Tag Archives: HAWMC

Health

HEALTH – a simple, sustainable, meaningful lifestyle

27 Apr 15
Megan
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HEALTH – an acronym and guide for living your own simple, sustainable and meaningful life

Hopes and Dreams – Just because you’re not as healthy as you once were, doesn’t mean you need to roll over and forget about everything you ever wanted to do in you life. You are still you, and with a bit of support and modification it’s still possible to live a meaningful life in which you can fulfill your hopes and dreams.

Exploration – You have passions and values that feed into your hopes and dreams. By exploring what your values are and what you’re passionate about you can discover ways to create your own simple, sustainable and meaningful life. One of the best ways I’ve found to identify your passions and values is to participate in the 100 Goal Challenge. Through this process I was able to identify that family, making a difference, and living sustainably are the highest things that I value in my life. This fits well with my dreams to start a family and run my own business helping others live simple, sustainable and meaningful lives.

Action – Once you’ve identified your hopes and dreams, and explored your passions and values the next step is to take action. Decide on one small step you can take today to move yourself one step closer to the life you want to live. My first steps included setting up this blog, fundraising through Kickstarter to publish the Foggy Frog and the Pain Gang picture book (happening later this year), and networking to find opportunities to help others.

Listen – Your body knows what it is capable of. Make sure you pay attention to changes in symptoms and pace yourself accordingly. Although I’d love to do everything I want as soon as I want, my health dictates that I can’t. By making sure I rest when I need to I’m able to do more in the long run as I’m less likely to crash.

Talk to others – Having a network to support you is important if you actually want to live your own simple, sustainable and meaningful life. The best way to create that network is to talk to others. Share your ideas, form partnerships and build a community around you. I do this through social media and this blog, talking with neighbours, friends and family, and identifying relevant workshops and conferences to attend when I’m well enough.

Highlights and Reflections – As we move through the process, it’s important to take time to identify the highlights, reflect on where you have come from and where you are going. People do change over time so it’s important to make sure that the path you’ve set yourself on is still the right one for you. By doing this regularly you can make changes as you need to so that you can maintain a simple, sustainable and meaningful (to you) lifestyle.

I’ve been following this guide for the last 12 months and I believe it has put me on a path to a simple, sustainable and meaningful life despite the problems living with chronic illness throws at me. This is not a be all and end all guide but a broad overview of things that need to be considered.

Have you focused on your H.E.A.L.T.H.?

What steps have you taken towards your own simple, sustainable and meaningful lifestyle?

I must apologise for falling off the band wagon with the HAWMC posts. I’m still working out how to pace myself with the new casual work.

 


stress managment

Stress Awareness Month and Travel with chronic illness

20 Apr 15
Megan
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I missed yesterday’s #HAWMC post on Stress Awareness so I’m combining it with today’s topic… Travel.

Managing stress is a vital part of learning to live with chronic illness. Especially with conditions like Fibromyalgia and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS) which can be exacerbated by stress. Even for a healthy person stress can have a negative impact on your life.

So how do we deal with stress?

When I was healthy I used to deal with stress by exercising… a lot! I would go to the gym most week days and work out hard for at least 30 minutes and walked everywhere I could.

My husband reduces his stress levels by riding his bike.

Exercise has been proven to act as a natural stress reliever.  The endorphins released by our bodies when we exercise make us feel good and relax.

But what if we can’t exercise? Or at least have limited ability to?

As I’ve mentioned previously, my exercise routine is no where near as extensive as it used to be so I’ve had to discover new ways to minimise and manage stress.

I still walk when I can (although this is no where near as often as I like), and I still do some yoga each day. This alone is not enough to keep my stress levels at a manageable level.

These days, I’m more likely to manage my stress levels by stepping back and finding a way to relax. I have hot baths, meditate, and generally avoid situations I know will be too stressful for me.

When considering stressful situations I take into account the physical, mental and emotional impact a situation could have. I have to avoid and minimise extremes in any of these aspects of life in order to maintain my health. I do this through pacing.

Travel and Stress Management

Travel is one area of my life that has had to completely change since the ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia. When I first fell ill, we had been planning an African safari for the next year. That obviously hasn’t happened and probably will not happen any time in the foreseeable future.

