How to identify what your illness taught you this year

How to identify what your illness taught you this year

You may not like reading ‘what your illness taught you’. As if you have something to learn. As if the illness is the teacher, the one in control, and you the pupil, the one who has to listen and do what the teacher says.

Living with a challenging health issue can feel like that. You being at the mercy of the illness or injury, dancing to its tune, being obliging, feeling like you are not in control.

That is not my aim here. You didn’t ask for the illness or injury to happen, yet you have to live with its impact. My aim is to help you proactively identify what your illness taught you this past year and therefore what changes you may wish to make next year. You doing this puts you in control.

This blog outlines five questions to help you do that.

I also write this for those of you in a caring/supporting role because you too are impacted by your loved one’s health issue. And when I say illness, I also mean injury or any kind of health issue you find challenging.

Picture of a man holding a large open blank book which has the titles ‘Your 2018’ and ‘Your Learning’ on the pages. There is the question ‘What have you learned from your illness or injury this past year?’

What your illness taught you – The good stuff

What was one good thing which came out of you or a loved one having the illness, injury or another type of health challenge?

Good things can come out of not-so-good and downright bad situations. It may take some work to find those good things. But looking for the good balances out the sad and bad things about a health challenge. And that is the aim of this question.

The good thing may be about you as a person, the people around you, or your life circumstances. You may have learnt who is super supportive, strengths you have, and even abilities you didn’t know you had. You may have learnt to take more time for yourself. Or that living your life at a slower pace is better for you. Or taking care of your needs is not selfish but absolutely necessary.

Were there any other good things? You don’t have to limit it to just one. Find as many as you can.

How can you build on these good things next year?

This is about building on the good things you learned with intention to make sure they stick around in your life.

For example, have you discovered an ability you didn’t know you had? Like a high level of resilience? An artistic talent? Something else? How can you exercise this ability more next year?

Or did you make new friendships? How can you be in contact with these people more often?

Or did you and your partner discover how supportive you are to each other?

What your illness taught you – The bad stuff

What has been the worst thing about having to deal with the illness or injury this year?

I don’t mean to be a downer here. Or open the door for endless moaning. The purpose of this question is to acknowledge the hard bits. To give them their place in the narrative of your (or your loved one’s) health issue and life. By doing that, you put them in their place so they don’t run riot in your life. That way you can move forward from it.

This may be about symptoms that are not easy to manage. Dealing with the uncertainty of fluctuating symptoms and/or relapse of the health issue, the loss of friends who seemed to have vanished when your illness arrived, a loss of a bit of your health and sense of control, confidence, or something else. It can be things that you miss. Or dealing with difficult feelings.

List them. And ensure to spend an equal amount of time on the first question too. Remember, this is about keeping as much of a balance as you can. And I don’t want you to unpack and live in this question, i.e. only focus on the bad stuff.

What are you learning from these not-so-good things?

Identifying what you are learning from the bad bits makes having gone thru them a little more worthwhile. You come out of it with something useful to you to help you move forward.

It’s akin to the saying, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ You didn’t choose for you or your loved one to have a challenging health issue, so how can you extract some goodness from it.

Picture of a woman holding lemons asking ‘What am I going to do with all these lemons?’ A man responds, ‘Make lemonade! We like lemonade.’ The caption reads making something good from your Illness or injury.

The learning can be about your preferences for the future, things you need to learn, what you may need to let go of or something else.

For example, by losing some friends, you may have learned what qualities are important to you in a friendship.

You may have identified you need to learn how to manage some symptoms differently like fatigue or chronic pain to have a better quality of life.

Learning how to deal with the difficult feelings so they don’t feel like they are dominating your life may be higher on your agenda.

You may have learned that you need to let go of achieving things to feed your sense of self-worth.

Finally, what is it about you that has enabled you to get this far?

This is a favourite question of mine. I ask it a lot. The purpose of this question is to remind you of your strengths and abilities. Of all the good qualities about yourself that you really value. Because you have many. Sit with these qualities, strengths, passions and abilities and cherish them. And ask yourself this question again from time to time.

What your illness taught you this year, you can take into next year – what to do more of, what to continue doing, what to stop and start doing.

I am actually writing this blog in New York City. I arrived yesterday for my holidays. So this blog will be the last one for this year. I am aiming to publish 2019’s first blog on 9th January. In the meantime, have a lovely holiday season however you are celebrating it and a very happy new year!

