Anniversaries are a time to reflect

It is certainly a big year in my life to reflect upon and find a way forward from this week on

With an unnerving sense of head-shaking disbelief, I am about to meet two anniversaries this week.  They feel both momentous and give me a short burst of existential depression. I have experienced these waves of insignificance since I was a child, and it took me until a few years back to find out what it is called. The New Year and birthdays are particularly bad for me : feeling a true sense of time and my existence and my irrelevance in the universe.  The coming week I am commemorating two anniversaries and I can’t help feel a little strange about it.

My blog is three years old, it has been growing slowly and steadily and I have plan to make it more of a place to talk about writing, as I had originally intended, as 2022 continues. But as I reflect on what I have achieved, I also reflect on how much of my life has been swallowed up by the pandemic years, it has become both my blogging topic and also invaded my home and time in ways we could never have known when I first wrote about my anxieties in March 2020.

This leads me to the other anniversary that I have to mark in this coming week. It is a year since I caught covid. At times, I still can’t fathom that I have not yet got over the infection. I have been recently taking an online course Pamela Rose’ Fatigue Rescue and one important part of a journey to recovery is to understand and accept your condition. The main thing that I have been doing (in addition to seeing doctors, attending therapy and a variety of wellness helpers) has been that I have believed myself. I do have a fatigue condition. I will get better. It will take time.

And it’s the time that feels so unbelievable to look back on, this anniversary will probably not be one that I have to look back on again (it might be, but this time next year…) But despite doing a lot of work around mindset and taking this condition seriously, I have some sadness to be marking a year this week. I am seeing it as an opportunity to change my life and prioritise what is important. But in doing so, I have to acknowledge that there is loss too. The loss is not as momentous as that many have experienced and I still say that I have been lucky. But it is ok for a moment to grieve a little of what has been lost in the last year.

I am looking forward

What I want to do now is get through this week and then look forward. I have been working out the kinks in a story that has taken my interest and will report more often about how that is going. I have planned some more reviews to share on the blog as these remain my most popular posts. I will probably write a little less about my health journey from this point. But for now I want to acknowledge that this is a moment where I can reset Mum Write Now, a little and look forward to what I expect to be a much better year.

Christmas in the (Brain) Fog

I am looking forward to the Christmas holidays and working out how to see through the fog

I can feel the pressure of making Christmas magic rising as I write. As a parent, I have a strong desire to make the young ones’ Christmas a special, sparkly time but what do you do when your brain is not at it’s shiniest best. Last year we couldn’t even see our families, so now we hopefully can socialise there is an expectation that this will be the best year. But amongst all that pressure I am trying to manage the planning and preparation with brain fog and fatigue. Here is what I have worked out may work for us this year.

A foggy winter ahead, photo in the public domain

Reduce your workload: We have planned to go to my mother-in-law so I do know already that I don’t need to cook, a lot of labour is saved and I think that having the main work on the big day taken from me will be a massive help, as well as being extra delicious that we can actually be together this year. In addition the familiar surroundings help me and my son and for that part of Christmas we will stay at home though go over on several days. This is really helpful to keep parts of the routine which keeps my soon’s energy a bit more regulated which helps us all feel a bit calmer.

Pace yourself: I know now that I need to pace myself, leaving a few days between each social gathering and taking it much more slowly on those days. I am so thankful to be back together with people this year but that doesn’t mean I can throw my pacing plans out of the window. January is depressing enough without having a massive crash. When I do socialise, I know already I might need to leave earlier than I might like to or take a little break part way through so that I can join in. It’s tradition to fall asleep after the turkey anyway, so won’t be too much of a surprise if I insist on a rest this year. I may also have some tougher days afterwards but I know if I do things that lift me, like being around people that I love, this will be worth it for me if I don’t go too far.

Buy online: When it comes to planning presents, I am doing tiny chunks and using a lot of lists on my phone so hopefully I don’t forget things. I have to say that I have seen statistics like 42% of people will buy their presents off Amazon this year and though I don’t like it, that will most likely be me. I know already that going to shops involves so many elements that are tiring, this time I need those items to come on delivery. I have been also trying to support a few friends with their Etsy crafts that I love but when it come to the plastic tat my son demands, it’s back to the five minutes ordering on my phone and along comes my friendly delivery lady the next day (who I am quite chummy with now.) Let’s hope that by next Christmas, I can be well enough to face the shops (and they are still there) but for now I have to be realistic about what I can do for us all.

