How to love your body with illness or injury

How to love your body with illness or injury

How do you love your body with illness or injury? How do you learn to love it again? So much about your body has changed, this can feel like a really hard task. You may have loved what your body enabled you to do previously and/or how you looked.

I feel it’s important to learn how to love your body with illness or injury again. It’s the only body you have. And you have it for the rest of your life. I’m not saying this will be a quick and easy journey for you. We are all different. But who knows, maybe it will be.

Where #bodyimage, #illness or #injury and society’s expectations and stigmas collide can be a potentially destructive place. Read about that here and what you can do to ensure it isn’t. Tell a Friend

Three things made me think of this recently. My own journey back to regular exercise. Through that I was hearing how people speak about their bodies and I felt sad with what I was hearing. And an article I read about weight loss and chronic illness.

Before I go any further, I want to say that this is a really big topic and I am only addressing it from one small angle on this occasion. I may come back to this topic from another angle in the future.

Learning to love your body with illness or injury is determined by body image (before and after the illness or injury), the impact of the illness or injury, and society's expectations and stigmas. It can be a potentially destructive mix. The picture shoes these three concepts as a Venn diagram.

How to love your body with illness or injury

That journey to fall back in love with ourselves and our bodies after a serious illness or injury or alongside a chronic illness has so many parts to it and can take time.

For a time we may be angry with our bodies for betraying us. I see this a lot in cases of cancer and auto-immune conditions where people were leading healthy lives before the illness arrived. Or we are mourning the loss of a part of our bodies due to cancer or injury for example.

We learn to adapt so we can return to favourite or new activities, return to work, and re-engage with our life. But having to adapt may bring its own frustrations as we are reminded of what we can no longer do as easily as we once did.

Having to adapt how we use our bodies so we can re-engage with our lives may bring its own frustrations. We are reminded of what we can no longer do as easily as we once did. #seriousillness #seriousinjury #bodyimage Tell a Friend

Eventually, we hopefully find a way to live in our changed bodies peacefully with a recognition of and appreciation for what it can do. Of course, we may experience setbacks if we experience a flare-up and become ill or injured again. But sometimes these setbacks are due to what people say and do to us. And it can be very hurtful on the being on the receiving end of that.

So what can you do?

There are two things you can do help yourself on your journey to love your changed body with illness or injury

And a lot of what I say here is equally applicable to people who do not have any major health issues. To men as well as women.

Listen to how you speak about your body

Do you say anything like the following?

Oh, my thunder thighs! I hate how they look!

Geez, I suffer from kankle syndrome!

My boobs are too small/big/droopy.

I’ve got man boobs. I’m not man enough.

Why can’t I be slim like her?

I hate how my chin isn’t well defined.

I hate how this bit of my body no longer works.

Oh, this grey hair! I can’t look old!

It’s very common to hear the above. Lots of people say these kind of things. It’s so normal. But should it be?

Listen to the language you use about yourself. Sometimes we can be really hard on ourselves. In what feels to be not a particularly helpful way.

We speak badly about a part of our body -->
We know that part of our body is with us forever -->
We feel worse because we have to deal with it.

I wonder, how does talking this way about yourself help you?

It can be a vicious cycle that repeats. Do you really need to be doing that to yourself?

The picture shows a woman looking into a mirror thinking, "Useless weak left leg." It then shows her saying, "Every day I have to deal with this useless weak left leg." And then it shows her thinking, "This sucks. I'll never have long and lean leg." The woman is in a vicious cycle of body image, the impact of her illness (or injury) and trying to meet society's expectations of having long and lean legs. This makes it hard to love your body with illness.

I have even heard this from staff in clothing shops and stylists, ‘You want to cover up/disguise/distract from this bit of yourself.’ And they talk about our ‘bad bits’.

Can we just love ourselves and our bodies as is?

How about substituting the ‘I don’t like’ with ‘I am grateful’?

You know that gap in your thighs we women are ‘supposed’ to have? I’ll never have that. I’ve got big thighs. My shoulders are sloping. I’ve got big boobs too. Slim ankles? Nope. Don’t have that either. I have chronic pain and a loss of sensory awareness in my hands so it makes it harder to do finer things like doing up my bra and putting in earrings. Otherwise, my hands work ok.

And you know what. I’m ok with all that. It’s my body. I can walk. Not great sometimes due to arthritis and poor walking habits due to old knees injuries (which I’m working on changing through physiotherapy). I can exercise. I can kayak. I can cook. My ankles, knees, thighs, hands and shoulders all enable me to do that. I enjoy those activities. I am grateful.

That is the key point around listening to how we speak about our bodies. Changing that ‘I don’t like’ or even hate relationship with parts of your bodies to one of gratefulness for what those parts of your body enable you to do.

The ‘I don’t like’ or even hate relationships with parts of our body often originate in society’s standards for health and beauty. So on to my next point.

The ‘I don’t like’ or even hate relationships with parts of our body often originate in society’s standards for #health and beauty. #bodyimage #seriousillness #seriousinjury Tell a Friend

Be mindful of how society’s standards of health and beauty for men and women do not help

Society standards are not very forgiving. Companies constantly push an ideal body shape for men and women, beauty standards and products at us to encourage us conform to these standards. Bu the standards can be difficult or even impossible for some of us to obtain. And the time it takes out of our schedules to meet those standards!

For example, a couple of years ago Avon had this campaign about ‘getting rid of your morning face’ by using their make-up of course. In a sense, we were being told our morning face is tired looking, that that isn’t good and we should not be looking like that, but hey, Avon can fix that with their products.

Barbara Babcock with no make-up. Learn to love your body with illness or injury.

