Learning New Things

To truly value the hard times, we have to approach life as if there are lessons to learn

In a recent group post my fatigue coach, Pamela Rose asked us to take the Tony Robbins quiz on our “driving force” – linked here if you are interested. I am a little sceptical of Robbins style and some of his philosophies around health. But I will say at surface value he got me right. My drive is for growth, always learning and looking to grow and get better. The idea of considering is these driving forces is to ensure that we are approaching our lives with them still in mind, even if fatigue is putting up barriers.

I think that there is often barriers in my life. As I recently wrote there are ways to overcome these: no more tears and of course I do apply all of these methods to try and live creatively. But I also think the situations themselves can teach us things in life.

Time for some quiet rest

Right now life is telling me I have to concentrate on my family. My son’s not coping at school so his needs are much higher. It is also reminding me that life has easier and harder times. Sometimes the hard seems to drag on. However just as to live with a chronic health condition you have to come to a place of acceptance, in these tougher times you need to accept they are just that.

I may be around less or doing less creative work for a while as I get through this difficult time. But I am committing to my 50 day challenge so I take the best care of myself. I am committing to creative moments and artist dates still to feed thia need. I am still committing to trying to read as a good book is a happy place even in dark times.

I will update the blog next month with how it is all going with hopes that soon I will be able to write again. In the meantime, write right now if you can.

Half Year Reset

It’s that time of year when I reflect on what I can improve

There is something about the arbitrary passage of time that is on my mind recently. I am nearing forty and trying to have no regrets of time lost. But now it is June I feel the need to reset my goals.

I often use the Gretchen Rubin method of having 21 in 2021 etc which I have in my journal but this year I decided to revisit my vision board. This is a practice I learnt that I had achieved the aims of a spa trip, some sister time and have certainly tried to get out in nature. I had a recent Artist Date exploring the azaleas which gave me a lot of joy. And I have been trying to find ways to look after me eventhough my son is having a tricky time.

The inconvenient truth about life is sometimes one thing goes right then, another goes wrong. I don’t mean even just the big stuff. Detailed plans seem to me the stuff of wild dreams. I have written about my disdain for plans before not to discourage planning but to try and reassure anyone I know, life doesn’t work like that.

So this year for my reset I wanted to be more realistic. The algorithm sent me a message (like it’s the from universe but more likely just the sort of wellness content I am consuming). I am following a 50 day refresh led by Smilin Aislinn on youtube. Watching her videos just made me smile, she’s not worried if your journey looks completely different which clearly as a nearly-40 year old non-model I have in no way a similar life. But I am inspired to try and be consistent. Keep up habits that help with both my energy and creativity.

If you are inspired to anchor each day with healthy habits, she recommends setting both your goal and intention behind them. And most importantly not to be a perfectionist about it. There is no need to go back and revisit if you miss one. I missed off get up early from the list I made because that one is a given for me. These were the habits I created to support me:

Simple Habits to Help Energy and Creativity

Habit one: Morning pages. Everyday three pages as soon as you wake up. Or do them imperfectly like me. My intention is to have a space to be creative, reduce stress by journalling my worries and find me time at the beginning of everyday

Habit two: Green juice and lots of veggies on top of my normal food. My intention is to add to my energy by being healthy but not restrictive. I have tried a number of wellness fads and this one has stuck. If I am more consistent hopefully it will support healthy recovery.

Habit three: Afternoon meditation. I can’t always sleep in the afternoon but I find taking a restful moment each day for 20 minutes will give me a better chance of getting through my day even with fatigue. If you’re bad at meditation, I’ve written my guide for fidgets.

Habit four: Three gentle exercise days and three yoga days. I know that doing very short and gentle workouts makes me feel better as long as I only do it to my level. The appreciation I have now of being able to do this bit more having been living with fatigue for nearly 18 months makes it so valuable to my sense that I am recovering. Again being consistent hopefully will also see some positive improvement in my endurance as the weeks go on.

Habit five: Ten minutes reading daily. You may see I have recently posted some reviews and I am enjoying reading books again within my limits. I am still making my way through 40 books before 40 from my to be read (TBR) pile. Reading will always be my greatest inspiration and it’s a joy to build up my concentration despite the fatigue.

Habit six: Skincare. I am guilty of buying lots of skincare products and letting them sit looking me each day. Taking a bit extra time to use the jade roller and various potions is adding that bit of self-care at the beginning and end of each day. It’s my small way to remind myself to look after myself even in the toughest of times.

Infantalism and the modern man

This is my declaration against memes calling men our children

What I wasn’t told when I had a child, was that I was joining a club who were all supposed to make the same jokes about motherhood. There are an awful lot about drinking wine (or gin) to cope with the trials, many dedicated to not enough coffee but the one I get sick of the most is the one that infantalises my husband as my child.

There are times I have found myself getting resentful of my partner as a parent. Those early days when I had to wake up (and the now days when I also have to wake up) are the worst. The tiredness associated with parenting had already taken me to new heights (lows) before I developed a fatigue condition. And if I wanted to, I could make a joke about not enough coffee in the world, but I won’t. I will just say that in this one area there is an imbalance between the one who always wakes for their child (me) and the one who gets kicked in the back to wake up (him.) That means the other times of day have to be more balanced out. When weekends come around, or holidays, I start to insist on him doing specific jobs to balance out the fact I have dealt with wake ups in the night.

But it has been even more crucial to make these stipulations, though I acknowledge he is working during the week, because the fatigue I am experiencing can be so much worse if I push myself too hard. This has been hard to have to list and explain what exactly needs to be done if I need him to do it. Whilst also hard to communicate it all in a fair way (given tiredness can also make you snappish). I learnt a few years back that this is called “the motherload” and the idea has really stuck with me. The emotional labour of listing and knowing what needs doing, when it has to be done and how you do it a certain way is a mental burden that we often discount. Writing recently about my brain fog at Christmas, I talked about passing on some jobs completely so I don’t have to think about them. This is because my executive function, which includes planning out, is reduced with the fog. So I have had to develop systems where certain jobs happen on certain days to combat the chaos of my brain.

Sorry, I don’t have time or energy to supervise another adult

In addition to the motherload, you can also become your child’s “default parent” This does include school always calling you but also that my son only currently wants to play with me. That means me, sat on the floor or doing a puzzle, most likely being instructed what to do and trying to give as much attention as I can. And it is tiring, though we have fun. But when I leave my son to my partner, they will sit happily ignoring each other on screens and when he is ready to play again, my son will seek me out.

The problem with both the motherload and being the default parent is that it does make your husband another child. The relationship is unbalanced by the power dynamics where you are the person who has the answers. The peacemaker. The arbiter. And it is not conducive with the adult company that we both deserve in each other. Worse still, I worry it is teaching my son to perpetuate the myth that mother is the one who holds onto the competence.

It has really made me think about the future, that we have to find ways in our relationship to have a good balance. But also that we have to challenge the sexist ideas that kick around about men’s incompetence. A cynical viewpoint would be that not knowing how to run the hoover and asking what to pack in the day sack are a “learned incompetence” that keeps me doing all the workload in the domestic sphere. But I choose to believe it is not on purpose, just something that has become a pattern of life. It means some things have to be explained to our perfectly capable modern men and little men of the future too.

Taking on the task of raising a little one is no joke, and though I enjoy lots of funny sites that I have listed below, I think it’s time to retire the commentary that men can’t do it all. They are afterall, just as capable of battling through parenting life as us.

My favourite funny mummies online are here:

Scummy Mummies

Hurrah for Gin

Brummy Mummy of 2

Sketchy Muma

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?