How to have a growth mindset after illness

How to have a growth mindset after illness

You may feel that learning how to have a growth mindset after an illness or injury sounds like a hippy fad, or a luxury reserved for people who don’t have challenging health issues, or it’s just not a priority as you’re trying to figure out how to live in a changed body, sort out the impact on family dynamics, return to work etc. etc.

Yet, what if I said that learning how to have a growth mindset is a key part of learning how to live well with the impact of a challenging health issue? It is. You didn’t seek to have a challenging health issue, whether you or a loved one has/had it. It’s been an unwelcome intrusion in your life, which can bring up all sorts of unpleasant emotions and feelings. And that is on top of dealing with the health issue itself.

So I want to share some tools to help you learn how to have a growth mindset. To equip you with the knowledge and skills you need on this journey to help you get through it with more ease.

There's a woman standing and holding a map of her rehabilitation plan and the various routes she needs to take to meet her goals. On the map is written open mind, adapting, flexibility, persistence, self-compassion and learning. She is saying, 'I need to revisit what I know and need to learn to help me on my journey.' The caption reads 'developing a growth mindset will help you on your journey'.

But first, a recap of what a growth mindset is and it’s opposite, a fixed mindset

Last week I wrote about what a growth mindset is and why it’s important so here’s a quick recap.

A person has a growth mindset when they believe they can learn and change things for themselves through effort, strategies and help from others. Even in tough situations like dealing with a challenging health issue. They believe that their intelligence and abilities are not fixed.

When a person believes they cannot learn or change things or that one’s intelligence and abilities are fixed, that is known as a fixed mindset. Some common examples of this are when you hear people say, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’ Or ‘I cannot possibly learn that!’ Or ‘I couldn’t possibly be creative.’ Or they give up quickly because of the challenges, obstacles and difficult people getting in the way of what they want for themselves.

However, we all experienced growth and fixed mindsets. It can depend on the situation, the people we are with, how we are feeling and more. They are not static. Which is good. Because it means you can learn and change if you choose to.

This is a pic detailing the characteristics of growth and fixed mindsets. A growth mindset believes that intelligence can be developed. It leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism, and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. As a result they achieve more and it gives people a sense of greater free will. A fixed mindset believes that intelligence is static. It leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to avoid challenges, give up easily, see effort as fruitless or worse, ignore useful negative feedback and feel threatened by the success of others. As a result, they may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential. A fixed mindset confirms a deterministic view of the world. This demonstrates why believing your intelligence is not fixed and you can learn is so important in learning how to have a growth mindset after illness or injury.
Concept of Growth & Fixed Mindsets by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. Image by Nigel Holmes.

Let’s move on to learning how to have a growth mindset

First, you can do a mindset assessment here to learn about your current mindset. You do have to give them your name and email to get the results.

My results said I had a good foundation but may feel uncomfortable with criticism even if it’s well intended and I can be hard on myself when I make mistakes. Yep! I am a work-in-progress!

Your results can give you a good starting point on where to look when you’re in fixed mindset mode. With that increased self-awareness, you then have more choices. So on to the next stage.

The 7 signs that you are in fixed mindset mode

I’ve come up with seven signs, but there could be more. The signs could be different for each of us. What I share are common ones I’ve seen in my work with clients and even myself.

For each sign that you may be in a fixed mindset mode, I offer what you can do instead.

A fixed mindset won’t help you live well with the impact of a challenging #health issue. Read about the seven signs you are in fixed mindset mode and what you can do instead #growthmindset Click To Tweet

You know you are in a fixed mindset when you

Have a case of ‘comparisonitis’

You compare yourself to others, you look at what they have and you don’t and feel envious and bad as a result. Your mood takes a nosedive.

It is so hard to look at what other people have which you value and wish you had too.

I could write a lot on this and will some day.

How to have a growth mindset when dealing with ‘comparisonitis’

Keep in mind that everyone is on a different journey. Their journey is not your journey.

Focus on your journey. Where you are now, where you want to get to and what you need to do, think, feel and be to get to your desired destination.