I felt sad when I saw that commercial. I love seeing my face in the morning! I don’t care how tired I look. I smile at myself in the mirror because I think that is a great way to start my day. So I tweeted my lovely morning face with no make-up to Avon.

It can also be difficult to maintain these standards too. It may not be cheap money-wise. We also age. Our skin will change, our boobs may sag, our tummies may not be as tight, our hair goes grey, and more. That’s a normal process and we all go through it. But Western society has taught us that it’s not natural and we should fight it every step of the way. At what point in our lives can we just be at peace with our bodies?

A serious illness or injury can make it even more difficult to live with society’s standards

This article about how body and weight shaming negatively impacts women living with chronic illness poignantly demonstrates this.

Weight loss can be glorified at a time when it should be raising alarm bells. But society’s standards are even dictating how medical and healthcare professionals approach weight loss and treat people who may weigh more than is desired for their body shape/age. From reading this article, you get the sense the medical and healthcare professionals weren’t making the connection between weight gain or loss with the health issue.

Your energy may not be well spent on conforming to society’s standards

I am not saying don’t ever wear make-up, colour your hair, enjoy fashion, see a stylist, etc. You may enjoy experimenting with hair colour, make-up, and fashion because it helps you express a part of yourself. Or you follow a diet and/or exercise plan to lose weight because it would be the right thing for you to do for your health and wellness.

I’m cautioning against blind acceptance and following of society’s standards for beauty and what it considers healthy. Because it may not be what is right for you and so may not help you love your body with illness or injury. Also, if you have limited energy due to being in a caring/supporting role or the illness/injury you have, you’ve got to spend that energy wisely.

So double check if what you are doing is healthy for you, your body and your sense of wellness. And if you are embarking on making changes in your diet or exercise be sure to get the ok from a suitably qualified professional, such as a GP or nutritionist. Just to make sure the changes you want to make and how you want to make them are healthy for you, won’t adversley impact on medication dosages, etc.

Pic of two tips on developing a balanced body image so you can love your body with illness or injury. Tip 1: Spend time getting to know the body part you don't like. What does it enable you to do in your life? (even if it functions differently from before) Does it enable you to do necessary activities and activities you enjoy? Practice saying, "I am grateful you help me do XYZ." Tip 2: Consume society's standards mindfully. Pick and choose what works for you and your health and sense of wellness. To ensure you expend your energy wisely and productive for you.

What’s it like for you?

How do you love your body with illness or injury? How has the relationship with your body changed? What has helped you or would help to develop a good enough relationship with your body? 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 develop a new relationship with your body, 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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How to make time for exercise to improve your health

How to make time for exercise to improve your health

We all read about how important it is to exercise to improve your health. Not just for our physical health but also our mental health.

And yet, you may find it hard to make time for exercise for all sorts of reasons. Some of those reasons may run more deep than you know or expect. This can be the case when you are finding it particularly hard to make time for exercise to improve your health AND you realise you most likely have the time.

I have that issue. I say ‘have’ rather than ‘had’ as I am not sure I wholly cracked it yet. But I am definitely working on making the time to exercise. So I want to share with your how this issue of mine runs more deeply than you might expect. To raise awareness that this can be the case with a change you are finding particularly hard to make. And what you can do about it.

In writing this, I am using the word ‘exercise’ to cover all kinds of physical movement. So if the word ‘exercise’ bothers you, substitute it with physical movement. Also, I am assuming you can do some amount of physical movement within the constraints of the illness or injury you live with.

Last week I wrote about how my issue with my achievement cycle, time and prioritising were some of the key obstacles for me to exercise. But my issue with time goes even deeper and this wasn’t helping me make time to exercise to improve my health.

 

It has to do with my work ethic and my family.

 

Read about how patterns of behaviour in your family can hold you back from making a #change you want for yourself #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury tell a friend

My family has a strong work ethic. I mean, really strong. And this runs through both my mother’s and father’s families. In fact, I read in a book about my fifth great grandfather where it refers to the fact that he and his sons were known for their work ethic. That was a bit freaky to read. Five generations back the work ethic was hard at work!

In my family, our job is to work and work hard. It leaves little time for much else, even if the ‘else’ is something we really want to do. My family wears its work ethic like a badge of pride. And for some of us it’s coupled with the perfectionism badge. A double whammy.

 

Picture of a woman wearing a work ethic badge and a perfectionism badge. She wants to take off the perfectionism badge so she can wear the exercise badge. This woman wants to make time to exercise as it is important. Exercise to improve your health.

 

The serious illness I had challenged my work ethic

 

I could not work to the extent I did before. Fatigue and pain would not let me. I needed a lot more rest than I ever used to. When I returned to work, I noticed I did as much work as I could in the three days I was working though!

Over the years the fatigue lessened and wasn’t nearly as bad as it used to be. I noticed the number of hours I work in a day crept upwards. I wondered about lessening my work ethic, taking my foot off that gas pedal. But that felt odd.

I felt like I wouldn’t be me in a sense. And I would certainly be setting myself apart from my family. I fully appreciate that may sound odd to you. Let me explain.

Sometimes things happen, and they may happen more than once to you but you cannot explain it. Or you repeat a behaviour again and again but you don’t know why. You might even see the same thing happening to family members. The issue may have been around for a good part of your life.

 

Chances are it can be a systemic issue

 

A systemic issue is bigger than you. It’s part of the system(s) of which are a member. A system can be a family system, a work system, your network of friends are a system, there’s the benefits system, the NHS, you get the idea. You are part of a several systems and actions other members of a system take will impact you in some way and your actions will impact them. We are all inter-connected.

A systemic issue isn’t a bad thing. It just points to where to look to start resolving the issue.

 

The work ethic in my family is a systemic issue.

 

And it feels like the work ethic has been taking up all my available time and energy. That was not helping me to make time to exercise. The time exercise would take was conflicting with the needs of the long-entrenched issue of work ethic.

