteria or questions you can ask yourself when selecting a new hobby. Not all may be a requirement for you. Nor are they all a requirement for a hobby.

1. You are interested in the hobby

The hobby has a decent chance of holding your attention and focus. This is particularly important if you are hoping for the hobby to provide a distraction from your symptoms for a time.

2. You can use existing skills which you value using

This can be a powerful reminder of your existing strengths, which we can sometimes forget about when we are in a difficult place. For example, I enjoy research because it allows me to use my brain in a way I value. A new hobby I picked up whilst seriously ill was genealogical research. Another advantage of that hobby was I wasn’t required to move too much, which was good because I couldn’t due to the illness.

3. You will be able to physically do the hobby or adapt your approach to it

Sometimes after a serious health issue, our bodies can permanently change and we may no longer be able to do previous activities or we must adapt how we do them. For example, a friend had a heart attack and due to having angina as a result, returning to their hobby of running was not possible. They chose a new hobby of photography as it would allow them to walk whilst taking photos.

4. The hobby can provide an opportunity to learn and get better

Learning a new skill or developing an existing skill further provides a sense of satisfaction and mastery, which contributes to improved mental health and quality of life.

5. There is an opportunity to achieve something

And do you value that kind of achievement? For example, knitting can result in a finished product like a scarf, hat, jumper or blanket that you can use or give as a gift to someone.

6. The hobby provides a sense of belonging

Does the hobby provide an opportunity to socialise with others in person? Or to connect virtually with people? Which do you prefer? As I said in the previous blog on hobbies, being with others fosters a sense of belonging, which can be very powerful as it reduces the isolation that can result from having a serious health issue.

However, you may want a hobby that allows you to be by yourself and that is ok too.

Sometimes this nature of belonging is looking after something or someone else, whether it be a child, plants, or a pet. Whatever it is, it depends on you to survive and flourish. The process of helping in this way can be very affirming of you and your abilities. This is powerful as often after the onset of a serious health issue, it is common to lose our sense of self-worth as we feel we cannot contribute or look after others as we used to.

7. Is the activity something you think you will enjoy doing?

When we enjoy something, we often relax. And relaxation reduces stress. A win-win all around.

hobbies improve our mental health

The impact of hobbies on our mental health is a virtuous circle.

8. What meaning does the hobby give you?

By ‘meaning’ I mean you value what the activity has to offer whatever that is, such as the activity itself, being with people, helping others, creating or collecting something, increasing your knowledge, playing a team game with others, just having fun or something else. Or maybe the hobby allows you to live a value of yours, something that is important to you. For example, baking could be expressing a value of creativity, or community if you share your bakes with others.

9. Does the hobby restore a sense of normality to your life?

A hobby can provide routine like ‘every Wednesday evening from April through March I go kayaking’ and this fosters a sense of normality.

10. Consider what you enjoyed doing in the past, what you are good at and passionate about

What we enjoyed doing in the past, and our existing strengths and passions can be the source for new hobbies. Even skills we use at work and our jobs can be used in a hobby.

Hobbies we had as a child may capture our interest again. Or we may adapt childhood interests to what we want to do now. For example, maybe you used to sew clothes but now you want to make quilts.

If you are skilled at organising events, many charities and local neighbourhood initiatives may require this skill. If you are an accountant, maybe you do the accounts for free for a local club or charity or bring that skill to a non-executive position of an organisation. You can channel a skill you use at work towards a cause you find meaningful.

If you are passionate about nature, keeping bees or letting a beekeeper keep hives in your garden, bird watching, or creating homes for hedgehogs in your garden can all become hobbies.

It might be possible to adapt your approach to previous hobbies so you can still enjoy them. For example, if you now have limited mobility and gardening was a favourite pastime, raised outdoor beds or potting and growing plants indoors could still allow you to enjoy the hobby.

Sometimes a hobby can grow out of another hobby. For example, a friend developed a passion for Word War I history whilst doing genealogical research. He has since contributed to his local council’s initiative to commemorate those from the area who fought and died in the war, and may even start leading tours of the battlefields in France.

So based on the 10 ways hobbies improve your mental health and quality of life, these 10 criteria and questions can be your starting point in finding new hobbies. Have fun trying out new activities in your search and when you find your hobby, share it here. I’d love to know what you choose and how you are finding it.

What’s it like for you?

Did you pick up any new hobbies as a result of your health issue? What influenced your choice? And how is it helping to improve your mental health and quality of life? Share below as your comment could help someone else.

If you are living with a chronic illness or the after effects of a serious illness, or are caring for someone who is and would like support to enhance your sense of emotional wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Pass it forward

Know someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2017

How to contribute to your health in a healthy way

How to contribute to your health in a healthy way

A challenging health issue is often a wake-up call to contribute to your health more mindfully and consistently. And there are many things you can do to contribute to your health. In fact, if you read a lot of the health and wellbeing articles in the press, you probably come across a lot of information, some of it contradictory, and it can get confusing.