Also, only compare yourself to the you of yesterday and your goals. Adjust your goals to keep them realistic and achievable too if that is needed.

There are two versions of the same woman standing. One is the woman of yesterday. One is the woman of today. The woman of yesterday is saying, 'I didn't do so great on my physiotherapy today.' The woman of today is saying, 'Today's physio went well. And we need to adjust our goals.' The caption reads: Manage 'comparison-itis' by only comparing you to the you of yesterday. That is key in learning how to have a growth mindset after illness or injury.

You are working so very hard to your pre-illness/injury standards and not getting anywhere

The level of frustration you are feeling is through the roof! Sometimes this persistence can actually help your rehabilitation. But if you feel like you are fighting and not getting anywhere, that is the sign you need to do something different.

How to have a growth mindset regarding your personal standards

You need to reset your personal standards so they are realistic to what you can do now and work to those. They may get you to your pre-illness or injury standards. But they may not and being open to that will make the journey much less stressful. You can read more about that here.

You’re aiming for perfection

This relates to the point above. It often comes out when a client says, ‘I have high standards.’ High standards are not bad, but you need to have a flexible approach towards them. You need to adjust them. Particularly as your body has changed and it is working double time. Your body may not have the energy levels to cope.

How to have a growth mindset regarding perfectionist tendencies

If you reread the results of my mindset assessment above, my ‘watch out for’ areas on how I respond to certain kinds of feedback and making mistakes point to my perfectionist tendencies. Yes, I have them and they are a great sign to me when I need to demonstrate flexibility and do something different. When I do that, that’s when I shift from a fixed to a growth mindset.

Reminding myself the following helps.

  • Me giving 75% effort towards something is most likely someone else’s 110% helps.
  • The world will most certainly not end if things aren’t perfect.
  • Mistakes are learning opportunities.

You’re trying not to ‘give in’ to the illness/injury

But you feel tired, you feel like your illness or injury is ‘winning’. I hear this language being used a lot, particularly in the context of acceptance of an illness or injury. It is indicative of a fight, but one that is very negative.

A typical sign of this fight is not resting when your body is screaming for it. Because resting would be ‘giving in’. And you can’t do that because the illness or injury would be in control.

But this kind of fight doesn’t help you. It’s also not you taking control. Your energy is so focused on fighting, it’s not freed up to look after yourself. Resting would be you recognising what you need and taking control. That’s the paradox.

How to have a growth mindset regarding ‘giving in’ to your illness/injury

If you notice yourself ‘fighting’ your illness or injury in this way, have a go at doing the opposite of what you’re doing. Chances are it is what you need to be doing.

Are you trying not to ‘give in’ to your #seriousillness #seriousinjury? If yes and you are feeling like you aren’t getting anywhere, then read this blog. It will help you to help yourself. #growthmindset Click To Tweet

You don’t ask for help

This is so common when people are dealing with the impact of an illness or injury. I have written a lot about it and recommend a read.

How to have a growth mindset regarding help

What you can do is practice asking for help. Try it with small things first to notice your internal response to asking for help. People have often said to me their worst fears don’t come to pass.

Also make sure to ask people who are willing and capable of helping you.

Your inner critic gets in the driving seat when you struggle or make a mistake

This can be a sign of a perfectionist tendency. Remember, you are the CEO of you so you can take charge of the inner critic.

How to have a growth mindset regarding your ‘inner critic’

You do that by taking a large dose of self-compassion and asking yourself the following questions:

  • What did I struggle with in particular?
  • And what does that tell me about me, my skills, my knowledge?
  • What am I learning from that? Is there a skill I need to learn? New knowledge to seek out?
  • What part of this did I actually do ok even well?

Asking yourself these questions turns the mistake into a learning opportunity. It works really well.

A woman is holding a very large glass of a large dose of self-compassion and learning. Behind her on a table stand two bottles and one has self-compassion written on it and the other has my learning written on it. The woman is saying, 'This is a large dose. I hope it tastes ok.'' Near the glass it says ' a large does of self-compassion and learning is tasty'. The caption reads 'doses of self-compassion and learning help you to have a growth mindset'.