Photo by Marta Dzedyshko on Pexels.com – probably less baking this year

Ask for help: Learning to ask for help has been a massive learning curve with managing fatigue. I have worked out what is more tiring now by listening to my body carefully and I have tried to ask for help in these areas. A friend came over this week to get the decorations out of our loft for us, she was lovely about it and though it seems a bit silly with my breathing issues and fatigue it is a massive load off me and I will be very slowly starting to decorate. In addition to asking for physical help, I have set my Mum the mission to find the impossible toy that my son has asked for. I was going round in circles online to try and find this “must have” and in the end I realised the brain strain is too much.

Keep it simple: The final thing is to avoid too much online content that drives me to want to make the magic so much. It is possible that I did “do a Pinterest” in previous year and make cards, bake mince pines with my son and make a Nutella Christmas tree for breakfast on Christmas morning. But it might be that this year is not that year. The Christmas tree may end up less trimmed – though it is one of my favourite things so I may choose to spend my energy on it – But really, what my fatigue is telling me right now, is that these things that seem so important are an image we get sold about what a perfect life can look like.

But if a chronic condition can teach us anything, there is no need for perfect, in fact pushing yourself is the worst thing you could do. After the year we have had personally and the pandemic era we have all gone through, I can only say that what is most important is to savour the time to rest and have fun together.  

Weird Wellness Trends That Might Work

In the pursuit of increased energy I have tried out a few trends and I think they actually work

In addition to being a regular but fidgety meditator, I have been trying out anything that might help my fatigue. Whether they claim to help with energy production or stress relief, I have given a number of weird wellness treatments a go. Although I must stress I have no medical qualification, I have a list now of great things that seem to do some good. Or make me feel better anyway. Here’s the things I recommend trying:

GREEN JUICE: I have been drinking spinach and other veggies blitzed together for a while. By upping vitamins, particularly eating raw with all the fibre included it feels like having juice several times a week has got to help with your health.

Does anyone else’s green juice look a bit brown?!

Unsubstantiated claim: drinking juice is easier to digest so takes less energy. I am not sure whether this is true but sometimes had juice midday when I am drooping. It takes less energy to make than a meal and I will have it before a rest.

VERDICT: As I see it a veggie rich juice is ultimately just like having soup cold so it does give you something healthy to have quickly. I also drink loads of water with the juice so the fibre doesn’t (um) overload the system. I can’t confirm that this actually provides more energy but I can at least say it suits my lifestyle at the moment and more vitamins is never a bad thing.

COLD SHOWERS: I now blast cold water at the end of every shower or will go to the gym to use the steam room and choose to blast the cold shower.

Unsubstantiated claims: Along with the Wim Hof breathing system, immersing yourself in cold water helps your cells repair and gives you more energy.

VERDICT: While I am not sure if the practice helps at a cellular level, I know that I do feel very energised by the experience. Particularly that contrast from hot to cold. Because I use the breathing techniques to I think this is helping me recover as I do have to work on breathing exercises anyway to help my lung health. This is one that is simple to do but feels like it pays me off, even if it just givea me a little jolt.

FACE ROLLING: This is another case of the internet made me do it. I have been using a face roller for a few months. My under-eye bags seem even darker than usual so using the jade roller on my face along with the various serums, oils and eye cream seems like a good act of self-care if nothing else

Unsubstantiated claim: The roller is supposed to reduce puffiness and improve skin tone. A lot of people find it very relaxing

VERDICT: While I remain dubious that my eye bags have improved, this is one certainly find relaxing. Hitting my later thirties, my skincare routine has developed into a multi-step act of desperation against ageing and I have doubts if any of it does work. However spending time and effort on my skin each day has become an important act of self-care which is why I recommend the roller despite my scepticism.

MAGNESIUM SALTS: A bath can be great for body aches. Relaxing back, particularly if you are finally getting time alone has often been my cure-all but magnesium salts have been an essential addition this year.

Unsubstantiated claims: A short bath in Magnesium Salts (about 20 minutes) allows the magnesium to enter your body and increased magnesium can really help your energy levels. A hair test showed my magnesium levels were low and I already add in foods to help with this.

VERDICT: One reason that the magnesium baths have been so important for me this year is that the suggested benefits come from having quite short baths. As a lot of people with fatigue know, bathing or showering is suprisingly tiring. By keeping a time limit to taking bath it is relaxing but not over-taxing most of the time. In addition to all the usual benefits of relaxing by having a bath, sometimes it will be a way of taking a break without actually napping in the day and seems to help in that way with my sleep.

It is possible I am just buying into wellness trends. However of all the things I have tried, these ideas are relatively inexpensive and achieveable. Often the boost comes from feeling like I am doing something to help myself. Which I think probably is the most important point of all. When our bodies go into fatigue or burnout, it does feel we are out of control. Using these props, whether they are proven to help or not, has given me practical steps to take care of myself more.

What wellness practices have helped you feel better? Anything I should try?

