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.

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.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

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.

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


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.

How to restore purpose and meaning in your life when living with illness

How to restore purpose and meaning in your life when living with 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 who is sitting in an armchair and is very 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 go about restoring purpose and meaning in your life? 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 in restoring 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.

Tap into your support network

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

Identify the resources to help you achieve that goal

For example, Michael had 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.

Use your existing skills that you value

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.

Be open to adapting

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.

Choose an activity that gives you an opportunity to create, learn and achieve something

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.

Use the activity to connect with and express how you feel

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.

Engage in your chosen activity when you can

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.

Acknowledge the constraints you have to deal with

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

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.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

How to transform the struggle of a serious health issue into acceptance – Part 3

How to transform the struggle of a serious health issue into acceptance – Part 3

Accepting a serious health issue can be hard so for the past few weeks, I’ve been describing strategies you can implement to transform that struggle into acceptance. The strategies have focused on mindfulness, how to be the fly-on-the-wall of your life, dealing with unhelpful thoughts and what acceptance really means. These strategies come from Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT). This week I explain the final two strategies: how taking Committed Action aligned to your Values are integral to getting to a place of acceptance with your health issue.

This is incredibly important. When we know what is truly important to us, we can more easily make decisions and take action in line with that. And that leads to living a meaningful life, which is what we all want for ourselves.

I’ll recap the ideas of Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) here and its benefits so you can see how all the strategies hang together. If you wish to read the series in full, you can find the first post here and the second post here. In fact, I encourage you to because it has useful ideas and strategies you can start implementing immediately. It will also give you the full picture of ACT thereby demonstrating the benefits of this talking form of help.

Taking action which aligns with what is important to us enables us to live a meaningful life #AcceptanceCommitmentTherapy tell a friend

Accepting a serious health issue – Using ACT

The official definition of Acceptance Commitment Therapy, referred to as ACT (say it as the word ‘act’), is:

‘The goal of ACT is to increase psychological flexibility: the ability to contact the present moment and the psychological reaction it produces, as a fully conscious human being, and based on the situation, to persist with or change behaviour for valued ends.’ (Harris, 2007; Mindfulness Training Ltd., 2017)

Or to put it simply – To create a rich, full and meaningful life whilst accepting the pain and suffering which goes along with it.

You may read ‘accept the pain and suffering’ and think, ‘I’ve already got accepting this serious health issue to deal with!! What the hell is she on about?!’

Let me explain. Of course, we want to be happy more than we are sad or upset, yet sometimes life throws unpleasant or downright awful things our way. Sh*t happens as they say and it’s not fun. So when I say ‘accept’ this, I am not advocating saying ‘yes, this is such a great thing to have happened!’ It’s about acknowledging that yes, this sh*t thing has happened, this is how it has impacted me, this is how I feel about it.

As a society, we tend to push away and suppress bad things which happen to us or ‘bad’ feelings. So much so, anything ‘bad’ has become stigmatised. It is as if we ‘should never’ feel bad and ‘should always’ be happy. Yet when we suppress the ‘bad’ feelings, we don’t acknowledge them. And the ‘bad’ and unpleasant feelings so want to be acknowledged, they will leak out. The strategies used in Acceptance Commitment Therapy help you to visit with those feelings and acknowledge them so they become recognised as a normal aspect of your life. This all helps the process of accepting a serious health issue.

Accepting a serious health issue means coping with unpleasant feelings

You don’t have to unpack and live with overwhelming feelings.

The key aspects of ACT are referred to in the above definitions

  1. The ability to contact the present moment is being able to bring our attention openly, non-judgementally and with curiosity to what is happening in the here and now to ourselves, to others around us, to the situation. This is also known as mindfulness.
  2. Another side to contacting the present moment is being able to step outside of and observe ourselves. This is the first step in learning how ‘to stand in another person’s shoes’ and experiencing empathy with and for another. This can be learned.
  3. Become aware of our psychological reactions to the present moment and identify whether these are helpful to ourselves or not.
  4. Pain and suffering is a normal part of life, including unpleasant reactions we have to our here and now experiences, and it is important that we accept that. And accept the good things too.
  5. If our reactions are not helpful, then we may wish to change our behaviour.
  6. We change our behaviour to obtain what it is we value and want, i.e. our valued ends. But we need to know what it is we value to ensure our behaviour and actions we take align with that.

