Why is accepting help good for you?

Why is accepting help good for you?

You may be of the opinion that accepting help is not a good thing to do. Because you may feel guilty for feeling like a burden to someone. Or you feel bad or even ashamed because you now need help. Maybe you’re afraid of being seen as needy. Or worried that people will say no and you’ll look stupid in some way.

It’s understandable to feel this way. There are so many reasons why accepting help is seen as a no-no, or a last-ditch effort. But some of these reasons are culturally ingrained and actually don’t help us to help ourselves.

If you’ve read my blogs before on this topic, most recently on losing your independence due to illness or injury, and regaining it, you’ll have seen I’ve been writing about this topic from different angles over the past few years.

In this blog, I want to make the case for why accepting help is good for you. If anything, to get you thinking, and maybe challenge your assumptions around accepting help. So that the next time you are in a position to accept help (or not), you can make a really informed decision for yourself.

When underlying assumptions about accepting help are not true, they can disrupt the healthy balance in giving and accepting help. In this picture a person is saying to someone, "I can help. Let me know.' The other person responds, 'No, I'm fine.' But inwardly is thinking, "If I accept help, that means I am weak and needy. Plus I would feel like a burden and guilty.' Those are assumptions often ingrained by the society we live in.

But first, let me share an example of accepting help

A recent example is Eliud Kipchoge who was the first person to run a marathon in under two hours on 12th October 2019. He didn’t do the effort alone. It was a meticulously planned event which took several years of preparation. It involved a sponsor, his coach, his training team, the city of Vienna, the 41 pacemakers and a whole lot more people I am sure.

Eliud had to enlist their help and support. And if you watched the race, you would have seen how happy they were to be doing that. The pacemakers consistently said, ‘I am very happy to be doing this. It’s an honour.’

They relished in giving their help. Eliud received it all and used it to do what he does best, run a marathon in the time he was aiming for. They received the satisfaction of knowing they helped a fellow runner and the glory of being part of this historic challenge and helping to make it happen.

You see the mutual exchange that is happening?

Eliud asked for help. He received it. Those who helped got something in return. This is a healthy form of giving and receiving.

There is also an added bonus in what he has done for others which was best put by his coach Patrick Sang: “He has inspired all of us that we can stretch our limits in our lives.” I’m sure we’ll soon be seeing more people running marathons in under two hours.

I feel @EliudKipchoge recent efforts to run a marathon in under 2 hours is a beautiful example of a healthy rhythm of giving and receiving #help to make great things happen. #NoHumanIsLimited #INEOS159 Read what I mean here Click To Tweet

Accepting help creates an interdependence

I think this is why some people fear asking for and accepting help. They fear feeling dependent on the other person. They may even feel beholden to them, i.e. they now ‘owe’ the other person.

But there is value to interdependence

Interdependence creates connection. With others. And you know what? We humans thrive on that. Serious illness or injury and chronic illness can be very isolating. When we refuse genuine offers of support or help, which would really help us, we can inadvertently isolate ourselves further. So we don’t give ourselves the chance to stretch our limits.

The connection of interdependence shows that we matter

Esther Perel put it beautifully in her email newsletter of 5th August 2019:

“For when we know that we matter to others, it gives us a significance.”

Esther Perel

When someone is genuinely willing to help us, we know we matter. When we are genuinely willing to accept their help, they know they matter.

Knowing that we matter to someone else is a very validating experience. We feel affirmed. We’ve been acknowledged. Witnessed. This is the stuff that feeds our self-esteem.

There is so much value in the connection created by inter-dependence.

For this to happen, both parties have to want to give and receive

The giving and receiving is mutual. There’s also a rhythm to giving and receiving.

When I ask for help, the other person says yes to giving help. (Provided we ask the right person to help us, i.e. they are willing to help us and capable of helping us.)

I say yes to accepting help.

The person helps me do what I need/want to do, be or achieve.

The person giving receives satisfaction in helping me. They know they did a good thing. They feel good.

In the picture are two women. One is asking, 'Can you help me?' The other woman is saying, 'Yes, I can help you.' Between them is a figure eight on its side, like an infinity sign. In this picture that is a sign for the healthy flow of giving and accepting help. It shows the woman who asked for help accepts the help given. For the woman who is willing to help, it shows the satisfaction she receives in helping. When the giving and receiving of help is mutual, there's a healthy rhythm to the giving and receiving.

But by only being willing to give and not accept help, we disrupt that rhythm

By only being willing to give and not accept #help, we disrupt the rhythm inherent in giving and receiving help. Read more about that here #seriousillness #seriousinjury Click To Tweet

We’ve got a lot of people wanting to give, but not people willing to receive.

Accepting help is difficult for many people for the reasons I initially stated. Sometimes those reasons are valid. Other times, they aren’t. When they aren’t, this is often due to society’s assumptions around receiving help, i.e. being seen as too ‘needy’ or not capable, or needing help is a sign of weakness.

This ends up disrupting the rhythm of giving and accepting help in an unhealthy way. We’ve ended up with this imbalance in society where it’s ok to give, but not ok to receive.

The picture says society's assumption is it's ok to give help but not to receive help. There is a person saying, 'I can help. Let me know.' The other person responds, 'No, I'm fine.' Between the two people there are two circles with a jagged slash between them to demonstrate the rupture to the rhythm of giving and accepting help.

You often see the saying ‘giving is receiving’

It works the opposite way too. Receiving is giving.

Coming back to the example of Eliud Kipchoge above, by giving and accepting help, you enable good things to happen. You stretch the limits of what is possible for yourself and others.

So keep that healthy rhythm of giving and accepting help going.

This is a picture of an original quote by Return to Wellness: "We often say that giving is receiving. It also works the other way. Receiving is giving too. By accepting help you stretch the limits of what is possible for yourself and others."

What’s it like for you?