What’s it like for you?

What has been the most important thing you learned from your or your loved one’s health challenge this year? Are there any changes you plan to make next year as a result? 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 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 the most of life after illness

How to make the most of life after illness

Make the most of life after illness – This was one of the biggest things I learned from having a serious illness and being a carer. Life is fragile. And short. Much shorter than we expected or intended.

For me, one way to make the most of life after illness has been to work for myself so I can work flexibly, create work that genuinely helps people and brings something good into our world. I often think about it as making my corner of the world a better place.

But then I discovered something.

 

To make the most of life after illness in the way I want to, I need to ‘put myself out there’

 

I need to put my head above the parapet.

If I am to grow the work I want to do, I need to get the word out there and show people what I am really about.

 

I need to make myself (even more) vulnerable

 

Picture of a woman putting her ahead above the parapet. It's about making yourself vulnerable to make the most of life after illness.

 

And here I thought life was going to be easy! I know what’s important to me, my strengths, passions and my work caters to all that. I thought I had it sorted and that I had been making myself vulnerable.

But I’m not quite there yet. And may never be if I’m honest. Having it ‘all sorted’ is a pipe dream destination. I have to remind myself that ‘good enough’ is great. But I digress.

I started to wonder why am I worried about making myself even more vulnerable?

 

Vulnerability can hold you back from making the most of your life after illness

 

I think it’s because how we interpret ‘vulnerability’ as a society. The English Oxford dictionary defines vulnerability as:

The quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

You read that and think, ‘Whoa! Who wants to put themselves in that position?!’ That is something we actively avoid.

If you’ve been seriously ill or injured or in a caring role, you’ve already experienced enough physical and/or emotional ‘harm’. (I am using the word ‘harm’ loosely here although some of you may have felt genuinely harmed by your or your loved one’s illness or injury.) So why would you put yourself potentially through more?

 

And yet, making yourself vulnerable may enable you to make the most of life after illness

 

It will of course depend on what making the most of your life means to you now. And what you need to do and be to make that happen. Different things will be required for different people.

For me, making myself (even more) vulnerable is what I need to do.

 

Picture of a woman holding a winning ticket from the proactive vulnerability lottery and there is a bucket of resources behind her in which you can see courage. It will take courage for the woman to display her vulnerability, but by doing that she will make the most of life after illness

 

On some level, I knew this. I’ve known that doing my own thing for work was very much about ‘putting myself out there’. Yet, intentionally making myself even more vulnerable as I ‘put myself out there’ has been reinforced in a different way through conversations I’ve had recently.

One conversation was with two women I’ve been working with. The second is with my therapist when we discussed perpetrator and victim dynamics in my family system.

In both conversations, we discussed the pros and cons of vulnerability. This is what vulnerability now means to me.

 

There are two kinds of vulnerability

 

It’s like two sides of the same coin.

The vulnerability of being a victim where you are (or feel you are) being on the receiving end of something not very nice from another person or event (like an illness or injury).

The other side of vulnerability is proactively expressing what we need or want to and sharing with others.

They have very different energies.

 

The vulnerability of being the victim can be a passive energy

 

When you place yourself in the victim role, you are not truly seen by others. Although this may feel like a safe place and/or meet a need of yours, others may be less aware of your needs and forget about you.

In this case, it is harder for you to get your needs met. You may have to do things by yourself to get your needs met. That can also be a lonely place at times. I know. I lived a good portion my life in that place of passivity.

 

When you express what you need or want to others or share something important, you are expressing a vulnerability, but the energy behind it is active

 

You are taking proactive action to meet your needs, wants or desires. It takes courage to display vulnerability in this way. Especially because whoever you are expressing your vulnerability to can say no. They may not be able to help you, to support you, to love you back in the way you want to be loved, or whatever it is you want.

I don’t think the English Oxford dictionary above fully recognises this proactive form of vulnerability. But the work of Brene Brown does. She defines vulnerability as ‘uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure’.

In her book Daring Greatly, she talks about “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper or more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings.” (pg. 33)

 

Picture of a coin and it demonstrates there are two sides to vulnerability. Victim vulnerability which is a passive energy and proactive vulnerability which is an active energy. Proactive vulnerability requires courage and it can help you make the most of life after illness.

 

This proactive form of vulnerability requires us to display more of who we are, not just the edited bits we show to the world. That is where the ‘uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure’ come in. Yet being and showing more of who we are is often required to make the most of life after illness.

