In honour of International Happiness Day I thought I'd choose happiness as my wonderful world.
Happiness is an odd quality, it's something we spend our whole lives pursuing. We often have a very fixed idea of what it looks like, how it will be, what to expect; but life never turns out the way you expect. Plans go wrong, things change and you're left trying to pick up the pieces. I have a tendency to stomp my foot and demand it turns up now. Right now. Not tomorrow. Now. It doesn't often seem to work.
I recently received an email from someone asking how I stayed positive despite living with a chronic illness. I thought I'd share my response in case it helped others.
The truth is it's not easy. I do get down and really frustrated. It's normally triggered by hearing what other people are doing, comparing my life with theirs and wanting more. I have such BIG DREAMS and I want them NOW!!! Right now. Not in a year or two (or three, or four). It's very hard to be patient. I am not a patient person.
There are days I want to scream, to shout and maybe kick something if only I had the energy. Those days I just try to weather the storm, not try to be smiley-smiley, Pollyanna; but I hate feeling like that so I've found the best way for me to cope is...
Distraction. Distraction. Distraction.
I try not to give myself too much time to think about the bad things. Instead I focus on what I can do. Even if it's something teeny, tiny. When I was very poorly it was sticking one sticker on a card. Now it's editing a hundred words of my novel. Or writing a short blog post. I find it helps to have something I can see at the end of the day, physical proof of my achievements and progress.
Browsing Facebook or watching TV doesn't help me when I'm feeling down, it's like time and energy gets swallowed up with nothing to show for it. I need to have a project to concentrate on, something I can think about when I can't actually work on it. I can plan my novel out in my head, or workout what changes I need to make to my website for when I do have the time and energy.
How do I decide what to do?
You have to choose something you enjoy; but you need to be able to break it down into smaller stages. That way you can do a little and then go back to it another day. That can be really hard when you're already feeling frustrated. You want to do it all. Get. It. Done. At least I do; but there are some things that nobody can do in a day, no matter how much time or energy they have - that's what I tell myself when I've only edited one paragraph and I feel the weight of all I still want to do and achieve.
Help someone else.
If you can't help yourself, sometimes helping people in a similar situation can be almost as good. I set up survivingsevereme.com and easytoswallow.co.uk for that very reason. I used all my awful experiences of being ill to help others and in doing so I found it much easier to cope. It felt like my time and suffering wasn't wasted.
It really is one day at a time...
It's not the answer you or I want to hear; but it really is a day by day process. Not looking any further into the future than this day, this hour, even this minute. It's the best, and maybe hardest, way to cope with limitations.
What one thing could you do today that would be fun and feel like an achievement? Focus on that, no matter how small it is. Concentrate on that and let tomorrow take care of itself.
How do you stay positive or cope with having limited energy? What one thing are you going to do today? Pop on over to Facebook and let me know...
Life sucks when you're ill. It's even worse if you normally suffer with a chronic illness or disability. A very kind stranger has shared their germs with me and the best way to describe how I'm feeling is ughy! (That's a technical term, by the way).
It doesn't seem to matter what time of year it is, people are always getting sick and no matter how hard you try to avoid the germs, even if you're housebound, you still manage to catch them.
I want to share with you my top tips on what to do when you're ill and how you can feel better as fast as possible.
1. Listen to your body - that means REST if you need to. Take things slower, gently and don't try to push yourself because you should. It sounds simple; but do you find yourself trying to keep everyone happy, making yourself do things when you're feeling dreadful? Saying no or taking a day off will speed up your recovery time.
2. Eat what you can, not what you should - I know, I know, it's important to get lots of vitamin C and healthy food when you're ill; but sometimes it's more important to eat something, anything, when you're ill. Having had severe swallowing problems and nausea as a result of my ME/CFS I've learnt that you have to eat what you fancy and trust it's what your body wants.
If all you can face is chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal then do it. Don't worry if it's not typically "healthy" food, it's more important to keep eating when you can.
3. Nap. Whenever you need to! If you need to sleep during the day, do it! If your body is tired, trust it and curl up on the sofa or go to bed. You'll feel better afterwards.
4. But what if I can't sleep at night? This can be because you're coughing or feeling too ill to lie down, the best thing I find is to prop myself up in bed with lots of pillows and/or a bean bag.
Don't just lie there feeling ill, keep resting, closing your eyes to see if you can sleep and then do something for 20 - 30 minutes, before trying to sleep again. It's so much easier than lying there wide awake trying to force your body to sleep.
Make sure you have everything you need at hand to keep you entertained...
5. Have fun! This can seem impossible when you're feeling so ill; but the best way to get through any illness is to distract yourself with fun things to do. It takes your mind off your symptoms and helps you to relax, both of which are going to make you feel better faster.
Find your favourite film or book, listen to some music or watch some classic comedy on TV - you can never go wrong with Friends. Or check out Live in Love in Laugh in which I promise will give you lots of fun things to do and will take your mind off life right now.
Fill your time with things you don't normally get to do, so at least something good can come from being ill. If you're having fun then everything starts to feel better. I hope you'll be feeling better soon too!