So I want to share a range of questions to help you think through what you can do to contribute to your health in a healthy way. You’ll also see how the questions demonstrate that health is multi-faceted. This is a framework to help you think through the actions you are taking (or not) rather than a top 10 hints and tips list.

This picture shows a person sitting down looking at a board that has written on it: What do you do to contribute to your health (or not)? There are two columns underneath, one with a green check indicating actions which contribute to her health and the other containing a red X meaning actions which don't contribute to her health. The woman is saying, "Hmm... I yo-yo diet and don't move as much because of the pain."

Food, exercise and lifestyle habits contribute to your health

Obvs! This is what we often first think of.

For example, the food you put in your body

Are you feeding yourself premium fuel or substandard fuel? I reckon you can discern between premium and substandard fuel food-wise and if you are unsure, speak with a qualified dietician or nutritional therapist.

We may also have to change what food we eat, how much, how often and even how we take in food.

A challenging health issue can also exacerbate a not so healthy relationship with food. The shock and challenge of a big change in your health is a lot to bear. It is not uncommon for people to find emotional comfort in food. And I certainly don’t say that to judge. To just acknowledge that you are trying to cope.

How much can you/do you move?

How much you can physically move about now may have changed due to your or your loved one’s health issue. So there is something about being mindful of the amount you are eating. Does it correspond with the amount you’re moving?

Also, our lifestyle and how sedentary it is can have an impact. If you can still move about as you did before your illness or injury, is your lifestyle full of movement or more lifestyle?

If you have a physiotherapy routine to follow to maintain or regain functionality, do you follow it? Sometimes in physiotherapy we may not see much improvement but continuing with it despite that can help us regressing.

What are your lifestyle habits like?

Habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol excessively and snacking on sugary food may serve a purpose – providing a break, putting social anxiety to one side or give you emotional comfort for example. But in the long run how good are they for you? And I don’t say this to judge. I know very well what it’s like to have one of these habits. (I quit smoking in 2008.)

A woman is sitting at a table eating from a bowl of crisps. There are also bowls of biscuits, sweets, chocolate and cake on the table. The woman is saying, "I really need to cut down on all the snacks I eat. But I feel better when I have them!" She is starting to realise the purpose of snacking for her, i.e. makes her feel better. Knowing your reason for snacking or any other habit that isn't helping your health can help you change your habit for the better. And this can contribute to your health.

Managing your health issue

If you are dealing with a challenging health issue, how proactive are you at managing it?

What kind of relationship do you have with the health issue?

What kind of relationship do you have with your body now? How closely do you listen to it?

How are you at managing symptoms? Do you take your medications?

What are your expectations of treatment? Of a cure?

What kind of preparation do you do for your medical appointments? How do you help the medical and healthcare profession to help you?

Note that everything else mentioned here can impact your health issue too.

What do you do that contributes to your health and experience of feeling healthy? #health #wellness #change Click To Tweet

The pursuit of health is so much more than our physical health

It’s also about how you tend to your inner world. I I think of this as physiotherapy for your heat, mind and soul.

Do you self-criticise yourself more than you show yourself self-compassion?

What do you do to nurture your self-worth? Do you generate your self-worth internally or are you relying on others to feed it? Or a combination?

Do you know when get yourself into vicious circle patterns of thinking and hence behaving?

What strategies do you use to get on with your life, people and situations which may no longer be serving you? Hint: Those people and situations that cause you a lot of stress.

Pic of a woman in a bath and the water is her self-worth. Bathing in your self-worth is something important to do to contribute to your health.
Take the time to bathe in your self-worth

How much do you focus on the negative in your life as compared to the good and what makes you smile?

How often do you put your needs as ‘less than’ or on the back burner in comparison to others’ needs? Do you know how to get your needs met? Or are you just out of practice?

What level of control do you feel you have over yourself and your life? Do you feel you can take control of things that matter to you and what you want for yourself? Or is it down to others making things happen for you?

What is your window of tolerance like for stressful situations? What is happening when you easily snap? Or when you get through a stressful situation pretty well?

To what degree do you feel you can learn to change things for the better? Or do you feel that isn’t possible?

Your relationships contribute to your health

What is the quality of your relationships? Are you satisfied with the level of connection you have with people?

What kind of people do your surround yourself with? Do they lift you up and support you? Or criticise you and generally don’t support you?

What kind of relationships might you need to let go of?

Do you have a network of people you can rely on for help? Remember, it’s great to have several people as often times one person cannot meet all of your needs. Keeping that in mind, who might be willing and able to help you? And how can you help the people around you to help you?

Who isn’t a part of your life but you would like them to be?

What kind of relationships do you want going forwards?

Your job can impact how healthy you feel

How does your job, whether paid or volunteer, meet your motivations for doing it?

