How to survive lockdown: Advice from people with chronic illness

How to survive lockdown: Advice from people with chronic illness

Learning how to survive lockdown is something we are all doing right now. Right around the world. Based on my experience working as a coach supporting people living with challenging chronic illnesses, I think they have a lot to teach us on how to do that. Because many of them have been in a form of lockdown well before coronavirus came along.

I am thinking about people living with energy limiting illnesses like Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Some may have been housebound for years.

Others may not be housebound all the time and may able to lead what looks to be a normal life, but they have to deal with issues of isolation and/or uncertainty of relapse. Such as people living with diabetes, other conditions that have unpredictable fluctuating symptoms like chronic pain and fatigue, and people who have/had cancer.

Living in isolation from family and friends and not able to go about our pre-coronavirus daily routines can be hard. So can living with prolonged uncertainty. Right now, we don’t know when this lockdown will end. But also the anxiety of reduced or not much income is really stressful too. And getting needed groceries, medications and more.

So here I share the ten things we can learn from people living with chronic illness on how to survive a lockdown. They are in no particular order and it’s not an exhaustive list.

A woman is seated on a chair experiencing anxiety. She is asking herself, "How am I going to survive lockdown?" The caption reads: How do you plan to survive lockdown? And maybe even thrive?

How to survive lockdown

1. Look after yourself

When you get a really challenging health issue, you quickly learn that your body is the only one you’ve got. And you need to do what you can to stay as healthy as you can. Get good sleep, get outside to get some exercise once a day, drink lots of water, and eat nourishing food all help.

The same applies to all of us now. Including following social distancing and washing your hands. Because people living with challenging health issues are that much more vulnerable if they get COVID-19. Doing our bit to keep ourselves healthy is also a good thing for the people around us.

2. Listen to your body

Becoming attuned to the sensations you feel in your body is a key skill in learning how to manage the symptoms of a challenging health issue. This helps you identify what triggers symptoms, when you may be getting a flare and if the measures you are taking to manage your symptoms are working or not.

Learning to listen to your body is equally important if you do not have any major health issues. It will allow you to spot signs of stress and anxiety and therefore manage and alleviate them sooner.

A quote, source unknown, about listening to your body: "If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won't have to hear it scream." This is important when you're dealing with a challenging health issue like COVID-19, even if you don't have it. Listening to your body is a key how to survive lockdown tip.

3. Manage the impact of stress

Managing the impact of stress is so important when living with a challenging health issue. Because stress can exacerbate symptoms and that can limit what you’re able to do.

You cannot prevent stress from happening so your focus has to be on how you manage the impact of stress. Like with the coronavirus pandemic. This is a key how to survive lockdown tip.

You cannot control that coronavirus has happened. So worrying about that is energy that isn’t being well spent. Focus your energy instead on what you can influence and directly control. This helps you to move through stressful situations and lessen their negative impact on you.

4. Focus on the essential activities

When you’re living with symptoms like chronic pain and/or fatigue, there are many days when you can’t do very much at all. So you have to focus on the essential activities. And what is considered essential can change from day to day depending on how you are.

Some days you’ll have the energy to wash, cook a meal and do another activity like read a book or write a blog post. Other days, you may only be able to venture to the toilet and the fridge because your body isn’t capable of doing anything else.

For those of you who do not have health issues, the advice is not to overload yourself with activities, things to do, etc. If the essential is making sure there is food on the table, you and your kids get some exercise, you get some work done and the kids do a bit of schooling, that is enough. You don’t need to become an expert teacher for your kids or come out of lockdown with a toned and super fit body. Go gently.

How to survive #lockdown – Tip 4 – Focus on the essential activities. You don’t need to become an expert teacher for your kids or come out of lockdown with a toned and super fit body. Go gently #wellness Read the other tips here Click To Tweet

5. Be prepared to adapt

When you’re living with a health issue where your symptoms fluctuate on a day-to-day basis, you have to learn how to adapt your schedule, what you can do on any given day and even how you approach the activities you do. Sometimes you have to make difficult choices like cancel an engagement to see friends. Or figure out how to cook meals that don’t take as much preparation.

People with disabilities often have to adapt to an environment that hasn’t been built to take into account their needs. They have to constantly adapt to obtain some sense of inclusion.

Living in lockdown means we have to adapt a lot. No, we won’t always like having to do that. But being willing to find ways to adapt what we need to and to experiment can make life easier. And that means less stress. Which is a really good thing right now.

6. Proactively manage the impact of isolation

A sense of isolation can quickly set in when you’re living with a challenging health issue where you cannot go out much and fluctuating symptoms mean you have to cancel plans at the last minute. It’s hard enough when you’re the only one amongst your family and friends who has the illness you have. It gets even harder when you can’t see family and friends much and friendships drift away as a result.

The virtual world is often the only connection people who are housebound due to their chronic illness have with the outside world. And they very much value this connection.

The virtual world may not be the ideal for everyone but right now it’s something. Use it. And when using it, make sure to focus on the good aspects of using it – catching up with family and friends, supporting one another, doing activities together. If you only focus on how much you hate it, then that could contribute to an increased sense of loneliness.

How to survive #lockdown – Tip 6 – Proactively manage the impact of isolation and loneliness. Get connected in the virtual world. It may not be the ideal, but now it’s something. #wellness Read the other tips here Click To Tweet

7. Your support network is key

So many people living with challenging health issues have told me how important social media is to them. It enables them to make friends and have a support network.