The work ethic in my family provides a function, which ties in with my issues of my achievement cycle and prioritising.

I haven’t fully unpacked the function(s) work ethic plays in my family, but what I have learned is to care for my intention to do something that really matters to me, like exercising to enhance my health. And giving myself permission to care for that intention and act on it. To do that, I had to let go of ‘being perfect’ as that was giving way too much fuel to the work ethic.

 

Caring for your intention to do something that really matters to you is important.

 

Giving yourself permission to care for that intention and to act on it is also important.

 

A question to ask yourself is:

What are the relationships like between me, the change I wish to make and my intention to make that change?

They are three distinct elements when it comes to the change you wish to make.

 

Picture of a woman sitting down considering the relationships between you the change you want to make and your intention to make that change when you want to make time to exercise to improve your health

 

After reading my story there you probably think I’m a basket case and there’s no hope regarding my ability to make time to exercise. That’s ok if you do.

I’m sharing my story to demonstrate why change can sometimes be difficult to make no matter how much you want to make the change. There can be some pretty deep-seated stuff happening that is getting in the way.

Many people shy away from issues that feel deep. They are afraid that they will open Pandora’s box. Uncovering and working through that deep-seated stuff can be emotional at times. But actually, rather than scary, it can be very empowering. You make that discovery of the reasons that have been causing you disbelief, pain, disappointment or something else. It’s a relief to because you then know what you need to change.

 

You have greater self-awareness, which gives you more choices.

 

And the solution to these kind of issues can be simple.

 

Even for all that deep-seated stuff, the solution can be surprisingly simple. You’ve done the hard work already by working through everything to get to the solution. Implementing the solution can feel easier.

 

There can be some pretty deep-seated stuff that gets in the way of you making the change you want for yourself. But when you work through it all, you can find the solution is simple. Read more about it here #wellness Click To Tweet

 

I say to clients who can exercise that ‘exercise to improve your health is important’.

 

I was conscious that I was wanting to do more exercise to improve my health as I was saying that. I have started to exercise. Yay me!

I came across this do it at home boot camp via Twitter. The boot camp lasts 6 weeks and I am two-thirds of the way through it. I’ve exercised nearly every day and if I missed a day, it was usually because I had a long meeting that day requiring travel or was on a course. Then I would do two exercise routines the following day to keep pace with the programme.

I typically do the exercise routine first thing in the morning before I start work. It has the highest priority. That way, I know I’ve done it.

There are a group of people taking part and we all started and will finish the boot camp on the same day. I belong to this group and being part of a group that is working towards the same goal works for me.

There is a closed Facebook group for everyone taking part in the boot camp where we can share what we’ve done or not done, what we are succeeding at and what we are finding difficult. It’s very supportive. This caters to my extraversion preference.

I am noticing results. My jeans are a little looser. My knee pain from osteoarthritis is less. My walking is a little less laboured. I am loving the endorphin rush I get every morning from the exercise.

I am proud I am maintaining the discipline to get up early and do the day’s exercise routine first thing. Maintaining the discipline is important to me.

 

Discipline enables you to make exercise to improve your health a habit

 

My other half tells me he notices how disciplined I am and that there is less of me, and it’s good to have that external validation.

It’s becoming a virtuous cycle where my progress feeds my motivation to continue.

And you know what. It doesn’t take loads of time. About 45 minutes every morning. I always had the time. By figuring out what was getting in the way, working through that and taking the step by signing up for the boot camp, I was able to get started.

 

So when making a change in your life like making time to exercise to improve your health, consider these points

 

If making the change feels hard on some level and there is no rational explanation for that, it could be a systemic issue that has been shaped by habits, norms of behaving and events which have happened over the years and generations even in your family.

Sometimes it can be several inter-related issues which hold you back from making a change. Figuring these out can make implementing the change easier and make it more sustainable over the longer term.

Like I said last week, ensure the change you are making fits with your motivations.

Set up a routine to make the change happen. A routine can help you maintain discipline. Discipline makes the change into a long-term habit.

Feedback from others is great. It can feed your motivation. Just don’t rely on external feedback and validation 100%. Have your own measures for progress too.

It’s ok to start small. Small is achievable. You can build up over time.

Work within the symptoms your body experiences whether that is pain, fatigue, etc. You don’t want to exacerbate them to the point you can no longer do what you wish to be doing.

And connect to that part of your soul which gives you permission to make the change you really want for yourself.

 

Quote by Return To Wellness - Connect to the part of your soul which gives you permission to make the change you want for yourself, to make the time to exercise to improve your health

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What have you done to make the time to exercise to improve your health? Or to make another change in your life? What obstacles did you have to overcome? 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 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.

 

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 2018

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How to make time for exercise

How to make time for exercise

My ability to make time for exercise has been crap.

There, I said it.

I’ve been feeling for some time that I need to do more to maintain my physical wellness.

My line of work is about rebuilding and renewing our sense of wellness after a serious illness or serious injury or whilst living with a chronic illness. Having had a serious neurological illness, knowing that heart disease runs in my family, having osteoarthritis, and witnessing my other half deal which his chronic conditions, you think I would have been exercising every day.

Nope.

With my clients I often talk about taking a holistic approach to our wellness and to how we make changes in our lives. I encourage my clients to look at all aspects of their wellness.

I feel like I have not been practicing what I preach.

There, I said that too.

 

Read here about why I found it hard to make time for exercise and what I did about it #fitness #exercise #wellness tell a friend

 

I have found it hard to make time for exercise

 

For a number of years now. Yet, it is becoming increasingly important to do so for health reasons.

I want to tell you why I found it difficult. Because there may be a change you want to make, may even need to make for health reasons too. But you may be finding it hard and are not sure why.