You’re trying to convince others you’re ok when you’re not

We could do this for all sorts of reasons and it’s a complex one. So today I’m only going to focus on it from one angle.

You may fear about ‘burdening’ the other person. And this could be an assumption on your part. That will depend on the person you are trying to convince and your relationship with them.

Or we may not want to deal with the kind of response we know we may get from that person. Understandable.

Be discerning on who you try the following out with. If it’s the type of person who doesn’t do well with other people’s difficulties, don’t try it with them. If it’s someone who is empathetic, chances are it is safe to be honest with them.

How to have a growth mindset regarding being authentic regarding the issues you have with your illness or injury

If the person is close to you and it’s a good relationship, have a go at saying how you really feel. You don’t have to say everything. Just a little bit. They may respond in a way which shatters your assumption about burdening them. Their response may be just what you need.

Learning how to have a growth mindset requires these three qualities

What I have suggested you do differently for each sign above requires you to open your mind to new possibilities, flexibility and adaptability. They help you to learn how to have a growth mindset and will enable you to go far.

A woman is standing and holding 'open mind'. In front of her is a table and on it are 'flexibility', 'adaptability' and a growth mindset bag. The woman is saying, 'I have to pack my growth mindset bag for my journey.' She is going to put open mind, flexibility and adaptability in her bag. The caption reads: An open mind, adaptability and flexibility help you learn how to have a growth mindset.

What’s it like for you?

In which situations do you notice you’re in a fixed mindset? What have you done in those situations to switch to a growth mindset? 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 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.

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 regain your independence after illness or injury

How to regain your independence after illness or injury

Learning how to regain your independence after illness or injury is a key goal for many people after a life-changing illness or injury.

Prior to dealing with your challenging health issue, whether your own or someone else’s, you probably didn’t think about your independence. You did what you wanted when you wanted. We all did.

But afterwards, when you can’t do what you want when you want, you are forced to think about it. You know what you cannot do anymore and that can be hard to deal with. You realise what you have lost. How much easier everything used to be. It’s tough.

And all you want is to regain your independence after illness or injury and figure out the best way to do that. To help, I have some ways of thinking about independence and being independent which can be a starting point for learning how to regain your independence after illness or injury or even act as a sense check if you are well on your way.

Learning how to regain your #independence after illness or injury is a key goal for many people after a life-changing illness or injury. Read about how you can do that here #seriousillness #seriousinjury Click To Tweet

This blog builds on a previous blog I wrote about redefining what independence and being independent means to you. Based on my experience with my clients, I see this as a crucial part of the process of learning how to regain your independence after illness or injury.

The framework for your independence has changed

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 know how to regain their independence after illness.

For example, to do your errands now you may need to use a walking stick to help your balance, walk more slowly, need more time, and make sure the shops are more accessible from a mobility perspective.

You may still be able to do what you did before your illness or injury but how you approach it may be different. It may take you longer to do. Or you can’t spend as long on the activity as you once did. Or you need help from someone or something. You may have to plan more.

Consider the case of the woman, Hannah, featured in this article. It’s her story of living independently whilst depending on others and equipment. Due to contracting Transverse Myelitis as a teenager, Hannah is dependent on a ventilator to breathe and hence live. She has to use a wheelchair. A person might think she cannot do a lot.

Reading the article, you realise that Hannah is a busy woman and does many of the activities any person does – live, shop, work, socialise, travel and more. She has a team of carers who support her to do all this and she manages this team. Within her framework, she is exercising her independence.

What can help you change your framework to regain your independence after illness

Mourn what you have lost

Some people will really feel the loss of being able to do what they wanted when they wanted without having to think much about it. If that is true for you, acknowledge that loss. Mourn it. But you don’t have to unpack and live in the mourning forever and ever.

Let go of unhelpful assumptions

There are sometimes unhelpful, unrealistic and contradictory assumptions around asking for and receiving help. For example, it’s good to help others but not ok to ask for help. Or that we will be obligated to someone for the help they have given us. A lot of people don’t want to feel that way or be seen as needy.

