Saturday, April 17, 2021

Weekly Inspiration: Give Me a Break!


With apologies to the familiar McDonald's jingle: "You deserve a break today!"

My Solo Getaway

I just came back from a mini solo getaway to the beach (about 90 minutes from here), which I sorely needed. In addition to the pandemic, which has affected everyone everywhere, I'm in month #13 of a bad relapse (improving now but slowly) so have been far more limited than usual. I've also been totally overwhelmed by the stress of some major issues with extended family, which have been affecting my sleep just when I need it the most. And, there's all the usual stuff: juggling my blogs, freelance writing, time with my husband, household maintenance, and all the mind-boggling medical issues  (my current regimen requires taking medications and supplements at 10 different times of day!).

So much to do and remember! I need a break!
 

Then, there's the simple fact of just getting sick of the same old routine, day after day, which my relapse and the pandemic have multiplied. My husband and I had tentative plans to get our camper out for the first time this past week, but that fell through when his work schedule interfered. We are severely limited right now because we (and especially he) are taking care of his 95-year-old father, who now requires daily hands-on assistance. So, we can only go away for a day and a half, mid-week when his aide is visiting, and less than an hour from home. We are looking for an Assisted Living facility for him, but we weren't going to move him until visitors were allowed. So, yeah, there's that, too!

Anyway, all of this stress has been growing, so when our camping trip got cancelled, I decided I still needed a break. I planned a short solo getaway to the beach, with the help of a generous friend who lent their condo, which was empty last week.

Stormy skies ... but at least I'm at the beach!
 

This was just what I needed (though over far too soon!). I was completely alone for about two days, with no one to be responsible for but myself. I ate when and what I wanted (very little cooking; mostly takeout!), kept my own schedule, and enjoyed the silence. Though the weather forecast looked pretty bad when I left, I ended up having about 24 hours of sunshine and clear skies, so I drove to the beach (just a few miles away from the condo) three times: first for a walk with a friend, then (because the walk wore me out) just to sit with my book and enjoy the sounds of waves and seagulls and the gorgeous views. In the evening, I ate my takeout in front of the TV and watched movies my husband wouldn't have been interested in. Both the time alone and the change of scenery really helped me. In fact, I realized as I returned home that I was beginning to obsess over the family issue again and that I hadn't thought of it while I was away. My mini getaway provided both a physical and mental break for me.

Ahhh, that's better! Relaxing with a book in the sunshine.
 

It's not always possible to physically get away like I did this week, either due to responsibilities or the limitations of your illness (I never could have managed this during the worst of my relapse last year). But, you can still find ways to give yourself a break, even right at home.

A ride in my convertible to the nature center a few miles away provides a respite!

A Change of Scenery

Even if you are housebound, you can give yourself a break from routine with a simple change of scenery: 

  • Lie on the couch in the seldom-used living room instead of your usual spot in the family room. 
  • Create a comfy nest for yourself somewhere. Back when three of us were all sick at the same time, my youngest son liked to do this. Our couches were all taken up, so he'd pile a bunch of pillows and blankets on the floor (maybe even with a spare mattress) and get cozy in his nest. 
  • Lie outside (see below).
  • Move to a spot where you can look out of the window.
  • If you are up to it, drive or ride along as a passenger while a friend or family member drives. You don't need a specific destination--sometimes, it's just nice to get out.
 

Lying outside on our deck lifts my spirits!
  

Get Outside

Spending time in nature is a wonderful way to rejuvenate and "get away," even if you are still home. My article,The Restorative Power of Nature, written for ProHealth and updated as a chapter in my book, details the health benefits of spending time outdoors with lots of practical ideas for those with chronic illnesses. Scientific studies show that nature has amazing benefits for both physical and mental health. So, try some of these ideas for a mini outdoor getaway:

  • Sit or lie outside in your yard, garden, deck, or even on a balcony. I like my anti-gravity. bungee chair and often lie in it out on our deck (or in the screened porch if the bugs are out). Just being away from the TV and other indoor noise helps.
  • Tune in to the natural world. Once outside, look, listen, and smell! Look up at the sky and watch the clouds. Listen to the birdsong (which was there all along, even if you don't normally notice it) and the wind in the trees. Smell the spring blooms or the air after a rainstorm. Look around to notice the signs of the season and what has changed since the last time you were out there.
  • If you can manage it, ask a friend or family member to take you for a drive on backroads, into the country or maybe to a local park. Put the windows down, smell the air, and enjoy the change of scenery.
  • If you are able to walk without crashing (for me, treating OI was the key to improving my exercise tolerance), try walking in a park or other natural area instead of your usual neighborhood walk. Though, even in your own familiar neighborhood, you can focus more on your surroundings and observe what is going on in the natural world. I love to see what new flowers and trees are starting to bloom (or turning color in the fall).
  •  If you are severely limited and bedridden, ask someone to open the window on a nice day so you can listen to, observe, and even smell nature. Studies show that even looking at pictures of nature has beneficial effects! Try a nature documentary or a slideshow of photos of National Parks.

 

Takeout from our favorite Louisiana restaurant is a nice treat!

 

Take a Break from Routine

This past year, during this bad relapse, I have learned that even a simple break from my usual routine can help to lift my spirits. Certain things, of course, can't be changed: my bedtime, my daily nap, and all those meds and supplements, timed just right! But, there are other things that my husband and I enjoy as a change of pace:

  • Order takeout from a favorite place, as a special treat.
  • If you are able to indulge a bit outside of your usual dietary restrictions, then do that once in a while! I normally avoid grains, so a grilled Reuben sandwich or a po'boy from our favorite New Orleans restaurant is a huge treat for me. Similarly, I normally avoid dairy but will occasionally indulge in a small sugar-free sundae. It might not seem like much to healthy people, but these rare splurges bring me joy and a break from my routine.
  • If you normally eat at the kitchen table, indulge in dinner in front of the TV with a favorite show. Or, if you always eat in front of the TV, try eating in the dining room on the "good" dishes with candlelight.
  • Take a "day off." Even when I am not feeling well, I am usually trying to be productive, even attempting to clear my e-mail inbox while lying on the couch, for example. There are two ways that I take a day off: if I am really feeling awful, it is a huge relief to give in, admit I won't get anything done that day, go back to bed, and lose myself in a good book or TV show. Alternatively, like with this week, it can give me a big boost to intentionally take a "day off" when I am not badly crashed. I did that on Tuesday, the day I drove to the beach. I did not even attempt to do anything productive, just enjoyed the beach, read, and watched a movie (and left my laptop closed).
  • If you always watch the same TV shows, try something new that everyone's been talking about. Or choose a movie that's different than what you usually watch. Or read or listen to a book in a different genre than you usually read. Anything different can provide a nice change of pace.
  • If you're feeling isolated, surprise an old friend with a phone call, video call, or even text message. It can provide a huge emotional boost to reconnect and interact with a loved one, even virtually.

I bet that YOU need a break today! Hopefully, those ideas can get you started. 

What do you do when you get sick of the same old routine and need a break? Share your own ideas in the comments below.

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