Many of us are social beings and crave connection. This is important at any time and especially important now that we often cannot see our loved ones, friends and work colleagues in person.

Your support network, even if many of them you can only see virtual is vital. Make time for them. Build your network if you have to. It’s important to think about this in respect to your partner/spouse. One person cannot meet all of our needs. Thinking about who may not be on your team but you would like them to be and making that happen can help. The same thing goes for children. They need their (virtual) support teams too.

Remember, pets are definitely part of your support team.

And sometimes, it’s necessary to let unhealthy relationships go. Often during stressful times we learn who are friends are and who we can and cannot count on.

A woman is sitting on a pouff and her walking sticks are leaning against it. She is petting her dog and saying, "You're definitely part of my healthcare team!" The point is that your pet(s) is a key member of your support team. And play an important role in helping you learn how to survive lockdown.

8. Learning to live with uncertainty is key too

Talk to anyone who has been through cancer treatment and now has no evidence of disease. They live with uncertainty every single day. People who have had a heart attack or stroke at a younger expected age or have another kind of illness that can relapse live with something similar.

They live with the will it-won’t it come back. Will I get more disabled or not? Will I survive it or not? It’s like a constant shadow. Sometimes the shadow fades a bit but it never quite leaves. These people have had to become an expert at living with uncertainty. And like you now in having to live with the impact of coronavirus and lockdown, they didn’t have that choice. It was foisted on them.

Learning to live with uncertainty is not always easy. Because uncertainty means you don’t know what you don’t know, which means you can feel out of control and powerlessness. We humans hate that feeling. Which leads me to my next point.

9. Appreciate the small things in the here and now

When you’re living with a challenging health issue that brings less choice, uncertainty and a higher degree of isolation into your life, you learn to appreciate the small things in the here and now. Birdsong, the sun streaming through the window, a pretty flower in your garden or a vase, a cup of tea, a favourite tv programme. Because it’s important to have good in your life, whatever size that takes. It balances out the rubbish things which happen.

The same thing applies to everyone who is now learning how to survive lockdown. What are the small things you are grateful for?

10. Having a purpose and routine

When you’re living with a challenging health issue, it’s not uncommon to feel like you no longer have a purpose in life. You end up having to adjust what you mean by that and it may not be an easy process to go through.

What I find that people ultimately learn is what matters is how they define their purpose and that size doesn’t matter. And not to define their purpose according to others’ or societal standards.  

You still very much have a purpose during these times. You may need to adjust it and work to realistic standards you set. Also, having a routine to your day can help you keep your sanity and ensure you do activities that align with your purpose.

A woman is sitting in a chair focusing on her breathing. She is thinking, "I'm going to take 5 minutes everyday just to focus on my breathing." When thinking about how to survive lockdown, she reckoned that having a small purpose of taking 5 minutes to focus on herself was the best thing she could do. The caption makes the point that your purpose during lockdown only needs to be right for you. Size doesn't matter.

What’s it like for you?

How did the advice on how to survive lockdown resonate with you? What are you doing that is helping you to survive lockdown? What are you finding difficult? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

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

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

Feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown? This is why

Feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown? This is why

You may be wondering why you’re feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown. In the past few weeks you may have been feeling lethargic, sleeping a lot, or not enough. Maybe you feel really down and sad about everything or your anxiety feels a lot higher. You’re not your normal self.

But you know you’ve got a roof over your head, some food in the fridge, enough loo roll, you’ve got the basics. So why is this out-of-sorts feeling dragging on?

It’s not surprising you’re feeling the way you do. Given what you, your family, the country and the world are currently dealing with in this time of coronavirus, your responses are a normal reaction.

I want to explain four reasons why you’re feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown

These reasons aren’t the whole of your story. There’s a lot else which could be contributing to you feeling the way you do. But these reasons are common to many of us right now no matter where we live in the world.

Knowing the why, even if you can’t change it, helps you to recognise how you’re feeling and name it. That knowledge in itself can help you feel more calm and able to focus on what you can control. And we all want some of that right now.

A woman, who is small in stature is looking at people representing Uncertainty, Change, Loss and Less Freedom. She is saying, 'You're all so big!' Uncertainty is saying, 'Hey! We're moving in! Don't worry about not having room. We fit anywhere!' Less Freedom is saying, 'I need to break free.' Change looks a bit hyper. Loss is crying. The point is life in the time of coronavirus is very much about living with uncertainty, change, loss and less freedom. That will explain in part why you're feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown. Visit www.returntowellness.co.uk to learn how to change that.

Why you’re feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown

1. You have less freedom

In an effort to contain coronavirus, the government has placed restrictions on what you can do, when and with whom. You have less choice and hence less freedom. And freedom is highly prized in our culture. We often don’t like being told what to do and what we can’t do.

Although the government restrictions on moving out and about in the world are necessary to contain #coronavirus, for some people dealing with the loss of choice and freedom can be very difficult. We free much prize freedom in our… Click To Tweet

2. You have shed loads of uncertainty in your life now

Will I or a family member get COVID-19? How would we be affected?

Will I be able to do X, Y or Z later on this year? Maybe that is to get married, go on a special holiday, have a birthday party for a special birthday, graduate from university, etc.

Will I be able to return to school/university as normal in the Autumn?

Will my relationship survive this lockdown?

How long will this lockdown last?

Will I get my bonus at work?