By taking you through what I experienced and what I have learned, I will give you eight things to consider regarding a change you wish to make but are finding difficult.

 

Why I have not been able to make time for exercise

 

What I share with you here I’ve learned over the years from coaching and therapy. And I’ve had a fair amount of coaching on this topic!

I last exercised regularly in 2009. I was working 3 days a week and the other days I trained as a coach, exercised and eventually set up my own coaching business.

As I was still in the early recovery phase from the neurological illness I had, exercise was important. There was also a very clear boundary between my work and personal life. I also felt I could make time for exercise given I was working 3 days a week. Feeling I could make the time and having a clear boundary time-wise around exercise enabled me to make exercise happen then.

 

Consideration 1: Do you feel you can make time for exercise? (or any other change you wish to make) If no, what are the reasons for that? If you knew you had dedicated time to exercise (or make some other change in your life), would you do it?

 

In 2010, things changed. I went to 4 days a week at work. Work became more challenging. My other half and I were dealing with the grief of learning we would not have our own children. And towards the end of the year, my other half’s close friend died unexpectedly and suddenly. My doctors were also wondering if the Transverse Myelitis I had was evolving into Multiple Sclerosis.

I remember exercising less and putting on weight in that year.

 

Consideration 2: A key learning is it would have been good to make time for exercise (of any kind for any length of time) as it would have helped my mental health, which was deteriorating.

 

Looking back, I was holding a lot on an emotional level. There was only so much I could hold, and the emotional stuff was taking all the space.

 

Pic of a woman holding many big and traumatic things in her life and she has dropped her balls of exercise and wellness. She found it hard to make time for exercise.

 

I don’t berate myself for having dropped exercise during that time. I was dealing with a lot of grief on several levels, trying to support my husband through his grief and that of our friend’s young family.

Time moved on, we grieved, I left my job to do a masters in coaching psychology. We moved house. We continued to grieve. I worked for myself as a coach and finished my masters. I also became Chair of a charity which ended up being much more work than I expected. I started working with a personal trainer. My husband then got unexpectedly seriously ill and had a brush with mortality. Exercise stopped. We re-entered the bubble that serious illness and recovery can be.

 

Consideration 3: Sometimes, we can only hold so much due to trauma and that may not include exercise or some other change we wish to make. That’s ok.

 

When my husband started returning to work, I started exercising again. I chose kayaking as I had done it in 2011, loved it and wanted to do more of it. It turned out to be the best decision ever!

Pic of me kayaking in Chichester Harbour. Kayaking is when I make time to exercise.

 

It was only when I reflected on it that I figured out I selected a sport that caters to my motivations.

I have an extroversion preference, I really enjoy being with other people, chatting and doing something together. 90% of the time I kayak with other people because it is the safe thing to do and so a requirement at the sailing club I’m a member at.

I am out in nature. As a kid I would play in the forests which surround my childhood home and I remember loving that. Even though I’ve lived in cities for all of my adult life, I still love being in nature.

Kayaking is a sport that is low impact on my joints. Given I have osteoarthritis in my knees, this is important.

 

Consideration 4: Learn what motivates you to exercise (or make the change you wish to make). Find a physical activity (or a way of making another type of change you want) that matches your motivations.

 

The club I am a member at has scheduled club kayaking times. So these times are in my diary during the kayaking season and I consider it sacred time. I make the time for exercise with intention. During the season, I kayak about twice a week and even walk the mile to the boat yard and back.

 

Consideration 5: What gets scheduled with intention has a much greater chance of getting done.

 

The other issue I have/had is this drive to achieve. Achieving something would feed my self-worth. But I would then shrug off the achievement as if it was no big deal because ‘anyone can do it’! I was feeding my self-worth and then discounting my achievement which would of course starve my self-worth. I then would set out to achieve something else because I had my self-worth to feed.

I was in this never-ending unhelpful cycle of achieving to feed my self-worth. And achieving demands time! This was an effective way of self-sabotaging my ability to make time to exercise.

 

If you want to #exercise or make some other kind of change in your life, but you're finding that you just cannot make progress no matter what you do, a self-sabotaging strategy could be getting in your way. Learn more here #wellness tell a friend

 

Consideration 6: It’s important to develop your awareness of your self-sabotaging strategies.

 

That way we can do something about them. I have to be aware of my achievement cycle kicking in and have learned more healthy ways to feed my sense of self-worth.

My achievement cycle is a good example of how this way of being and doing I had was having a not-so-helpful impact on various parts of my life, of which exercise was just one.

 

Consideration 7: Your self-sabotaging strategies can be entrenched in ways of being and doing that show up in other areas of your life beyond exercise, like my achievement cycle did.

 

For the past couple of years I’ve been wanting to increase the amount I exercise. I made several attempts where I would start exercising regularly here at home using my bike, stretching, doing ab work and going for walks.

 

Pic of exercise equipment at home to help me make time to exercise

 

But then I would injure myself or get ill and could not exercise for several weeks. Once I was better, work beckoned, would get busy, and I heard myself saying, ‘I don’t have time. I don’t have time.’

It was like a mantra. But a really unhelpful one. It is one that has been with me for quite some time.

And then I came across this quote

 

Pic of quote. Do not say you do not have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, and Albert Einstein. You can make time to exercise.

 

Yes, I do have as much time as Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, and other people who have produced or done great things during their lifetime. That was a good kick up the bum for me!

 

Consideration 8: It’s about priorities and what you choose to prioritise.

 

I did not make time for exercise because I was not prioritising it. Work was my priority.

I also learned from coaching and systemic constellation work that I was not taking time seriously. Other than my work, I was not being intentional with my time.

These two items turned out to be key for me.