The following diagram shows these themes:

Key components of acceptance commitment therapy picture

The Key Components of Acceptance Commitment Therapy

Let’s move on to talking about the last two principles of ACT, Values and Committed Action.


Values are:

  • What you believe and value in life like learning, having integrity, fairness, security, etc. You may make decisions based on our values. For example, some people preferred to be employed because they value the security of the pay check every month. Others may prefer to work for themselves because they value freedom of choice. When you make decisions which aren’t aligned with your values, there can be that sense of disquiet that something is not quite right.
  • What you want for yourself in various areas of your life, the direction you want your life to take. These are the implicit or explicit goals you have for yourself regarding your:
    • Physical health
    • Psychological/ Emotional health
    • Occupational – Your work, career, education whether paid or unpaid
    • Relationships with family, friends, your social life
    • Hobbies, personal interests, fun
    • Finances
    • Where you live – home, town, city, state, county, country
    • Spirituality, religion, faith
    • Culture
    • Personal growth

This values exercise in this picture will help you learn more about what you value in life.

Accepting a serious health issues is easier when you know your values picture

Clarifying your values so you can take action which aligns with them can help in accepting a serious health issue.

And to identify the direction you want to take in various areas of your life, get the Wellness Appreciation Workbook which will help you do just that.

Committed Action

Committed Action means to take action to help you move in a valued direction in your life. Action can be something you say or do, a behavioural action for example. Or something you think or feel inside.

The Wellness Appreciation Workbook I just mentioned will help you to start identifying some early action you can take in important areas of your life.

This is about committing to something for yourself. And that’s a lovely thing to be doing!

It is not about being perfect. Or expecting everything to happen perfectly.

It’s not about achieving everything by tomorrow. Small, even tiny goals that build on one another over time are great.

You will make mistakes, go off track, etc. That is part of life. It’s about learning from that and getting back on the track of your valued direction in life.

Small even tiny goals that build on one another and are aligned to our values can become the tidal wave of change we have been seeking. #AcceptanceCommitmentTherapy tell a friend

So taking action which aligns with what you value will result in you living the meaningful life you want even with the health issue you have. And that helps so much in accepting a serious health issue. I often find when clients do this, the good things in their life take priority.

What’s it like for you?

What is most important to you in your life? If you were living your life as you wanted whilst still having the serious health issue, what would you be doing?

If you are living with a chronic illness or the after effects of a serious illness or injury, or are caring for someone who is and would like support identify what is important to you so the action you take in 2018 aligns with that, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

If you were living your life in 2018 as you wanted whilst still having #healthissue you have, what would you be doing? tell a friend

Have a happy, relaxing and joyful holiday season and all the very best for your 2018!

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2017


Harris, R. (2007). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) Introductory Workshop Handout. Available here, (2017, November 20).

Whitfield H. (2011), Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Handbook, ACT Four Day Skills Intensive Part 1 & 2. London: Mindfulness Training Ltd.

How the presence of death can help you live your life well

How the presence of death can help you live your life well

How can the presence of death help you live your life well? That question may feel odd to you, off-putting even. Death is something we proactively think about in our society. We tend to only when someone we know dies. Yet within the context of many challenging health issues, death is present and takes many forms.

The many forms death can take

In the cases of sudden onset injuries and serious illnesses – heart attack, stroke, brain haemorrhage, traumatic accident, cancer at whatever age – you may have stood on the threshold of death, greeted it, yet were able to turn around and return to your life.

You may have made a decent recovery yet may also live with the background thought of ‘will it won’t it happen again, and if it does, will I survive’. Death can feel like it is just around the corner, but you don’t know where that corner is in your life. You live with that ongoing uncertainty.

Death in the sense of something has ended can also be present in the recovery process. Challenging health issues often result in the loss of your previous life and your body as you used to know it. In conversations I’ve been having on the concept of acceptance in these situations, people referred to their previous life as having died. They have also referred to thoughts they once had of whether they would end their life as a response to the very big change they have experienced.

Death is imminently present for those living with terminal conditions.

Death is also present for each and every one of us, no matter the current state of our health. It is a life truth that we will each die one day.

So how can the presence of death help you live your life well?

