Tuesday, June 25, 2019

24 Quick Tips to Relax, Mix It Up, and Even Live It Up A Bit


~BLOG UPDATE~

Hi All,

I’m excited to announce that due to the success of this blog that I have now transitioned over to a new blogging platform that I think you will really enjoy!  You will find your favorite articles there and many more recent ones!

Please join me at RealisticOptimism.org – I can’t wait to see you there!

From me to you,

Lisa


Looking for some fun?  Need a distraction from your condition?   A new hobby?  Additional self-care ideas?  Here’s some great options to consider:

Stimulate your mind Grab a book (Maybe even join a book club!)

Bask in lavender relaxing scent, relaxed self.

Entertainment galore:   Binge on a favorite streaming series.

Self-care, self-care, self-care Rest, yoga, stretch, mindfulness   

Gravitate to Meditate:   Find your inner peace. 

Down it:   Drink more water; get more energy.

Love it:   Surround yourself with happy people, laughing children, silly stories. 

Live the Dream:   Find it; go for it.

Attitude of gratitude Seek it out, embrace it (journal it!).

Plant a seed:   Create (green) life!  

Destress:  Filter out unnecessary life stresses.

Peer out a window:   Sunrise, sunset.  Nature’s daily gifts of beauty.

Candle Up:   Embrace the light; shut out the darkness.

Treat time Salty or sweet?

Phone a friend:   Share some laughs. 

Got a puzzle?  Piece one together!

Game night!   In it to win it!

Fancy Smancy:   Decorate those toes!

Cuddle up The human touch is priceless.

Furry friends Comfort, fun, and laughs. 

Scenery change:  Bask in sunshine; enjoy lunch on your deck or patio.

Relaaaxx:    Melt into a massage.

Crayola Magic:   Check out coloring (or even painting!) 

What do you do to de-stress?  Relax?  Distract yourself from your condition?  Please feel free to share what's worked magic for you, helped you get through a rough day, or added some fun into the mix.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Exhaustion = Pain. It does!


~BLOG UPDATE~

Hi All,

I’m excited to announce that due to the success of this blog that I have now transitioned over to a new blogging platform that I think you will really enjoy!  You will find your favorite articles there and many more recent ones!

Please join me at RealisticOptimism.org – I can’t wait to see you there!

From me to you,

Lisa



While my illness comes with many, many symptoms, the one that seems to affect my daily life the most is my exhaustion.  And to me, I consider that exhaustion painful on both a physical and mental level.  However, a variety of google searches quickly shows me that pain and exhaustion are constantly talked about separately.

I’m no doctor but this just seems plain wrong.  Pain is often defined as physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury.  If I look at this definition, to me exhaustion falls smack dab in the middle of it.  I physically suffer because I am exhausted.  The level of exhaustion that comes with a chronic condition is so deep that simply standing for a short period of time can be too much.  Constantly pushing myself to stay alert, keep my eyes open, and stay focused are also ways my exhaustion plays out, each of which causes me physical discomfort.

Then there’s the more direct pain that is caused by exhaustion.  For example, I am forced to lay on my couch or bed for over 12 hours a day because of my exhaustion.  This causes back pain and has greatly weakened my body to the degree that I can no longer perform daily tasks such as grocery shopping or vacuuming.  Because of exhaustion, there are even times that chewing is too much work for me so I go without food. 

In short, the definition of pain seems way too narrow to me.  On top of what I already described, what about mental suffering and discomfort?  While some definitions of pain include mental suffering, many do not.  Those that do not disregard the pain associated with how it feels to have brain fog due to exhaustion.  And the pain that comes with exhaustion-induced short-term memory loss.  This sure feels like suffering and discomfort to me.  At the very least, “physical” should be removed from all definitions of pain.   

So why is sleep and pain often thought of as two separate concepts?  These examples barely touch the surface of what exhaustion is and does to a person.  In looking up the definition of exhaustion I found this: A state of extreme physical or mental fatigue.  This sure sounds painful to me. Given all this, it simply doesn’t seem right to not consider exhaustion to be painful.  In fact, I find it a bit insulting.

I know I’m not the first to have had someone say to them “oh… you’re just tired.  I didn’t sleep last night either and I just can’t think straight today.”   Grrr…  We’re not just talking about being tired here.  And that’s the problem.  Tired and exhaustion are put together rather than exhaustion and pain.  Exhaustion, unlike simply being tired, comes from not sleeping well for extended periods of time, years even.  It also comes from living with various types of pain for long periods of time.  Exhausted of being exhausted; exhausted from being sick.  It's all painful!