 

You can sense check what form of vulnerability you’re displaying

 

The Empowerment Triangle (Karpman, 1968) is the flip side of the Drama Triangle (which I won’t go into today) and both are about power, responsibility and vulnerability. This model displays the proactive form of vulnerability.

 

 

For this form of proactive vulnerability to work well, you need the powerful and responsible aspects too.

 

So I’ll display my vulnerability (proactively)

 

I entered the UK Blog Awards as a way to share my thoughts, ideas and stories about rebuilding and renewing your life after a serious health issue more widely in the world. And to increase my and Return to Wellness’s visibility.

This is very much about me being proactive and putting myself and my work out there. I am putting my head above the parapet waiting for feedback whatever form that feedback takes.

This leads me to an ask I have. If you have enjoyed this blog (and maybe even others I have written), vote for Return to Wellness here.

Thank you.

 

Picture of Vote for my blog! Return to Wellness #UKBA19 UK Blog Awards

 

What about you?

 

What do you need to do to make the most of life after illness? To what degree do you need to be vulnerable (as described here) to do that? Feel free to share below in the comments. Alternatively, you can use the contact form in the sidebar to email me direct.

If you are living with a challenging 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.

 

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

References

Karpman, S. (1968). Fairy tales and script drama analysis. Transactional Analysis Bulletin, 7(26), 39-43.

 

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How to increase your self-worth after illness or injury

How to increase your self-worth after illness or injury

To increase your self-worth after illness or injury can feel like a mammoth task. You’ve been thrown into this unknown land of serious illness or injury, you can’t do what you once did, and you don’t know what to do to feel better. You may feel like you have lost control and aren’t sure who you are anymore. It’s understandable that your confidence takes a nose dive and your self-worth quickly follows.

So I have an exercise to help you increase your self-worth after illness or injury. It’s easy. And fun. It also ties in nicely with last week’s blog where I wrote about adjusting high standards after an illness or injury and maintaining your self-worth in the process. This exercise can help with that too.

I came up with this idea when chatting to a participant after delivering a self-management course about developing ways to manage one’s health condition. The exercise was well received. So I’m sharing it with you.

It doesn’t matter if you have the illness or injury, how long it’s been since you’ve had it or are the carer. This exercise applies to everyone.

 

Increase your self-worth after illness or injury exercise

 

Have you experienced a #seriousillness #seriousinjury or have a #chronicillenss? Does your #confidence and #selfworth feel low? Increase them w/ this exercise tell a friend

 

1. Make a list of actions you can take which will make you feel better, enhance how you look after yourself, contribute towards your sense of wellness

 

These actions can be behavioural actions, something someone would see you do or hear you say. Or they can be more mental based, internal to you.

The actions can be related to different parts of your life – how you feel in yourself, your physical wellness, managing your health condition, your recovery/rehabilitation, family relationships, social life, job/career, faith, life purpose, adjusting your own personal high standards, etc.

Here is my list

  • Stretch every day and do it during the day so I get away from my desk and computer.
  • Walk to the shops every day.
  • Reduce portion sizes at meals by 1/3.
  • Move to blogging weekly. Write the blog for the next week on a Friday.
  • When I get into the typical negative thought cycle that I do, stop and ask myself, ‘What do I really need right now?’
  • I imagine being in touch with a friend. So I will email or text them to start the conversation in real life.
  • Someone compliments me. I will thank the person and I will not say, ‘Oh, that was nothing,’ as that is minimising what I did. I will also sit with the compliment, notice the positive feelings it gives me and let myself feel how good it makes me feel.
  • I will tell myself I am a good person just because.
  • Take a luxurious bubble bath once a week.

These are real and current for me right now.

 

It’s important to notice the characteristics of the actions, as they help to contribute towards your self-worth.

 

There are a variety of actions, which is good as I am not relying on one type to increase my self-worth.

The actions are helping me to make a change I want for myself. So it’s ok if the actions will be repeated. An action promoting change has to be repeated for the change to become a habit.

They focus on various aspects of my life promoting me to look after myself physically, emotionally, etc.

These actions are FOR ME. And this is incredibly important. When setting your actions, make sure they are FOR YOU. Not purely what other people want you to do for them or actions you want to take to please others.

What I don’t want is for you to end up in a cycle of achieving things to please others to feed your self-worth. It may increase your self-worth, but if these are the only actions which feed your self-worth it gets very tiring after a while and is not sustainable. I know, I did it for a good part of my life.