It’s ok to receive help

But there are people who genuinely want to help and don’t expect much in return, only the pleasure it gives them to support you. And when a person is willing to help you, you know you matter to them. That’s a beautiful thing.

Esther Perel, the relationship and sex therapist, whose work I follow, said:

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

Esther Perel, in her email newsletter of 5th August 2019

It’s demonstrates that there is so much value to inter-dependence and that paradoxically it can help us do the things we want to be doing.

“For when we know that we matter to others, it gives us a significance.” @EstherPerel in her email newsletter on 5-Aug-2019. This resonated. Shows that there is so much value to inter-dependence. It can help us regain our… Click To Tweet

Developing flexibility and taking control can help you regain your independence after illness or injury

Loosening our grip on society’s assumptions around help can help us reach out, ask for and receive help so we can do the things we want to be doing in life. To be independent within our new frame, our new reality.

To provoke (in a good way) your thinking further around the assumptions of asking for and receiving help, at the end of this article there are links to blogs I have written on this topic.

A picture of a fire pit that has a roaring fire in it and two women. One woman is holding the unhelpful assumption 'Being independent means you do everything on your own' and she is planning to put it in the fire. She is saying, 'These assumptions are no longer useful. Thanks for coming over to help.' Her friend is handing her the unhelpful assumption, 'Asking for help means you are needy!' and she is saying, 'Happy to help.' The caption reads, 'Letting go of unhelpful assumptions.' It is necessary to do this in order to regain your independence after illness.

Gently challenging your assumptions, particularly those which don’t help you to live the life you want for yourself, also helps you to develop a more flexible definition of independence and be independent in the way that suits your life and how you want to live it. Much better than subscribing to what can feel like a rigid definition defined by society.

Also, when you choose to depend on someone or something so you can be doing stuff you want to be doing, you are in control of yourself. Even if it is something you would not have chosen for yourself in your pre-illness or injury days.

Doing so now means it is you recognising your need, deciding how best to meet that need, and getting that need met. It is your conscious and independent choice.

The original inspirational quote by Barbara Babcock of Return to Wellness reads: When you choose to depend on someone or something so you can do what you want to be doing, you are in control of yourself. It is you recognising your needs, deciding how best to meet those needs, and getting them met. It is your conscious and independent choice. It is you taking control." This is important to realise when on your journey to regain your independence after illness.

What’s it like for you?

How has your framework of independence changed due to your or your loved one’s health issue? What helped you to develop your new framework? 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

Blogs from the series on ‘Why asking for help is so hard ‘

The role guilt plays

The role self-worth plays

When asking for help doesn’t work: Moving beyond no

Why asking for help is so hard: Because being needy is not good

How to move on from being depressed about your illness

How to move on from being depressed about your illness

Learning to move on from being depressed about your illness is not a small project. It can feel nigh on impossible. You may feel stuck and sad more than you feel happy, and you wonder if you will ever feel better about yourself, your body and your life.

If this helps, it is normal to feel this way. Your feelings are a documented part of the change process a person goes through particularly after an unwanted change such as a serious illness or injury, relationship breakdown, death of a loved one, etc. (Kubler-Ross, 1969).

You have to rebuild your life and reinvent yourself. And as I’ve said before, no one gives you a manual in hospital on how to do that. But it is possible to do and to look forward to the future again. So I’ll share an important step to help you do that.

A picture of a woman sitting down and crying. She has a serious health issue and is thinking, "Things will never be the same! What does my future hold?" It is normal to feel a lot of sadness when dealing with a challenging health issue. It can feel hard to move on from being depressed about your illness or injury.

But before I share that, I want to share something else

I am writing this blog for me too. As a reminder. We all need a reminder of what we know from time to time.

I received a diagnosis I was hoping not to get – osteoarthritis in my right hip. I was hoping for bursitis but no. The doctor says I’m so young to have this level of arthritis.

I’ve also had arthritis in my knees for 6+ years now. Over the years I’ve had to stop doing a variety of activities I enjoyed due to it. Sports requiring multi-directional movement. Then running. Six years ago the doctors advised me not to go on 10-12 mile walks even.