This is a big question so I am only addressing it in part. Also, the question may strike you as scary. I find it a scary topic too. I attempt to address it in an introductory sort of way whilst also, I hope, respecting the enormity of it.

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Our one life and looking into the existentialist void of that. B Babcock 2016

There isn’t one way the presence of death can help you live your life well

Death is a large and complex topic which is personal to every individual, so there isn’t one way to live with its presence. It will be different for each of us.

Sorting the details around end-of-life

In addition to having a will, knowing your personal preferences regarding end of life care, where and how you wish to die (i.e. do you want to die at home if that will be a choice, do you want to be resuscitated, etc.), organ donation, burial, etc and having that written down so your wishes can be followed, I think there is also the consideration of how we are living our lives now.

One day we will all die. And what are we doing with all the days until then? – Unknown

How are you living your life now?

That quote isn’t meant to distract the focus on our ultimate end, to focus on doing and being busy out of fear of death. It isn’t meant to trivialise death in any way nor the experience of your medical crisis, any ongoing health issues and what that means for how you can live your life.

It is meant to respect what death means for us all, an end to our life, and honouring that truth; to respect and celebrate the life we have; and recognise that can be hard when immediate circumstances are challenging.

So here are some questions for gentle musing.

How do you celebrate the good moments in your life?

What is it about you that enables you to keep going through the very difficult times? Celebrate those characteristics and strengths of yours.

How do you demonstrate respect for yourself and your life?

Are you living the life you want and making it happen for yourself within the reality of the health issue you live with?

What opportunities do you have to do things you find meaningful and enjoyable?

So try, have a go, make an effort

I was reminded of this healthy focus on trying for ourselves and our lives by a woman I once met, who helps people to market their own businesses without being pushy or annoying. In one of her blogs, she compared the benefits of trying to perform CPR on someone to trying to promote your own business.

Her message was you decide to try because it is always worth it. In your own business your efforts may have a positive impact on someone somewhere even if you don’t know the person or how your efforts helped.

And I asked myself, ‘How are we deciding to try for ourselves and our own lives?’ We will know when we have done something good or not so good for ourselves. We will experience the impact. And as for the not-so-good impact, that is also learning.

So try to figure out what is important to you and how you want to live your life. Have a go at living your passions, even if it is in a small way. Make an effort to strive at those activities you enjoy and find most meaningful. You of all people know the preciousness of life. You’ve hit bumps and potholes already and gone on some detours. So grab hold of your life and do what you want to be doing with it. Doing this in small ways counts for everything too.

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. – Martin Luther King

Your life is worth this trying and you are worthy of it.

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Have the #BigConversation about your life and death. B Babcock 2016

What’s it like for you?

What steps have you taken to taken to live the life you want and what helps you to do that? How often do you have  conversations about death, dying or loss and what that means for your life now? Share below as your experience may be similar to someone else’s and so demonstrate that no one is alone in this and help them.

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

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

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2016

How to turn big dreams into reality with a changed body

How to turn big dreams into reality with a changed body

Making a decision to turn big dreams into reality when you’re living with a challenging health issue can feel momentous.  Maybe you committed to doing something that feels physically challenging to you. Or you just redid your CV and completed a job application in an effort to return to work or volunteer. Or you set yourself a rehabilitation goal to walk to the post box up the road from your house to get you out of your house and moving.

You feel excitement at the possibility of implementing your decision along with the worry about your body’s capability. Will your body be able to do what you want to do? Will you push your body too far?

I know that feeling all too well. Because I did something earlier this week I consider daft and brilliant in equal measure. So read on to find out what I did, and the 10 things I’ve used successfully in the past and will use again to turn big dreams into reality.

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I dreamed a big dream. B Babcock 2016

What I did

I entered the public ballot for the 2017 London Marathon. This is big, for me.

Why my BIG dream is a daft idea

I had my anterior cruciate and meniscus ligaments reconstructed in both knees.

Three years ago I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my right knee. The doctor said a knee replacement would eventually be needed. That’s when I shelved the idea of doing a marathon.

It’s ok if you are thinking, ‘She’s an idiot. There are other ways of getting fit and achieving something.’ I am having that same conversation with myself.

Yet sometimes, certain goals or commitments stay in your head and heart. They tug at you, inviting you to achieve them, looking so alluring you can’t help but have a go.

