10 things I do when I have to travel, while my stupid chronic illnesses tag along.

green and white volkswagen combi

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When I was much younger, traveling was something I looked forward to doing in my life.  I dreamed that some day I/we would have enough money to visit a few places I have always dreamed of seeing in person……..Italy, India, Cuba, Belize and the Southwest U.S.  Instead, extra money goes to pay medical bills and the thought of getting on a plane or sitting in a vehicle for a long road trip creates anxiety.  I already feel ill, being in a moving anything makes me feel worse…………every, single, time. Period.  It just sucks.

But there are times in our life when we need to go somewhere that requires being in a moving vehicle for more than a trip across town, and since teleportation isn’t a thing yet, I just have to suck it up and get through it.

So here are a few things that have made traveling more bearable for me:

  1.  I stay hydrated.  I always feel better when my body has adequate water.  Bottled is a must as tap (chlorinated) water makes me instantly ill.
  2.   I eat as healthy as possible.  Junk food makes me feel like just like that, junk.  I usually pack a cooler and bring cut up veggies, fruit, nuts and seeds, grain-free tortilla chips, and some health bars.
  3.   I watch the world pass by.  Unfortunately I can’t read, look at my phone or do much of anything other than look out the window while being in a moving object.  Doing otherwise has had some bad results.
  4.   I bring my pillows and blanket with me.  I must have a wedge pillow to sleep as elevating my head at night allows me to function better the next day.  Then my own blanket to cozy up with at the end of the day allows me to sleep better.
  5.   I don’t push myself into that k(no)w zone.  You know the place of no return, when you realize that if you do anymore you won’t be able to function the next day.  I use to worry about letting others down but now, I realize that even if I am going to unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings, I won’t force my body to do things it just doesn’t want to do.  I do what I can and know I have done my best.
  6.  I do my best to take all supplements and/or medication on time.  I keep these with me as I travel so I don’t have to waste precious energy frantically searching for them at the last minute.
  7.  I bring earbuds with me so I can listen to relaxing music or a podcast when I need to focus on something other than how crappy I feel.
  8.  I pack comfortable clothing and shoes.  I know we all want to look nice but comfort is so much more important.
  9.   If I am going to be busy on the day I arrive at my destination, I always ask for early check-in.  That way I have time to relax before I need to be somewhere.
  10.    I always bring my heating pad.  That way I have something to help relieve sore muscles other than a hot shower.

 

Until next time…………..YOU are a superhero and superheros sometimes have to fly!

10 frugal mental pick-me-ups

trees in park

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Living with illness day-in and day-out not only wears on your body, but takes a toll on your mental health.  It is hard to keep picking yourself up when you are in constant pain, hear a trail of bad news from health care practitioners, and experience the isolation that CI can bring.  Depression and anxiety start to take a grip on your brain and it can be a very hard grip to shake.  Taking time, daily, to give yourself a mental pick-me-up is an  important part of keeping as healthy as possible.

 

  1.  Pray/Meditate for guidance, for new ways to deal with your illness, for healing paths that bring comfort, and for people into your life who truly care.
  2.   Listen to music that makes you happy………from Mozart to The Beatles from Madonna to The Red Hot Chili Peppers, music has a way of making us happy and allowing our minds to escape from reality – as least for a little while.
  3.   Get outside in nature.  Who doesn’t love looking at pictures of the beach, a flower in a field or a beautiful tree in a forest?  To experience it in person allows you to internalize the beauty and refresh the soul.
  4.   Drink a glass of filtered water.  It is so important that we stay properly hydrated.  It seems like such an easy thing to do but when you are in pain and nauseous, it can be a chore to take in enough fluids.  Water is known to improve mood, reduce headaches and flush out toxins.  Plain water does get boring, so adding lemon, cucumber, lime, orange, strawberries, even some fresh herbs such as mint or basil can add flavor and bring added benefits.  Be creative!
  5.   Sit outside and soak in some rays for 15 minutes. Sun increases your vitamin D levels which can give your immune system and mood a boost.
  6.  Laugh.  Get on-line and read some jokes, get on Pinterest, search for some funny memes, or watch a feel good movie……..laughter decreases stress hormones and increases endorphins, which are the feel good chemicals.
  7.  Breathe……….sometimes we are so stressed we are not really breathing.  Take some  deep breaths, not forced, just natural.  Our body NEEDS oxygen to live and deep breathing has been proven to have a positive impact on your brain, heart, digestion and immune system.  Check-in with yourself at least twice a day to make sure you are really breathing.
  8.  Journal.  Sometimes the chronic illness monster gets the best of us.  We just need to say stuff, swear like a drunken sailor, scream at the top of our lungs, yell at our doctors for not believing/helping/healing, and who are we to tell?  When we are alone it is imperative that we get those thoughts and feelings out so they are not internalized, creating a breeding ground for more illness.  Write those feelings down as they come.  Do not worry about what it is or how it is written, just let it out.
  9.   Do some gentle exercise like take a walk, a few yoga poses, ti chi, or stretches.  Whenever possible, move your body as much as possible as this also releases endorphins, possibly reducing depressive symptoms.  Walking to and from the bathroom and/or kitchen is way better than nothing.
  10.   Eat a healthy snack.  It is important that we continue to eat clean, healthy food despite our illnesses.  Eating food in its most natural state is best for providing our bodies the necessary vitamins and minerals needed to function as highly as possible.  A smoothie, a piece of fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds or 1/2 an avocado are all healthy and simple.