What will the world be like after all this?

You probably have a lot of questions like this swirling around your head about all the unknowns.

We humans don’t like uncertainty. Because lack of certainty feels like loss of control. And you can feel powerless as a result.

A woman is sitting on a chair. She is frowning, looking uncertain and asking herself the questions: "What am I to do? How can I feel better? Why do I feel this way? When will it stop? Who can help. I feel so out of control." Next to her is standing Uncertainty. It has its hand on the back of her chair and is saying, 'I'm your new friend.' This is what it's like to live with uncertainty. Check out www.returntowellness.co.uk for advice on how to do that and keep your sanity particularly if you're feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown.

3. You have a shed load of change to deal with too

Maybe you’ve had to learn how to use Zoom for work, or to stay in touch with family and friends.

Maybe you are self-employed and have had to find a way to get your business online if that is even possible.

Or maybe you’ve lost your job, you’re the breadwinner in your family and you’ve had to quickly find new work. If there is new work to be had.

Or figure out how to work from home, deal with feeling isolated if you live on your own, or how to home school your children and do your job at the same time.

If you had a choice prior to all this happening, you may not have chosen to learn and do what you now have to. This kind of change can feel enforced and unwelcome. It can be hard to deal with.

The reason it can be hard dealing with all the #change during #coronavirus and #lockdown is because it’s not a change we sought for ourselves. It’s been forced on us. Click To Tweet

4. You’re dealing with a lot of loss

There are all sorts of losses you and everyone else are dealing with. Loss of

  • Your normal routine
  • Seeing family and friends
  • Income and what that enables for you
  • Your business and livelihood
  • Access to your favourite activities
  • Needed medical treatment
  • Holiday
  • Taking exams
  • Graduating from sixth form or university
  • Certainty
  • Family, friends, acquaintances even clients or customers due to COVID-19
  • And more

And you could not have prevented a lot of that loss. Cue that powerless feeling again. It’s no wonder you could be feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown.

We are each in our own way dealing with lack of freedom, unwelcome change, shedloads of uncertainty, feeling out of control and powerless, and loss

That’s a lot for you to hold. That’s a lot for any one country to deal with. Right now, the world is holding this.

There is a picture of a world map. On it is written north, south, east, west in the relevant places. Also written on the map is uncertainty, less freedom, loss and change. A woman is also holding balls representing uncertainty, change, loss and less freedom. Her hands and arms are very full with them. This represents what you and the world are dealing with now during this time of coronavirus and can explain why you're feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown. Read the blog on www.returntowellness.co.uk to learn what you can do to cope effectively.

You, and the world, are experiencing grief

Many of us are feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown. Waking up in terror in the middle of the night, feeling intense overwhelm, wanting to hide away from it all, these are normal responses to the intense enormity of what you and the world are dealing with.

They key thing is not to unpack and live there. It’s about how you acknowledge and move through the terror, overwhelm and grief in a healthy way psychologically, physically and socially.

I can and will say more on that but I am going to leave it here as what I’ve written is plenty for now.

In the meantime, tell me what support would help you get through these times

What else would help you manage that feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown and get through it?

It may mean feeling more feeling more in control, feeling more balanced or experiencing. It might be about how to deal with the intensity of living with family members and/or dealing with kids 24/7. Or trying to balance work and home schooling and keep your sanity. Just want to hang out with like-minded people online? Deal with whatever is concerning you right now?

You may want 1-1 support, work in a group, online workshops, more blogs, online chats, something else?

I’d love to know so Return to Wellness® can target its support in a way that would be meaningful for you. Drop your thoughts in the comments below or get in touch via the contact form. I look forward to hearing from you.

What support do you want to help you cope with all the uncertainty, change, etc that you’re dealing with right now? Share your thoughts here #coronavirus #COVD-19 #lockdown Click To Tweet

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

How to fall in love with yourself after illness

How to fall in love with yourself after illness

Learning how to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury felt like the most appropriate topic to write about given Valentine’s Day is this week. We see so much about being in a couple at this time of year, but how are we in being with ourselves? And what about after a challenging illness or injury which has changed your body?

Learning how to fall in love with yourself after an illness or injury can feel difficult. It’s not uncommon to feel like your body betrayed you, or you have this illness that is like an invader you are trying to fight, or you’re frustrated with how your body has changed and what you can no longer do as a result, or you live with the fear of relapse.

A woman is sitting on an ottoman thinking, 'My body has changed so much I don't recognise it anymore. I'm afraid to do anything. I've changed so much. I don't like myself.' It's understandable how you can fall out of love with yourself due to illness or injury. So you have to learn how to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury.

How can you fall in love with yourself after illness or injury with all that going on?

I believe you can. Because I’ve helped myself to do that and have helped others too. So I know it can be done. And I share an exercise here to help you do that.

This exercise is a bit different. It asks you to be with yourself in a way we may not always do in our society because we are rushing around, thinking what to do next, etc, etc. This exercise is about slowing down and listening to your heart/ gut/ intuition/ soul, whatever you call that part of yourself which may or may not have much of a voice in your life.

I’d like to acknowledge Heart of Business whose work around acknowledging your needs when in business for yourself inspired me to write this blog.

An exercise on how to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury

Have you felt like you have fallen out of love with yourself due to an #illness or #injury? Want to learn how to love yourself again? Then read this blog. #selflove #selfcare Click To Tweet

Make sure you’re comfortable enough. You can stand, sit or even lay down for this exercise. And you have a bit of quiet time to yourself with hopefully no or minimal interruptions.