The arthritis is not life changing but I do find the issue challenging. The arthritis explains the chronic pain I’ve had in my hip for the past year. My walking has gone downhill. Some days I wonder if I need to use a walking stick.

What will I have to give up next? I feel sad about this. But I notice that having to give up something is an assumption on my part. I may not have to give up anything.

The future is also uncertain regarding my hip and mobility. In the meantime, I am holding on to the fact that I can still exercise and do my physiotherapy and I am very grateful for that.

Picture of exercise equipment including a yoga mat, resistance bands, weights, a stepper, foam roller and Fit with Frank online bootcamp videos. Exercise and physiotherapy can help you move on from the depression about your illness or injury.

The first step you can take to move on from being depressed about your illness

This isn’t the smallest step so this blog only focuses on this step. I am starting with it because it is such an important step. It is the game changer I have seen again and again with clients and in support groups.

Acknowledge what has happened to you.

Tell your story in your words of the illness or injury you had/have. What happened to you, what was the timeline, what the medical professionals said, what were people’s reactions, what has changed, and what has your recovery and rehabilitation been like so far.

Talk about the downright ugly, the bad and even the good. Don’t forget the good parts. They are important too. Someone may have shown kindness to you or you had good treatment for example.

When I sat ‘tell your story’, you can do that in a number of different ways. Write it down. Talk to someone. Draw it. Paint it. Dance it. Run it. Whatever medium you use to tell your story is fine. Try several different mediums if you wish. Do what works for you.

An important early step of moving on from being depressed about living with a challenging #health issue is to acknowledge what has happened to you including the downright ugly, bad and even the good bits. It’s important you tell… Click To Tweet

But acknowledgement can be hard

I want to be up front about this. There’s no point in hiding information.

Acknowledgement is hard because you are facing up to the reality of your situation. And chances are, you don’t like your new reality. It may bring up a lot of emotions which feel difficult. And in our society we stigmatise the difficult emotions. The stigma reads:

Difficult emotions are bad so they don’t help and therefore must be ignored, denied and/or pushed away.

But society is lying

The difficult emotions have their place. In the case of a life-changing illness or injury or even a challenging health issue, these emotions are often associated with what you have lost. And not just what you have lost already, which is in the past, but also what you had hoped and expected to be part of your future. Carrying a lot of loss is not easy.

You end up going through a grieving process. So these difficult emotions are part of being human. They are also a documented part of the change process people go through when they are dealing with loss. For more information about this, check out Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s work on acceptance here.

Kubler-Ross identified this change process when talking to people dying from a health issue and their loved ones. Although she did this work in the context of death and dying, it is applicable to challenging health issues, relationship breakdown and more as the common theme is loss.

No wonder it can feel so hard to move on from being depressed about your illness or injury.

It can be hard to move on from being depressed about your illness or injury as you can be carrying a lot of loss. This picture shows a woman carrying various historical and anticipated losses. Past losses she is holding are loss of job, health issue, loss of parent and other losses. Anticipated losses due to her health issue include her dreams, expectations and hopes. She has dropped the ball 'my hopes'. She just has too much to carry.

This is what will help

Let yourself feel the difficult emotions. Grieve for what you have lost. State how you feel in relation to your new reality and what you have lost.

I feel sad about…

I can no longer do… and I feel… about that.

I am afraid of these emotions.

And if you need to cry, do that. Let yourself mourn. You may wish to do this on your own or with someone else. And you can do this through talking, writing, making art, walking, running, whatever.

You’re not being difficult for letting yourself spend time with these emotions. And it’s ok to be afraid of them. Our fear can come up because we have not spent much time with such emotions in the past and so it can feel all new and not a nice kind of new either.

Ignore the people who say you are being too negative and have to be positive. Their definition of the word positive most likely subscribes to the societal stigma that only being positive will aid your recovery. I want to offer a different definition of being positive but that is a blog for another day.

The difficult emotions are actually needed to help you move on from being depressed about your illness or injury.