It’s fine to have some actions which benefit both you and others, like focusing on spending more time with your children, older parents, friends, volunteering, etc.

And it’s fine to have everyday actions that nurture you in some way – making time to read a good book, or have a cup of quiet tea in the morning before the family wakes up, or taking a bubble bath.

 

Pic of a person holding their hands over their heart and the actions they have taken to feed their self-worth

What action are you taking to feed your self-worth?

 

If you want a structured exercise to help you set actions for this exercise, then get the free Wellness Assessment from the homepage of my website. It will help you to set goals in areas of your life important to you, and then the actions you can take to start moving yourself towards them.

 

2. Find a jar with a wide enough opening to put things in

 

This is your Self-worth Jar. Make sure the jar is such that you can see the contents inside of it, i.e. clear glass or plastic.

Feel free to decorate it as much or as little as you wish.

If you don’t have a jar, a vase can work well.

 

Picture of a clear glass jar and vases which can be used as your self-worth jar

 

3. Find an object to represent the actions you plan to take

 

This can be marbles, stones or gravel, or other small objects. They could even be from nature: acorns, conkers, pinecones, shells. You’ll need a number of these. Or you can use a piece of paper with your action written on it.

Feel free to use a mixture of small items to represent the actions you will take.

Make sure the items representing your actions are in proportion to the size of your Self-Worth Jar. If you jar is too big and the items representing your actions really small, it can take a long time to fill up your jar. You want to make this process achievable for yourself.

 

Picture of everyday items like stones gravel shells conkers and corks which can be used to put in your self-worth jar every time you take an action that increases your self-worth

 

4. Every time you take one of your actions, put an object in your Self-Worth Jar

 

Pic of items (conkers) in a self-worth jar. The conkers represent an action taken to increase one's self-worth.

 

When you do that, metaphorically pat yourself on your back, give yourself a high-5 and tell yourself well done. Notice the feelings you feel and identify where in your body you feel them. Sit with these feelings for a bit. This is REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT TO DO.

I cannot emphasise this enough. When you do this you are learning or reminding yourself:

  • What it feels like to do something positive and nurturing for yourself
  • What it feels like to set goals which are good for you and to move towards them
  • How good it feels to achieve something for yourself
  • That it’s ok to do something good purely for yourself
  • That you are good and fine just the way you are right now.

Watch your jar fill up. Bask in your self-worth.

When you do something good for yourself, notice the feelings you feel and identify where in your body you feel them. Read why that is important here #healthcoaching tell a friend

 

5. When your jar is full, continue basking in your self-worth

 

Notice the feelings you feel and identify where in your body you feel them. Sit with these feelings. I say it again – This is REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT TO DO.

BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT YOUR SELF-WORTH FEELS LIKE!

And when you know what your self-worth feels like, and you consciously and intentionally practice what it feels like, it starts to become a natural and habitual part of you. This helps you to increase your self-worth.

 

Pic of a person taking a bath but they are bathing in their self-worth

Take the time to bathe in your self-worth

 

You can empty the jar and start again. You may wish to note somewhere when you have filled up a jar just to remind yourself from time-to-time of how you have helped yourself.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What do you think of this Self-Worth Jar exercise? What strategies have you used to increase your confidence, self-esteem and self-worth?

Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below. If you don’t want to do that because the comments are public, send them to me using the contact form below.

Feel free to start your Self-Worth Jar and share it on social media and tag me using the hashtag #selfworthjar

Twitter – @barbara_babcock

Facebook – @ReturnToWellnessUK

Instagram – @returntowellness_UK

LinkedIn – bbabcock

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, 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.

 

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

 

If you want to leave a comment privately, complete this form. If you want to leave it publicly, keep scrolling.

 

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Why adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury helps

Why adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury helps

Adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury often helps people to live well with the impact but can be such a hard thing to do. So when clients say to me they have personal high standards for themselves, they are proud of them because they have enabled them to achieve so much, I get that. And I also make a note of it. (and I still make a note when I notice my own high standards) Here’s why.

Adjusting your personal high standards after #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury often helps people to live well with the impact but can be such a hard thing to do. tell a friend

 

Usually these clients have done bucket loads to help their recovery. Regularly doing physiotherapy, learning about the medical condition, reading books, taking up new hobbies and more. But they find they still aren’t where they want and expect to be.