We all have different motivations for doing the job we do. Sometimes we do a job because it pays the bills which allows us to get loads of satisfaction from our hobbies. Sometimes it gives us a sense of purpose in our life. Or it gets us out and connecting with people.

Some jobs can demand a lot of you – whether it’s a hard commute, long hours, lots of responsibility, not much resources to do the job, stressful relationships, job security, or something else. This can have an impact how healthy you feel – the level of stress, happiness in the job, etc. You may have to address how you approach aspects of the job to manage the impact of stress.

A lack of a job and experiencing difficulty finding one if you haven’t worked for some time or you experience discrimination in the recruitment process because of a disability can also have an impact.

And other aspects of your life contribute to your health

Our hobbies, personal interests and activities can do so much for our mental health. I have already written about that here and here and I encourage you to read those blogs.

Your hobbies and personal interests can contribute to your health in a healthy way. This picture shows a virtuous circle of how hobbies do this. Our hobbies increase enjoyment which in turn increases relaxation and reduces stress.
The impact of hobbies on our mental health is a virtuous circle.

Your physical environment can impact being able to get around and your level of independence. For example, you home may not be wholly accessible particularly if you use mobility aids. It may have mould which exacerbates existing health issues. It may not be in a great part of town. Or you may live in the country so have to drive everywhere but driving is an issue. Or maybe where you live is good for where you’re at in your life.

Our financial situation can contribute to your health or not. Accessing benefits can be a stressful affair. Or trying to afford equipment or having to move home to facilitate your independence. In some countries it can be very difficult to afford the treatment and medication you need to manage your health issue and have a quality of life.

The culture we were raised in and/or live in now and expectations of us in that regard can have an impact. For example, a culture may have a lot of stigma associated with an invisible illness or disability for example. That can impact our stress levels, or whether or not we seek treatment even.

If you subscribe to a faith or have another kind of spiritual practice, this can have an impact. For some people, it is of enormous benefit to them. For others it will not feature.

What do you find meaningful in your life?

Even if you are stuck at home a lot more than you would like due to your or a loved one’s health issue, or your life isn’t quite what you had hoped for, what gives your life meaning?

What contributes to your life feeling like it’s a good one to be living? Even though you may have some tough stuff to deal with. It doesn’t have to be anything big or grand. It just has to suit you.

Your life purpose doesn’t have to be anything big or grand. It just has to suit you. And it can also change as you grow and change #lifepurpose #chronicillness #health Click To Tweet

So how can you contribute to your health in a healthy way?

Reflect on the questions above. Remember, you know yourself best and what you’re like. So it’s ok to be honest, it’s ok not to like some of your responses, and it’s ok to celebrate what you feel you are doing well.

If you are looking for a way to answer some of the questions above to assess where you are regarding how you contribute to your health, you can download the Wellness Appreciation Workbook. It’s a do-it-yourself exercise that helps you figure out where you are now and where you would like to be in the areas of your life mentioned above.

This picture show the different aspects of your life which can contribute to your health (or not): how you manage your health issue, your physical environment and getting around, nutrition, your emotional health, your relationships, finances, life purpose, returning to work, volunteering or education, leisure activities, spirituality/faith, cultural factors.

The workbook is very flexible. You can focus on one, two, some or all of the areas listed above and you can re-use the exercise in the workbook. Also, you don’t have to use the categories I mention here. Or you can use different names for them. You can adapt the exercise to suit you. And it’s free. You can get it here.

Heads up – when you download the Wellness Appreciation Workbook, it does subscribe you to the Return to Wellness newsletter, which I typically send out weekly (although not always). I do not sell or give your email to any third parties and you can unsubscribe at any time.

What’s it like for you?

What action might you take or stop to contribute to your health? And what support do you need to do that? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Pass it forward

Has this blog made you think? Helped you in some way? Share it so it can do the same for someone else.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

How to set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan

How to set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan

It’s important to set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan to help you in your ongoing recovery from a challenging health issue. Strong goals are the foundation of your plan. They provide a destination to work towards and even the direction to take. They become your road map to the best recovery you can get for yourself.

But what does a strong goal look like? How do you know if you are setting yourself up to succeed? To help you set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan, this blog takes you through a six-step plan to do just that.

This blog is part of a series on rehabilitation planning and you can read the first blog here on the principles of a good rehabilitation plan and the second blog here on what you need to include in your plan.

This blog (and the first two) will help you whether you are looking to create a full-on rehabilitation plan or you are further on – months, a year or years even – but want to tweak something you are doing or try something new.

As I’ve said before, rehabilitation is a life-long activity. Sometimes you may not make great gains in your rehabilitation several years after the health issue arrived into your life. But your rehabilitation can keep you from regressing, which is important. Also, rehabilitation is about self-care. And self-care is for life.

So let’s go through this six-step plan.