How to Change Your Life

The plan changed so I had to change the plan

If you have read my blog this year, you will know I have had fatigue since January and it has taken a while for me to establish a reasonable baseline of energy management so that I can do a bit more each week and gradually get back to my creative practices. But what I am really having to do is change my life and not necessarily by choice.

Listen to Your Body

The first way I have had to change is by listening to my body more. This used to mean realising I am stressed out because the world irritates me, getting angry, getting a migraine or both were a sign to do less. These things might hold me back but I would try and use this stress. And adrenaline would keep me going.

I know now I have been living on the edge of burnout . Before this year though, my body never fully told me to stop.Now, when my body tells me it’s too much I really have no choice but to listen. It aches like I have been in a car crash and leaves me so tired I can do very little. Without a choice, it has made me reflect on just how often I pushed through on little sleep and frazzled nerves.

Put systems in place

I have always tried routines and to do lists to keep on track of my life. It’s not something that comes easily to me. But this year my mind, like my body, has insisted I pay more attention. It is essential for me to work to systems to get anything done now. With brain fog I have to use the systems and more importantly I have no choice but to write it down.

Keep your Boundaries

This one I am only managing to change with the help of a therapist. Sometimes it is the boundary that my body or mind insists on. But sometimes it’s the really difficult one for many of us, saying no to people. It might also include the no to something you want to do. I am learning to sometimes say the hard no but also say I may not have that energy, explain the boundaries relate to the condition.

Quit Your Day Job

I suppose all artists, writers and creatives have toyed with the idea of quitting their job to follow their passion, pursue their bliss and other dream-life rhetoric. Sadly, the reasons I have for quitting are little more prosaic. In addition to work, I have caring responsibilities and my fatigue condition has become more difficult to manage. I have been trying to decide whether I can continue working but my temporary reduction of hours hasn’t quite been enough to get me back on my feet. I didn’t quite mean to join the great resignation but I know also that I am making the biggest step now.

This year has taught me a lot, not least that a lot has to change.

Feel Hopeful for the Future

Although managing fatigue is a tough task for me, it’s made easier by having the right mindset. Whilst that might sound like I could think my way out of fatigue, that isn’t really what I mean. What you can do is pay attention. By listening to my body I know even on a tough day or week, that I have had better days and they will come another day.

Have you had to change your life before? Have you realised you should have done it a long time ago?

Watch this space for more updates about all the changes I am making in the next months!

Looking for Bright Spots

How taking more mindful walks can help

Enjoying a mindful walk in my neighbourhood, I often take a random picture of something I like: a flower or a tree in bloom, a kite caught in wires. Reflecting on my gallery from the Summer, I can see the optimism I have tried to find in my area.

Sure you will see more professional photographers, but I love to look for bright spots that catch my eye when I am out and about. This may just be the modern habit; I am guilty as the next of putting a photo of my coffee on the gram, and I do think we have an instinct to capture our lives more than I had growing up. It helps that there is practically no limit on how many photos I can take on my phone (you remember 36 photos on a film too, right?) So when I am out on my walks, I might take a picture of something I think is pretty just because.

My Instagram is MumWriteNow although don’t expect regular content, it’s more like a place to sporadically remember to post photos. I have started a series called #treesnearme It’s a feature of the fact in recent months I have been on short walks to the same places over and over, gradually building some stamina in my exercise without crashing from a long walk. Though I walk the same way regularly, having this vague project to notice the trees around me, whether their blossom or bark, it’s just being mindful to my surroundings.

I have set it as a goal to continue mindful walks throughout the Autumn so expect a lot more leaves and bark patterns from me in the next months. I have plans to learn more about foraging too so that next Spring I am ready to identify elderflower over cow parsley and other berries than blackberries. This ties in well with the research I have been doing around folklore and woodland life but it is also a simple and achievable way for me to take Artist’s dates.

If you haven’t come across this idea before, Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way recommends that you take two hours out each week to explore, create and play. I have a list of great Artist’s dates you can do on the cheap and woodland walks have definitely become important to me in nurturing my inner artist.

I can’t say it’s a full digital detox but for me it is a good compromise to go for quiet and mindful walks, just occasionally getting my phone out to photograph something that has caught my eye. I am hoping as I gradually build up to longer walks, I can spot some more interesting finds. It is also one that I can do with my little man alongside me at times. Often, he finds a really good stick or brings home a pine cone. It is fascinating to me that part of what I am learning to do on my walk, – whether I take photos or sit up in a tree – is what comes so naturally to children. I really think that the creative mind is playful, looking at the world with fresh eyes. In taking these observant and mindful walks we can do more than appreciate nature, we can find that natural and playful side to ourselves. And if you want to build your creative practice, being more playful is a great place to start.