I started to develop a new mantra.

Take time seriously, treat it with intention, and time will take care of you and your needs.

 

Pic of quote by Barbara Babcock at Return to Wellness. Take time seriously, treat it with intention, and time will take care of you and your needs. Make time for exercise.

 

I’m going to end here for this week as I’ve written plenty for you to mull over. But come back next week when I continue explaining what else got in the way of my ability to make time to exercise. (yes, there was a lot) And what I ended up doing about it.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

If you are struggling to exercise or make another change in your life, what is holding you back? If you have successfully made a change you really wanted for yourself, what enabled you to do that? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).

If you are living with a health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to make a change in your life, 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 2018

 

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Why I hope social prescribing by doctors won’t be around for long

Why I hope social prescribing by doctors won’t be around for long

Social prescribing is becoming a popular concept in healthcare and treatment. GPs in England can prescribe dance classes for people who are lonely. Doctors in Shetland, Scotland can now prescribe nature.

The UK Prime Minister Theresa May has also launched the government’s first loneliness strategy saying that ‘social prescriptions would reduce demand on the NHS and improve patients’ quality of life’.

 

But what is social prescribing?

 

How can it help people with their physical and mental health? Is it just another fad that will come and go?

According to the Social Prescribing Network here in the UK, social prescribing ‘is a means of enabling GPs and other frontline healthcare professionals to refer patients to a link worker – to provide them with a face to face conversation during which they can learn about the possibilities and design their own personalised solutions, i.e. ‘co-produce’ their ‘social prescription’- so that people with social, emotional or practical needs are empowered to find solutions which will improve their health and wellbeing, often using services provided by the voluntary and community sector.’

I get that definition, but I’m not sure it’s user friendly to the person who will receive the ‘social prescription’.

 

So here is my definition of social prescribing

 

Social prescribing is when a medical or healthcare professional prescribes a non-medical activity which could improve your health and wellbeing. The non-medical activities could meet a range of needs such as the need to be more physically active, eat more healthily, be with people, improve your mood, manage stress, participate in an activity we enjoy doing, feeling productive and more.

All of these non-medical needs can have an impact on your health. For example, when you are living with chronic fatigue or pain, that can impact your ability to work and hence have a knock-on effect on your financial independence, having a roof over your head, etc. The worry causes stress, stress can exacerbate symptoms. Your health can become worse.

Or if you don’t know how to cook and so rely on take-away food outlets near your home and ready-made meals from the supermarket. But your diet has led to weight issues and you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes.

Another person could help you decide which non-medical options would best meet your needs and find them, i.e. the ‘link worker’ mentioned above.

 

Social prescribing can include learning how to cook healthy meals. Picture of a salad of lettuce, broad beans, asparagus, avocado, chicken, parmesan and croutons

Social prescribing can include learning how to cook healthy meals. A tasty and easy to prepare salad of lettuce, broad beans, asparagus, avocado, chicken, parmesan and croutons.

 

Social prescribing would aim to help you find non-medical solutions to issues you have

 

It helps you identify the changes you can make in various parts of your life which will contribute to improving your long-term health and manage the impact of any long-term conditions you have.

For example, what local flexible working opportunities could there be for someone with chronic pain or fatigue. Or a local cooking class to learn how to cook simple healthy meals. Or a gardening club for someone who experiences depression, anxiety and/or loneliness.

The aim is to prevent health issues from getting worse, reduce the financial burden on the NHS especially primary care, i.e. GP service.

All good stuff. There are some very real issues to consider when social prescribing such as whether the activities being prescribed are accessible, do people want to take part in the activities, do they have the confidence to take part, and the cost of such activities when government is cutting investment in local services. Despite that, I feel that social prescribing is a worthy effort.

 

Social prescribing - Being on or near the water is recognised as being beneficial to our health. A picture of me kayaking in Chichester Harbour.

Being on or near the water is recognised as beneficial to our health. Me kayaking in Chichester Harbour.

 

But I hope social prescribing won’t be around for long

 

Shock, horror at reading that, right?

Here is why I think that.

I hope it becomes so popular and embedded in the medical world’s and society’s way of doing things, it becomes the ‘done thing’. In fact, I hope it becomes the go-to option where possible before doctors prescribe medications are medical interventions (when that’s possible).

Through this, society can learn that they have these options to improve their mental and physical health. People learn that these activities become their first go-to options in self-managing their health and wellness.

That is my dream for social prescribing.

 

However, reality means we may need social prescribing for some time to come

 

As a society we have done a good job of medicalising everything. In the last century and even in this new one there have been so many advances and many more are on the horizon. The random control trial is the gold standard in research, the aim is to find medications that help and treatments that cure. Life has been extended. That is good.

Society has also gotten used to the medical model. When you’re unwell or injured, you go to the doctor and hope s/he gives you a prescription or recommends another medical intervention to sort the issue out. For some people, they feel it is the doctor’s responsibility to sort the issue and their role is to follow (maybe) the doctor’s instructions. So the patient’s role is passive.

In the process of all this, we have forgotten the non-medical treatments we can use to improve our physical and mental health – a walk in nature, attending activity groups, taking up a new hobby, spending time with people, and regular exercise are just some examples. We may have gotten used to being in a passive role and giving up some of our personal power.

 

Picture of a man sitting on a sofa saying that the biggest thing he learned was how much he has to do and is responsible for regarding managing his health issue, but that he has to be because he is with his health issue 24/7.

 

I think social prescribing is the reminder that non-medical treatments have just as much value in improving our health as medical treatments.

 

Social prescribing encourages a holistic focus on treating mental and physical health issues. Not all health issues can be solved by medical intervention alone. Changes in other aspects of your life can make a significant contribution to improved health. And given it is our life, I feel it is up to us to take control and play a significant role in identifying and making those changes. Some of the changes we can make, such as a walk/roll in nature for exercise, are free.