What do you think about accepting help? A good thing or not? What’s your thoughts on the rhythm of giving and accepting help? 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.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

Why it’s so easy to give up and how not to

Why it’s so easy to give up and how not to

It’s so easy to give up when something feels really hard going. You try something to improve your health, make something good happen and it doesn’t seem to work. So you want to throw in the towel, i.e. give up.

This has happened to all of us at some point. But you also know that even though it’s so easy to give up, it might not ultimately be the best thing for you and your health.

It's so easy to give up! Picture of a man saying, 'This is too hard. I'm giving up!' He is throwing a towel. On the towel it is written: The towel of giving up. There's an expression in English 'throwing in the towel' which means to give up.

So what do you do?

Good question. That is the point of this blog. I was inspired to write it by this picture I came across on Twitter created by Anna Vital at www.adioma.com (@annavitals on Twitter).

This is a picture created by Anna Vital at www.adioma.com on the sixteen reasons people give up. It's so easy to give up when you expect fast results, stop believing in yourself, get stuck in the past, dwell on mistakes, fear the future, resist change, give up your power, believe in your weakness, feel the world owes you something, fear failure more than desire success, never visualise what is possible, feel you have something to lose, are overworked, assume your problems are unique, see failure as the signal to turn back, or feel sorry for yourself.
Picture created by Anna Vital (@annavitals on Twitter) at www.adioma.com

I read it and thought, ‘Yes, those are the reasons why it’s so easy to give up!’

But then I thought people will ask, ‘What can I do then?’

So this blog is meant to help you start addressing your reason for giving up on making a change you know is good for you. And in turn increase your chances of keeping going and achieving what it is you want for yourself.

Let’s address each reason for why it’s so easy to give up

There are 16 of them so in an effort to not write a book length blog post, which I could easily end up doing, I am going to just give a few pointers for each reason.

1. Expect fast results

You know the saying, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ Dealing with an unexpected challenging health issue is not easy and can bring up a lot of emotional stuff. Sometimes change can take time.

Also keep in mind that when you learned to walk as a baby, eat with a knife and fork, learn to tie your shoes or something else you did early on in your life, or drive, it took you time to learn how to do it well. You made mistakes. And at those times you were often applauded for having a go and failing!

2. Stop believing in themselves

When you start to make a change and do something new, of course you may not believe you can do the new thing yet. Because you haven’t done it yet. You haven’t shown yourself, that yes, I can do this. That is ok.

What you can do is believe in yourself just enough, doesn’t have to be 100%, to take the first small action. Believing that you can learn from mistakes you may make is also important. See point 4.

Coaching is great for looking at what is stopping you from believing in yourself and helping you find ways to strengthen your self-belief muscle.

Coaching is great for looking at what is stopping you from believing in yourself and helping you find ways to strengthen your self-belief muscle. #change #health #wellness Click To Tweet

3. Get stuck in the past

You may have a preference for focusing on the future, past or present. I think a balanced enough focused on all three is good. We can learn from the past, just be in the present and the future focus can help us reach our goals.

But sometimes we can get stuck in the past in an unhealthy way with a focus of ‘everything was better and easier back then’ and everything now is difficult. This can be a form of denial and avoidance of our current reality and how we feel about it.

It’s not uncommon to see people do this after a life changing illness or injury. And it’s an understandable reaction. Yet to remain in this place, with all the associated unpleasant feelings and emotions it can bring up, may not be healthy over time for you or your loved one.

This is a tough one. Sometimes things have to get so bad for the person to finally realise, ‘I’ve had enough. I need to do something to get our of this place.’ When a person experiences that kind of resolve, that is when they often come for coaching.

4. Dwell on mistakes

Yes, we can dwell on our mistakes. We want to be able to do it right first time. Because that feels good. Reread point 1.

Mistakes, as unpleasant as they can be at times, are actually a gift. They tell us what doesn’t work. So we can cross that off our list. Also, keep in mind what FAIL stands for:

First Attempt In Learning

Failure is a reason why people find it's so easy to give up. This picture shows a person looking at the word FAIL but it stands for First Attempt in Learning. The person is saying, 'This is a much better way to think of failure.'

5. Fear the future

The future represents the unknown. And not knowing means uncertainty. Which may bring up discomfort for you. So it can be easy to stay in your current routines because it is what you know and are comfortable with.

Also see point 10.

6. Resist change

This links to points 5, 4 and 3. Sometimes these are the reasons people resist change. It can also depend on how much change the person has dealt with in their life. If they aren’t used to dealing with change, they may not have the skills to do so.

Some of the skills and qualities that help in dealing with change are the ability to live with uncertainty, being comfortable enough to make mistakes, to learn from the mistakes, to learn something new, adaptability and flexibility.

7. Give up their power

People can easily give up their power for all the reasons mentioned here. But they may also be used to focusing their energies on what they cannot change. You often hear it in the language people use.

S/he made me feel…

They make it so hard for me…

If only they would…, then I could…

The language is focused on what other people should or could be doing for the person. The person isn’t taking an active role. When that happens, the person gives up their power.

 Rather than that, what I recommend is you focus what is in your control and influence to do.

When you don't believe you have any power to do things or make things better for yourself, it's so easy to give up. This picture shows a person giving away their personal power to someone who is saying, 'You should have done... but you didn't.' with the subtext of 'give me your power'. On the other half of the picture, the person is standing in their personal power and using language like, 'I'll ask for help...I can... I make things happen... I know my needs... I have ideas on how to get my needs met... I feel... I need...'

8. Believe in their weaknesses

In this case, the weakness is often a benefit to you in some way. As long as it’s a benefit which you value, it’s so easy to give up on making a change.

9. Feel the world owes them something

This links to point 7. I find people who feel the world owes them something are less likely to do something for themselves. They give up their power as a consequence.

We can wait around all day for people to owe us what we feel we deserve but we could end up waiting a very long time.

Instead, take action which is in your control and influence to do.

10. Fear failure more than desire success

This links to point 5, 4 and 2. The fear of failure outweighs the benefits of success.

There’s that book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. And that is often the case when we are trying to do something new which is good for us. We have to hold on to the fear and have a go anyway.

