Dealing with a chronic illness or even more than one is tough stuff to be sure. At times you can get frustrated, tired, angry and feel defeated. But yes, you can be happy too. It is so easy to get caught up in the symptoms that make you feel miserable, the medications that you must take to function and all of the changes in your life due to the illness.
Some of us have lost friends, lost jobs, had to move, deal with family members who don’t understand, try to find doctors that know how to treat the disorders, buy special food, wear different clothes, change cleaning products, deal with daily pain… well, you get it; the list is long.
But despite what sounds like a terrible existence, we can experience joy, love, fun and of course, be happy. How do you find this when you are feeling such pain? By shifting your thoughts. We tend to focus on the sickness. After all, we feel sick! But, what if you begin to focus on other things…
Mindfulness: you have all heard it, over and over. But do you practice it in your every day life? It is simply being aware from moment to moment and noticing exactly what is happening around you and within you. Right now, I’m writing this, but I also hear the water fountain in my husband’s office, so relaxing. I’m also aware that my back hurts, so I get up and stretch for a couple of minutes. I am staying in this present moment. No ruminating over past events or worrying about possible future events. You know how that is? Will I need to Epi and call 911 again? Will the ER know what to do? Have a plan but don’t waste energy. The present is just that… our present to ourself.
Gratitude: whether you write in a gratitude journal, use an app on your phone or share around the dinner table each night, expressing gratitude will shift your thoughts from fear and negativity to joy and positivity. If you’re not a believer, just try it for 2 weeks. Faithfully write down 3 things every day that you can be grateful for. Some days, it may be, I woke up today; I have eyes that can read my friends’ posts; I can hear this beautiful music. Others don’t have them. Some days will be better. I have books and books of written gratitude. I enjoy going back and re-reading them.
Music: whatever kind of music that makes your heart soar, your feet tap and your body relax is perfect. Some like jazz, some like country, others prefer rock, some like classical or maybe hip hop. I’ve been known to turn up the volume and dance when no one is around except my pup, Buddy. Good for the soul.
Plan a vacation: many of us do not get to go on vacations. Travel is difficult. But research from the Netherlands shows that the act of just planning a trip causes more happiness than actually taking the trip. So choose a fun and exciting destination and plan away!
Kindness: this is an interesting one but try it. According to Martin Seligman, the author of The Pursuit of Happiness, acts of kindness with no expectation of a reward, bring happiness. Even when we are struggling with chronic disorders, there are times we can fit in moments of kindness for another. You will feel that endorphin high. Nice!
Smile: even when you feel like you have nothing to smile about, smile. Your brain will perceive the smile as happiness and it can literally change your mood. My nickname at my last job was “smiley”. 🙂
I would LOVE to have you share your happy moments with me. And here’s a photo of “smiley” with Buddy.
Day in and day out, you deal with the same type of issues, crabby customers, demanding supervisors and that’s just at work. Before you even stepped through the door of work, you were tackling whining kids, chasing barking dogs, battling heavy traffic and trying to fit in breakfast.
All of these stressful scenarios can affect your health, manifesting in physical symptoms such as headaches, back pain, digestive problems, irritability, insomnia, eventually leading to high blood pressure, heart disease and even worse.
Since always having totally stress-free, uneventful days isn’t reality, prepare yourself with a relaxation guide to get your body and mind primed and ready for any crisis.
Begin your day SLOWLY. If you start off by rushing, it will snowball by noon. Give yourself plenty of time, even if that means getting up earlier than everyone else. Sit on the edge of the bed, stretch, smile and take 3 deep breaths before getting up.
Although that cup of java may get you going in the morning, limit your caffeine intake, including teas, soda and chocolate. Caffeine is a stimulant and can add to the anxious, stressed feeling. Opt for plenty of fresh, clear water throughout the day because even slight dehydration leads to fatigue and lack of energy.