However, I have to remind myself that ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ It will take time to embed this holistic approach to making positive changes to our health in our society. And individual responsibility for it. That is not a small effort. So I think social prescribing will have to be around for some time.

And I am ok with that.

 

Picture of a woman saying she likes to swim but does yoga in bed when she is having a flare-up and a man saying he has to think about which non-medical interventions would help improve his health and wellbeing.

 

What about you?

 

What do you think of social prescribing? Have you experienced it yet during the course of your or a loved one’s medical care? Leave a comment below or email it privately to me using the contact form in the sidebar.

If you are living with a serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to find non-medical ways to improve your sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

 

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10 tips to manage scanxiety (scan anxiety) during medical procedures

10 tips to manage scanxiety (scan anxiety) during medical procedures

You may need to manage scanxiety – scan anxiety – when living with illness every few months, once a year or on the occasion when something isn’t right and you need to get it checked out. This type of anxiety can also apply to other medical investigative tests.

It’s not fun, I experienced it the other week. And I’ve experienced it many times in the past when I’ve had MRIs, other unpleasant investigative tests, and as a carer. I learned it can be an up and down process – you may get some good news, then some not-so-good news, then some reassurance, and then you wait days/weeks/months for the final verdict.

Feeling a degree of anxiety is normal because as you go through the process of scans, procedures, etc, you don’t know what the medical professionals will find and what it may mean. If you feel the anxiety is getting in the way – how often you think about it, your sleep, or getting through the procedure/scan/treatment itself for example – then here are 10 ideas on how to manage it.

I largely refer to managing the anxiety during the scan or procedure but some of the ideas are also applicable before and after it. When I talk about anxiety in this context, I am not referring to a clinical diagnosis of anxiety. If you have a diagnosis of anxiety, you may find the ideas mentioned here useful.

 

My experience of scanxiety

 

In my case, the scan came about because something wasn’t quite right for a few months – breast pain. Given it was recurring and it felt like something was in the way inside my breast but I couldn’t feel a lump, I saw the GP. The GP referred me for a scan and 11 days later I was sitting in my local hospital.

I saw the consultant. She did a manual exam and couldn’t find any lumps. I felt relief. She sent me for a scan.

I got changed and waited for the scan.

I had the mammogram. It was uncomfortable but went ok.

I sat in the scan seating area. They asked me to come back to redo some of the mammogram scans.

I could feel the anxiety rise a notch.

Afterwards, they came back and said the consultant wanted an ultrasound.

I felt the anxiety increasing.

Whilst doing the ultrasound, the consultant said they found something.

But it was in the other breast that had been ok.

When I get news like that, I have a ‘deer in the headlights’ moment. I can feel the anxiety spike high, and my eyes open wide. I feel very scared in those moments.

Picture of a person with anxiety after receiving a diagnosis and needing a medical procedure

When you get a diagnosis or an unpleasant medical update and feel anxiety

The consultant said it was a lump but one that was well-defined – a fibroadenoma.

I said to her, “I should be asking questions but I can’t. My mind had gone blank.” The anxiety was in control.

She said it was most likely not cancerous, but they wanted to check it out further by doing a biopsy, they could do that at another time but could also do it now. I don’t remember actually saying yes, I may have, but what I was saying and tone of voice indicated yes. She proceeded to prepare for the biopsy.

I was full of nervous chatter during it describing what had happened when I had a lumbar puncture when they had to get a bigger needle so this shouldn’t be so bad. That was a way of me calming myself by telling myself and them I had been through worse.

I was noticing how tense my muscles were and I would remind myself to relax and breathe. At the end the consultant said I had been very brave. I didn’t feel brave. I berated myself silently saying to myself the doctor shouldn’t have to say that to me. Notice that should, because we are coming back to it. I reminded myself to take from the consultant’s words what she was giving – comfort. I then joked with the nurse asking if I could get a gold star.

The scans and procedures finished and it was back to the main waiting area to wait to see the consultant. I suddenly felt emotional. It was a familiar feeling. After a round of being poked and prodded by medical professionals I can feel emotional. Also, I’ve been having tests for other things recently and have a treatment coming up so it just felt like something else to deal with. I just wanted to curl up and be looked after by someone else.

I saw the consultant, who said the lump is usually not an issue and if all is ok, they would leave it where it is. But they would let me know the results of the biopsy in the next week. I referred to the anxiety I was feeling and the doctor said they wanted to be thorough.

And that was it I thought and even said, ‘It’s a balance to maintain between the medical professionals being thorough and the anxiety the patient may be feeling.’ That sounds clumsy but that was the key learning for me.

There’s a balance to maintain between the medical professionals being thorough and the #anxiety you may be feeling during the #medicalprocedure or #scan tell a friend

 

The doctors want to do their best so they will be thorough.

 

Although modern medicine can do so many great and amazing things, it is not always a precise science. So expect the unexpected to happen and if it doesn’t, that’s great.

 

The patient manages their scanxiety as best they can so the doctors can do their scans, tests, etc.

 

Learning and practicing techniques to manage our anxiety is in our control. Given we can control our breath, mind and muscles, those are great starting points to manage any anxiety we may experience.

 

Picture of a scale with a doctor and patient sitting on it and maintaining a balance

The doctor and patient maintaining the balance between being thorough and managing anxiety

 

So here is what I found to keep scanxiety from taking over

 

  1. Read the information they send you in advance so you know what will happen on the day. If you have questions before the appointment, call the hospital.

 

  1. Bring something to do during the times you have to wait like a book or magazine to read, paper to draw or write on, your iPad or phone to watch tv or listen to music, your knitting, whatever. This is a healthy distraction which helps to keep the anxiety at bay.