 

Pic of a person with a disability sitting, crying and wondering why they still don't feel good even though they have been doing a lot to help themselves.

 

That is often when we start working together. I can see how their high standards are one of the things getting in the way of them finding a sense of peace in living in their changed bodies. Here is a typical example of what that looks like in action.

 

Personal high standards can create a vicious cycle

 

Client decides on a task or an activity to do or sets herself a goal.

She has to put in more physical effort to complete the task, activity or goal than in her pre-illness days.

Client worries about having the physical ability and stamina to finish the activity or task.

She compares herself and abilities to her pre-illness self. (This is where pre-illness high standards take over.)

Client continues trying to complete the task, activity or goal to the same standards as pre-illness.

But it’s taking a long time and it’s a lot harder.

She feels anxiety as a result.

Client does not relax.

She therefore does not enjoy the activity.

The client gets upset with herself.

You can see how the high standards from her pre-illness days were making were making her life difficult. They can lead to a vicious cycle and get in the way of a person making the change they want for themselves.

When your body has changed considerably, you end up putting a lot more physical, mental and emotional effort to do things you once did. And that can make it difficult for you to meet your pre-illness high standards. The high standards suited your body and capabilities as they were then, not now.

 

Pic of a person trying to push a heavy rock of personal high standards up a hill but not getting anywhere. Another person tells them that they adjusted their standards and they have been easier to carry ever since.

 

I’ve noticed that when people realise this and importantly, acknowledge this is their reality, that can then free up their energy to do something different to help themselves get to where they want to be.

 

Acknowledging your high standards are no longer achievable or difficult to achieve may not be an easy process

 

This needs to be respected I feel. The person is experiencing a HUGE change, often a life-changing change, which they may be finding traumatic. How their illness or injury occurred could also have been a traumatic event for them. Gentleness and compassion are needed.

I want to explain why this process of acknowledging their reality and adjusting personal high standards after illness or injury is not always easy for people.

 

1. When you experience a life-changing illness or injury, you don’t know what you don’t know

 

As I’ve said in previous blogs, it’s not like you get a handbook on how to deal with the change, adjust, move on with your life and be happy. So of course, you will be operating to your pre-illness or pre-injury standards. It is what you know.

 

2. Your willingness in adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury plays an important role

 

Your willingness will have an impact on how you adapt to living with the impact. Unwillingness to adjust can take several forms.

Your willingness to adjust your personal high standards after #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury plays an important role. Read more here. tell a friend

 

2a. You don’t give yourself choices

 

Some people can operate in a such a way where they don’t give themselves choices in adjusting their personal high standards after illness or injury. For example, ‘I can be like I was or not. Not being like I used to be is not an option. So I’m going to do things as I used to do.’

This can feel a very black and white approach to the situation where only one way is acceptable.

 

2b. You associate your high standards with who you are as a person

 

If you associate your high standards with the sense of who you are as a person, your sense of identity, this can make it difficult to adjust them. For example,

I am a high-achiever.’

When we say I am such-and-such, the I am is fixed. There isn’t much movement to it.

Instead, have a go at saying, 

I work hard and put in a lot of effort to do a lot of things very well.’

That is more process-based, which means it is based on behaviours, i.e. working hard, putting in a lot of effort. When you make your way of being in the world based more on behaviours, there is more movement and flexibility. You can start to adjust how hard you work, how much effort you put in to things. (I am really hoping this makes sense, but if not, leave a question in the comments and I’ll respond.)

If you also place a high value on being this way as a person, this too can contribute to less willingness to adjust your high standards. For example,

am a high-achiever and it’s a great way for me to be.’

This can be hard to let go of. And I get why. Being the high achiever could have served you very well and you’ve done great things with it. There can also be that fear of,

‘If I let go of this, will it mean I am any less great/good as a person?’

Not only are we adjusting our high standards of ourselves, we are also adjusting the value we place on those standards and the value we place on ourselves as a consequence of living to those standards. It’s about adjusting your high standards and maintaining your self-worth.

 

2c. Adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury means you are acknowledging what has happened

 

When adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury, it also means you are acknowledging the change you’ve experienced. If the change was unwelcomed and not wanted, which most serious illnesses and injuries are, acknowledging the change can be harder.

 

Pic of a person with a disability sitting down and crying about having to deal with the change they never would have chosen for themselves and not being able to accept it.