So why are pain and exhaustion still talked about as separate and distinct states?  I see exhaustion moreso as a subset of pain, a type of pain.  By putting them into separate categories I almost feel like it does those of us that primarily fight deep exhaustion on a daily level an injustice.  People hear pain and think one thing; people hear you are exhausted and think you must be doing something wrong, that there’s a quick fix available for you, or that it’s really not that big of a deal.  They subconsciously align it with simply being tired.

Okay... now that we’ve deep-dived on exhaustion, let’s bring this around a bit.  For those of you familiar with my writing, you know I write about finding realistic optimism within life with a chronic illness.  So where is the realistic optimism here?  Well, I think we clearly have talked about the reality of exhaustion.  What about the optimism part though?

First, knowledge and awareness is quite powerful.  The more that we can share information like this with people, the easier things get for us.  When we talk about exhaustion, people won’t just scoff it off as much anymore if they realize what it really is.  We will have less to prove (not that we owe it to anyone to “prove” the validity of our symptoms or conditions but we often find ourselves in that position).

Second, as cliché as it sounds, it is what it is.  If you ask me if I have pain, in my mind I include exhaustion as part of that pain. It’s self-validating and provides a more accurate depiction of my life.  It’s me authentically sharing what my life is like.  In the past I considered exhaustion separate from pain so when people asked me if I was in pain, I would scale back my level of pain.  However, that caused me to question myself – why can’t I do this or that if my pain level is that low?  What is wrong with me – did I lose my motivation? Have I become lazy?  Now that I include my exhaustion level in my pain rating, it all makes more sense.  My pain level aligns with my ability level.  Basically, I’ve right-sized my illness with my abilities.  And honestly, that feels like a huge mental burden has been lifted off of me.  

And that’s where my optimism comes from – figuring out that exhaustion is part of pain. By putting exhaustion on the playing field with pain, my symptom and ability level line up.  I no longer question myself, I feel more validated, and I have hope that by continuing to share what exhaustion really is that eventually the world will catch on that fatigue is one facet of debilitating pain; it’s not to be minimized.

With knowledge comes power and with that comes change in attitude and perceptions.  With changes in these areas, our lives can become easier.  We will no longer have to prove what exhaustion does to a person to our employers, disability insurance providers, friends, and loved ones.  People will simply know.  And that’s a burden lightened…  and that’s where I find my hope and optimism.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Drowning in Priorities


~BLOG UPDATE~


Hi All,

I’m excited to announce that due to the success of this blog that I have now transitioned over to a new blogging platform that I think you will really enjoy!  You will find your favorite articles there and many more recent ones!

Please join me at RealisticOptimism.org – I can’t wait to see you there!

From me to you,

Lisa



How do you manage your life when you’ve already whittled it down to just your top priorities and it’s still too much?  Feeling like every day is another day of playing catch-up or worse, falling even further behind – it’s not a great feeling. Okay… reality.  It’s a terrible feeling.


As my illness really set in, I quickly realized that I had too much on my plate.  So, I removed the easy-to-eliminate extras in my life. However, I found I was still overloaded with outings that were causing crashes, daily activities that were too much to keep up with, and relationships that were a struggle to maintain.


So, I learned to say no more often (this is still hard for me!), I further reduced my outings, and I asked my caregivers for help (this too was hard for me.  I’ve always been a helper, not a “helpee.”) with some of my daily activities.   However, I found I was still playing catch-up.  I was still feeling miserable because I wasn’t feeling productive, only disappointment in myself and what I wasn’t able to accomplish.

So back to the drawing board to re-evaluate what was left on my plate.  But this is where it got hard.  Because I have already skimmed off so much, what was left was what I considered my top priorities.   Things that either kept me afloat financially, created a back-up plan for me when things changed, were dedicated to creating awareness and support for my illness, and the relationships in my life.  So, what do I have left to cut?

I’ve really been feeling stuck in this place for quite a while… and it’s not a pretty place to be in.  I still have a few days where I get the “high” of feeling like I was productive and made some progress, but there’s still too many days where I cannot contribute to my key priorities as much as I want to.  This disappoints me and I feel, at times, I am disappointing others.  And I am chipping away at the reputation and strong work ethic I spent decades creating.  And that is quite humbling.

So, I’ve stepped back. I’m still a little unsure about whether I need to re-evaluate my key priorities.  But I’ve decided to take a different tactic this time since I’ve already eliminated so much.  I’ve decided it’s time to simply look at my key priorities and determine how I can still contribute to them, but perhaps in a new way.  In a way that adds value but also doesn’t disappoint or overload me. I’m just starting this process so I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but I’m going in with great hope!

