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A step-by-step process for creating a morning routine #AWAPwednesday

Posted by on Jun 20, 2018 in ChronicBabe Basics, featured, practicalities, resilience, self care | 3 comments

Do you struggle to make your mornings meaningful? Are you feeling frustrated because you’re not getting enough done early in the day, and you run out of steam by the afternoon? (I relate to that so much!) Do you want to prioritize self-care? Then a morning routine is for you, babe. We’ve been talking about this process in the Secret Club membership program, but this process is just too good to share only with my members. My meaningful morning: To create a more meaningful morning, I first review all the things I would like to do in my morning routine, and I make sure to get clear about WHY they are important to me. Here’s the list I created today during a Facebook Live video: wake up at 5:45 – so I can be sure to accomplish all that I want drink a big glass of water (equivalent to three cups) – hydration helps reduce pain and inflammation, and we wake up dehydrated, so this is the first thing I do heat up my back – I’m always stiff in the morning, so a heating pad helps me get loose work in my planner – I love my daily planner, and I fill my day while I’m on the floor with my heating pad do yoga – a standard 20-minute routine helps me limber up for the day; when I don’t do yoga, I feel awful all day drink tea – my only source of caffeine during the day, a couple cups of black tea have a healthy breakfast – protein is important for powering me up, and I try to sneak in as many fruits and veggies as I can in a big smoothie, so if my diet is not healthy the rest of the day, I know I’ve met my produce needs bathe – this might be washing my face, or taking a shower or bath, depending on how much time I have meditate – I’m trying to build up to 45-60 minutes a day, so incorporating a meditation moment in the morning helps me meet my goal creative time – this feeds my soul, so I try to do some hand sewing or coloring Whew! That’s a lot, I know. I’ve worked on this routine for years, and I know what I need to start my day right. I try to do most of these every day. Your first task: Make your own list Think through your ideal morning. It’s the time to get you pumped for the rest of the day, even if your “rest of the day” is going to be spent on the couch. What do you want? What do you need? What...

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do you feel like you’re starting over?

Posted by on Jun 14, 2018 in ChronicBabe Basics, coping, featured, Kick-Ass Sick Chick, resilience | 1 comment

The other day, I sent an #AWAPwednesday email (sign up here if you’re not getting them) about “starting over” when we have chronic illness, and I think the piece belongs here, too. Here it is, copied and pasted, for your enjoyment: i’m back in the gym today for the first time in many months, and it’s ROUGH. like, tears started to flow while i was stretching. i didn’t cry from pain after my 10 minutes on the treadmill. i didn’t cry from stiffness while i did 15 minutes of yoga. i started to cry from frustration, as i realized it felt so much like i was starting over. i remember vividly what it felt like 6 months ago to hit the gym 4 or 5 times a week, doing 30 minutes of cardio and another 25 of yoga. it felt AWESOME. i felt like an athlete again, something that was a big part of my identity until i got sick 20 years ago. today, i didn’t feel that way at all. i felt schlumpy; my gym clothes are extra-snug because i put on 15 lbs in recent months. i felt kinda pathetic; my workout was so short. i felt frustrated; why did i have to endure such a long flare-up, when i had been doing so well for a long time? it felt like i was starting over.   the truth is: i’m NOT starting over. as much as it feels like i’m brand-new at being in the gym, that’s not true. and i think talking this through will help YOU get some ideas for how you can reframe the newbie feeling when you’re coming back from a flare-up or a big life change. here are some realities: i’ve been here many times before; i know the machines, how to use them, where they are, which ones aren’t good for me. this is not new. while i was all quivery today, there were times in my life when i was strong, and i can get that way again. my experience has shown me i can come back over and over, as long as my head is in the game. – speaking of my head, it’s okay to have emotions about coming back. no one cared that i was teary-eyed on the floor mat – no one was staring at me, judging me. it was all in my head. so i can tell that self-critical voice to shut up. i’ve learned a lot from flare-ups. i’ve been reminded over and over that no matter how fit i am, nothing is completely in my control; keeping that in mind will help me as i come back. it’s not going to be...

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That time I went to the E.R. because I thought I was having a heart attack…and almost didn’t, because I was afraid I WASN’T having a heart attack

Posted by on May 2, 2018 in ChronicBabe Basics, fears, featured, pain, practicalities, resilience, self care | 10 comments

SPOILER ALERT: I was NOT having a heart attack. Last night, I was taking a shower when I had a sudden searing, clenching pain in my chest that took my breath away. It lasted for a couple minutes, and then got a bit better, but my left arm and shoulder and neck were clenched and sore. My chest felt tight. Was I having a heart attack? Nope. Turns out, it was a huge muscle spasm. I had never had one like that before. But WOW did it present like a heart attack. I Googled “women’s heart attack symptoms” and had almost everything on the list (minus nausea or vomiting). But did I go to the E.R. immediately? Nope. I felt scared, but not just that I was really sick—I felt scared that the staff would judge me harshly if it turned out I wasn’t having a heart attack. How messed up is that?! Have you ever left the E.R. with undiagnosed symptoms? Oh, babe—I know you have. I have, too, many times. I think it’s part of having undiagnosed chronic illness; as we try to figure out why we feel so broken, the E.R. is often the easiest place to get care for things that feel, well, emergent. I’ve done it so many times over the past 20 years, in fact, that I’ve developed a bit of shame about it. That shame has sometimes kept me from going, because I know the odds are that they won’t find anything. Tests will come back negative, blood work won’t show anything, and they’ll throw up their hands and say “we don’t see anything wrong, so maybe you’re under stress?” And then I’ll head home, dejected, still unwell, and alone. This pattern repeats over and over for many of us, and can begin to make us feel like it’s never worth going to the E.R. or the doctor’s office. But DO NOT stop getting checked out. What if I had been having a heart attack? Seriously, how terrible would it have been if I was having a heart attack, and didn’t get checked out because I was worried about being ashamed of not being sick? Super terrible. And I’m not a doctor…how should I know if I was sick enough to go to the E.R.? Google is NOT our doctor either, babe. But dang, even Google was telling me to go to the hospital last night. My husband, Joe, got home just as I was deciding to call 911. The operator said a person should never ever neglect chest pains, and that they were sending an ambulance. Joe spoke up and said he would drive me. A few minutes later, we were...