A woman is holding a map with the title 'My Rehabilitation Plan' at the top and at the bottom is written 'My Destination.' There are four goals on the map and the map shows the route from each goal to the destination. The woman is thinking, 'This rehabilitation map is a good example to follow. Looks like there may be some challenges. I need to visualise my ideal destination and start setting some goals.' The caption read: Set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan can help you reach your destination.

How to set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan

1. Identify what’s important to you

What is most important to you in your life? Now and what you want to be doing in the foreseeable future? How far you look into the future is entirely up to you.

Is it your family, your physical and mental health, your work, enjoyment you get from your hobbies and leisure activities, financial wellbeing, feeling calm and at peace, having a coffee first thing in the morning before everyone else gets up, or having a life purpose? Do you want to return to studying? Change careers? Retire? Doing more things independently? Something else? Make a list.

It doesn’t matter whether these activities are small or big, bring in money or not, involve other people or not, are mundane, are behavioural or just an internal feeling. It may be something you have to do or want to do. They can be from many parts of your life as I wrote about in the second blog in this series of rehabilitation planning. What matters is that they are important to you.

I will use myself as an example with a real-life issue.

What is important to me is maintaining my ability to move as freely as I can, to maintain my physical fitness (so I have to be able to exercise), and to push off having a knee replacement for as long as possible.

This picture contains an original quote by Return to Wellness - "Now that you are living with the impact of a serious health issue - What is important to you?"

2. Have you been able to make whatever is important to you happen yet?

Are you able to do what is most important to you? Have you made it happen yet? If there is anything getting in the way of doing what is most important to you, add that to your list.

If there is nothing that is an obstacle to working towards your goal, and it is something you have started or can get started on, write down what is enabling you to do that. This could be something about yourself, a characteristic, strength, skills and/or a passion you have. It may be support from other people. It could be anything.

The importance of this is it reminds you of what is going well for you, your strengths, and what and who are around you that are a form of support.

An example

I live with progressive osteoarthritis in my knees. My right hip is in pain and I am worried it may be starting there. Moving as freely as I can is a bit hit and miss. By the end of the day when my legs are tired, my mobility isn’t great and I can end up waddling from side-to-side.

I feel down and sometimes frustrated about the pain in my hip. I feel I need to look at how I am thinking about this issue too. Not sure why, but feel I need to.

I have made exercise happen. Finally! (You can read that story here and here.) And I’ve maintained doing the exercise nearly every day and only took breaks over the Christmas holiday and when I had a light injury to my knee. Being part of a group of people who had the same goal to make exercise a daily part of their lives has helped. So has my self-discipline, which I’m really proud of.

I am seeing a physiotherapist for my knees and hips. The exercises have helped my mobility. I waddle less. But I still have pain.

IMPORTANT TANGENT: It’s important to recognise yourself for your accomplishments and pat yourself on the back when you’ve done something well, or something you are proud of. Because there may be times when others won’t do that and you don’t want to constantly be in a place of waiting for praise from others to feed your sense of self-worth.

3. Now it’s time to set some goals. But first, inspire yourself

Look at what is important to you and what is getting in the way of you doing/feeling what is important to you.  What is getting in the way can sign post you towards goals you can be setting.

The pain in my hip and from an old groin injury is getting in my way. This inhibits that feeling of moving as freely as I can.

Now ask yourself this question. If there was something you could do to work with whatever was getting in the way, to work around that obstacle or even work with the obstacle, what would it be?

I think the physiotherapist was a little perplexed I was still feeling pain given my mobility was better and she said the exercises helped to build the required muscle mass I needed. Need to get a scan to find out exactly what is going on in my hip.* I’m wondering about doing a meditation on my hip pain. Use the tennis ball more to massage my hip. I need to sit with my mental state around all this and figure that out.

Don’t judge your ideas now as good, do-able, bad, or not feasible. You’re aiming for as many ideas as possible. Write them down. It may be that the ideas spark another idea.

Do I need a walking stick for days when it’s really bad?

You could do this exercise with someone, in a group, or on your own. If you want, have someone read over your work as they may have ideas to contribute and thought of something you haven’t.

You can also share this with someone who has been in the same place as you but a bit further down the road. They can share what worked for them and others.

If there is anything getting in the way of doing what is important to you in your life, consider what that is and how might you work with or around it so it becomes less of an #obstacle These could become #goals in your… Click To Tweet

4. Craft your goals

Remember, goals don’t have to be of the Big Hairy Audacious Goal type. But they can be if that motivates you. If your goals are big, break them down into smaller goals. These smaller goals are like milestones you can work towards. You are more likely to achieve these smaller goals and this feeds your motivation to continue. Important.

For example, maybe you’ve had a health issue like Transverse Myelitis, Multiple Sclerosis, Cauda Equina Syndrome or a stroke which has greatly impacted your mobility. You want to be able to walk again preferably without a mobility aid within a year. That is your Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

Let’s break that BHAG down into smaller goals.