What are YOUR best tips for feeling better fast? Share in the comments below.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
You're feeling stressed, every little thing is getting to you, if just one more person asks you to do something or questions what you're doing you're going to scream/lose it/cry....(fill in the blank.)
We've all been there and I know that when I was really poorly, during my bedbound years it took less to get me to this stage. Life was a battle, from fighting my illness, to battling with doctors and the "system" in general, meant I was always on the defensive, just waiting for the next attack, the next thing I had to protect myself from.
It was exhausting and emotional and I was, I'll admit it, snappy. I'd bite people's heads off i.e. my family. I had absolutely no patience and at times I felt like people were either a) stupid or b) deliberately trying to wind me up; but a lot of the time I was too stressed out to realise when I was over-reacting or being snappy. Does this sound familiar? How do you handle stress? Do you recognise the signs?
For a long time, deep down, I thought I was just an aggressive, not very nice person who was difficult to live with. That was a hard thing to cope with - I felt really bad about myself. Who'd want to be around someone so awful?
As I've got a bit better and life at home has become less stressful I've realised that I'm not an awful person. I do still snap sometimes; but I've realised it's when I'm stressed and feeling overwhelmed, especially true if I'm going through a relapse or handling some other scary thing - letter/form/appointment.
I've also realised that I can do things about it and my snapping is just a warning sign that I need to help myself. I can make things better, or at least reduce my stress level and feelings of overwhelm. If I can do it, you can to.
Five tips to recognise you're overwhelmed
1. Start to be aware of what you're saying - this can be hard to do and difficult to admit to yourself. Don't judge yourself or beat yourself up when you realise, just notice and know that it's just a sign that you need to do something differently.
2. Are little things getting to you? Silly things like wanting to burst into tears if you knock over a drink. I've literally cried over spilled milk.
I would never, ever, have thought of myself as an introvert. They're painfully shy, right? Can't speak to anyone, are always sitting on their own, basically a wallflower. That is definitely not me! I like to talk to people, I have friends over, I've done courses and evening classes and I'm even happy to be interviewed on TV or the radio, I couldn't possibly be an introvert.
That's what I thought; but recently I've been discovering that being an introvert is completely different to being shy. Things are making sense after years of not understanding why I feel the need to have a lot of time on my own. Why I enjoy my hours at night when everyone else is asleep and I can get down to doing some writing. Why I'm happier curled up reading a book than at a party, and how I'd prefer to chat to one or two people, or a small group at most, rather than try and follow the conversation of larger groups.
If this sounds like you check out Leonie Dawson's blog post and Susan Cain's TED talk. They made me realise that all of those things are okay and instead of trying to force myself to be different I should embrace them more, view them as my Superpowers, the way my friend Leah Shapiro describes them.
What about you@ What do you feel makes you different? Makes you stand out, or feel you need to change or hide it?
A big thing for me is my ME, the limits that my energy levels impose on my life and the restrictions it brings, like still living at home, using a wheelchair to go shopping and having to sleep for a couple of hours in the afternoon. They're all things I've felt ashamed of; but now I'm looking at ways to see them as strengths, looking for something special that I can do or bring to the world as a result of them.
What about you? What can you do naturally, or are used to living with, that you could turn into a superpower?
It's hard to stop trying to conform, to accept that it's okay to be who and how I am, right now, in this moment, with no need to change. I've spent my whole life trying to fit in (and feeling like I was failing or faking it). The relief of letting that go, of just breathing and being is huge. Imagine just relaxing and not trying to be anything other than yourself. Feels good doesn't it? Feels like a weight's been lifted off your chest, right? Imagine feeling like that all the time. That's my mission, to let myself be me, all the time and enjoy it. Want to join me?
Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
If you read my post Coping with "Big" Birthdays when you're ill or disabled. Turning 18, 21, 30, 40, 50... Things to be proud of you'll know that on 30th March I will be turning 30! I tried ignoring it, pretending it wasn't happening and then decided I wanted to make the best of it, so I'm throwing a Virtual Party in your Pad.
In fact what could be better than a 1930's Vintage Party, for my 30th on the 30th?
I'd like to invite you to join me and the other virtual party guests for some 1930's fun - it's going to be fabulous!
We'll be sipping on cocktails, while relaxing to the sounds of a big band. It's going to be a night to remember!
To sign up and get the exclusive party audio and magazine, as well as finding out all the juicy details on how it works, go here... http://www.clairewade.com/party.html
I'm determined my 30th is going to be a day to remember and I'd love you to help me make it that!
I want to let you in on a little secret, well a big secret really; I have no idea what I'm doing, pretty much all of the time, whether it's to do with my business, my writing or my health. I'm making it up as I goI along and hoping it works out. I remember when I was a little girl that everyone else, especially adults, seemed to have all the answers; they knew exactly what you should be doing and how you should be doing it. I felt like I was living my life waiting for people to tell me what to do, what to say, how to act. Writing that sentence makes me feel exhausted! I truly believed, and in a way I'm realising I still do, that other people knew what was best for me and that I had to do what they told me.