 

I am using the word acknowledgement on purpose. Many times I hear people say accept. Re-read the previous paragraph using the word accepting instead of acknowledging. Notice any differences you feel.

Sometimes the meaning people give to the word accept can have a not-very-helpful impact on their adjustment process. (I will be writing more about this in the future, but for now if you want to share with me your experience of acceptance in the context of living with a serious health issue, there’s more on that below.)

The above three reasons explain why being willing to adjust our high standards can be hard and why this process must be handled with respect, care and compassion.

 

But having high standards isn’t a bad thing

 

I am not saying having high standards are bad and you can no longer have them. They can have a positive impact:

  • Motivating you to set goals and strive to meet them, which is great for your psychological health (provided the goals and the process are striving towards them are not harming you or others physically or psychologically).
  • Enabling you to achieve more than you originally thought possible.
  • The sense of achievement can feed your self-worth.

All good stuff.

Important Tangent: It’s recommended that your sense of self-worth comes from many sources, not just achieving things particularly if it’s to gain the approval of others.

Having personal high standards when living with #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury isn’t a bad thing. The key thing is being able to adjust them as and when you need to. tell a friend

 

The key thing is adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury to the person you are now physically and psychologically. This is one of the things which helps to bring that sense of peace back into your life. And it’s an ongoing process. You can continue to adjust your personal high standards throughout your life.

 

A mind map of what helps you to adjust your high standards of yourself after illness or injury. Being wiling to adjust them is key.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

Does any of this resonate with you? What has helped you in adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

I appreciate though leaving a comment publicly about your health situation may not be your thing. So if you want to share it with me privately, complete the contact form below and I will respond.

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to adjust your personal standards, 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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Guidance for living well with a serious illness or injury

Guidance for living well with a serious illness or injury

You may not be given guidance for living well with a serious illness or injury: what to do, what to avoid, etc. And in the early stages, a lot of your energies are focused on treatment, surviving the ordeal and recovery.

But then a few months or even years after the medical crisis, there’s that part of you that doesn’t feel quite right, definitely not the same as before. Living in a changed body and that experience of losing control can take its toll not just on your physical body, but your mind, heart and soul. I am writing this post to speak to that part of you.

 

Healing your heart, mind and soul

 

I believe that to bring healing to our hearts, minds and souls, we have to get to know ourselves in ways we may not have had to prior to the illness or injury.

People often say they love people watching and learning about how ‘people tick’. The work I am speaking about is learning about how you tick so you have greater control over your emotional, psychological and soul health.

I want to share with you some questions which will help you get to know yourself better and thereby develop your own set of guidance for living well with a serious illness or injury.

I came across these questions whilst travelling across the internet. They were created by John O’Donohue, an Irish poet, author, philosopher and one-time priest. He is no longer with us, which is a shame as his work is lovely. I learned they come from the book To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. So of course I immediately purchased it to add to my collection.

 

Pic of book To Bless The Space Between Us

New book in the house!

 

The book offers thoughts or ‘blessings’ for periods of change in your life whether that be marriage, birth, new job, new home, adulthood, illness or something else. They are meant to help you on your journey from the known into the unknown, which a transition such as a serious illness or injury is all about. It’s very good. And it’s a book you dip into as and when.

Here are the questions.

 

At the End of the Day: A Mirror of Questions

Copyright © 2007 by John O’ Donohue

What dreams did I create last night?
Where did my eyes linger today?
Where was I blind?
Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?
What did I learn today?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice in those closest to me?
Whom did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin today that might endure?
How were my conversations?
What did I do today for the poor and the excluded?
Did I remember the dead today?
Where could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom today did I feel most myself?
What reached me today? How deeply did it imprint?
Who saw me today?
What visitations had I from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid today?
From the evidence – why was I given this day?

 

Thought provoking aren’t they?

 

Pic of woman reading thought provoking questions which get her to think about how her day was

Reflecting on how your day was

 

If you wish, buy the book. Put the questions somewhere where you will see them every day. It may be enough to glance over them and keep them in mind as you go about your day.

For others, you may wish to use this to explore yourself more deeply and write responses to these questions. Particularly if you are on a quest to change something about yourself (even if you don’t know what that is yet). How often you write your responses is up to you. Some of you may wish to do it every day, or every few days or once a week.

These questions provoke deeper thought, the kind of reflection that helps you identify patterns and themes and identify the changes you wish to make. Self-reflection promotes self-awareness, one of the critical components of change.

