I am moving slow. My bed time is early and I sleep in late. I am healing. I push myself when I need to and let myself rest when I should.
It scares me… the slowness. Because I have by been conditioned by our society to believe that if you are not constantly busy that you are failing. I have been taught that career is most important, often at the risk of ruining yourself.
Because of my frequent flare-ups, I have to make some major lifestyle changes. I am using the new year to reestablish my good behaviors and encourage some new ones to better heal.
My first lifestyle change, career:
I left full time work over one year ago. I had a stressful, exciting job I loved, but couldn’t maintain while I was sick. After my surgery I decided to step back to part-time work. But even those reduced hours were still too difficult to maintain with months of hospitalizations last year. So I left my career completely to instead focus on myself.
Both the idea, and the act, of not working are stressful. On my good days I feel guilty that I am not providing in the same way I once could. On my bad days I stress out that I will never be healthy enough to work. But now I know that if I do not take this season to rest and recover, I may never be healthy enough. So instead I am moving slow.
My second lifestyle change, sleep:
I am allowing myself to sleep as often as I need to. Instead of feeling guilty for letting go of the “go-go-go” mentality, I now rejoice in my body’s healing ritual. I take naps, which are especially rewarding when the dogs snuggle up with me. I am grateful I do not have a job that demands I wake up early, because this rest is rewarding.
My third lifestyle change, social support:
I struggle with isolation when I am sick or depressed. I tend to spend time by myself and distance myself from those I am close to. But recently I have tried to reach out to my friends, family, and support staff when I am in need of help. Or just to hang out. Asking for help when you have a chronic condition can be challenging, because it seems like you always need help. But I am working on transforming my mindset to realize people want to help and that social support is a vital function to humanity. So where I can give, I will; and where I need it, I will ask for it.
My fourth lifestyle change, cooking:
I feel tons better when I prepare home cooked meals. It’s often easier to pick something up, but even “healthier” quick eats can be loaded with tons of junk. Eating home cooked, good quality ingredient meals is better for my gut and for my mental health. I have more energy and time to make my meals since I am not working, which I know is a blessing.
It’s been a grueling road to recovery. And I am not yet healed. But these changes have made the process better. All of these lifestyle changes build on each other. I am not advocating everyone adopt these changes, because I know they can be challenging for numerous reasons, and may not be what your body needs. But I am encouraging you to evaluate your life and determine what may be adding to your chronic illness.