I feel our fear has a place. It has a need. If you acknowledge its place and discover what it needs, that can help you to hold on to the fear in a more partnership kind of way as you go on and do new and good things for yourself.

It's so easy to give up at times but by knowing your priorities and really valuing them, you are less likely to give up. Like this quote by Stephen Covey says: You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage pleasantly, smilingly, and non-apologetically to day "no" to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger yes burning inside.

11. Never visualise what is possible

A visualisation exercise of future possibilities is always a good thing. But some people don’t have a developed inner visual sense or are unable to due to how their brain is wired. Some people use more of their feeling or hearing sense when processing information internally.

If you have an auditory preference, you can tell yourself a story of what is possible. If you have a feeling sense, you can imagine what you would feel if you have achieved what you wanted for yourself.

And if you can visualise, tell yourself a story and feel what success would feel like for you, do all three!

12. Feel they have something to lose

This is one of the reasons why you may resist change (see point 6). When you make a change, even if that change is something good for you and something you want, you lose something. If you value what you lose more than what you will gain from making the change, you won’t make the change.

It's so easy to give up when we do not value what we will gain by making the change we want for ourselves. This picture shows a grid of which the aim is to help you think through what you will gain and lose if you make the change and if you do not make the change.

13. Overwork

If you have a lot of other stuff demanding your time and energy right now, you may not have the energy to make the change you want. Or maybe the change feels so big, it feels like too much all at once.

In either case, break the change down into small actions. Tiny actions. Small is achievable. Small is good. Taking a small action helps to fuel the motivation to stay with. Good stuff that.

14. Assume their problems are unique

It can feel like your problems are unique because you don’t know anyone else who has them. Chances are, there is someone or even many people out there who have experienced your problem.

As I wrote previously, change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Find people like you as they can share what they have learned.

It can feel like your problems are unique because you don’t know anyone else who has them. But chances are, there are people out there who have been where you are now. #change #health #wellness Click To Tweet

15. See failure as the signal to turn back

Reread point 10.

16. Feel sorry for themselves

This links to points 7 and 9. Yes, you may feel sorry for yourself. And that is natural to feel from time to time. When you feel sorry for yourself, it is often about you missing something you value. That is ok.

But if you unpack and live in the sorry-ness, that makes it harder for you to make the changes you may wish for yourself. Giving yourself the opportunity to mourn what you have lost means you acknowledge the value it held for you and how you feel about it. Doing that helps you to move beyond the sorry-ness and grief.

When you’ve done that, then that energy is freed up to help you make the changes you want for yourself.

Feeling sorry for ourselves is one of the reasons why it's so easy to give up on something. This original quote by Return to Wellness explains more about feeling sorry for yourself: When you feels sorry for yourself, it is you missing something you no longer have. Mourn the loss and acknowledge the value it held for you. This helps you to move on and make the change you want for yourself.

What’s it like for you?

Which of these reasons for giving up resonate with you? When you have felt, ‘Gosh, it’s so easy to give up right now!’ what did you do to keep going? 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

Know of 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 2019

How to make your search for the new you after illness easier

How to make your search for the new you after illness easier

The search for the new you after you experience a serious illness or injury and are living with the ongoing impact can feel so very hard. In some ways, you know you are still the person you were before. But in other ways, you’re not and you don’t recognise yourself. And you really don’t know how to conduct this search.

A picture of a woman looking at her reflection in the mirror, which she doesn't recognise and is very surprised. She is saying, 'So much has changed! Who am I now?' The reflection in the mirror is a Picasso-like reflection of the woman with her eyes, ears, nose and mouth being in the wrong locations. The caption reads, 'A challenging health issue can change so much.' All this change can make it hard for a person to search for the new you as they are understandably focused on getting back to who they were and the change they have experienced.

Many people I’ve spoken to feel this way. You’re not alone. It’s normal. So I want to give you six hints and tips as you conduct this search. To lessen the difficulty and frustration associated with it. To make it a bit easier. But this isn’t an exhaustive list.

The search for the new you does not result in an end destination

The new you isn’t out there just waiting to be discovered in a ‘ta da’ type of moment.

This search for the new you is a journey. How long that will take you I cannot predict. It’s different for every person. But I know this. You will get to a place where you feel comfortable in yourself and your life again. Here’s an example.

After my other half was diagnosed with type 2 insulin-dependent diabetes and we were busy making lifestyle changes regarding food and drink, he was frustrated and wondering how he could cope for the long haul.

Five years on, I reminded him of that question in the acute phase of his illness and asked him how he found things now. He was ok with things. Of course he wouldn’t have chosen this path for himself, but he didn’t have that choice. Despite that he got to a place where he was comfortable with his diet and how he was controlling the diabetes. He was ok with his new life.

The search for the new you requires you to go out and live your life

You need to get back out there and re-engage with life. To learn how to use your body again and become more comfortable in doing that, keep up with friends and/or make new friends, return to work and/or volunteering, to have hobbies, to love, to feel confidence again, to do errands, pay bills and the other mundane but necessary things we do in life, to enjoy your life.

The new you will unfold as you go out and live your life, try new things, experiment, fail, learn, try again and succeed.

A picture of a woman walking along a path. Behind her is a solid locked gate which is lock. On it says: Your old life. The old you. At a junction on the path there is a sign which has 'Your life' written on it and pointing which direction to go. On the sign is an owl pointing the way and saying, 'Stay on this path.' The woman is saying, 'I guess I go this way. But will I find me?' Ahead along the path are two qualities sitting down waiting for the woman to find them. One is resilience sitting under a tree. Resilience is saying about the woman, 'She is so going to love me being a part of her.' Another quality Adaptability is sitting near a rock and saying, 'We're going to be a good match.' The caption reads: The re-newed you will unfold as you live your life. The meaning is as you live your life, you acquire more skills and qualities which help you and shape you as a person. That in turn helps you to discover who you are now.