Remember a time when someone asked you, ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘How are you feeling?’ or ‘Can you go out with us today?’ with that questioning look in their eye and you just didn’t want to give them the honest answer about how tough things really are for you. Or maybe you tried to do something but due to all the changes you have experienced, you struggled and felt frustrated. Or it could be one of those times when you feel hopeless that your circumstances will change for the better.

Just notice how you felt in that moment and what you wanted. If it felt uncomfortable, hard or you felt like you had to give people the answer they wanted to hear, annoyance or something else, just be with what you felt at that time.

What do you notice?

What are you feeling? If that feeling is a sensation in your body, where in your body do you feel it? What is the sensation like? A knot, waves, a pounding, a numbing sensation, something else?

As you feel whatever you feel, ask yourself:

Is love available for me here?

What is the purpose of that question?

It’s to raise our awareness of how we are or aren’t tapping into our own self-love when we may most need it. This quote explains it well.

“When you find the love, you find yourself.

The secret is in the love. You are the love, not another.

Everything is in the love, and everyone needs the love.

When you have the knowledge of the love, you feel peace

in your heart.

The jewels are inside you.”

Music of the Soul, by Sufi Sheikh sidi Sa’id al-jamal

Think of love as a jewel, which is inside of you.

A woman is standing holding her heart. In her heart is a diamond. She is saying, 'My love for me is a diamond.' Love is something which you can give to yourself. So think of love as a jewel which is inside of you. You can have love be any kind of jewel you want. This is about learning how to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury.

Ask yourself that question again: Is love available for me here?

Notice again how you feel as you ask yourself that question.

When you ask yourself that question in a moment of discomfort, your needs can feel heightened.

Then ask yourself:

What is it I truly want for myself? What am I yearning for?

An original quote by Return to Wellness. When learning how to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury, some key questions you need to ask yourself are: What is it I truly want for myself? What am I yearning for?

Sometimes what people often want is to go back to the person they were before their illness or injury

That is understandable. After a serious illness or injury, you are a changed person.

You may yearn for that or something else: acceptance of your situation, a person to love you as you are now, understanding from the people around you, something else.

If you yearn for something physical – and it could be anything like money, a new wheelchair, a new job, whatever – ask yourself:

And if I were to get that, what would that give me? How would I feel then?

Often times it is a quality like acceptance or acknowledgement, self-compassion, certainty, strength, truth, belonging, or something else.

This is a need you have

Just be with yourself and notice you have a need without any expectation of changing it. This isn’t about judging the need as bad or good. It’s also not about judging yourself as less than for having this need. And it’s not about collapsing into the need in a way that depletes you. It’s about acknowledging the need. It is what it is.

As you sit (or stand or lay down), open yourself up to receiving whatever it is you need. So if it’s acknowledgement of your situation, open yourself up to receiving acknowledgement.

This may sound kind of abstract. You may be wondering…

How do I open myself up to receiving what I need?

There are different ways you can do this. How you do it may be different from someone else and that’s ok.

Some people like to physically arch their back a bit so their chest is open and shoulders are back. They then consciously think of receiving acknowledgement for example. Or acceptance. Or self-compassion or whatever it is you need.

Or you may skip the physical gesture of arching your back to open your chest and just consciously think of receiving whatever quality you need and notice how that feels in your body.

Hint: I recommend you focus not just on the thinking aspect, but also how it feels in your body. This helps to make change happen because you are doing that on different levels – the body and mind – which is a holistic approach to change.

I like to think of a watering can above me that pours the quality I need over me. Like in this picture here.

One of the things to do to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury is to give yourself whatever it is you need. Often times this is a quality like acceptance, acknowledgement, self-compassion, love. One way of doing this is to think about a part of you showering yourself with that quality. In this picture the self-compassionate part of the woman holding a green watering can high above the head of another woman (who is her actually) and she is showering her in love hearts saying, 'It's time for your self-compassion shower! Oh, and I put your self-criticism in the rubbish.' The other woman is sitting in a chair holding hearts and is enjoying her self-compassion shower.

You may imagine someone real or imagined giving you what you need.

You may journal it.

Or you may simply write down the word of the quality you need. Or draw a picture of it. Or make a collage.

When you do this, you are not waiting for someone else in real life to give you what you need. You are actually giving it to yourself.

Practice receiving what you need

When you start doing something new, which this may be for you, you may wonder if you’re doing it right, or wrong, or is it working. Those questions are natural as we can feel a little uncomfortable when we do something new. But you can put all those questions to one side.

Just have a go and notice what it’s like for you.

I encourage you to make this a practice you do several times a week, daily even. This increases your familiarity and comfort level with the exercise. It also helps to make the practice of giving yourself what you need more automatic.

A good time to practice it is when you feel yourself wishing for and wanting things to be different. In those moments, ask yourself if love is available for you here, what you are yearning for and open yourself to receiving what you need.

More important tips on how to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury

It helps to hold the intention ‘I can love myself again’ and ‘I’ll take action to help make that happen’.

Then take action to make that happen. This can be in addition to the exercise above. And these can be small actions of self-care: spending time in nature, setting an intention for your day, consciously noticing what goes well for you, asking a family member or friend to spend time with you, a bath, a cup of tea from your favourite mug, journaling, doing a favourite activity, etc. Whatever healthy act of self-care that you enjoy.