Although I’d love to go see the African wildlife and have a wonderful adventure with my husband, I know that the holiday we had planned would be too stressful for me. There would be the physical stress from actually travelling to the destination and the many activities we had planned that required walking and hiking. There is the emotional stress of becoming overexcited by the prospect of the adventure and the mental stress of planning the trip and making sure everything is planned properly.

Instead of big adventures like this, our current trips tend to be shorter and closer to home. We’ve done a couple of trips to bed and breakfast accommodation within an hours drive of home, and others (sometimes as short as over night) where we’ve driven somewhere and camped for a few nights.

These smaller holidays are more relaxed as we don’t plan out the details in advance. Because we don’t have to travel so far the stress of physically getting to the location is less, so I need less time to recover before I can participate in actual holiday activities. With these types of holidays we can decide what to do on a day to day basis based on how I’m feeling. We make sure we have activities we can do that are less taxing on my system, like audio books to listen to. We also allow for periods of rest between any larger activities and if there’s something that my husband would like to do that is just too much of a physical stress for me, we find a way for him to do it while I do something else.

The key to stress management for me is to pace myself and to allow for flexibility. This helps in every day life as well as in situations that may be out of the ordinary like travel or large social events.

What’s your key stress management tool?

I feel best

I feel best when… My Manifesto

14 Apr 15
Megan
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When you live every day with chronic pain and fatigue it can sometimes be difficult to remember what it’s like to feel good, to feel ‘normal’. It’s important though to not focus just on your symptoms but to find at least something each and every day to be grateful for. Something that will make you feel as good as you possibly can given everything you’re living with.

I feel best when…

I feel best when I’m making a difference. When I’m able to find a way in which I can contribute something of meaning to the community. I currently do this by sharing my stories here on the blog and through other social media outlets. By sharing I hope to help others to live simple, sustainable and meaningful lives of their own.

I feel best when I’m able to pace myself well. At the moment that means:

  • only working 1-2 hours a day, up to 4 days a week
  • finding time each day to do some stretches and yoga
  • maintaining a step count of around 5,000 steps a day
  • ensuring I get adequate rest throughout the day

I feel best when I’m adequately hydrated. Remembering to drink enough water can be difficult when I’m at my most foggy, but I try hard to remember.

I feel best when I eat a balanced diet. Eating enough nutritious fruit, veg, nuts and meat, mainly eating home cooked meals with fresh produce and avoiding alcohol, dairy and gluten all help to keep me healthy.

I feel best when I have a project to work on that I’m passionate about. At the moment, my passion project is to try and build the sense of community on my street. Although I feel connected to my wider community online, I feel like I don’t really know my neighbours that well.

I feel best when I’m part of a connected community that supports one another and works together towards a simple, sustainable and meaningful lifestyle.

I feel best when I’m surrounded by supportive friends and family.

Rest

Rest – Could you take a whole day off?

13 Apr 15
Megan
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Yesterday I took the day off. Not only did I not allow myself to do any work, I attempted to completely avoid technology as well. As you’ll see below I wasn’t quite successful in this second quest but the day was still worth it.

Why take a whole day off?

It seems counterproductive when you’re really busy and have a lot to do to just stop and do nothing for a whole day but in reality it’s anything but that. When you don’t take the time to rest and switch off your productivity drops dramatically. Although you may always be doing something it can take you longer to do it and the quality of the work you produce may not be to your best standards if you are stressed and attempting to multitask too much.

By taking a day off to allow your batteries to recharge, you come back to the work with a clear head and focused on what you want to achieve. I find after taking a break I also tend to come back with a renewed passion and interest in whatever it was I’m trying to get done.

Another benefit of taking a day off, is it allows you to reflect on what you do and identify things that you do that are actually not being helpful and could be counterproductive. For example, I tend to crash out in front of the TV or browsing the internet when my brain fog sets in. If I actually take a rest instead I can return to my productive work quicker and with a clearer head.

A sample day of rest

As I mentioned above, and on social media yesterday, I took the day off and avoided technology to focus on rest and recovery.

What did my day look like?