The search for the new you doesn’t happen in a vacuum

You can end up struggling trying to do it all by yourself. Hence why re-engaging with life and others is crucial. Also, you are continually shaped by your experiences and relationships and you contribute towards the shaping of others in turn.

Many people I’ve spoken to have felt alone in their illness or injury because many people around them don’t have it and not everyone will understand or have empathy. So you have to go out there and find people like you, who are or have been in a similar place to you. There is often times bucket loads of understanding and empathy in these communities. You have to find your tribe.

Being part of a community we value gives us significance because we know we matter to others in that community. (From Esther Perel’s newsletter of 5th August 2019.) And they know they matter to you.

A picture of a woman walking into a room where the Return to Wellness Support Group is being held. Two women are there. One is saying, 'Hi! Come on in! Have a seat.' And she's pointing to an empty seat. There are buckets of support, understanding and empathy standing around the room. The caption reads: The search for the new you doesn't happen in a vacuum. Finding people in a similar situation to you can help.

And don’t forget it’s ok to ask for help

And as I wrote about previously, becoming more accustomed to asking for and receiving help and support from others helps too.

Being intentional can help

This is about being intentional in your decisions, relationships, activities and more. After experiencing a life-changing health issue, you know the fragility of life.

So there is something about leaving behind worries over things which now feel small and unimportant. And focusing your energy on being the person you want to be, being with the people who lift you up, doing things that matter to you, and making a contribution to your corner of the world in the way you wish to.

How to be intentional

Each morning, consider your intention for the day – What will you give to your day so you can look back and feel, ‘That was a good enough day.’?.

If we focus on what we give to ourselves, our life, other people, our job, etc., we increase our chances of getting what we have been hoping for.

The search for the new you requires loads of self-compassion

This pic says it all. Shower yourself with self-compassion regularly.

Think of it as a meal. You have to feed yourself with compassion regularly and make sure you don’t go hungry or starve yourself.

Picture of a woman showering herself with self-compassion. The woman's 'self-compassionate self' is holding a watering can labeled 'self-compassion'. She is pouring hearts over the version of herself sitting down (having the self-compassion shower). The woman showering herself is saying, 'It's time for your self-compassion shower! Oh, and I put your self-criticism in the rubbish.' Off to the side there is a rubbish bin with self-criticism in it. It is important to shower yourself with self-compassion during the search for the new you after illness or injury.

Your new you is inside you

Waiting for you to let her out.

By actively re-engaging with your life and living it, you help her find the path to express herself.

By being intentional and purposeful, you shape her as she emerges and lives.

The search for the new you is actually a process of discovery.

Picture of an original inspirational quote by Return to Wellness: "When searching for your new you after illness or injury, remember that she isn't somewhere out there. She's inside of you. By going out and living your life, you help her find the path to express herself." The search for the new you is actually a self-discovery process.

What’s it like for you?

How is the search for the new you been going since the onset of your illness or injury? What are you finding difficult? And what have you found easier than expected? 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

Know of 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 2019

How to deal with losing your independence after illness

How to deal with losing your independence after illness

Figuring out how to deal with losing your independence after a serious illness or injury can feel like a really hard task to do.

When a serious illness or injury strikes, people often say they lose ‘all semblance of me’. That is partly, and sometimes a big part, associated with losing their independence.

We tend to understand our independence as being able to do things we enjoy and/or need to do when we want or need to do them. And do a lot of these activities without support or help, which is generally people’s preferred option in western societies. We place a high value on independence.

But this is where we can get ourselves into a bit of a pickle.

When you are dealing with a serious illness or injury, it can take time to figure out how to deal with losing your independence. It's not uncommon to keep trying to do everything yourself and get yourself into a pickle in the process. For example, in this picture a woman is holding her walking stick and handbag waving goodbye to her partner and saying, 'I'm going to pick up the kids now and get food for dinner.' He responds, ' Honey, I can get the kids and food for dinner. Why don't you rest? You look exhausted.'

We want to be able to do things for ourselves without any help because it makes us feel normal, something we strive for after a serious illness or injury or whilst living with a chronic illness. We don’t have to feel guilty asking others for help or risk people saying no they cannot help.

 It also feeds our self-worth because we show ourselves we can do something on our own.

And we don’t have to worry about people saying no or appearing too needy, because that is the last thing people want. (These are links to a series of blogs on asking for help I wrote.)

All very valid reasons. Yet, we can expend so much energy on striving for the independence we once had, and struggle in the process because our body has changed and doesn’t function like it used to, that we end up not focusing on creating a new kind of independence that can help us live a new kind of life. That is understandable too. It’s part of the process of figuring out how to deal with losing your independence after illness or injury.

We can expend so much energy on striving for the #independence we had prior to our #seriousillness #seriousinjury and struggle in the process, that we end up not focusing on creating a new kind of independence that can help us live… Click To Tweet

Your independence is also about your freedom and there’s a fight happening against this loss too.

When we lose the physical or mental abilities to do what we once did so freely, without thinking, we lose a sense of freedom. For example, if you have sustained a high-level spinal cord injury, you can only get out of bed in the morning with help from someone else. You can’t just get up and get ready for your day on your own anymore.

Or maybe you can walk but due to how your health issue affects you, you cannot go out and about without someone being with you. Or having bladder and bowel issues means you have to plan in advance and know where public toilets are when you go out.

How to deal with losing your independence after illness or injury can also read as how to deal with losing your freedom. I think people are also mourning the loss of their freedom and associated spontaneity.

When we lose the physical or mental abilities to do what we once did so freely and independently, without thinking, we lose a sense of freedom. #seriousillness #seriousinjury Click To Tweet

But have you really lost your independence?

This may come across as a challenging question, but I don’t mean to be insensitive. That is not my intention. Yes, you may not be able to do certain activities by yourself anymore and may have to rely on equipment to manage your health issue and/or get around. In that respect, you may feel you have lost some or all of your independence.

I’ve been thinking about this and wondering if you are ever truly independent, and what would help you to learn how to deal with losing independence after illness or injury in a way that helps you to have quality of life.