Obviously this is a hugely important thing when you're a child, listening to adults makes sure that you live to become one yourself; but I think somewhere along the way we need to learn that nobody has all the answers, in fact very few people have any of the answers. All they know is what worked for them, that doesn't mean it would, could or should work for you.
I think we're all making things up as we go along; but we're bluffing, like everyone else, that we know exactly what we're doing. It seems like a huge crime to admit to the world that you don't know it all. Well guess what, I'm admitting it here, I have no idea what I'm doing. I don't know it all.
Take my ME/CFS, I'm doing the best I can with it, pacing myself and doing what feels good, resting, taking time to sleep during the afternoon, drinking lots of water etc etc. Am I doing all the right things? Is there something I'm allergic to? Should I be taking more supplements? Resting more? Exploring my childhood to see if there's some emotional trigger I need to release? I have no idea!
With Live in Love in Laugh in I'm listening to what other people say works and aiming to do my own version. I'm creating virtual events like my 1930's Vintage Party in your Pad and having fun making it an event I want to virtually go to; but is it the right way? Should I be doing more, less, something different? I have no idea!
I'm meeting new friends, trying new things and hoping that I'm moving towards long held hopes and dreams. Am I doing it the way I should be? I have no idea!
The thing I've realised is that it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what people think you should do, or what society thinks you should do, or even what you think you should do - you have to follow your heart and do what's right for you. What feels good, that makes you feel like you can breathe, like your heart is expanding and everything just feels better.
That doesn't change the fact that I still have no idea what I'm doing, pretty much all the time. I haven't got a clue if it's going to work out the way I want it to, or if it's taking me off in a completely different direction. The important thing is that we all feel like this, or at least that's what I think; leave me a comment if you do know what you're doing, because I would love to know your secret!
I think the world would be a much better place and we would all feel so much less pressure if we just acknowledged that none of us know what we're doing, that's just life. The fun part is just letting go and seeing what happens, trusting that everything will be okay, it will work out, and you just have to go with it.
What do you think? I'd love to get your perspective on it.
P.S. This post didn't feel finished, I felt like I needed to add some positive little conclusion and then I realised I was just trying to pretend I really do know what I'm doing. Mental head slap!
Image courtesy of Jeroen van Oostrom / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Coping with "Big" Birthdays when you're ill or disabled. Turning 18, 21, 30, 40, 50... Things to be proud of.
There's no denying it, no getting away from it. At the end of the month I'm turning 30. The statement makes my heart sink and is accompanied with a sense of dread, a sickening at all that hasn't been and what may lie ahead. It's stupid really; things don't magically change because the clock strikes midnight at the end of one day and a new one begins. I'll still be me; I'll still be the same person. Not that much has changed, or has it?
I think the real reason that "big" birthdays have such an impact on us is because it's like a pumped up version of New Year's Eve, a time to look back and reflect on the lives we have, the things we've done and more importantly the things we haven't done. The saying's true, there's very little I regret doing; but there is a lot of things I wished I'd done. So many that I still want to do; but right now just feel impossible.
I think that sense of the impossible is made worse when it's illness or disability that's kept you from your dreams, an outside force that has taken over your life and changed who you are and who you wanted to become.
We all have this mental check list, these things we want to do or think we "should" do by a certain age and as with New Year's Eve, we run through the list to see how we're doing. In my case it's a success/failure situation, which is far too black and white in reality; but it's hard not to do.
And so it goes on... everything I want, everything I think I want, everything I think I should: have, done or been by the age of 30 equated to a simple yes or no answer. Is it fair? No. Is it true? Yes; but only in the narrowest form possible. Where's the checklist for all the other things, the things that aren't considered milestones by society; but are huge when you're living with them.
They are all great; but they're also just achievements the things I've done; but what about the bigger things, the emotional stuff. The things that have really defined who I am as a person, that have made me stronger.
When I think of life in those terms, when I redefine what is important, what matters, what makes up a "life" I see the past thirty years as pretty epic, all the things I've been though, all the experiences - both good and bad - the ways I've changed and grown, how I've come into the person I am, it gives me a new sense of respect for myself and for everyone else who's been through similar situations.
Maybe now's the time for us to start redefining what it is to live, what achievements should be counted as worthwhile, so that when we reach the big birthdays, or any birthdays for that matter we do so with joy and with awe at all we have coped with and respect and wonder at how pretty darn awesome each of us is!
What would you put on your list of amazing things that you can be proud to check off at your next "big" birthday? Let me know.
This morning I was feeling a bit blur, not sure what to do, really wanting to just curl up away from the grey day and read which I very well might do; but I knew I'd get frustrated if I hadn't achieved something today.
I suddenly remembered that music always makes me feel much better, so I decided to put my Most Played List on and enjoy some of my favourite tracks. I can already feel the tight, achy feeling in my chest lifting and I feel like I can breathe again.
I thought I'd share some of those tracks with you in case your mood needed lifting too.
Music to lift my mood, with some of my favourite songs. ♫ Instant Uplift http://t.co/W46crnpC8F #Spotify
What songs do you listen to to make you feel better?