When you practice self-care, you are saying to yourself and the world, ‘I matter’ and ‘my needs are valid’.

When you practice #selfcare, you are saying to yourself and the world, 'I matter' and 'my needs are valid'. #wellness #chronicillness Click To Tweet

Nurture your relationship with yourself daily. Be mindful of self-criticism, calling yourself not-very-nice names, relying on others to feed your self-worth and pleasing people.

Also be mindful to surround yourself with people who support and love you. Keep in mind they won’t be perfect at it and you may have to help them to help you.

Why you must fall in love with yourself after illness or injury

Because the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

Also, when you love yourself, you implicitly give the message to others, ‘Yes, I am worth loving.’ And this helps your sense of belonging.

The greatest reason why you must fall in love with yourself after illness or injury is because the most important relationship you have is with yourself. This is an original quote by Return To Wellness.

What’s it like for you?

How have you found this exercise in self-love? What else is helping or has helped you to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury (even if it was a loved one’s)? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

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

Pass it forward

Has this blog made you think? Helped you in some way? Share it so it can do the same for someone else.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

How to contribute to your health in a healthy way

How to contribute to your health in a healthy way

A challenging health issue is often a wake-up call to contribute to your health more mindfully and consistently. And there are many things you can do to contribute to your health. In fact, if you read a lot of the health and wellbeing articles in the press, you probably come across a lot of information, some of it contradictory, and it can get confusing.

So I want to share a range of questions to help you think through what you can do to contribute to your health in a healthy way. You’ll also see how the questions demonstrate that health is multi-faceted. This is a framework to help you think through the actions you are taking (or not) rather than a top 10 hints and tips list.

This picture shows a person sitting down looking at a board that has written on it: What do you do to contribute to your health (or not)? There are two columns underneath, one with a green check indicating actions which contribute to her health and the other containing a red X meaning actions which don't contribute to her health. The woman is saying, "Hmm... I yo-yo diet and don't move as much because of the pain."

Food, exercise and lifestyle habits contribute to your health

Obvs! This is what we often first think of.

For example, the food you put in your body

Are you feeding yourself premium fuel or substandard fuel? I reckon you can discern between premium and substandard fuel food-wise and if you are unsure, speak with a qualified dietician or nutritional therapist.

We may also have to change what food we eat, how much, how often and even how we take in food.

A challenging health issue can also exacerbate a not so healthy relationship with food. The shock and challenge of a big change in your health is a lot to bear. It is not uncommon for people to find emotional comfort in food. And I certainly don’t say that to judge. To just acknowledge that you are trying to cope.

How much can you/do you move?

How much you can physically move about now may have changed due to your or your loved one’s health issue. So there is something about being mindful of the amount you are eating. Does it correspond with the amount you’re moving?

Also, our lifestyle and how sedentary it is can have an impact. If you can still move about as you did before your illness or injury, is your lifestyle full of movement or more lifestyle?

If you have a physiotherapy routine to follow to maintain or regain functionality, do you follow it? Sometimes in physiotherapy we may not see much improvement but continuing with it despite that can help us regressing.

What are your lifestyle habits like?

Habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol excessively and snacking on sugary food may serve a purpose – providing a break, putting social anxiety to one side or give you emotional comfort for example. But in the long run how good are they for you? And I don’t say this to judge. I know very well what it’s like to have one of these habits. (I quit smoking in 2008.)

A woman is sitting at a table eating from a bowl of crisps. There are also bowls of biscuits, sweets, chocolate and cake on the table. The woman is saying, "I really need to cut down on all the snacks I eat. But I feel better when I have them!" She is starting to realise the purpose of snacking for her, i.e. makes her feel better. Knowing your reason for snacking or any other habit that isn't helping your health can help you change your habit for the better. And this can contribute to your health.

Managing your health issue

If you are dealing with a challenging health issue, how proactive are you at managing it?

What kind of relationship do you have with the health issue?

What kind of relationship do you have with your body now? How closely do you listen to it?

How are you at managing symptoms? Do you take your medications?

What are your expectations of treatment? Of a cure?

What kind of preparation do you do for your medical appointments? How do you help the medical and healthcare profession to help you?

Note that everything else mentioned here can impact your health issue too.

What do you do that contributes to your health and experience of feeling healthy? #health #wellness #change Click To Tweet

The pursuit of health is so much more than our physical health

It’s also about how you tend to your inner world. I I think of this as physiotherapy for your heat, mind and soul.

Do you self-criticise yourself more than you show yourself self-compassion?

What do you do to nurture your self-worth? Do you generate your self-worth internally or are you relying on others to feed it? Or a combination?

Do you know when get yourself into vicious circle patterns of thinking and hence behaving?

What strategies do you use to get on with your life, people and situations which may no longer be serving you? Hint: Those people and situations that cause you a lot of stress.

Pic of a woman in a bath and the water is her self-worth. Bathing in your self-worth is something important to do to contribute to your health.
Take the time to bathe in your self-worth

How much do you focus on the negative in your life as compared to the good and what makes you smile?

How often do you put your needs as ‘less than’ or on the back burner in comparison to others’ needs? Do you know how to get your needs met? Or are you just out of practice?

What level of control do you feel you have over yourself and your life? Do you feel you can take control of things that matter to you and what you want for yourself? Or is it down to others making things happen for you?