 

  1. If you will be there for a while, bring food and drink provided you can eat/drink during the procedure you’re having. Sometimes it’s hard to get away as when you are waiting, you don’t always know when you will be called in to see the consultant or have a scan/procedure. So best not to sit there hungry or thirsty.

 

  1. Be prepared with these generic questions in case they want to do another procedure or suggest a new treatment. They will help you to collect the information you need to make an informed decision. You may not have to use them but being prepared can be a comfort.

 

  • What is this procedure/treatment/drug meant to achieve?
  • What are my options? (are there other options for example)
  • What are the specific benefits and potential harm to me? (pros and cons)
  • What happens if I do nothing?
  • What should I watch out for? (after treatment, the procedure or starting new medication, i.e. side effects, having a relapse, etc.)
  • Are there any questions I haven’t asked that other patients typically ask?
  • Who can I contact if I have a follow-up question?

 

(Questions 2, 3, 4 were obtained from this excellent article.)

 

Picture of questions to ask so you can make informed decisions about your medical care

Key questions to ask so you can get the info you need to make informed decisions about your medical care

 

  1. Find a release for your anxiety during the procedure that doesn’t get in the way of completing it – Chattering and joking, when it’s possible, are mine. If that, breathing, counting, or something else helps you to be brave, go for it. I have in the past told medical professionals that I would probably chat or use humour to calm my nerves and get through the procedure. They were never surprised. They’ve seen it all before.

 

  1. Keep yourself in the present moment – Focusing on your breath and breathing is a healthy distraction from wondering how the test is going, what are they finding, etc. However, if breathing has an impact on the procedure (there are procedures where you may have to hold your breath or breathe a certain way), then focus on what is in front of you – what you see, what you are holding on to, etc. Or ask if you can wear headphones during the procedure as you may be able to listen to a podcast or your favourite music.

 

  1. Have a mental happy place you can take yourself to – favourite holiday spot, a place you’ve always wanted to travel to, imaginary dream home, you score the winning goal in the World Cup final (whenever England get there), you achieve something great you’ve always wanted to, etc. This is a day dream that makes you feel happy.

 

  1. Have pen and paper with you to write down how you are feeling or use your phone to type it out while you are waiting. That is how this blog post was born.

 

  1. If thoughts are being pesky like annoying internet pop-up windows, imagine crumpling them up and throwing them in the medical waste bin. Or being taken away by a healthcare professional leaving the room. Or imagine putting the thought on a cloud and watching a strong wind blow it away. And if you find your self-talk containing a lot of ‘I should have…’, stop and remind yourself to be gentle with yourself.

 

  1. If you can, take someone with you to the procedure/treatment. Having someone else to talk to whilst you are waiting for procedures and scans can be a good distraction, enjoyable, and calming. If that is not possible, call or visit a good friend or family member afterwards to talk about it. I dropped in on a friend of mine on the way home (unannounced) and she fed me tasty vegetarian lentils and chocolate cake. Her company and food were very restorative!

 

Here are 10 ways to keep #scanxiety – scan anxiety – at bay during a #medicalprocedure or #scan tell a friend

 

Picture of 10 ways to manage scanxiety (scan anxiety)

10 ways to manage scanxiety (scan anxiety)

 

These 10 tips are a starting point. Keep seeking to learn new techniques and approaches so you have a toolbox of them. That way, if you can’t use one during a procedure or scan, you can use another one.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What have you found to help you keep scanxiety at bay during procedures, scans and doctor appointment? Share your thoughts in the comments below as we may all learn something new to add to our toolbox.

If you are living with a chronic illness or the after effects of a serious illness, or are caring for someone who is and would like support to manage anxiety and have good relationships with healthcare professionals, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although this blog is written in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

 

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Convalescence after illness is a lost art

Convalescence after illness is a lost art

I think convalescence after illness has become a lost art. This thought occurred to me last week whilst being horizontal due to the winter flu, which hit me hard this year, and still getting emails from people offering alternative dates for meetings I cancelled due to the illness.

Last week I was feeling battered and bruised by flu. Not only did I have the flu symptoms to contend with but also their impact on existing symptoms I live with due to having had Transverse Myelitis. An illness can exacerbate TM symptoms and it can also take longer to recuperate from an illness. I wasn’t in a good place.

As I laid on the sofa looking out the window at a brick wall, I thought back to last year when I had the flu and after the worst was over, was still affected for a further month. I resolved that this year I would do what I did last year and not return to work, activities, etc. at full throttle. But this year, given I was hit harder than last year, I would also convalesce.

Picture of window with a view of brick wall

View whilst ill with flu last week.

 

But I am not finding convalescing easy. Work and activities are tugging at me demanding my attention. Life wants me back on the dance floor. I want to dance. But I also want to rest as fatigue has taken up residence, is still visiting, and I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep for over a week now. Thankfully the fatigue is now just a thin bed sheet rather than the thick and heavy blanket it was last week. But still, it is a sign that continued rest is necessary.

If you live with a serious health issue, particularly chronic illnesses that just don’t stop, you probably inadvertently convalesce because you have to. Yet there is that desire to return to activities you can. This blog is for you. If you do not live with a serious health issue of any sort, this blog is especially for you.

I want to resurrect the lost of art of convalescence and by doing that hopefully start a change in society’s thinking regarding recovery from common illnesses such as the flu.

 

What is convalescence after illness?

 

Convalesce means to

  • Recover one’s health and strength over a period of time after an illness or medical treatment (Oxford Dictionary, 2018)
  • To rest in order to get better after an illness (Cambridge Dictionary, 2018)

You look up synonyms for the word convalescence and you see words such as

  • recuperation, recovery, return to health, process of getting better, rehabilitation, improvement, mending, restoration

So there’s a period of illness, THEN there’s a period of convalescing. One comes after the other.