So I looked up the definition of independence and independent as part of that. The definitions got me thinking. I want to share it with the intention of offering a rethink on what independence means. With the aim that an alternative view may lessen anxiety, sadness, anger over a change in your level of independence, and help you develop a new approach towards it.

Here’s the definition for ‘independent’.

What does being independent mean?

Independent, according to dictionary.com, means to:

  1. ‘not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself: an independent thinker.
  2. not subject to another’s authority or jurisdiction; autonomous; free: an independent businessman.
  3. not influenced by the thought or action of others: independent research.
  4. not dependent; not depending or contingent upon something else for existence, operation, etc.
  5. not relying on another or others for aid or support.
  6. rejecting others’ aid or support; refusing to be under obligation to others.
  7. possessing a competency: to be financially independent.
  8. sufficient to support a person without his having to work: an independent income.
  9. working for oneself or for a small: privately owned business.
  10. expressive of a spirit of independence; self-confident; unconstrained: a free and independent citizen.’

These aren’t in a ranked order.

(I retrieved the above from the dictionary.com website and left out a couple of statements which weren’t relevant to our discussion here.)

Which of those ways of being independent can you still do?

Figuring out how to deal with losing your independence is a definitely a process. In this picture the woman's partner is asking if she needs help in sorting through stuff she is dealing with. The woman is saying, 'No. I got this. Thanks.' The woman is holding various ways of being independent: not relying on others, possessing a competency, working for oneself, spirit of independence, not dependent on equipment to function, rejecting support, not influenced by others and not controlled by others.

Some, many or all of them?

Looking at the above statements, you can often still do points 1, 2 and 3 whilst living with the impact of a challenging health issue. But some of these may not come as easily if you (or a loved one) have/had a brain injury, and it will also depend on the type of brain injury.

Regarding point 3, you may choose to be influenced by the thoughts of people like healthcare professionals, other experts and peers to help you make your own decisions regarding your treatment, care, rehabilitation, returning to work, etc. This is an independent choice on your part.

Point 4 may or may not be applicable to you. If you have to use a ventilator to breathe, or mobility aids to get around, then yes, you are dependent on equipment to help you live or get around. Maybe you’re not dependent on using a walking stick yet but know you might have to some day.

Some people embrace using equipment because it helps them live the life they want. Others do not because they see it as weakness or it’s a reminder of how they have changed in a way they never wanted to change or something else.

Not relying on another or others for aid or support and rejecting others’ offers of support is common

For the reasons mentioned above regarding not seeking out or accepting help, I see a lot of people doing points 5 and 6. In my work, this is where I see a lot of people get themselves into the pickle.

You may find that point 7 changes for you, particularly if you have to reduce the hours you work, have to change jobs because you can’t do the job you once did, or you can no longer work. Linked to this, point 9 is relevant for those who are self-employed.

I am not wholly sure if point 8 is relevant to many people. But it could be if your partner or family is able and willing to financially support you.

I look at point 10 and think this can be all about your mindset.

Which of these are a priority for you in how you want to live your life?

What is the most important thing to you about being independent in how you live your life with the impact of a #seriousillness #seriousinjury? #independence Click To Tweet

If you put these ways of being independent in a ranked order of importance to you, what would your rank order be?

What are your top three ways of being independent? What is it about them that they are so important to you?

Are you doing them now in your life?

Which ones are of lesser importance to you? How come they are not as important?

Has your attitude towards any of these ways of being independent changed for you? If so, how? And why?

What kind of tasks, jobs, activities in your life can you still do without help? Even if the activity takes longer or you have had to modify your approach to doing it. Which ones do you need help with? If you had to rank these activities in order of importance of you being able to do them, what would that ranking look like?

Learning how to deal with losing your independence is a journey. In this picture the woman is sitting down saying, 'Can you be patient with me as I figure all this out?' Her partner is saying, 'Sure thing honey.' What she is trying to figure out is listed as questions in the picture. What does being independent mean to you>? Are you striving to be as independent as your pre-illness/injury self? How is that going for you? What can you still do on your own even if you've had to adapt your approach? How do you feel about asking for help? Or using equipment? How much self-compassion do you show to yourself?

How to deal with losing your independence

Learning how to deal with losing your independence isn’t always easy. So today I just wanted to offer some thoughts and questions with the aim of getting you to think a little more deeply and differently about it. To bring a bit more ease to your journey of learning how to deal with losing your independence.

I’ll continue on this topic by focusing on how you regain your independence after illness or injury. Hint. To do that, what being independent looks, sounds and feels like to you will need to change. If you haven’t signed up to my newsletter, you can do so below to ensure you don’t miss the next instalment on this topic.

Picture of an original quote by Return to Wellness: What does being independent when living with a challenging health issue mean to you? This is a good question to ask yourself when figuring out how to deal with losing your independence due to an illness or injury.

What’s it like for you?

How have you been dealing with losing your independence? Or watching a loved one deal with this? What does being independent mean to you? 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.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

How to know if you are wasting your precious energy

How to know if you are wasting your precious energy

Do you feel like you’re wasting your precious energy? You’re living with a serious health issue or a loved one is so you have that to deal with. And life continues to happen, throwing curve balls your way. You’re trying to deal with it all and feeling pretty stressed out about it.

Stress can be exhausting. You have to manage your energy levels as it is and there isn’t a lot of spare energy. You may be wondering how you can make sure you’re not wasting your precious energy.

Picture of a person sitting down and catching the curve balls that life throws at them. They are holding three balls in one arm and on them is written, shit happens, stress and no time for you. They have another bigger ball in their other hand and on it is written bigger curve ball. Life is throwing them an even bigger curve ball and the person is saying, "I can't hold that! I don't have the energy!' The caption reads: How do you ensure you're not wasting your precious energy? If you're not sure, get in touch with Return to Wellness and we can help make sure you don't.

That’s a valid and important wondering. And I have a very handy model to share with you to help you make sure you’re not wasting your precious energy. I’ve been sharing it with carers lately and they have found it really useful. I reckon you will too.