It’s been like that with the London Marathon. I’ve been supporting the Transverse Myelitis Society’s runners in the marathon and loved supporting them on their journey, the buzz of the crowd, and watching ordinary people of every shape and size having a go. It’s fun and I want to have a go too. But I am also mindful of my knees.

Why my BIG dream is a brilliant idea

I had an episode of Transverse Myelitis and live with ongoing residual symptoms. I get on with things ok including walking. So I’m going to use the abilities I have.

I like doing what I think might be impossible for me – accepting challenging jobs for which I didn’t have certain essential skills, or quitting smoking which I wasn’t sure I could, or taking part in the London Marathon. A big goal and the process of working towards it in small steps motivates me.

The London Marathon goal gives me an even greater focus to regain fitness, something I’ve been taking small measures to do the past two years.

But the goal has an additional purpose: to regain freedom of movement. Due to pain in my knees, I am more hesitant in how I walk and climb steps. Sometimes more than the situation actually warrants I think. Based on previous experience, when my body is more fit, the pain in my knees lessens, and I am freer in my movement.

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Freedom of movement is part of the dream. B Babcock 2016

How to turn big dreams into reality

Based on my previous experience of quitting smoking, here are 10 things I learned to address to make a big dream a reality. I’ll be using them again and invite you to apply them to a big dream of yours.

1. There is sufficient motivation inside of you. You are making this dream a reality for you, not for anyone else (although others may benefit).

I knew I had to quit smoking for my health as I could feel my insides changing in a way I didn’t like. I was afraid of the long-term consequences. (Note: Fear doesn’t have to be your primary motivator.)

2. There is an element of challenge to your dream and so it feels big. You may be asking yourself, ‘Can I do this?’ Break down your dream into small goals. This is crucial.

Quitting smoking was my equivalent of swimming the English Channel. I had already tried quitting several times. I feared I could not do it. So I took it one day at a time, even one hour at a time. It was about making an active choice in the morning and repeatedly throughout the day not to smoke.

3. Choose your support network

This is important. You need family and friends who will be your champions and cheerleaders. Choose people who are suited to helping in this way. I selected two friends who I was going to visit the weekend I chose to quit.

I chose them because they are some of the most accepting people I have ever met in my life, role model what they believe in, and don’t smoke. Being with such lovely and supportive people doing fun things in those early days helped. When I returned home, I kept them and their support close to me and it helped immensely.

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Card sent to me by a friend to support me in my current fitness goals. B Babcock 2016

4. Use what neuroscience has to offer in making consistent change.

Read about how motivation/emotion can get you started and how to develop commitment, discipline and support structures to keep you going.

5. Willingness to learn and use that learning.

This will support you through the challenging aspects of making your dream a reality.

6. Keep going. Tell yourself repeatedly, ‘I will do this. I am doing this.’

Persistence is a necessary ingredient to keep going. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take it a day at a time and a small goal at a time. Point 7 will help you do this.

7. Remind yourself of the progress you are making, however small.

I quit smoking cold turkey and chose not to use patches or gum. Despite experiencing cravings and some truly difficult times in the early weeks and years, I have not smoked since. In the difficult moments, I would tell myself how well I was doing by choosing not to smoke. I will be using that sense of pride in those achievements to help me on this journey.

8. Adjust the goal.

Moving forward to the London Marathon. If I don’t get a place in the public ballot, on the day, I can do the route on the side instead.

Also, I don’t plan to run. I will walk, a necessary adjustment.

9. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

If I get a place in the London Marathon, I might not finish it.

Or I may find in the course of training, that my knees are just not capable of walking 26 miles in one go.

That is ok. Finishing the marathon would be great. Not achieving the original dream, but learning, making those small incremental achievements along the way, and adjusting the dream will also be great.

10. Acting on your big dream reinforces your self-belief.

If you don’t believe in yourself, your capabilities or your ability to learn, then who else will?

Believing in yourself first and acting on those beliefs enables others to believe in you.

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Hold on to your self-belief. B Babcock 2016

What’s it like for you?

What big dreams are tugging at your heart? What can you do to turn big dreams into reality? If you’ve done that, what did you do that worked? Or are you just starting to take some early steps? Share below as I would love to hear about your experiences.

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

Pass it forward

Know 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 2016

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