Letting yourself feel the difficult emotions in relation to your or a loved one’s #seriousillness #seriousinjury is actually needed to help you move on from being depressed about it Click To Tweet

Acknowledgement is this weird sort of paradox

You have to go through the swamp of difficult emotions to lessen their impact. When you have done that, you find over time these emotions visit less. They may still visit on anniversaries. Or when you experience something else that is difficult or are reminded of something you used to do.

But the difficult emotions don’t stay as long. Because you have gotten familiar with them. They aren’t as scary. You’ve let them express themselves. You’ve learned to visit with them to identify what they need. Many times, those parts of you just want a listening ear. To be heard, recognised and validated.

Spending time with your difficult emotions is key to help you move on from being depressed about your illness. Doing this helps them feel much less scary because you become more familiar with them. This picture shows a woman welcoming Depression and Sadness for a visit. Depression is saying, "We're here for our visit. And Sadness is going to need tissues." Sadness is of course crying and tears are forming a puddle around his feet. Sadness is saying, "I need a tissue." The woman responds, "I can only do 15 minutes today. I'm meeting friends for lunch."

This frees up your energy so you can move on from being depressed about your illness

Rather than using all of your energy to focus on what and who you no longer are and to avoid the swamp of difficult emotions, your energy is freed up to explore who you want to become, what you can do and what you want to do. You move into an exploratory and experimental phase where you start to look for and try out possibilities for yourself.

A friend who experienced a serious illness resulting in an organ transplant had to adapt to the illness’s impact on her body. She had to make some lifestyle changes. In some cases, she had to find new friends. She had to find a new sport she could do. She described this process as reinventing herself.

So the process of acknowledgement is not easy. How long it will take you, I do not know. It is different for every person. But it is so freeing. It helps you to move on from being depressed about your illness, injury or other health issue to rediscovering and reinventing yourself.

To move on from being depressed about your illness or injury is a journey. The picture shows a woman's former life where it is sunny and flowers are growing. There is the bridge of illness and injury and there is a gate across it on which is written 'No go area'. So you can't cross the bridge back to your old life. You can only go through the swamp of unfamiliar emotions. A woman has come out the other side and she is building a brick path. It is her path of wellness. She is saying, "My path is looking nice! I'll continue working on it tomorrow." The sun is starting to come out of some storm clouds.

What’s it like for you?

What helped you to move on from being depressed about your illness or injury? And if you could give the earlier version of you advice, what would you say? 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 to deal with the issues raised in this blog, 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

Reference

Kubler-Ross, E. (1969) On Death and Dying, UK: Tavistock Publications Ltd.

Is the NHS wasting money and recycling enough?

Is the NHS wasting money and recycling enough?

Is the NHS wasting money and recycling enough? I had to ask myself this question the other week when talking to a nurse about hospital procedures and practices. The NHS wasting money might be real.

Also, as you will read, the NHS isn’t recycling enough either. I find that worrying given the focus on climate change and taking care of our planet for future generations.

As we see so much in the press these days about how financially strapped the NHS is, I wonder and worry whether its practices could inadvertently be contributing to the NHS wasting money.

I say this purely based on anecdotal conversations I’ve had with NHS staff. What I write here is just a snapshot based on my patient experience. So it’s not the whole truth and the NHS may be saving money in other areas (I hope). Also, I am not an expert on hospital procedures on waste disposal and recycling. Finally, I want the best for the NHS. Having had a serious illness and benefited from NHS treatment, I love and support what it aims to do.

What happens to most one-use plastic in the #NHS? Is it recycled, incinerated or does it go to landfill? #recycling #healthcare Click To Tweet

But the NHS wasting money doesn’t help its cause

Every few months I have a treatment and during it I often chat to the staff on duty. I recently spoke to a nurse about recycling in the NHS and she explained the procedure for collecting used needles which go into a special plastic bin kind of like this one. (This one is my other half’s needle bin where he puts his used needles from injecting insulin.)