  • Your first goal may be to go on a course to develop your skills of using a wheelchair so you can get out and about and maintain some independence.
  • You then practice your new wheelchair skills.
  • Your next few goals may focus on strengthening the muscles needed to walk through physiotherapy.
  • Once you have the strength, then you try standing.
  • Then take a few steps with a zimmer frame, then walk 25 meters, 50, 100, etc.
  • You progress to walking with a stick.
  • You then try walking without a stick.

5. Whatever the size of your goals, make sure they are specific. This is a really important step when you set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan.

Because when a goal is specific, it’s more tangible in that a specific goal gives you direction on what you can be doing. Specific-ness ensures your goals are strong.

Whatever the size of your #goals make sure they are specific. That makes it more tangible giving you direction on what need to do. Specific-ness ensures your goals are strong. #rehabilitation #planning Read more here Click To Tweet

Here are some examples of unspecific, vague goals that don’t give much direction on next steps.

Get out more

  • Get out more where? Doing what? With whom? When? Where?

Be more independent

  • Independent from whom, from what? What activities do you want to be doing independently?

Feel calm

  • What do you want to feel calm about? When do you want to feel calm? What gets in the way of you feeling calm? Is it intrusive thoughts? What other people say and do (or don’t)? Something else?

Do more things that make me happy

  • What things specifically do you want to be doing? With whom? When? Where?

Return to work

  • To the same job? If yes, do you need adjustments to your job so you can actually do it? If no, what kind of job do you want? When ideally? How will you know your body is ready? Or are finances dictating your return?

Using me as an example, an unspecific goal would be

Walk more freely.

Unspecific goals can feel large and they don’t provide direction on next steps. Whereas with the walking goal provided above, there was a clear progression of steps the person had set themselves to take towards their goal of walking again. They also knew they would need to attend a course and get outside help in the form of physiotherapy to help them meet their goal.

Answer these questions to ensure your goals are specific

This picture contain the 10 questions to help you set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan. The questions are - 1) What specifically do I want to be doing, thinking or feeling? How will that be different from what I am doing, thinking or feeling now? 2) How often do I want or need to do, think or feel this? All the time? Or only in certain situations? What situations are those? Where and when do they happen? 3) When would I like to make this change by? 4) Who will I be doing this activity with? Or is it one I do on my own? Or both? 5) Do I need to learn how to do something? 6) Do I need specialist expertise to help me? If so, what kind and who can provide it? (coaching, physiotherapy, acupuncture for example) 7) Who can support me as I make this change? 8) How can I hold myself accountable for making this change? 9) What other questions do I have about making the change I want for myself?

I’ll continue using myself as an example.

What specifically do I want to be doing, thinking or feeling? How will this be different from what I am doing, thinking or feeling now?

I want to be able to get up from a chair with minimal pain and hobbling. Hopefully there will be less pain. I will feel more free in my body because it is moving more as it is meant to. That feeling of freedom will be me getting up from a chair and walking a little more quickly and ideally no hobbling which I do now.

Notice how goals can be something you see someone do or say. These are behavioural goals. Or goals can be about changing how you feel or think and these may not always be readily visible to others (which is fine).

How often do I need or want to do, think or feel this? Is it something I will be doing all the time? Like walking and/or using a wheelchair for example. Or is it only in certain situations. If in certain situations, what are they? Where and when do they happen?

I get up from chairs and walk daily.

I exercise and do my physiotherapy daily. If I can’t, at a minimum 5-6 times a week.

When would I like to make this change by?

ASAP ideally! But I need a scan. And the results of that scan may determine what happens after that. If I could be walking more freely in six months time, that would be good. It feels like a realistic timeframe. I’ll book an appointment with the GP on Monday.*

Who will I be doing this activity with? Or is it one I do on my own? Or both?

I walk every day with people like my husband, friends or colleagues.

Do I need specialist expertise to help me do what I want to be doing? If yes, what kind and who can provide it? Or do I need to learn how to do something?

I need the following specialist expertise: GP to get the referral for a scan; orthopaedic doctor regarding the scan and its results, physiotherapist for ongoing physiotherapy.

Who else can support me as I make this change?

Husband for moral support. He can also give me feedback on how I am walking.

Coach and therapist for support on how I am thinking and feeling about changes in my mobility.

Notice how these forms of support are non-medical.

How can I hold myself accountable for making this change?

This is SUPER IMPORTANT. I see a lot of people rely on others for accountability and when the other person/people don’t provide it, the person never achieves their goals. You want to strike a balance between support from others in helping you to achieve your goals and support from within yourself.

I have just entered the task of making the appointment into my calendar. If it’s in there, it gets done.*

Including this issue in a blog is a form of group accountability for me.

When I get up in the morning, put on my exercise clothes and do my physiotherapy first thing. I can lay my exercise clothes out the night before.

Every day after finishing my exercise and physio, I will continue posting in the online boot camp’s Facebook group that I’ve done it.

