Sunday, April 26, 2020

Weekly Inspiration: Advice and Tips for Daily Living in the Pandemic

Although "staying home" is nothing new to many of us, and personally, I am kind of relieved to see everything on my calendar crossed off (no worries or pressure about what I'll be able to manage), the current global pandemic does bring some challenges, even for those of us who are used to isolation and our own kind of quarantining.

For one thing, there is lots of anxiety, especially if you watch/read a lot of news. You want to know what's going on in the world, but it's frightening to read of the ever-rising death toll and causes apprehension to hear the latest political in-fighting or medical controversies. A quick trip to the grocery store is nerve-wracking, with not everyone wearing masks or following the social-distancing rules. And, of course, there is the ever-present worry about what will happen if we or someone we love is exposed to the virus.

Beyond that, though, I am also hearing a lot of anger and resentment from the chronic illness community on social media. After all, we've been living this sort of life quietly in the shadows for years, some of us completely housebound, and no one has ever seemed to care before. Now, suddenly, healthy people are experiencing some of what we live with every day, and there are all sorts of programs, support, and assistance for those stuck at home. Where was all of this empathy and support when we needed it? It's a common complaint.

All of these stressors--and more--not only make us feel worse emotionally but will probably worsen our physical conditions, too. Anxiety, anger, resentment, and other negative emotions have all been shown to worsen fatigue, pain, and other symptoms.

To counter that, today I am sharing some excerpts from my new book, Finding a New Normal: Living Your Best Life with Chronic Illness, that I think can help right now--some things to think about, advice, and practical tips to ease the stress and make this time of crisis easier on both your mind and body:

Through the years, though, we realized that our new lives are not just about restrictions. In fact, we have discovered benefits to our new, slower lifestyle.”
While many of us may have realized this years ago, taking the time to really think about this idea, what you are grateful for, and the benefits of this extra-restricted time can pay off. This week, I started a #silverlinings hashtag on social media, and lots of people (both chronically ill and healthy) came up with some great thoughts, from more time with family to friends and family being in the same boat and thus more understanding to that empty calendar that I am relishing.

Along similar lines:
“I find that the worse I feel, the more I gain from forcing myself to think of something I am grateful for, so I try to make a practice of it.”
Again, the benefit comes from the conscious act of thinking about gratitude and making it a daily practice. Every day, on this blog's Facebook page and Twitter account, I post a #GratefulToday hashtag and others join in with what they are grateful for. Another chronic illness blogger uses #DailyThankYou. Either way, practicing gratitude makes you more aware of the good things in your life.

And this is one I have to keep reminding myself of these days:
“If you are going through a bad period emotionally (or physically), don’t try to be productive and get things done or push yourself in any way. Indulge in comforting rituals, like a favorite herbal tea, a piece of dark chocolate, staying in bed.”

“I have to remind myself that giving in to what my body needs is not the same as giving up. Giving in is a healthy response. It’s listening to my body, allowing myself to rest, and admitting to myself that “I’m right where I need to be.””

I've had a lot of ups and downs these past couple of months, mostly due to my Lyme treatment, I think, and I've struggled so much with guilt over not being productive. It seems that many people are dealing with some form of this right now because living in a global pandemic is just plain distracting! It's hard to concentrate on anything, so we all need to cut ourselves a break, listen to our bodies, and take extra good care of ourselves.

Along those lines, here are a few thoughts about the benefits of being present and living in the moment:

“We discovered that we could reduce our stress by living in the moment.”

“When you set aside worry, anxiety, and things outside of your control to live in the moment, you automatically slow down and start to notice the good things in life.”

“Teach yourself to recognize small moments of happiness in your life and to feel grateful for what you have.”
It can be tough to live in the moment; it's a skill that takes practice. But by consciously setting aside what is out of your control and focusing on the birdsong out your window or your favorite music or an uplifting book or movie, you can begin to train yourself to focus on now

Finally, for the very common issue right now of feeling angry or resentful toward "healthies" complaining about the current situation, consider this advice, for your own health:
"When you suffer from serious illnesses that severely limit your life, it is easy to feel resentment or bitterness when someone else tells you about his or her challenges, which might seem to you like nothing compared to yours. Reject that inclination and dig deep for empathy. Listen attentively and compassionately when someone else shares a challenge with you. It will enrich your relationships and help you feel less isolated."

“Avoid comparing suffering; that’s a contest no one can win. Show others that you care about what they’re going through, and you will usually receive caring back.”
Again, this can be hard to do, to replace resentment with empathy, and can take some conscious effort and practice. But the benefits are huge, both in strengthening your relationships and in increasing the caring and empathy you receive in return.

I hope that these brief excerpts will give you something to think about and help to improve both your everyday life and this strange world we are currently living in.

What has been helping you to cope and feel better during the pandemic?

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