No matter how crazy your day gets, find a quiet place to be alone for 10-15 minutes. Lock yourself in the bathroom if you really are can’t find a space, but I’m betting you can be creative. During your “down time” deep breathe, listen to calming music, squeeze a stress ball, meditate, listen to a guided imagery CD or MP3. The goal is to recharge for the rest of the afternoon.
On your lunch break or afternoon break, take a brisk walk. Even 10 minutes is beneficial. If you have the opportunity to walk outside, you will reap the benefits of being in nature, in addition to the exercise. If not, walk in the hallways, up and down stairs or to another building. Just walk!
Modify your work environment to generate positive feelings. Add a family photo, plant, inspirational phrase and if allowed, listen to music.
De-clutter your work space and de-clutter the most used areas in your home. Clutter is an energy drainer and a constant visual reminder of undone tasks.
Fuel your body with natural, real food. Eating lots of processed, junk food and sweets affects how well you body functions. Junk in, junk out!
Make sleep a priority. Never mind watching TV , “hanging out” on Facebook or answering those last few email. They are not as important as getting another half hour of dreamtime. Sleep deprivation adds to weight gain and poor stress management.
Incorporate some self-soothing techniques as part of your daily ritual. Drink a cup of hot tea, do arm stretches and neck rolls or learn mini-self massage, especially facial massage where we tend to build up tension: make a series of tiny circles with your thumbs or fingertips over your temples, jaw muscles and forehead.
Lastly, take the time to LAUGH. Whether you take a few minutes to watch funny animal videos on YouTube, funny movies, cartoons, sitcoms or read funny books, laughter and big smiles changes our brains’ chemistry.
You now have the essential steps to relaxation… your personal guide. If you practice them, you will reap the benefits and even begin to enjoy work in a more calm, relaxed state. Breathe deeply, slow down and enjoy.
Body image concerns and eating issues are often closely connected. Our body image is influenced by many factors- family, society and culture. It is also greatly influenced by how you feel about yourself, physically and emotionally.
If you are a healthy person who exercises regularly and has good self-care and coping skills, you most likely feel positive about your body. You feel good “in your skin”. But if you have health challenges, are a couch potato and succumb frequently to stress, anxiety or struggle with self-esteem, I’m betting you also struggle with body image.
Many times, that also means crazy diets and deprivation, excessive exercise, even more stressing and feelings of inadequacy. None change the image of yourself , so here are some positive things to focus on instead:
Eat a clean diet. Feed your body whole, natural foods that nourish and fuel it. You do not need to deprive it, just cut out the processed and sugary foods.
You have a natural body shape– pear, apple, straight or hourglass- and whether you are “perfect” weight or have a few extra pounds, you will still have that shape. I will always be a pear and bottom heavy. It’s a joke in our family now. No matter how much I weigh, I have “junk in my trunk”. Accepting that we are born with this trait can take away much angst.
Not one magazine photo is natural. They are airbrushed, touched up, fixed. No one looks like that naturally. Don’t let society set YOUR standards. Your standards are how you physically feel in your body. Does it move well? Have adequate energy?
Develop a self-care routine that says, “I love you”. Treat yourself the way you would treat a best friend. Give yourself time, love and attention.
Write out a list of the 5 top things that you value about yourself. I’m sure there are more than 5 but start there. Remember that body image is an inside job. Focusing on the things you value rather than a body part you deem as not perfect is the beginning of the shift.
When you look in the mirror, do you see a big nose, wide hips, thin hair, chicken legs… or do you see a smiling, confident person, ready to love, share and care? Always remember that the choice is yours. Here is a question for you to ponder… how many of you have met a person who may not be physically what society calls “attractive”? Either very heavy, or “too thin” or thinning hair… you get the picture, but they are smiling, engaging and friendly. Didn’t you come away thinking what a cool person they were? No thoughts about the physical appearance. The energy we give out when we meet someone is all about how we feel/think about ourselves. Project a positive energy and watch things shift.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net