What is your window of tolerance like for stressful situations? What is happening when you easily snap? Or when you get through a stressful situation pretty well?

To what degree do you feel you can learn to change things for the better? Or do you feel that isn’t possible?

Your relationships contribute to your health

What is the quality of your relationships? Are you satisfied with the level of connection you have with people?

What kind of people do your surround yourself with? Do they lift you up and support you? Or criticise you and generally don’t support you?

What kind of relationships might you need to let go of?

Do you have a network of people you can rely on for help? Remember, it’s great to have several people as often times one person cannot meet all of your needs. Keeping that in mind, who might be willing and able to help you? And how can you help the people around you to help you?

Who isn’t a part of your life but you would like them to be?

What kind of relationships do you want going forwards?

Your job can impact how healthy you feel

How does your job, whether paid or volunteer, meet your motivations for doing it?

We all have different motivations for doing the job we do. Sometimes we do a job because it pays the bills which allows us to get loads of satisfaction from our hobbies. Sometimes it gives us a sense of purpose in our life. Or it gets us out and connecting with people.

Some jobs can demand a lot of you – whether it’s a hard commute, long hours, lots of responsibility, not much resources to do the job, stressful relationships, job security, or something else. This can have an impact how healthy you feel – the level of stress, happiness in the job, etc. You may have to address how you approach aspects of the job to manage the impact of stress.

A lack of a job and experiencing difficulty finding one if you haven’t worked for some time or you experience discrimination in the recruitment process because of a disability can also have an impact.

And other aspects of your life contribute to your health

Our hobbies, personal interests and activities can do so much for our mental health. I have already written about that here and here and I encourage you to read those blogs.

Your hobbies and personal interests can contribute to your health in a healthy way. This picture shows a virtuous circle of how hobbies do this. Our hobbies increase enjoyment which in turn increases relaxation and reduces stress.
The impact of hobbies on our mental health is a virtuous circle.

Your physical environment can impact being able to get around and your level of independence. For example, you home may not be wholly accessible particularly if you use mobility aids. It may have mould which exacerbates existing health issues. It may not be in a great part of town. Or you may live in the country so have to drive everywhere but driving is an issue. Or maybe where you live is good for where you’re at in your life.

Our financial situation can contribute to your health or not. Accessing benefits can be a stressful affair. Or trying to afford equipment or having to move home to facilitate your independence. In some countries it can be very difficult to afford the treatment and medication you need to manage your health issue and have a quality of life.

The culture we were raised in and/or live in now and expectations of us in that regard can have an impact. For example, a culture may have a lot of stigma associated with an invisible illness or disability for example. That can impact our stress levels, or whether or not we seek treatment even.

If you subscribe to a faith or have another kind of spiritual practice, this can have an impact. For some people, it is of enormous benefit to them. For others it will not feature.

What do you find meaningful in your life?

Even if you are stuck at home a lot more than you would like due to your or a loved one’s health issue, or your life isn’t quite what you had hoped for, what gives your life meaning?

What contributes to your life feeling like it’s a good one to be living? Even though you may have some tough stuff to deal with. It doesn’t have to be anything big or grand. It just has to suit you.

Your life purpose doesn’t have to be anything big or grand. It just has to suit you. And it can also change as you grow and change #lifepurpose #chronicillness #health Click To Tweet

So how can you contribute to your health in a healthy way?

Reflect on the questions above. Remember, you know yourself best and what you’re like. So it’s ok to be honest, it’s ok not to like some of your responses, and it’s ok to celebrate what you feel you are doing well.

If you are looking for a way to answer some of the questions above to assess where you are regarding how you contribute to your health, you can download the Wellness Appreciation Workbook. It’s a do-it-yourself exercise that helps you figure out where you are now and where you would like to be in the areas of your life mentioned above.

This picture show the different aspects of your life which can contribute to your health (or not): how you manage your health issue, your physical environment and getting around, nutrition, your emotional health, your relationships, finances, life purpose, returning to work, volunteering or education, leisure activities, spirituality/faith, cultural factors.

The workbook is very flexible. You can focus on one, two, some or all of the areas listed above and you can re-use the exercise in the workbook. Also, you don’t have to use the categories I mention here. Or you can use different names for them. You can adapt the exercise to suit you. And it’s free. You can get it here.

Heads up – when you download the Wellness Appreciation Workbook, it does subscribe you to the Return to Wellness newsletter, which I typically send out weekly (although not always). I do not sell or give your email to any third parties and you can unsubscribe at any time.

What’s it like for you?

What action might you take or stop to contribute to your health? And what support do you need to do that? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a 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

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

What is the danger in the pursuit of health?

What is the danger in the pursuit of health?

How can there be a danger in the pursuit of health? Sometimes I wonder if it has become a bit like: “Here’s what you’ve been waiting for! Do X, Y and Z and you will be healthy!” A magical formula that gives quick results.

The pursuit of health is a great and meaningful aspiration, but…

A woman is walking towards a hill and there are signs which say "Your health transformed in only 3 weeks! Don't delay! This way!" The woman is saying, "So glad I found this plan! It will give me what I need!" The point is there can be a danger when we view the pursuit of health resulting in an end destination and a magic plan will get us there.

We can end up pursuing health as if it’s a destination and with expectations of getting to that destination quickly. If it doesn’t happen quickly enough for our liking, we can quickly give up.

Also, what can happen when we arrive at our destination of health? Celebrate, of course. We did what we had to do to get here. We’ve made it! Hurrah!

