Thursday, April 14, 2016

Relaxing into Change, Not Fighting A Battle

This morning, not soon after I woke up, I started thinking about the title of yesterday's blog post, Fighting the Battle.  Sometimes, the word fighting may evoke angst and anxiety in individuals.  Personally, I think a constant battle would be exhausting, both emotionally and physically;  therefore, I think it is wise to have way to reframe thoughts on the words I am telling myself.

When I used the term fighting the battle, I was thinking of the grit it often takes to get on with life.  However, that grit does not have to require raising one's cortisol level, nor demand pushing through despite any pain and anxiety you may feel.  You may actually prepare your brain better for what you want to achieve by relaxing first.  Here are some ideas I have used.

  • Get comfortable in a relaxed sitting position.  You can gently recline if that is best for you.
  • Take easy, deep breaths.  Breathe in through your nose, and Count 1, 2, 3, 4.  Hold 1, 2, 3, 4.  Let breath out through your mouth 1,2, 3, 4.  Repeat several times.
  • Picture one thing you want to achieve and the steps to do it.
  • Now, envision doing the first step and do just that one step.  You can continue on in this manner through each step, and you may find that what seemed so hard to do is easier than you felt before you changed your mindset about it.
Another method I have used that gives me some visual cues to encourage me when I don't feel like cleaning house is focusing on one or two things that I want to do.  Say I want to clear the dining room table of the stack that has grown there -- I can pick up an item, then put it away or throw it away, as I walk through that room.  After I have done this several times, I have often been able to see the difference and I have not felt overwhelmed.  In fact, I usually want to do more.  

Note that it may take more than one picking up trip by the table to see the difference;  however, congratulate yourself when trying this for taking each step:  it's a good feeling and rewarding to see the pile get smaller.  If you have a physical disability that requires pacing yourself, then make sure you limit the time spent working to your present ability.  After a while, you may find you have built some physical endurance from the activity, as well as having eliminated the overwhelmed feeling you used to get from believing you have to clean the whole table or clean the whole room at once.

These two methods, that include preparing yourself to get a job done or simply picking one focused thing to do, are techniques that can help you break out of feeling frozen in a do nothing or a do little state without overwhelming pressure.  This is relaxing into changing habits by a slow immersion, rather than pushing yourself into an anxiety attack.  These are easily applicable Baby Steps that can be expanded into longer steps as you feel more comfortable with the habits you are working on.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fighting the Battle

It often seems like the battle is never ending when you have a chronic illness.  Even when you have been seeing improvement, there are times you feel like you cannot throw off all the cords that have bound you.  It seems they tighten and pull you down again.

The only thing I can say for getting through this is "keep on fighting."  Rest between bouts; then, start moving forward again, one step at a time.

You may think that is easy for me to say.  No!  It is not!  I know this, because I live it.  I am living it right now.  I am having to modify my behavior to fit my situation, and it is not easy.  I start retreating into my little turtle shell, only wanting to be in situations where I feel comfortable, which is mostly at home;  and, my step backwards throws me back into a loop that means I am having to regain ground on the habits I thought I had fixed.

Has this ever happened to you?  Have you ever had a relapse and ended up sitting around in your pajamas too much?  Have you seen your house get a little messier (maybe a lot messier), and you have not cleaned your bathrooms and other areas as often as you normally do?

Have you ever had another member of your family become ill or had some other prolonged situation arise that sapped your strength and emotions?  I bet I could name many things that may affect how you are able to handle your illness and responsibilities.  However, the point I am making is not about what affects you, but what you do when you realize how far you have fallen from where you were.

I can write about the backward steps from experience, because I have lost count of how many times this has happened to me.  Moreover, I am experiencing this now.  I am having to climb my way up again, and it is worth it.  My brain tries to get stuck in the old ruts and loop back into what used to be the chronic illness norm for me, which is quite depressing.  Some of that dread I used to to feel in the morning upon awaking has tried to creep back into my life, and I am having to make behavior changes that include telling myself that the feelings will pass and it will be a good day.  Praying and thinking of scripture before I even get out of the bed has helped too.

The point is not to give up, because there is still a race to run.  It may be a very slow walk with one heavy foot in front of the other, but it is doable.  It can be done, even when you do not immediately see large scale results. In fact, you may never see large scale results, but you can feel good whenever you take a baby step forward.

Here are my daily basic steps forward this week, and I am not limited to just these steps.  In fact, I have already been able to achieve more.  I am not listing obvious steps like self-grooming, eating, or taking medication and supplements;  however, one certainly can do this when planning one's goals for the week.

  • Get dressed in something other than pajamas.
  • Do stress relieving exercises, such as slow counted breathing patterns.
  • Focus on one household chore at a time, and do not think about how much more needs to be done.
  • Enjoy reading my book without guilt.
  • Take a short stroll outside, because it is better than sitting in the house all day.  
  • Do not talk negatively to yourself about all the things you have not done.

These are my goals.  What are yours?