Picture of a yellow bin for used needles. A healthcare worker told me about how these bins are collected every 2-3 weeks as per hospital procedure whether they are full or not. She wasn't sure if the bin was incinerated with the needles. If it is, that is the NHS wasting money in my opinion. I think bins for needles could be sterilised and reused.

In hospital, the bin is routinely collected every 2-3 weeks as per hospital procedure. Even if the bin isn’t full of used needles, it is collected. The healthcare worker believes the contents are incinerated but wasn’t sure whether the bin is too.

If the bin is being incinerated, then why doesn’t the hospital let the bins become full? By not doing that, the hospital could be using and paying for more bins than it needs to.

If the bin is not being incinerated, I wonder if it is sterilised and reused. Do any hospitals do this?

Here’s a scenario which felt like it’s the NHS wasting money and not promoting sustainable disposal of materials

During the treatment I have every few months, a needle is put into the ankle area and an electrical current is passed through it. This is what the equipment for the procedure looks like when I enter the treatment room.

The picture shows a medical device called Urgent PC and a package of items (the Urgent PC lead set) which goes with it. The device can be reused. But the lead wire in the package cannot. It can only be used once. If it becomes disconnected from the device, it can't even be reused. That's an example of unsustainable design and potentially the NHS wasting money.

The device is the Urgent PC Stimulator and the package contains the following:

  • 1 PC lead wire
  • 2 sterile needles
  • 1 alcohol pad

A picture of a medical treatment device called Urgent PC which is an example of unsustainable design and the NHS wasting money. The main device can be reused. But the lead, which is circled in green, can only be used once and if it falls out of the device, a new one has to be used. The lead could be designed so that it can be reused and one only need to attach the alcohol pad (circled in blue) to the lead.

The lead (circled in green) can only be used one time. If it falls out of the machine, it cannot be plugged back in. Sometimes it falls out. So the nurse has to open a new package.

Each package costs £40. This clinic goes through 65-70 of them in a week. That is £2,600 to £2,800 per week.

I had been wondering why the lead can’t be designed so that a new alcohol pad (circled in blue) can be attached as that is the only item that is stuck to a person’s skin. I was thinking that the lead itself could be sterilised to be used again.

I know some people may say that using an item once leads to lower infection rates, etc, etc. But really? Do sterilisation practices not work?

The package comes with two needles (circled in red). However, I often have the issue that the nurses can’t get the needle into the place it needs to be for the treatment to work effectively. They have gone through more than two needles with me during a treatment session.

(I wish I asked them how many of the packages are used due to a lead falling out or needing more needles. Question for my next visit.)

So I called the device manufacturer to find out more about the device’s product design

I spoke to an employee who explained that the lead delivers electrical resistance through a thin copper wire and the electrical resistance degrades the lead. The lead has only been tested to be used once and the lead can be used for an hour of stimulation. Each treatment is 30 minutes.

The employee advised me that the needle is a standard acupuncture needle and they can be used as an alternative if more than two needles are needed. This can save another package having to be opened which is good to know.

The company has the sole patent

According to this employee, the company currently has the sole patent for this medical device. So there’s no competition at the moment. I wonder if there was, would this increase innovation in product design so more parts of the device could be safely reused and maybe bring prices down?

In this day and age where there is a much stronger focus on how we are treating our planet, I feel making products that can only be used once to be poor product design. But as you will read further on, money seems to play a role.

Recycling is also an issue in the NHS

Compounding the issue of the NHS wasting money potentially on one-use items, it also isn’t recycling much uncontaminated medical waste. According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), only 7% of healthcare plastic waste is recycled.

According to www.wrap.org.uk, only 7% of #healthcare plastic waste is recycled in the UK. When will this change? #recycling #healthcare Click To Tweet

Furthermore, according to Recycle Health Organisation, ‘there are no established nationwide in-hospital recycling schemes… nor are effective measures being taken to seek alternatives to plastic consumption in healthcare.’

There’s more. The Recycle Health Organisation also quotes the Marine Conversation Society’s work which has demonstrated that since 2013, ‘organisations within NHS England have purchased more than half a billion disposable plastic cups for hot drinks, cold drinks and dispensing medicines.’ 