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How to talk to people about being in a huge flare-up

Posted by on Apr 18, 2018 in acceptance, ChronicBabe Basics, coping, featured, friends and family, relationships, resilience | 2 comments

It’s not easy to talk to folks about being in a flare-up: being in constant pain, experiencing unyielding fatigue, spending hours on the toilet every day, having daily anxiety attacks. That’s been my life since mid-January, and it’s only just now starting to ease up. So I’ve had a good bit of practice when it comes to talking to people about being in a mysterious months-long flare-up. What’s a flare-up like for me? A fibromyalgia flare-up for me has all of the above symptoms and more. Sometimes my skin itches all over; sometimes I get rashes. A couple months ago, all of my teeth hurt. I sometimes have a ringing in my ears and a feeling of vertigo. Some days, I have ALL of these, all at once. I’m a regular party over here, right?! It’s hard to remain upbeat As you move through life in flare-up mode, it can be hard to keep your mood positive, even for part of the day. Those of us who’ve been sick a long time may know how to muscle through some of it, and not really show how bad we’re feeling, because we have kids, or work, or commitments that can’t be ignored. So we’re often quietly suffering and not speaking about it. (Those who know us very well might still recognize the struggle in our faces.) Talking endlessly about how bad we feel is NOT a good way to boost our mood. While it can feel good sometimes to vent to a friend or your therapist, doing it many times, day after day, is not something I recommend. You’ll get tired of hearing yourself complain, and by repeating the mantra of suffering over and over, you’re drilling in the message that you’re nothing but the suffering. After some time, it can begin to feel like you’ll never come out of it—and once you hit that stage, it is indeed hard to climb out of the hole emotionally. So I recommend that you choose a couple people close to you to confide in, and then pledge to yourself that you will try not to focus on repeating your list of ailments day in and day out. Fill in that space with reminders to yourself of the things that ARE going right. With the people you feel comfortable talking to about all the details, go ahead and vent—but also do two things for yourself and for them. First, put some kind of time constraint on the venting. You get to do it once a day, for example, or a single venting conversation can’t be longer than 15 minutes long. It’s healthy to get things off your chest, but not healthy to wallow…get...

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What’s the secret to being as well as possible (AWAP) in spite of chronic pain and illness? Start with: Acceptance

Posted by on Feb 21, 2018 in acceptance, ChronicBabe Basics, coping, featured, practicalities, resilience | 20 comments

Sometimes, we need to come back to a foundational practice, one which I’ve learned is just that—a daily practice. I’m talking about acceptance, one of the most powerful tools we ChronicBabes have for staying AWAP.   When someone asks for my secret to thriving, I usually respond with “acceptance” I was talking to a loved one earlier today, and he thoughtfully asked if I was out of my flare-up yet. The way he put it, actually, was “are you feeling as well as possible?” “Yes,” I replied. “So you’re not having as much pain as a few days ago, I take it?” “Well, actually I have more. But I’m still AWAP,” I said. A brief moment of quiet passed between us. “But you were traveling last week—didn’t the pain keep you from going?” he asked. “No, I mean…the way I figure it, I’m either going to hurt at home alone, or hurt in a fun vacation house with 10 friends, so I still went on the trip.” Another moment of quiet. “If you figure out the secret to being AWAP even when you’re hurting so much, be sure to share it,” he asked. “It’s acceptance, all the way.” But what is acceptance? Acceptance is all about getting real with all the things that ail you, and looking them right in the eye and saying “I see you, ailments. I know you are not going away, or if you are, I have no control over when that will happen… but I’m not going to let you stop me.” It’s about saying the serenity prayer on the regular: “God (or Goddess, or Universe, or…), grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to changes the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Acceptance is not letting yourself Google the same symptoms over and over and over post-diagnosis, hoping to find a new “fix” and driving yourself crazy. The practice includes asking for help when you need it, even if it’s more help than usual, and not apologizing for needing help. Acceptance is allowing yourself time to grieve because this shit is super hard. Practicing acceptance means doing all your regular check-ups even when your calendar is crowded with other health care appointments, because you know neglecting things like your teeth or your boobies could mean developing EVEN MORE health issues and who needs that? Acceptance is not trying to recreate the wheel every day. Instead, it’s creating routines that take into account all your needs, so you can do all that’s possible to make the most of your day each day even if you’re hurting or flaring up. It’s knowing that even if you feel...

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Info posted here should not be considered medical advice; it's not intended to replace consultation with physicians or other health care providers. 

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