When it comes to #accountability for achieving your #goals, it’s important to have a balance between support from others and support from within yourself. You can’t rely on support from others 100% for achieving your #goal… Click To Tweet

What other questions do I have about making the change I want for myself?

How will I know when a using walking stick would be a good idea? Ask the physiotherapist. And can the physiotherapist do anything to improve how I am affected by the groin injury?

By answering these questions, you give yourself much more direction on what you do next. You have defined a route so you know where to go.

6. You need large doses of willingness to adapt, be flexible, be persistent and practice self-compassion

Picture of a woman sitting at a table on which there are four large bottles of medication. They are adaptability, flexibility, persistence and compassion. The woman is saying, "Time to take my heart and soul medication." Large doses of adaptability, flexibility, persistence and self-compassion will help you when implementing your rehabilitation goals.

Some of your goals are going to require a lot of work on your part. You’ll sweat – physically and mentally. You may feel frustrated at times. You’ve got to stay with. People can support you and contribute to you feeling motivated, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to do this. Because no one can do it for you.

You may find that your end goal of walking without a stick isn’t achievable in a year. It may take longer than you thought. Or it may not be possible at all. You may have realised you were over-ambitious. (Being ambitious is not a bad thing. Sometimes ambition can get you further than you or others expected even if you don’t meet your original goal.)

In these moments, it is ok to be upset. And as I always say, you don’t have to unpack and live forever and ever in the upset-ness. This is when you need those doses of adaptability and flexibility, the persistence and self-compassion to adapt or even change your goal and continue striving towards it.

I get frustrated on some days with my hip and groin. It gets so painful and the pain can be random. I’ll have a good day and then several bad days. I walk more slowly sometimes. It’s frustrating. It’s ok to yell. And cry. (I do!) It’s a good discharge for me. I can then move on.

All of the above will help you set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan.

But what if you don’t know what the end goal is or can be? Can you then set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan?

Sometimes you just don’t know what the end result will be. Or you may prefer not to set an end goal. You just want to get started and figure out the next step as you go along. That is ok.

In either case, what Martin Luther King Jr. said is applicable.

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step,” having to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Taking that first step with faith in yourself and the people supporting you is key. That first step is a goal in itself.

This picture contains the quote, "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." by Martin Luther King Jr.

What’s it like for you?

What do you think of this approach to setting strong goals for your rehabilitation plan? Do you like to create a plan of your goals or do you prefer to take it one step at a time? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to set strong goals for your rehabilitation plan, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Pass it forward

Has this blog made you think? Helped you in some way? Share it so it can do the same for someone else.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

*UPDATE on the scan – Went to the GP to make the appointment, was able to get an appointment that day due to a cancellation, ended up having an x-ray on my hip yesterday. And so just waiting for the results. That was quick!

Here are the 10 things to do when your recovery is uncertain

Here are the 10 things to do when your recovery is uncertain

When your recovery is uncertain, it can be a difficult time. Scary even because you don’t know how much functionality you’ll get back and how long that will take. That might make for uncomfortable reading.

I am mentioning this up front to acknowledge your or your loved one’s reality and that it’s normal to feel uncomfortable about it, even scared. I know, I’ve been there myself. It can be an anxiety-ridden place. But there is hope.

It may feel like you have no control, but you do have some. It’s important to recognise that. And then exercise the control you do have, however much that is. I’ve come up with ten things you can do when your recovery is uncertain.

When your prognosis for #recovery is uncertain, it doesn’t mean you can do nothing. There are 10 things you can do to take some control back. Read more here #seriousillness #seriousinjury Tell a friend

This blog is actually for a friend who is in this position right now

I’ll call him Michael. And I have his permission to use him as a case study. Michael sustained a serious spinal cord injury a few months ago. High up the spinal cord as well so his whole body is affected. Initially he was paralysed but regained functioning and can walk. The doctor said he is very lucky.

Michael had an operation so the disk doesn’t impinge on the spinal cord. It is to prevent becoming Michael becoming paralysed from the neck down again due to the damaged disc if he were to ever have another accident.

As Michael can walk the impact of his spinal cord injury is invisible. The most difficult symptoms he has are fatigue and chronic neuropathic pain. When we talked about me using his situation as a case study for a blog, I asked him what is the one question he would like me to answer. He asked,

‘How long do I have to wait until I recover and go back to the way I was?’

That’s a big question. The doctor’s prognosis figures into this. What did the doctor say to Michael regarding his recovery?

Recovery after a spinal cord injury, many neurological illnesses, and other illnesses such as cancer, are not straightforward. Also, you and your body hardly go back to way you were before the illness or injury.

You can be anywhere on this continuum of recovery.