How to make sure you’re not wasting your precious energy

#stress can be exhausting. When you live with a #health issue, managing your energy levels is really important. You don’t have spare to waste. Read here about how not to waste your precious energy #fatigue #spoonie #chronicillness Click To Tweet

When you are dealing with a situation that feels stressful, there are three things you need to consider about the situation to ensure you’re not wasting your precious energy.

  • What is in your direct control?
  • What are those things or people you can influence? You can’t directly control them, but you may be able to influence it in some way.
  • What is it about the situation that you cannot control or influence? You just cannot make any sort of change?

It’s all about what you can control and influence and what you can’t

When you have identified what you can control or influence, then you can plan what to do next.

For those items, situations or people you cannot control or influence, you may be concerned about it, and you have to find a way of not wasting your precious energy on it.

This is a picture of a model by Stephen Covey from his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989). It has three cocentric circles. The middle circle says Direct Control and this is about focusing your energies on what is in your direct control. The next circle says Influence. This is about focusing your energies on what you can influence. The outer circle says Concern. These are situations, people and concepts we cannot control or influence. We may be concerned about it, but focusing our energies on these things won't get us anywhere. So we have to let go of them. The point of this model is to focus on what is in your direct control and influence and to let go of what you cannot. This will help you ensure you're not wasting your precious energy.

This model is from the work of Stephen Covey and he describes it in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I highly recommend the book. It describes what are life skills that we all need.

This model encourages to focus on what you can control and influence and to let go of what you cannot. Covey talks about increasing your sphere of direct control and influence and minimising your sphere of concern. The sphere of concern are those things in your life you cannot change so you don’t want to expend your energy on them.

So how do you know what you can control and influence and what you can’t?

I’ll demonstrate this by giving you some examples.

Example 1 – Your financial wellbeing

Let’s start with the economy. The economy feels like some vast abstract concept but we know its importance to the financial wellbeing of our nation and even our own personal financial wellbeing. But we can’t control it. We may wonder if we can even influence it.

One way we can influence the economy is through our vote for public officials and politicians. We can vote for those whom we feel may make the best choices for our nation’s economy and our financial wellbeing.

The direct control we have is of our personal finances. So we cannot control the economy directly, but we can control creating a budget, choosing what to spend our money on, savings, investing, applying for benefits, etc.

Example 2 – The doctor with zero bedside manner

This is a scenario many of us will have dealt with. The doctor with a zero bedside manner who speaks to you as if you were a child and they, they are the great god of medicine.

Where you place yourself in relation to doctors can impact whether or not you are wasting your precious energy. There is a doctor standing on a pedestal saying, 'I am THE expert! Listen to me! Do as I say!' On the pedestal is written 'Great God of Medicine.' A woman is standing looking up at the doctor, frowning an thinking, 'Am I meant to bow? I don't like how this doctor speaks to me.'

You cannot control how the doctor will speak to you. That is in your sphere of concern. That may feel disappointing, but don’t go wasting your precious energy on trying to control a person. Because you can’t.

You can influence the doctor by how you speak to him/her. That is in your sphere of influence. What you say and how you say it may influence them, it may cause them to change their approach in communicating with you. But it also may not. Definitely have a go at influencing, just be aware that it isn’t a 100% guarantee to get you what you want.

What you can directly control is

  • what you tell the doctor
  • the tone of voice you choose to use, and, very importantly,
  • how you choose to respond to what the doctor says and how they say it

When interacting with doctors and #healthcare professionals, what you can directly control is what you tell them, the tone of voice you choose to use and, very importantly, how you choose to respond to what they say and how they… Click To Tweet

Here’s a hint regarding the doctor with zero bedside manner

Check your mental image and thoughts of such doctors. Do you see them on a pedestal, greater than you because of their education and profession? Do you have the expectation that they will sort you out and maybe even cure you? God-like?

Remember, they have to go to the toilet too. They are human, like you. They have mental health, like you.

So make that mental image of two equals meeting to resolve the same issue, which is getting the best for you and your health. Two equals who each have a different role and each bring a different set of skills to the table. Both roles are valid. And both sets of skills are necessary for getting the best for you and your health.

Example 3 – Controlling your health

It’s a frustrating, scary and a very real realisation that we cannot control 100% whether we got cancer, an auto-immune condition, a neurological illness or something else. We got it. We have to deal with it. The fact that we got it is in our area of concern from a control perspective.

This is a picture of a model by Stephen Covey from his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989). It has three cocentric circles. The middle circle says Direct Control and this is about focusing your energies on what is in your direct control. The next circle says Influence. This is about focusing your energies on what you can influence. The outer circle says Concern. These are situations, people and concepts we cannot control or influence. We may be concerned about it, but focusing our energies on these things won't get us anywhere. So we have to let go of them. The point of this model is to focus on what is in your direct control and influence and to let go of what you cannot. In this picture there is also a line going from the centre of the middle circle to the outer circle. Where the line starts in the very middle circle it says 'you have control'. Where the line ends at the end of the circle of concern, it says 'you don't have control or influence'. You can think of this model as a scale. As you move further away from the centre of the circle of direct control, you have less control and influence. This will help you ensure you're not wasting your precious energy.

What we can do is influence our health through our lifestyle choices in what we eat, drink, exercise we take, and how we deal with the impact of the health issue.

Our choices and the responsibility we take for our choices are in our direct control. 

Your energy is precious

You or a loved one are probably in a place where you have to pace your energy due to physical and/or cognitive fatigue. As you pace your physical and mental energy, you have to pace your heart and soul energy too. You can’t keep wasting your heart and soul energy on people and things where it won’t make any difference. This model by Stephen Covey helps you to make sure you’re not wasting your precious energy.