Just in writing this I’m feeling a bit better as I’ve realized that I’ve prioritized my life perhaps in a way I should have all along.  I’ve learned to say no – there was a huge learning curve for me with this.  I’ve also learned to ask for help – even a bigger learning curve for me.  And as I review my process, I feel like it’s pretty solid.   So, while I have ways to go with solving my problem, I’ve realized that all along I’ve been creating successes and growing as a person.  And that’s productivity in action!

So, I guess my lesson is that we really need to cut ourselves some slack.  The reality is that we are doing more than we think we are.  It may not be with the concrete goals or projects that we’ve set for ourselves, but better yet, as people we are growing and figuring out how to solve advanced problems that affects us as a whole.  These are the kind of skills that will serve us well our entire life, not just the duration of today’s task.


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Finding A Way…

~BLOG UPDATE~


Hi All,

I’m excited to announce that due to the success of this blog that I have now transitioned over to a new blogging platform that I think you will really enjoy!  You will find your favorite articles there and many more recent ones!

Please join me at RealisticOptimism.org – I can’t wait to see you there!

From me to you,

Lisa


I feel like I’m caught in the middle of a variety of places in my life.  I’m not complaining as I know that things could be much worse.  Rather it’s just something that’s come to mind as it seems to be a more prominent piece of my life now. 


I don’t think I’m unique in this feeling.  I think many of us find ourselves in some sort of middle ground for a variety of reasons that we didn’t always intend or want to be in so I thought it was worth exploring what it means, how it feels, and if there’s some opportunities that lie within it. 


Here’s a few examples of when I feel caught in the midst of conflicting states:


I am sick, sicker than the average person, but not as sick as many.


I still have so much I want to do with my career but my body says no!


I still crave to work out, my forbidden fruit; will that craving ever subside?


I miss my friends dearly but I’ve been forced to give up seeing almost all of them.


I don’t want to hide my illness but in certain cases, with certain people, I do.


I’ve always been the caregiver, not the receiver; this role reversal is a big change.


I want to say yes, to be that same go-to person I always was, but no is now my new mantra.


How do we find acceptance with all the changes that come with life – and more so, life with a chronic illness?  How do we adjust to them?  Does the grieving ever go away?  Does saying no get easier?   Can we find new ways to thrive?


I don’t have the answers to any of these questions.  Or maybe I have a few for some of my own questions – the lawyer in me at least wants to give my standard answer, “it depends.”   


I used to be a person that wasn’t comfortable until I had all the answers to questions like this.  Once I had concrete answers I could move on; I could not only find a way to succeed but I could thrive.  But now the answers are scarce, elusive, and often unknown.   If they are there, I have to work hard for them.


Time is a beautiful thing though.  Time has taught me that not knowing the answers is definitely okay.  To be honest, I really never did know as much as I thought I did.  Perhaps I had some answers or guesses at the answer, but if randomly getting so sick has taught me one thing, it’s that you never truly know what life has in store for you.  Or what one moment will be like to the next. 


While unpredictability and uncertainly can create uneasiness at times, a lot of what I don’t have the answers to I may never have had them or will have them.  So, I can worry, fret, and be stopped by that or I can just be okay with it and find a way. 

So, I am finding my way.  Many times in the darkness and many times by the light of my circle of friends or from within myself.   While my path once was a straight line, it’s now zig-zagged and sometimes even circular.  Graphically speaking, it definitely paints a more visually appealing picture.  It has its challenges, but it also has its successes.   


For example, some things time has taught me is that grieving for our losses does get a bit easier with time. While it doesn’t go away, it tends to ebb and flow at an easier pace.  I’ve also realized that at this point it’s safe to say that my love of working out is rooted deep within my core.  Having realized this, I’ve found viable alternatives to satisfy that craving, such as gentle yoga.  I’ve also learned that perhaps I should have been choosing where I spend my time wiser all along.  A few more no’s in my past might have been a good thing.  While I don’t like how often I have to decline invites now, when I can say yes, it’s a YES!!

In life we will always find ourselves in the middle of situations, challenges and opportunities.  The key may simply be to see them as temporary pit-stops.  There’s a lot of room in that middle ground area where we can carve out a spot for ourselves that satisfies our needs.  And sometimes we may find that being in the middle teaches us something we wish we would have known in the first place.


While being in “limbo” was not something I could have readily accepted at one point in my life, the unpredictability of living with a chronic illness has not only taught me to accept it, but to see it as an area that some opportunities and even better life decisions may lie.

~BLOG UPDATE~

Hi All, I’m excited to announce that due to the success of this blog that I have now transitioned over to a new blogging platform that I t...