  • No recovery and you live with the impact whatever that is. This may include permanent disability where a lot of functionality is affected.
  • Some recovery with residual symptoms that impact how you live your life to a moderate degree. It may include a moderate degree of permanent disability.
  • Good recovery with minor residual symptoms that do not have a great impact on how you live your life
  • Complete recovery

Picture of a continuum of recovery where at one end is No Recovery and the other end Complete Recovery. In between there is 'Some recovery, have residual symptoms and a permanent disability' and 'Have residual symptoms but overall a good recovery'. A man is sitting below the continuum asking, 'Where will I end up?' When your recovery is uncertain, you don't know what kind of recovery you will ultimately have.

And the recovery process can take time. For example, with the neurological illness Transverse Myelitis, the neurologists speak of a 2 year window of recovery. With some  conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, you will have a periods of recovery after a flare-ups or relapses (depending on the variant of MS you have).

Michael is very aware of this and had this discussion with his doctor, so this blog isn’t the first time he is hearing this. So I move onto the first thing to do when your recovery is uncertain. These 10 things you can do are applicable to anyone in this situation. Some of them may not be easy to do, but they are important. And they aren’t an exhaustive list.

1. Learn to live with the uncertainty

Learning to live with the uncertainty of not knowing how long recovery will take and the degree to which your symptoms and issues will improve is important. When you can learn to live well enough with the uncertainty, you then free up your energy to focus on your rehabilitation and things that will give you meaning and joy. This can help the recovery process.

Linked to this is the relationship you have with your illness or injury. If it’s a fraught relationship full of fighting and anger, it can be harder to live with the uncertainty. I’ve seen people end up fighting it and as a consequence they end up not looking after themselves physically or emotionally very well. This is stress inducing which can exacerbate symptoms.

Picture of an original quote by Return to Wellness: If you weren't fighting your illness or injury, what would you be doing instead? Sometimes when your recovery is uncertain, you can end up fighting your illness or injury. But this actually doesn't help your recovery process as the fighting can generate a lot of stress and anxiety.

2. Take control of what you can

This is your physiotherapy (or exercise if you are not having physiotherapy), your medication and appointments, your diet, your mental health, your relationships, your return to work if you are working or volunteering, your hobbies and leisure time, finances, life purpose and values, and your physical environment.

This is all in your remit to control and influence, making any adaptations and changes to help you live well with the impact of your illness or injury. The next point suggests how you can take control.

3. Develop a rehabilitation plan when your recovery is uncertain

These days I don’t often hear of people leaving hospital with a care or rehabilitation plan. But there is nothing stopping you from creating your own plan.

Developing your own plan could be a blog in itself so I’m going to quickly describe how to do this. For each category listed in point 2 ask yourself these questions for a start:

  • What do I need to do to do my physiotherapy for example, or manage my medication and appointments, diet, etc.? What changes do I need to make?
  • What are my goals for my physiotherapy, returning to work, etc. Ensure these goals are concrete, i.e. based on behaviours and have timescales attached to them.
  • What questions do I have? Is there a person I know who has been through this or a charity who can help?
  • What specifically will I need support with? For example, you may need someone to help you with your physiotherapy.

As part of this, it can be useful to keep a diary of your symptoms (particularly if they fluctuate), progress you are making, when you plateau or have an exacerbation of symptoms, etc. This can help you identify:

  • Patterns and themes in your recovery such as what may trigger an exacerbation of symptoms. This can help you manage the impact of the illness or injury.
  • Questions you have for your doctor and to prepare for your appointments.
  • Any improvements you have made over the longer term which can be motivating to look at from time to time.
When you’re the prognosis for your #recovery is uncertain and the doctors haven’t given you a care plan, you can develop your own non-medical #rehabilitation plan. Get a few pointers here #seriousillness #seriousinjury Tell a friend

4. Adopt a learning mindset

Given recovery from serious health issues are rarely straightforward, things won’t go to plan. Adopting a learning mindset will make navigating this unknown terrain a lot easier and lessen the negative energy spent when things are not going well.

Michael said it best, ‘Live and learn.’ He overdid it in the garden the other day and realised it the next day. He now knows his current limits for gardening activity.

So when you do something for the first time, or you are increasing your activity levels, or something doesn’t go well, ask yourself:

  • What did I learn from this?
  • What do I need to do, think or feel differently next time (if anything)?

Make a note of it if you need to.

5. Develop your willingness muscle to adapt

Develop your willingness to adapt and ask for help. Change can sometimes be hard. Particularly in the context of an illness or injury where things may be harder to do, take longer to do, and/or you’ve lost valued levels of functioning and activities. This can include letting go of pre-illness or injury expectations of yourself and developing new ones.

I am not saying you squash down any sadness associated with this, not at all. Do acknowledge that because that is a psychologically healthy thing to do. You can do this without unpacking and living there.

Developing your willingness muscle to adapt and change, gives you more options. When you have options, you have choice and more control. This can also help reduce black and white thinking where you only have either this option or that option (and neither may be what you want).