 

Pic of formula of change equals self-reflection plus intention plus action

A formula for change

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What do you think of these questions? Which ones particularly resonated with you? Are there questions you ask yourself which you don’t see here? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, 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.

 

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.

Questions by John O’Donohue. The rest of the blog is written and pictures drawn or photographed by Barbara Babcock, 2018.

 

References

As published in the USA – O’Donohue, J. (2008) To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. New York, USA: Doubleday.

As published in the UK – O’Donohue, J. (2007) Benedictus: A Book of Blessings. London, UK: Bantam Press.

 

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Restoring purpose and meaning in your life when living with a limiting illness

Restoring purpose and meaning in your life when living with a limiting illness

Restoring purpose and meaning in your life when living with a limiting illness or injury can feel nigh on impossible at times. Particularly if the illness or injury means your symptoms fluctuate unpredictably, or you don’t get support you need, and/or you have to spend a large amount of your time resting and indoors on your own.

You may feel like so much has been taken from you – your independence; social life, job/career; financial stability; ability to do favourite activities; enjoyment from those activities; roles you value in life like being a parent, son, daughter, sibling, friend. So of course you may feel that there isn’t purpose and meaning in your life.

Picture of person sad because purpose and meaning are hiding from their life

When purpose and meaning are hiding from your life

 

And yet, it is so important to have purpose and meaning. It is healthy food for your psychological and emotional health, your self-esteem and sense of self-worth. I say this based on previous clients reporting that when they have resolved an issue, or found a new way to approach situations they previously found stressful or co-exist more peacefully with their illness, they felt better in themselves and that their life was more than their illness.

When living with a #serioushealthissue #chronicillness #seriousillness #seriousinjury it’s important to have purpose & meaning in your life. It's the food for your psychological & emotional health, your self-esteem &… tell a friend

 

So how do you restore purpose and meaning in your life in this situation? Using one person’s story which was recently available on the internet, I’m going to share key elements of it and how that can help in restoring purpose and meaning.

In some ways, I feel uncomfortable writing about someone I have never met. Yet his story resonated with me. It feels affirming. That even in circumstances you would never have chosen, it is possible to restore purpose and meaning. I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to do, something like this is a journey. Just that it’s possible. It also reminded me of the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.

My thinking is you don’t get a how-to-have-a-good-life manual when you get a life-changing serious illness or injury. By sharing what I think this person is doing, my intentions are to write part of the manual in a sense and hopefully help others.

 

The story

 

Michael van Huffel has Myalgic Encephalopathy/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). ME is also referred to as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. It is a neuroimmune condition which affects every person differently and it can be very debilitating.

Michael’s story was profiled by the BBC. Here is a summary of it, which was taken from that article and here and here.

Michael had to stop working in his career as an artist, animator, Creative Director and musician, has expensive medical bills, and lives in in a one room apartment. Due to his illness, he doesn’t often get to go outside and socialising primarily takes place online.

He was given a phone on a family plan. A friend suggested they do a photo-a-day project. He started to do that using what is available to him – scraps of things, flowers, a jar, water. His range for collecting these items isn’t far, they are found close to his apartment and on short walks.

Michael takes photos, something which he can do, and makes the subject of them appear like something which they aren’t. The photos can represent the emotional state he’s in when he is taking them. Or sometimes he just takes a picture of something because he wants to. He takes the photos at night when he tends to feel better.

He mentions about working within the restrictions he lives with, how creating art allows him to feel productive, and how that is giving him hope and a purpose.

 

A guide to restoring purpose and meaning in your life 

 

These are the key elements I identified in Michael’s story which help restore purpose and meaning in your life. Anything mentioned here about him is factual and taken from the sources referred to above. It’s not the whole picture of the man or his life. Where I don’t know something in relation to his story, you will see I use words like ‘possibly’, ‘probably’ or ‘suspect’ for example.

Along with the key elements, I offer some questions or pointers from a psychological and practical perspective with the aim of helping you apply these to your life. Anything in bold are the key points. They are in no particular order.

I am not saying that the following is any kind of cure for your illness or injury. It is also not a “tick box 1-2-3, do this, do that and you are sorted”. Nothing like that at all. Restoring purpose and meaning in your life is a journey, and like many journeys, it can take time.