The woman is standing and smiling saying, 'I now know what I can control and influence. I feel so much better!' There are three circles in front of her. One has concern written on it, another has influence written on it and the third has direct control written on it. In the circle of concern she has placed 'an even bigger curve ball' that life has thrown at her and a ball with 'shit happens' written on it. She learned that she cannot control or influence these two items so she is no longer focusing her energy on them. In the circle of influence, she has placed the ball 'bigger curve ball' in it. She knows she cannot directly control this situation, but she recognises how she can influence it. In the circle of direct control she has placed two balls. One says 'I can manage stress' and the other says 'time for me'. These are two things she learned she can directly control.

What’s it like for you?

In which areas do you spend a lot of your energy? In your sphere of concern, influence or direct control? Which situations do you find it easy to stand in your sphere of direct control? And which situations do you default to expending energy in your sphere of concern? 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 take control and positively influence that you typically find stressful, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

How to manage your health issue successfully

How to manage your health issue successfully

Learning how to manage your health issue successfully (or well enough) can sometimes feel like a full-time job. You have a lot to learn about your health issue, how people tend to be affected, what treatments there are, is there a cure, what non-medical treatments can possibly help, getting used to having a medical routine, managing your appointments, I can go on and on.

Yes, it is a lot to learn. And you have been forced to learn something you would not have freely chosen to. It can feel overwhelming at times. It can also feel like a hit or miss process. So feeling frustrated is normal.

Learning how to manage your health issue successfully is a trial and error process. I can’t change that fact but what I can do is share the 12 things you can do to help manage your health issue successfully.

This bog is part of the series on creating a rehabilitation plan for yourself or a loved one. In this blog, I am referring to managing the physical aspect of your health issue.

Picture of a man at a table with a box containing all his medications and a to do list he is writing. He is thinking, "I need more insulin and blood pressure medication. I want to see if I can bring the cardiologist appointment forward. My sugars are a bit high at the moment. Maybe seeing the diabetic nurse would help. So much to do!" It's not a small task to manage your health issue successfully.

So how do you manage your health issue successfully?

1. Keep a list of the medications you take, dosages and how often you have to take them.

You can also include any routines you need to follow for example self-catheterisation, bowel care, resting at regular intervals, etc.

It’s handy to have this list when you see medical and healthcare professionals as you can refer to it or give it to them when they ask what medications you are on. This helps when you may not always see the same person. You also don’t have to remember everything as you have the list to refer to so your energy is freed up to focus on what is going on in the appointment.

Also give a family member close to you a list in the event of an emergency. I have a list of my other half’s medications in my wallet.

2. Proactively track your symptoms

I recommend tracking your symptoms over time. It can help you learn patterns in how you are affected. For example, do your symptoms fluctuate during the day, when that tends to happen and what may trigger that (activity levels, diet, is it a side effect of medication, something else, or is it just random).

This requires you to listen to your body closely. I often find this is a skill people often have to learn. It’s understandable because as a society we are much more cognitive focused, i.e. we rely a lot more, sometimes 100%, on what we think rather than what we feel in our bodies. Yet our body is a very rich source of information on how we are doing and our needs.

Knowing the subtleties of how your symptoms feel in your body means you are in a better position to explain to medical and healthcare professionals when they ask you how things are going and how you are feeling.

Being able to explain how you are affected is also an issue I see for some people. It’s not easy as you are learning how your body is affected. But tracking your symptoms gives you the information you need to explain that to your healthcare professionals. Being able to do that is a key skill you need as it enables you to help your healthcare team to help you.

Picture of a man sitting at a table filling out his symptom diary. He is remembering how his angina symptoms feel and is thinking, "The angina starts when I run for the bus, argue with my wife and at the football. I feel a constriction and twinges where my heart is." The point of this is to manage your health issue successfully it helps to know your symptoms and how they affect you and track them so you can explain how you are affected to healthcare professionals.

3. Proactively manage your symptoms

By tracking your symptoms, you start to learn what you can do to proactively manage your symptoms. The strategies may include a change in medication dosage or the medications you take, non-medical activities, using equipment, or something else.

What you do will depend on the symptoms you experience. For example, pacing for fatigue and pain, stretching for spasticity, compression garments and massage for lymphodema, acupuncture, reflexology, etc. It may take some research and trial and error to find the non-medical approaches which suit you.

I think it’s important to not expect every intervention to work 100% and be that one thing that will solve the issue. It’s kind of like placing all your eggs in one basket and potentially setting yourself up for disappointment at a time when you need less of that. 

Many times you can’t be totally sure something will work whether it be a new cocktail of medications or different dosages or a non-medical intervention like health coaching. You have to go in with an open mind, give it a good go and see how it works for you. If it doesn’t work 100%, take what does work.

For example, I remember one person saying they had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and it didn’t really work. I asked if any of it did work. They explained what did and I asked how much out of a 100% was it. They said 25%. I said to take that 25% and use it. Focusing on what does work is proactive and one way of taking control.

So this person did CBT and then tried health coaching to address the issue. They may have tried another activity too. You may find you need several different approaches to manage one symptom. That is often the case.

If a medical or non-medical intervention doesn’t work 100%, take what does work even if it’s only 25%. Focusing on what does work is proactive and one way of taking control. #seriousillness Click To Tweet

4. Identify what you need and who can help you meet that need

There may be other specialists who can help with your recovery and ongoing rehabilitation including physiotherapist, occupational therapist, dietician, specialist nurse, urologist, psychologist, acupuncturist, masseuse, reflexologist, counsellor, a health coach and more.

If you don’t know what kind of specialist would be best to help, identify the issue you are struggling with and start asking people what and who can help you improve that issue. The people you ask can be your GP (go see one who demonstrates empathy regarding your health issue), a nurse if you see one, support group and/or charity for people with the health issue you have, even friends if they are familiar with your issue.

5. Keep moving as much as you can

Our bodies are designed to move (think of all the joints we have in our body!) so a certain amount of exercise/movement is often good for us. How much and what you can do will of course depend on how your body is affected by your health issue.

You may require specialist input from your doctor, a nurse, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, rehabilitation specialist or a personal trainer. You may need to build up activity levels over time if you experience fatigue, pain and/or mobility issues for example.