I think we need more initiatives in the NHS as featured in this Twitter post.

Picture of a twitter posted dated 26th May 2019 by @steve_kingmagic showing a bin of inhalers being collected for recycling. The Twitter post reads: "Another batch of used inhalers sent for recycling. There is absolutely no need for these to go to landfill. Inhalers are made of high quality plastics and aluminium. Please keep returning these to the pharmacy, we really appreciate it. Please share this important message."

But reusing and recycling in the NHS doesn’t seem to be a straightforward issue

Back to the conversation I had with the employee. He said that the lead for the Urgent PC Stimulator is made up of a copper wire and plastic. He wasn’t sure if it could be recycled. If the manufacturer isn’t sure, how can the NHS be sure?

He shared his knowledge of hospitals preferring to use disposable items as it reduces the risk of infection. He talked about the balance of cost between someone’s care in hospital for a urinary tract infection (he mentioned that costs £2,700 and 5 days of care) versus the cost of using a disposable item which reduces infection risk.

He also said 20 years ago hospitals more often sterilised items to reuse. Items would be shipped to a sterilisation plant and you had to plan how many items you had on hand at the hospital, how many were en-route to being sterilised, how many were currently being sterilised and how many were on their way back. He said this was costly.

Finally, he added that regulations and procedures in healthcare did not make it easy to reuse and recycle.

But what are the medical device companies doing to promote recycling?

The person I spoke to said that medical device companies are doing their bit by focusing on packaging, i.e. using cardboard and paper where ever they can. However, he said this is a difficult issue to resolve because medical devices need to be airtight and sterile which only plastic can provide.

That’s a good start. But is it enough?

I think medical device companies could also make items that can re-used (where possible), be recycled and communicate recycling instructions to hospitals.

Is the NHS wasting money someone else’s gain?

According to the person I spoke to, medical device companies tend not to launch products to market which will not give them a good return on investment. The market for the Urgent PC Stimulator is small. This leads me to wonder if single-use items can help to ensure the return on investment for the research and development of such products?

It feels to me there is a delicate balance between companies wanting to make money and minimising risk of infection to the patient. Single-use items enable both. A price to pay is more goes to landfill if the disposable items aren’t recyclable or able to be incinerated.

There is something in all of this about what is easy to achieve. It seems to me that money – whether it’s making money or saving it – is what currently makes things feel easy or more doable. I feel that is the go-to reason people often use.

Picture of a person standing and throwing a disposable plastic cup towards a pile that has 'landfill' written on it. One one side of him is a box that says 'return on investment' and a Great British Pound sign, Euro sign and US Dollar sign. On the other side is a box that says 'Minimise risk of infection to patients'. The person is saying, 'Items you use once achieve both!' The point being made is disposable items you use once which the NHS has to purchase can enable a return on investment for the manufacturer and minimise risk of infection to patients. But if the item has to go to landfill, then this doesn't help in the long run.

It’s heartening to read about organisations who are promoting recycling in healthcare

Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and the Recycle Health Organisation promote finding alternatives for plastic where possible, promote and introduce recycling schemes in hospitals and community healthcare settings, push for sustainable product design, raise awareness and more. All of this is necessary.

What can you do?

These are a few things you can do to minimise costs and/or recycle. It’s not an exhaustive list and you may have some ideas of your own.

  • As a patient, when you see items being used once in hospital and you are wondering if it will be recycled or you think there is the potential to use it more than once, ask about it. Learn more and share what you learn on social media to raise awareness.
  • Sign the Recycle Health Organisation’s petition here to implement and legalise stringent plastic recycling plans in UK hospitals.
  • If you use medical equipment, ask your GP, consultant and/or pharmacist about how and where to recycle it.
  • When you go to hospital for treatment or to visit someone, bring your own cup for coffee/tea and water.

What’s it like for you?

Have you ever experienced medical equipment being used once and then discarded and thought, ‘Hey, why can’t that be used again?’ Or have you learned that items used in your treatment are not recyclable? I’d love to know if you have. Share your experiences and thoughts 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 to return to a sense of wellness, 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

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