 

Pic of a person resting when ill then sitting in a chair convalescing

When you are ill, you sleep and rest. THEN you convalesce. It’s about a gradual return to your work, activities and life.

 

But in our drive to do, work, achieve, we have stripped out convalescence, that period of mending and restoration. So much so, I am not sure as a society we know how to convalesce anymore. It is becoming a lost art. And this is where I think people living with chronic illness may have something to teach us.

 

Why has convalescence after illness become a lost art?

 

Illness in our society has become something to get over as quickly as possible. In some ways I get that because being ill is not pleasant. We may be in pain and feel distinctly unwell and that prevents us from doing things we enjoy and want to be doing.

On the other hand, illness happens. It is part and parcel of life. Just as sometimes we are happy and other times we are sad and upset.

I think of the commercials which show someone with cold or flu-like symptoms who looks and feels awful, they take the medication being advertised, and lo and behold they are as good as new! They continue with working and being productive! Amazing!

That medication must be magic because I took that kind of stuff all last week and it may have taken the edge off the symptoms, but those symptoms were still very much present.

I appreciate the commercials are trying to sell us the dream of instant good health, yet seeing these kind of commercials over and over again can set an expectation (if you let it) –  If you take medication, you will be fine, and can continue with your work and activities.

I also think of workplaces that want a sick note from your doctor after a week of being absent due to illness. Having worked in HR, I know the reasons for this and they are sound. But still, does it send the message that you can’t be ill for long?

Illnesses generally don’t work to others’ timing expectations. They come, take up residence and in some cases, don’t budge for a very long time.

These reasons also point to why is it so hard to convalesce after illness. Expectations have developed in our society that A) medication will sort you out, B) so you won’t be ill for long and can get back to work, activities, etc. and C) therefore you should not be ill for long. If people are holding these expectations, and coupled with the always on culture of mobile phones and social media, it’s not surprising that convalescence after illness has become a lost art.

 

It’s hard to #convalesce after #illness because expectations have developed in our society that A) medication will sort you out B) so you won’t be ill for long and can get back to work, activities, etc. and C) therefore you should… tell a friend

 

What are the benefits of convalescence after illness?

 

Convalescence after illness allows your body to return to health and wellness. Even if you have a chronic illness (but your definition of health will most likely have changed and be different than pre-illness).

Here’s an example. Think of your body as a town. When you get ill, it’s like a gang coming in to your town and defacing a part of it. The town council sends out its workers to make repairs. The workers make the structural repairs but there is still painting to do.

However, with the structural repairs having been made you feel better. So you go back to your work and activities. Meanwhile, the workers are busy painting so the buildings have a layer of protection against the weather.

Given the workers are busy, another gang sees that the town is an easy target and strikes another part of it. Some of the workers are diverted to fix that damage. They have been working night and day and they are tired. They haven’t had a rest in ages it seems.

There’s also been some bad weather and the first site has experienced damage again. The roads also need clearing of tree debris and potholes need fixing. The town is in a right state and doesn’t have enough workers to fix all the damage. The workers who are working haven’t had a rest in a long time, are tired and getting sick themselves.

The point here is that even though we may feel better, our bodies are still in fix and repair mode. And we need to give our bodies time to go through that healing process so it’s fortified against future gang attacks and unexpected bad weather.

 

Ill with the #commoncold or #flu this winter season? Even though you may be feeling better, your body could still be in fix and repair mode. Give yourself time to #convalesce tell a friend

 

How do you convalesce?

 

Create space to focus on you

  • Clear your diary. When doing this, budget twice the amount of time you think it will take to get better.
  • Turn on your out of office on your email accounts. Do the equivalent on social media.
  • Manage other people’s expectations – Tell people you’ll respond when you feel better and you are not wholly sure when that will be. If they keep contacting you, don’t respond. You’ve told them once.
  • Manage your own expectations – You may miss deadlines. Others may not be wholly happy about that. But the world will not end.

Look after your body

  • Have someone help you stock up on your favourite warming drinks – herbal tea, chicken broth and lemsips are mine. If you have someone who can make them for you, give them that job. And drink lots of water.
  • If you can eat, continue with a balanced diet. It’s tempting to eat pasta, but a week of that isn’t good for your digestive track. Trust me on this one. If you have someone who can help, get them to do the cooking.

Rest and gentle activities

  • If you feel well enough to read, great. If not, it’s an opportunity to watch daytime telly. Or catch up on anything you have recorded. Other gentle activities ca be knitting, drawing, or just day dreaming.
  • If there is no energy for gentle activities, find a nice view to look at. One that is better than a brick wall. Good views feed the soul. Views can also be found online.
  • Enforced time out can be a blessing in disguise. You have time to reflect, dream, think about anything you want to do differently.

 

How do you #convalesce after #illness? Create space to focus on you. Look after your body. Rest and gentle activities. tell a friend

 

As for me. I needed that reminder! I’m focusing on doing two work tasks a day. I have a few meetings in the latter half of this week but I am doing those from home. And I’m off to drink this restorative veggie and fruit smoothie.

 

Picture of a glass of smoothie spinach pineapple apple cucumber lime

Smoothie = spinach + pineapple + apple + cucumber + lime

 

What’s it like for you?

 

If you are living with a serious health issue or chronic illness, what convalescence advice would you give to our friends who don’t have one but currently have the common cold or flu? What do you do to help you stay as well as you can? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although this blog is written in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

References

Definitions for convalescence downloaded from the online Oxford and Cambridge Dictionaries 30th January 2018

  • https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/convalesce
  • https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/convalesce
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