Getting help from friends and family in doing your physiotherapy or taking some exercise is a way to get them involved when they ask how they can help.

6. Have a plan for medical emergencies

If there is a probability of you experiencing a medical emergency, note what that is, what needs to be done (do you need to take medications, have a procedure, something else), who needs to be notified and their contact information.

Make sure family, friends and colleagues know how to help you in such an emergency, even if your kids are young. In some cases, it can be the difference between life and death as in the case of a parent having a hypoglycemia episode due to diabetes. Also make sure they know what medications you’re on.

Picture of a woman on the floor with a glass of juice near her. She is getting up off the floor saying, "Thank you for bringing juice honey. You really helped mummy get out of a hypo. You did a great job. I am going to get up and we can sit on the sofa." Her daughter is standing nearby hugging her stuffed bear and saying, "You can hold my bear." To manage your health issue successfully you may need to teach your children how to help you especially in an emergency.

7. Develop a plan when you have an exacerbation of existing symptoms or relapse

If you are living with a fluctuating or relapsing condition, you experience periods when your symptoms are worse. Over time you may learn what triggers a fluctuation or relapse and what the symptoms start to feel like as you get worse (and better).

You also learn how to look after yourself to manage the impact, for example do you need more sleep during these times, minimise physical exertion, work from home, make adjustments to your diet, etc. Develop a plan for how you look after yourself during these periods.

8. Develop a plan for those times when your health is stable and in a good enough place

Likewise, when you are in a place where your condition is stable and you are in a good period, how do you look after yourself then? Sometimes we can be tempted to do a lot because we feel well, we don’t know how long that will be, and dammit we just want to live life and get as much done as we can! That’s understandable. If you do that, notice the impact it has on you and make any adjustments you feel are necessary.

When your #health issue is calm and you’re in a good place physically, how do you look after yourself then? Looking after ourselves is important whatever state our body is in – in sickness or in health and all stages in between.… Click To Tweet

9. You are in charge of your healthcare team

Your healthcare team consists of the medical and healthcare professionals, family, friends, pets, and anyone else you choose. You’re in charge of this team so it’s up to you to let them know what is important to you, what you need/want and your goals, and to ask questions. They cannot mind read nor guess what is best for you.

It’s ok to make changes to members of the team (where and when that is possible). You need good people around you who support you. For example, if you have an unempathetic GP, look into changing them.

My husband said one of his biggest learnings was that he was in charge of his team and he had to be proactive to get what he needed from them. And you are in charge of all aspects from helping them to help you to administration.

Also remember that your healthcare team won’t always get it right for you 100% of the time (medically though, you hope they do). They may have to cancel your appointment due to illness or deal with an emergency. They may forget to pass your new prescription on to the pharmacy. Their bedside manner may be hit or miss because they are having a bad day.

They are human too. As I said about not relying on one intervention to solve an issue, don’t go in expecting a medical professional to get it right all of the time and meet all of your emotional needs. Be prepared to make phone calls to sort out prescriptions and appointments. Have several other people in your healthcare team who can help meet emotional needs.

10. Prepare for your appointments with medical and healthcare professionals to get the most from them

This is another aspect of managing your health issue successfully. Keep a log of questions you have in between appointments. Write them down as they occur to you and what led you to have that question. That way you have the questions ready for appointments.

Prioritise your questions as you often have limited time for appointments. In the UK, you typically have 10 minutes with your GP (you can often book double appointments if you need more time). If you are seeing a consultant, you may have 10-30 minutes depending on the type of appointment and the professional you are seeing.

If you are in between appointments, or no appointments are scheduled, you can call your GP, your doctor’s secretary, or a nurse who works with the doctor. Sometimes patients are given the contact info for their doctor’s secretary or even a nurse. Sometimes not.

If you haven’t received a healthcare professional’s contact information, look up the doctor on the internet and sometimes they list a contact email or phone number for the doctor. If none is listed, you can call the hospital where the doctor works and ask to be put through to him/her or their secretary. You may be bounced around a bit, but it is worth a try.

There may also be a charity who supports people with the condition you have and they can be an excellent resource. Some have helplines you can call and/or email with your question.

Peer groups can be an excellent resource of information and advice too. Just keep in mind the information may not always be applicable to you or accurate.

11. Remember that learning to manage your health issue successfully is a process of trial and error

Don’t beat yourself up when something doesn’t go to plan or work very well. Sure you may feel frustrated. That’s understandable. Just don’t beat yourself up. Use appropriate self-care at these times to look after yourself.

Adopting a learning mindset will help in these situations. Focused on what you learned, what worked, what did not. Sit with the frustration for a bit so it gets its airing. But don’t unpack and live in it. Then re-plan. That is taking control.

Remember, learning how to manage your #health issue is a process of trial and error. It won’t go to plan all of the time. Don’t beat yourself up. Use appropriate self-care at these times to look after yourself. #chronicillness Click To Tweet

12. You have to be your own advocate to manage your health issue successfully

You have to know what you need and ask for it. If you are struggling to know what you need, you can get help to figure that out. Being shy about expressing your needs to the point you do nothing isn’t going to help.

Being your own advocate often requires a shift in your beliefs about yourself and your abilities. It’s about you learning that yes, you do matter. Very much.

You also have needs and they are valid needs.

Stating those needs to people whose job it is to help you meet them is not placing an imposition on them. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. So ask.

Sometimes you have to be more forceful in the language and tone of voice you use. As some people say, ‘I learned to be gobby and not care.’

Members of your healthcare team, particularly family and friends, can help you advocate for yourself. They can also be note takers at important appointments.

Essentially, you are the CEO of you. So you’re in charge.

Picture of an original quote by Return To Wellness saying: You are the CEO of you. So you're in charge. This is very much the case when you want to manage your health issue successfully.

What’s it like for you?

What has helped you manage your health issue successfully? Is there anything you would add to the list above? 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 create your own rehabilitation plan, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Pass it forward

Know of 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 2019

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