Until next time……………….You are a superhero!  (Yes, I mean YOU!)

 

 

5 ways to reduce anxiety when dealing with chronic illness.

four rock formation

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It has been my experience dealing with illnesses for decades, that anxiety rears it evil, unwanted head often for those of us living with chronic illness.  We live in a world filled with a lot of unknowns.  This is a reality we don’t want, in a world that doesn’t really get it, and can appear as if it doesn’t care.  So, how do you tackle those moments (or days) when anxiety comes charging straight ahead and doesn’t take into consideration where you are or what you are doing?  I definitely don’t have answers, just a humble list of things that have worked (not always) for me.

  1.  Breathe.  I know this sounds so simple, but in times of extreme stress and anxiety sometimes we forget to truly breathe.  We need to take a slow, deep breath to tell our bodies that we are in control……….whether we feel like it, or not.
  2.   Remind yourself you have been here before and you got through it.  This is a big one, the road is bumpy and terrible and you want to take a detour but sometimes there is just no where to turn around.  You have to go down the road and it will end.  You’ve got this!  It may not feel like it, but I have confidence in you!
  3.  Magnesium.  Yep, only if it is allowed by your medical professional.  But for me, magnesium glycinate has helped take the edge off more times than I can remember.  Most people with CI are low, so getting your magnesium levels checked may be beneficial for you.
  4.  Meditate.  I pull up a YouTube relaxation video and do my best.  One minute is better than none!
  5.  Get up and move.  Sitting still appears to keep my thoughts stagnant and focused on the bad.  Moving my body seems to start my thoughts moving and can bring a new perspective.

On top of these five, I also have one thing I do NOT  do.  When I am really stressed out and filled with anxiety about my health (or lack there of) I want to search for solutions.  I want to get better, I don’t want to be like this.  Like everyone else suffering from CI, I want my life back.  But, I have found that “googling it” makes things worse.  No matter what you are researching it seems as if the first thing that pops up is the word cancer……..who the hell needs to read such a horrible word when you are already super stressed!

Until next time YOU are a superhero!  Only a true superhero could do what you do, day in and day out.

Laundry, one load at a time…..

photo of wit and yellow tops

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Chores …….we all have to do them and there never seems to be an end to what should be done.  To top it off, they are really not all that much fun to do.   Being endless, chores can become overwhelming for those of us with CI, resulting in depression and anxiety.  We get depressed looking at the endless chores left undone because we are too ill or lack the physical energy it takes to complete them.  Tasks get pushed further and further down on “the list” which creates anxiety with all that is left to do.

So, how to tackle the chores that are the musts:  laundry, dishes, groceries and meal preparation, and make them as easy as possible?  I am by no means an expert at home management, but I have had a lot of experience living with CI and having a home to take care of.  It is a ton of work and I made a lot of mistakes along the way.  With every mistake, I searched for ways that would make each chore one I could physically manage.

So this post will touch briefly on laundry.  No matter how many times we are able to wear those not-so-dirty pjs (or fill-in the blank), they will eventually need to be washed.  If you have other people in your household, their clothing and bedding will need to be washed too, adding to the chore load.  I have tried various ways to tackle the endless mounds of laundry;  everybody has a different laundry day………..a BIG nope!  Even when the kiddos were old enough to do their own laundry, if I didn’t feel well enough to supervise, things didn’t proceed as it should.  Laundry got backed up and the room became way too crowded for my liking.