When your recovery is uncertain, it is important to develop your willingness muscle to adapt. In the picture there is a man doing bicep curls and he is saying, "I need to strengthen this muscle." There is a woman on a half balancing ball saying, "This is supposed to be good for my legs and balance." On the mirror in this Return To Wellness Gym is a quote, "Developing your willingness muscle to adapt is an all over body workout."

6. Ask for and say yes to help

Asking for help is important as you may want help but people may not be able to spot that, or they worry about imposing.

Also, asking for and accepting help does not mean you are weak or a burden. Many times, the person has offered their help and is only too happy to help you. You get to where you want to be faster and helping you makes them feel good too. Win-win.

Sometimes though, as I mentioned at the end of this blog, you want to say no to help because you want to check what you can do now, if there has been some recovery. That is fine. If someone has offered to help you and you say no, let them know why.

7. It’s especially important to talk to your family when your recovery is uncertain

This is REALLY IMPORTANT. Don’t assume that they don’t want to be bothered. Don’t assume they know what it is like for you. Ask them what they want to know and the questions they have.

If you keep things bottled up out of fear of upsetting them or making things more difficult for them, you inadvertently create the conditions for people to come up with their own stories of what is going on with you. And they may not be correct.

Those in a caring or supporting role are also affected by what has happened to you. They are affected differently, but the impact can be just as great.

Acknowledge what they have had to do. Chances are they have had to take on some of the stuff you did. Listen to them about how they are affected. Put feelings of guilt to one side and worries about not being able to ‘repay’ your spouse/partner/children/parents. Recognition in the form of a genuine thank you, a hug, a kiss, your time and attention is the most valuable ‘payment’.

A picture of a man saying to his partner, "Thank you for everything you've done for me and us." Genuine acknowledgement of a family member's support is so valuable.

Getting your children involved

Children often want to help so if there is some way they can get involved in helping you with your physiotherapy for example, doing household chores, or even in helping you set your rehabilitation goals, that can go very far in helping the children know they matter. It can also help build their confidence levels if they take on new chores and are recognised for making a valuable contribution.

Regarding your children helping to set your rehabilitation goals, ask them what they would like to be able to do with you and make a plan as to what you need to do together to do that activity. Realising you may need to make adaptations to how you do the activity and even the type of activities you do together.

It is usually in these stressful times where pre-existing and sometimes unhelpful family dynamics can get in the way and cause issues. When the pre-existing dynamics come into play, you are both doing something that contributes to this dynamic so this isn’t about blaming one or the other person for what they’ve done or not done. Hence why I am emphasising the importance of talking with your family when your recovery is uncertain.

8. Limit comparison to others and your pre-illness/injured self

Comparison to others and your pre-illness/injured self can be a recipe for keeping yourself stuck. It is a natural thing to do. Just be mindful of it, how often you do it and how any comparison is making you feel.

I recommend you compare yourself to yesterday. That way your comparison is more fair and realistic.

9. Hold your wants lightly

When your recovery is uncertain and you’ve been dealing with a lot of unwanted changed, of course you may want to recover 100%. You want to be your pre-illness/injured self again. You want less pain, fatigue or whatever symptoms you are experiencing.

That is all a given.

Just be mindful to hold those wants lightly. If you fiercely cling to them, you can inadvertently limit your ability to adapt. You can end up continuing to fight your situation and remain stuck. Chances are that is not what you want for yourself.

Remember to hold your wants lightly for a cure or to get 100% better. If you fiercely cling to these wants, you can inadvertently limit your ability to adapt, and remain stuck. Chances are that is not what you want for yourself… Tell a friend

10. Maintain a well-tuned sense of humour when your recovery is uncertain

There are times we laugh at our situation, but it is more of a gallows laugh, laughing at our misfortune. We do that from time to time but that is not what I am recommending here. Because gallows humour can be a subtle discount of ourselves and our situation.

I am talking about a well-tuned sense of humour. Sometimes with people you know well you or they may find the humorous side to an an aspect of your condition where it is truly funny to all those involved including you.

Also, seek to laugh just for a laugh. It may be banter with family, friends or colleagues. It may reading a book or watching a movie. It may be following a comedian or funny social media account. (I recommend @TheMERL and the libraries and museums on Twitter for that.)

I recommend a belly laugh a day because it brings joy into your life. Put that in your rehabilitation plan.

When you look at all of the above, there is actually quite a bit you can do when your recovery is uncertain.

In the picture there are 10 things listed which you can do when your recovery is uncertain. Learn to live with uncertainty. Take control of what you can. Develop your rehabilitation plan. Adopt a learning mindset. Develop your willingness muscle to adapt. Ask for and say yes to help. Talk to your family. Limit comparison to others and your pre-illness/injured self. Hold your wants lightly. Maintain a well-tuned sense of humour.

What’s it like for you?

What on the list above most resonates with you? What isn’t on this list that you think could be there? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support in dealing with any of the issues mentioned in this blog, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Pass it forward

Has this blog made you think? Helped you in some way? Share it so it can do the same for someone else.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

Pin It on Pinterest