But what happens next? For example, weight loss is a common goal in the pursuit of health. After the holiday or special event you lost the weight for, do you maintain the changes you made?

It’s not uncommon to see that once people lose the weight, they return to their previous habits. And eventually regain the weight. How many of you have found yourself in that cycle? Or a similar cycle regarding another change?

Two women are sitting on top of The Mountain of Health. They have recently finished climbing it. One woman is saying, "We made it! We're healthy!" The other is saying, "Let's go the pub and celebrate!" The caption reads: What happens after you arrive at your destination of health? The point is we can end up viewing the pursuit of health as an end destination. Once we get there, we can end up going back to our old ways, i.e. lots of drinking in the pub, or not eating very healthily for example.

So I think we need to approach the pursuit of health in a different way

I want to share four things you can reflect on to help you ensure your pursuit of health and wellness is a healthy one.

First, define what health and being healthy mean for you

This is especially important when you or a loved one are living with a challenging health issue. It’s not uncommon to define health and being healthy as how you were and felt pre-illness or injury.

My recommendation is to be very careful in doing that. This can be a double-edged sword.

Sometimes trying to get back to your ‘previous self’ can be a source of positive motivation to look after yourself in healthy ways which helps your rehabilitation.

What you don’t want to do is work to your pre-illness/injury expectations and personal standards to the point you experience a terrible quality of life. That can happen and can be a hard place to be. You can end up continually focusing on what you’ve lost rather than what you can be doing now. Read this blog if you are doing that.

How do you define #health and being healthy? Particularly if you’re living with the impact of a #seriousillness #chronicillness or #seriousinjury Click To Tweet

Ask yourself: What kind of health can I have within the reality of my illness or injury?

This isn’t about having a lower level of health than you had before or being less healthy. That form of comparison can be emotionally draining.

It is about what being healthy and not healthy is like for you now, as you are.

When you are living with the impact of a challenging health issue, you have good days, so-so days and some downright awful days. Therefore, your health and experience of being healthy fluctuates.

Answering this question in conjunction with your medical and healthcare team can also help you determine what is realistic and appropriate for you given the health issue you are dealing with. Or the health issue a loved one may be dealing with.

Second, health ensues due to the action we take. We create the conditions for experiencing health (or not)

It’s the same as with happiness. We create the conditions for our happiness. And those conditions are many. What contributes to your experience of health and feeling healthy is also multi-faceted. It is so much more than just our physical and mental health.

Note: There are some things which can have a negative impact on our mental and/or physical health which we cannot fully control. For example state systems regarding benefits, a relapse, or what other people say to us. What we can control is our response to these situations and people.

Third, ensure the actions you’re taking in your pursuit of health and wellness are healthy actions

Are the actions you’re taking in your pursuit of #health and #wellness healthy actions? Read more here. Click To Tweet

The actions we take to pursue health may not always be healthy for us. For example, the diet products that have no evidence base, or yo-yo dieting as mentioned above, or forgoing meals in an effort to lose weight, or doing too much exercise so we end up hurting ourselves, or completing disregarding the advice of your medical or healthcare team without giving it due consideration, or expecting results very quickly which could be unrealistic.

You can always double check your actions with experts and I recommend this if your action involves your medical routine, change in medications, your diet/nutrition and your psychological health.

And remember, your actions can be small. I often say that a range of small actions in various parts of our life can be a tidal wave of change for the good.

A woman is riding a tidal wave and within the wave are these small actions such as set my intention for the day, take a walk at lunch time, eat dinner earlier, and knit whilst watching tv. The woman is saying, "All these small actions are at tidal wave of change!" A fish is near the wave saying, "This is wave I want to ride!" The point is the actions we take in our pursuit of health need to be healthy actions. It's ok if they are small. Lots of small actions can be a tidal wave of change.

Fourth, the pursuit of health and wellness is an ongoing process

There is no end destination. Health and wellness are resources readily available to us. It’s up to us to create the conditions, to take actions which are within our control and influence, for them to flourish for our benefit. Whilst keeping in mind our health and wellness will fluctuate over time.

An original quote by Return to Wellness: The pursuit of health and wellness is an ongoing process, not an end destination.

What’s it like for you?

How do you think about the pursuit of health and wellness? How has your definition of health and being healthy changed over the years? What’s it like now? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

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

Pass it forward

Has this blog made you think? Helped you in some way? Share it so it can do the same for someone else.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

Three things that will make your new years resolutions successful

Three things that will make your new years resolutions successful

You can make your new years resolutions successful by doing three easy things. If you set resolutions now or at another time of the year, chances are you want to succeed at achieving them. Yet sometimes things get in the way which means you don’t, despite well-meaning efforts you made. This happens a lot. It has happened to me.

I want to share these three things as it’s not any kind of secret, but I notice a lot of people often don’t follow them. They’re important as it’s about laying the foundation for a resolution which will help you get what you want for yourself and your life this year.

Note: For some people the word ‘resolution’ really grates. Use the word that works for you. Goal. Objective. Intention. Possibility. Something else. I’m going to use the word resolution. Also, some people don’t set resolutions at New Year’s. That’s fine. What I write here applies at any time of the year.

Here are the three easy things to do to make your new year’s resolutions successful #change #wellness #newyearsresolution Click To Tweet

The first thing to do to make your new years resolutions successful

Focus on what you want instead of what you don’t want

When we want to do, think or feel something different, we often phrase it as

I don’t want…

There is a focus on what we don’t want or what we want to lose. Understandable. It’s a good starting point.

