We are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic (Coronavirus) and society has been turned upside down, businesses and careers put on hold, and for who knows how long.
We all have our own life story. Just now some of us have others to look after others (children and relatives) - we have a lot to do for others - as well as money and job concerns. But, we need to look after ourselves too, for our and their sake.
I've some health conditions for 30 years, where I've had to learn to care for myself. This is part of my story. Here is what I've learnt about how we can care about ourselves too.
For 30 years I've had several rare & restrictive conditions, which affect my life. As an example, for one, the by product is my having Gastroparesis, meaning I can't digest food properly, along with some food allergies. This causes me significant problems in eating food, and, when it goes wrong, a lot of pain and discomfort. I've had to learn to look after myself a lot.
There is no cure but am fortunate that I've seen the top specialists in the country. The solution is an incredibly restricted diet, and eat every 2-3 hours.
However, it doesn't bother me because it is just who I am, and I get on with life as best I can. And, because I've learnt how to care for myself. This is my story.
Stress is a normal reaction to threats in our lives. Just now, the Coronavirus pandemic, and all the social & financial ramifications is one mighty threat to us - even though they may not all be affecting us directly right now.
We may have more family responsibilities right now too, people look to us for support and help, on top of job and money concerns, and we have little time for ourselves. And it has all happened so fast.
There are many things we can't control now, but based on my experiences with conditions that will never go away, here are some thoughts about how we can help ourselves in some ways.
A diary is a lot more than '7:30am shower, 8am breakfast; sunny day, rain later' because you can make it into what you want, especially if it is a private diary.
You can write in it when you like - when you're stressed, at 3am, but also when you're feeling Ok - it is good to see good times and the bad. It doesn't have to be a daily diary.
So long as it is private, you can swear to your hearts content (if that is your thing) and say the rudest things about others. You can also work through what your stresses are, and, perhaps you will find a different view on them. Ask yourself questions, be curious. What are the real stresses now, how bad are they really? Are there some good things happening, amongst the bad?
And you can look back later on and find that perhaps things weren't as bad as you thought - or that you got through something really difficult.
You don't need a complex programme, assigning tasks to everyone with completion dates and reminders. You can just start off with a piece of paper, write down what you need to do, identify what is most urgent, and prioritise those things - and enjoy ticking them off as you do them. Better still, use an app, because you'll soon lose that piece of paper. I use Todoist (but it is a bit more complicated).
You might also feel less stressed about all you need to do - because you can see it. Or more stressed intitially when you see how long it is - but then get on, start ticking things off. And if you wake during the night thinking about it all, write it down, then go back to sleep.
It may mean you have to deal with some things you don't want to - but doing so might help you.
Take back some control.
Easy to say. Hard to do, especially with young children. But you need time for yourself to do a relaxing thing that you like. Put your phone on silent, tell people you are having some quiet time, settle down, and do it. Read a book, watch a movie, have a bath (although not necessarily all at the same time!).
It is important to distract yourself, take your mind off things, and focus on something else.
And you can give that latest Whatsapp message a break, the world will carry on.
Generally, after lunch we have 'quiet time' when us adults sit and read; the children generally do something quiet, or play minecraft. We need the time to recharge for the afternoon.
The complete irony of stress is that you need as much sleep as possible when stressed. But the stress doesn't let you sleep as well - not as deeply, or not as long, or waking up in the middle of the night.
So you get more tired, which makes you more stressed, which makes you sleep worse. It is a vicious cycle.
In my experience, you will sleep better if you have relaxed before hand. Put your phone on silent, read a book, watch some enjoyable TV (not the news!), or whatever you prefer. And if you wake up, have a book handy, and if stressed, find somewhere to quietly write what you are thinking, or whatever you like, in a diary. You might just get back to sleep.
On the one hand, it is important we take in what we all need to do just now, by informing ourselves and taking sensible precautions. But with so much information out there, be careful what you read - don't frighten yourself, that could be counter productive.
It would be easy to sit there in the evening, scrolling through the web/social media clicking on all the headline grabbing, worst case stories and frighten ourselves. Not everything we read on the internet is true, and not everything we read will happen to us. It's easy to read something, then have a slight cough or tickle in the throat and frighten yourself into thinking you have Coronavirus, cancer and the like. But you may not have it.
I'm not suggesting that nothing bad will ever happen to you - a close relative of ours died from cancer and Parkinsons 6 weeks ago - but unless you are really really unfortunately, not all the bad things you read about will happen to you. But if you think they may, then perhaps you need to look at your response to stress.
We are told that 2 things to help our immune systems fight infections is less stress and more sleep - reading frightening stories just before we go to bed will increase our stress and give us bad sleep, which is counter productive if you want to fight Coronavirus.
For 30 years I've had several rare health conditions (more than just food), and have been to many London hospitals to discuss over the years. I've seen people with terrible conditions, and had to read terrible stories. But I've also learnt that the worst that happens to others won't necessarily happen to me, and not to let other people frighten me.
We shouldn't bury our heads in the sand, or get so frightened that we stop reading the news, and ignore the important advice we are currently being given. Just be careful what you read - don't frighten yourself - you don't have to read that story, or click on that link.
Sugar, caffeine and alcohol might give you a short high, but not in the longer term. Look after yourself by choosing health choices and give a slower sugar release. I could never eat 10% of what you can. It isn't that hard.
Hard if you can't leave the house, but you can walk around, do stretches. Exercise bands are useful for resistance work, and so are weights - you can just use tins of beans! But do it slowly and don't over do it - it isn't a race. This is a vital part of looking after my life - I'm in pain anyway, and missing just half day causes a lot of more. I have to do it, and benefit from it.
Imagine if nearly everything you ate made you unwell, and the only solution was to try and eliminate the foods & quantities that caused the problem. I did that for about 28 years on and off and it was hard, and often I got it wrong, even though I knew better. It was easy to reach for that that extra spoonful of something - and that one spoonful tipped the balance and I couldn't digest anything for days.
I've had to learn to forgive myself a lot over the years. And, yes it is hard, but where there is no other choice, what do you do?
Be easy on yourself.
I have faced some huge challenges with the conditions I have over the years, challenges which I couldn't avoid or deny. Some relating to the conditions, and some to the incorrect attitudes of others. It has been hard. But I've never given up - I can't explain how hard the food side is, but I've never given up, and got a solution - even if you probably could never live with it, I have no option, and calmly accept it. It is my life story.
Never give up.
When, in years to come the pandemic is over, and the economy is nearer recovered we'll look back at this nightmare and wonder how we coped, but we did, even if it was really hard.
But remember there will people like me with multiple conditions, one of which means I still won't be able to digest food properly, there will still be most isles in Sainsburys where I can eat nothing on the shelves, I'll still be carrying on as I did. And whilst I realise the horrors that some are going through with Coronavirus just now, nothing will change for me.
Whilst I am very concerned about Coronavirus, I'm not panicking because this is just another health chapter for me (I had pneumonia 20 years ago), I've been here before, even if in a different way and some how I got through.
This is my story. Create space for yourself as well as others, never give up, be easy on yourself, and forgive yourself when it doesn't always work.
All articles made are based on my own personal experience, and may not be suitable for everyone. They are not to be taken as formal advice; always seek personal professional advice before doing anything, especially if it is health related, or might affect your health.
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