  • Having support. A family member gave him a phone. A friend suggested the photo-a-day project. Sometimes the stimulus to make a change can come from external sources. It can also come from within you. Asking for and accepting support and help can be a hard thing to do. You can feel guilty, dependant, etc. There are reasons for that which I wrote about here. Sometimes help, when timely and appropriately given, can be the gateway to really good things for you and the person supporting you.

 

  • Have a goal – a photo-a-day, which was probably reckoned as achievable. Smalls goals are achievable and key when energy levels fluctuate and are limited. Small goals can also build on one another.

 

Picture of KISS keep your goal small and simple

Keep your goal small and simple

 

  • Have the resources to help achieve that goal or you can find them: the phone, support regarding the phone and for the project, finding the subject matter for the photos.

 

  • Michael is using what items he can when he can get them for his photos. This is about striving towards the goal. It requires him to pay attention to his immediate surroundings, which helps one to live in the moment. It requires thought and using one’s brain – how can I use this item? A goal and striving towards it helps to return purpose to your life.

 

  • He is using existing skills – art, creativity – which I suspect he values and enjoys using. What existing skills do you have which you enjoy using? But you don’t have to use existing skills. What you choose may require you to develop new skills and that’s great too.

 

  • You may have to adapt how you use your skills – Michael now uses his creative and artistic skills via photography. This adaptation takes into account what he can physically do now. If you can’t use your skills in the way you used to, in what other ways can you channel them? A willingness to adapt is key. For some this can understandably be a difficult process. When you adapt various aspects of your life, particularly when you would not have chosen to do so, you are also acknowledging that an unwanted change has taken place. So I also advise a large dose of self-compassion and tap into available support as you do this. This can help you manage and reduce the ‘negative fight’ and its impact which can occur as you adapt.

 

Picture of person drinking a large does of self-compassion to help them adapt to illness or injury

Take a large does of self-compassion as you learn to adapt

 

  • Check the flexibility of your chosen activity – Michael’s chosen activity of photography is flexible. You can do it nearly anytime anywhere. Choosing an activity which is flexible in this way gives you more opportunity to indulge in it.

 

  • The chosen activity involves creating and learning and results in achieving something, a photo. But not all activities will involve creating a tangible thing and that’s fine. You can also get a sense of achievement by finishing a book or an online course for example. It’s finding an activity that enables you to learn and achieve something you enjoy and value.

 

  • Michael referred to his photos as being a reflection of how he was feeling when he took it. That is consciously connecting with one’s emotions and feelings. Being in touch with them, even the unpleasant ones, is a psychologically healthy thing to do. I explain more about that and how to do that here. IMPORTANT: If the emotions and feelings you experience are unexpected, very strong and feel destabilising, happen a lot, and they feel uncontrollable to the point you cannot participate in the various aspects of your life, please speak to your doctor. This is a sign that another form of help is needed (than what I am qualified to provide). A counsellor/therapist may be best placed to help you and your doctor can advise you.

 

  • He takes the photos at a point in the day when he feels good enough to do so. And he is regularly doing this based on the photos in his Instagram feed. You define what ‘regularly’ means for you.

 

  • He acknowledges the various restrictions he lives with and is finding a way to work within them rather than ignoring or fighting them. When you do this, it’s not about you saying ‘yes’ to or agreeing with the restrictions you live with. Paradoxically, you end up restoring your sense of control and transcending the constraints.

 

Here are some key pointers on restoring purpose and meaning in your life after the onset of a #serioushealthissue #chronicillness #seriousillness #seriousinjury tell a friend

 

What all of this does is make room for other things you value and enjoy in your life in addition to the illness or injury. Your life becomes not just about the illness or injury.

Your focus turns towards these important things in your life, so you end up focusing less on the illness or injury. And while you do that, your sense of feeling productive and having a purpose is fed. This brings meaning to your life. Your self-esteem and sense of self-worth increases. This in turn helps to generates the resources within you to deal with the impact of your illness or injury.

Pie chart showing that when you have a restored purpose and meaning to your life less time is focused on the illness or injury

Restore purpose and meaning to your life through heart and soul energy giving projects, activities and people

 

What’s it like for you?

 

If you are looking to restore purpose and meaning in your life, which of the points above do you feel you can do? If you have started on this journey, what has worked or not for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you are living with a serious illness or injury, and would like support on restoring purpose and meaning in your life, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

I am offering a 20% discount on coaching packages between now and 31st January 2018. Quote the code #XMAS17NY18.

 

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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