You need to balance that by also focusing on what you want instead.

Because when you take something away – i.e. what you don’t want to be doing – putting something in its place will help you know what to focus on.

If you don’t do this, you can end up focusing your energies on what you no longer want rather than moving towards what you do want. And this is when people tend to give up.

A woman is sitting reading on a yellow sofa and wondering, 'I know what I don't want, but what do I want? I want to be more focused so my intentions needs to be specific.' The caption reads - What do you want for yourself this year? The point is that if we know what we want and we create specific actions to achieve that, then those actions help to make your new years resolutions successful

Here’s an example

Not be so critical of myself.

That’s a very common new year resolution. The danger is leaving it like that. You risk just saying, ‘Don’t be so critical of yourself!’ when you notice yourself being self-critical. You end up criticising yourself for being self-critical. Not helpful.

Think about what you want to be doing instead and include specific behaviours

To make your new years resolutions successful you can reword them to include specific behaviours of what you will be doing differently. For example:

When I notice myself being self-critical, I will tell myself, ‘Oh hey, there I go again.’ I will also smile as a way of showing myself self-compassion.

The second thing to do to make your new years resolutions successful

Figure out how you will incorporate what you want to do into your daily routine

This is important. So many people don’t think about this up front. They may have the resolution to ‘get fit’, they get a gym membership, go to the gym after work, do this for a few weeks in January, then stop because at the end of the work day they are so tired and just want to veg out in front of the tv. Or they have kids to put to bed.

If you give a bit of thought as to what action you can take and when during your day, it can help you figure out if your resolution is realistic. Or do you need to adapt it in some way so it is more achievable for you.

For example, I learned that I either have to live close to a gym, less than a mile walk, or I have to have a mini gym in my house. As I don’t live close to a gym, I opted for the mini gym in the house.

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

It is also a trial and error process. I learned I have to work out first thing in the morning after waking up and before any coffee or breakfast. The workout gets the highest priority. If I do that, the workout gets done.

Be open to trial and error

If it doesn’t work out the first time, don’t give up. Just find another way. You will eventually land on a way that works for you.

Remember, when you were a baby, you didn’t walk perfectly or eat well with a spoon the first time you attempted it. It probably too you several weeks to months to learn.

This is an original quote by Return To Wellness: "When you start to make a change, be open to learning and that it will be a trial and error process. Remember, you didn't eat with a spoon or walk perfectly the first time you attempted it as a baby." The point of this is to be gentle with yourself and to watch any tendencies towards holding yourself to your pre-illness or injury high standards or to be perfect. This will help you make your new years resolutions successful

The third thing to do to make your new years resolutions successful

Make your resolution specific

The other thing we often don’t do is make the goal specific. Let’s go back to the examples we used previously.

Not be so critical of myself.

versus

When I notice myself being self-critical, I will tell myself, ‘Oh hey, there I go again.’ I will also smile as a way of showing myself self-compassion.

The first one feels kind of big. When something feels big, it can sometimes feel overwhelming. Too big to start making a change.

But when you break the resolution down into smaller actions, it can feel so much more do-able and manageable. That’s a key ingredient to make your new years resolutions successful.

The second resolution above is a good example of that. It outlines specific things the person will do so she is no longer so critical of herself.

Keep your actions small

Specific actions are naturally smaller actions and these help you make your new years resolutions successful.

I was working with carers not long ago and a common goal they often have is to get fit. When we broke that goal down, taking more exercise became an important component. But the carers were worried whether they would actually take the time to exercise. So I said do it for 5 minutes at the start. That’s all.

When I re-introduced exercise back into my life in 2018, the first routine I did was 6 minutes long. That’s it. Since then, I’ve slowly built up the amount of time I exercise.  I dropped a dress size in the past year, my body shape has changed, and my cardio function has improved.

These are the benefits of keeping your resolutions small

Specific actions are naturally smaller actions and these help you make your new years resolutions successful.

A small (tiny even) action enables you to get started. Getting started is important.

It’s easier to take smaller action as it may not take as much time. So you’re more likely to keep taking the action(s) which makes it easier to build habits. Habits are good for lasting change.

Smaller actions allow you to work to a pace you are capable of and comfortable with given everything else going on in your life. It may mean change happens more slowly, but chances are much greater it will be long lasting change.

There are important benefits to keeping your #NewYearsResolutions small. Read about them here #change #wellness Click To Tweet

There is another reason why specific and small actions are important

When you or a loved one is dealing with a challenging health issue, you are dealing with some big changes. And all you want is to get your life back and feel like yourself again.

It can feel overwhelming. My clients have said this to me. I have personally experienced this.

Specific and small actions help you to not pile expectations onto yourself. But to take things at a gentler pace.

Small is good, achievable and gentle.

The caption of this picture reads: Small and specific actions help you to be gentle with yourself. A woman is standing and looking contended at a table. On the table are three actions. Go to yoga class once a week. Walk at lunch three times a week. Go out with a friend once a week. The woman is thinking, "Having just a few small actions this year feels much more possible to do." Small and specific actions will make your new years resolutions successful

What’s it like for you?

What do you think will help you to make your new years resolutions successful? What has worked in the past for you? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

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

Pass it forward

Has this blog made you think? Helped you in some way? Share it so it can do the same for someone else.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

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