Then I went to doing all the laundry in one day.  Neither me nor the dryer could keep up.  I learned quickly, if I felt well enough to do laundry for 10 hours……….I sure as hell didn’t want to spend my day doing that!

Now, I have no system other than I try to do one load of laundry a day.  That is it.  Everyone is responsible for telling me when they need to do laundry and IF the washer is open, the answer is yes.  I no longer allow loads of dirty laundry to sit in the laundry room.  The room is small and the passage to and from the garage so the clothing can be a tripping hazard not to mention a source of anxiety to be looking at room full of dirty clothes.

So, one load a day from washing to hanging up (I hang up most of our laundry to save it from wear and tear of the dryer and have our clothing last longer) but what comes out of the dryer is folded and then put away by the owners.  If I am having a decent day, I may be able to do two!

If laundry is your responsibility, how do you handle the loads?

……………….Until next time, you are a superhero!

Meditation

calm daylight evening grass

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Living with a slew of CIs, I have to put up with a lot of crap from my body.  Through these stressful years I  tried to eat right, exercise as able, rest when needed, and research various ways to help ease my pain.  One of the ways that I discovered over and over in my research was the practice of meditation.  As I continued to read about it’s benefits, I just kind of pushed it aside in my mind.  I have always been one who has prayed regularly and I  figured it would have the same impact on my immediate health…………but oh, I was so very wrong.

When I first began meditating I couldn’t do it for more than 3 minutes……….my body and my mind couldn’t rest for even that short amount of time…………in fact, meditating made me feel more anxious;  well, talk about counter-productive!  So, I continued to read more and more about meditation………..the benefits, the different types, the best times and became determined to continue my quest to be able to meditate once a day for 10 minutes.  I reached this goal by slowly increasing my time in one minute intervals when my body felt “ready.”

My very basic meditation practice consists  of listening to meditation music in a relaxed, sitting position, closing my eyes, taking some slow, deep breaths and letting my mind empty.  Nothing special, nothing complicated…………except I have to keep letting thoughts that want to crowd into my “alone time” go off into space.  But I have done it……….I am now able to meditate for 10 minutes a day and not only enjoy it, but I actually look forward to starting each day this way.

As I continue to meditate daily I have seen my level of anxiety drop and when I do start to feel increased anxiety I am instinctively taking  slow deep breaths.

As time goes on, my goal is to learn more about meditation, extend my time, and learn different techniques to incorporate into my routine.  As for now, I will stick to listening to Meditative Mind free off Youtube and enjoy the healthful benefits.

Until next time…………………YOU are a superhero (this is a huge job, so you may need to find a way to deal with all that stress!)

 

 

On bad days with a chronic illness

alone bed bedroom blur

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What do you do when you have a REALLY bad day?  You wake up in the morning and realize whatever you had planned, isn’t going to happen.  Or maybe it hits you after your day has already started and wham! you have to leave work or the store or stop an activity with a loved one and head right back to bed.  It is beyond frustrating, it is a disappointment that brings heart-breaking sadness to your soul.

Bad days/weeks for me result in having to spend that time in bed.  Lying in bed gives my mind way too much to think.   In the beginning, I can do a pretty decent job keeping my thoughts positive and encouraging.  But as my time in bed drags on, my thoughts start turning from self encouragement to more negative and anxiety provoking, and if I am not careful I can get to a place where it will make my physical recovery just that much more difficult.

It is during these times that negative self-talk tends to flare up.  Phrases like………Not again!  Oh no, it this going to start happening more often?  Is this a new symptom that may become permanent?  How long is this episode going to last?  Damn, I hate living like this!  What did I do to make this happen?  Who am I going to disappoint this time?  If I cancel again,  is s/he is going to believe me?  Is this my new normal?  Should I try……..(put any word in the English language here and I have probably thought it).  Negative and fearful self-talk can cause anxiety and NO ONE with a chronic illness needs anymore of that!

So, we need to learn to be kind to ourselves, especially on these miserable days.  We need to give ourselves permission to feel ill.  To love ourselves enough to realize we did not ask for this hand we were dealt, and we didn’t do anything to create it, except to be alive in this world.  We need to truly believe that none of this crap is our fault and it is out of our control.  IF we had control over our illnesses, we would all be living our lives  symptom-free, experiencing only good days and LOVING our lives as no (always been healthy) person could.  We must learn to love our self enough to do what needs to be done to heal in the moment, so we can get up and try again.

 

 

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