6:30 AM – The cats woke me up

My husband is away this week, finishing a cycling tour of the Mawson Trail so the cats woke me instead to feed them. I managed to ignore them and get back to sleep for a while though.

7:20 AM – Up and feed the animals (cats and fish) followed by a 10 minute rest

7:30 AM – Breakfast

I made a container of coconut rice the day before so had some of that with fruit and honey for breakfast.

8:00 AM – Bath with a book (Seven Little Australians)

Due to pain levels on cold days I tend to spend a lot of my time in the bath. Yesterday was one of those days.

8:30 AM – 20 minute rest

8:50 AM – Snack

Because I was up so early, my energy levels were low so I had a few snacks throughout the day.

9:00 AM – 20 minute walk

This was a short but very slow walk around the block. Just because it was a day for rest didn’t mean it was OK for me to avoid all exercise. In order to manage my pain and fatigue levels I have to maintain a certain level of activity. In my normal daily life I currently don’t do any specific walks like this because I get my target step count or higher just doing tasks around the house. However, as I wasn’t doing housework I would not have met my target without a designated walk.

9:20 AM – Pot of tea and Journal

When I’m managing well I try to write in my journal daily, however life can get in the way. I hadn’t written in my journal since January so I spent some time reflecting over the changes that have occurred in the last few months.

9:50 AM – 20 minute rest

10:15 AM – Back in the bath with my book

As I said above, when the weather is cold and my pain levels high I tend to spend a lot of time in the bath. I don’t run a completely new bath though, just top up the water to make it warm again.

At this stage I actually finished my book.

12:00 PM – Lunch

For lunch I had left over pizza (gluten and dairy free) from dinner with friends the night before. At this point I did go on my phone for a little while just to get an update from my husband as to how their trip was going.

12:50 PM – 40 minute rest

This was my big rest for the day. On any day I tend to crash in the afternoon. I normally try to hold our until at least 1 pm, usually 2 – 3 pm then put the TV on and crash on the couch.

1:30 PM – Woke up and Snack

1:50 PM – Yoga

As well as my step count I do daily yoga stretches to reduce pain levels. This is mainly the pelvic stretches discussed in my routines post last week.

2:05 PM – Hot Chocolate and a book (Kitchen Table Sustainability)

This book could technically count as doing work, as the information is useful for the development of my ideas, but it is a book I’ve been trying to read for a while and as I’d finished my fiction book I decided to read some of this one instead of starting another new book.

3:15 PM – Clean Kitchen

I know it was meant to be a complete day of rest but I had come back the day before from a night away and had bags of food and cooking appliances that had been used while we were away. To be able to make dinner I had to clear the bench space so I washed the dishes and put away the food.

By this stage I was really struggling with just wanting to crash on the couch with the TV on. I had made myself a promise to have a technology free day so I held out on myself.

3:45 PM – Visit a Neighbour

As I was struggling with a desire to crash on the couch and just rest, I decided a day off was a good opportunity to begin to foster better relationships with my neighbours. I really want to feel like I’m part of a strong knit community but in the 7+ years we’ve been in our house I only know a few of the neighbours to the extent of waving hello.

Recently a friend’s parents moved in 2 houses up from us so I decided to visit them yesterday and introduce myself properly.

I spent 2 hours at their house having a cup of tea and a chat. I found out that my friend’s mother has fibromyalgia as well so it was great to chat to her about what she does to manage her symptoms.

** Confession time: The TV was on in the background while I was there.

6:00 PM – Dinner

I threw a few vegetables (onion, baby spinach, mushroom, capsicum, chilli and garlic)  in a pan to saute and gluten free gnocchi in a pot.

6:30 PM – Bath and book

By this stage I really just wanted to collapse in front of the TV or go to bed. I decided it was too early for bed and I was still attempting to avoid TV so I made myself read a bit more of my book in the bath. I found myself struggling to read though so I wasn’t in there very long.

7:00 PM – Attempt to go to bed

I was exhausted and thought I would fall straight to sleep but as usual I just couldn’t get comfy.

7:10 PM – TV ON!!!

After attempting to get to sleep for 10 minutes I realised it just wasn’t going to happen. Not only was it a little early but my husband wasn’t home. Normally when he’s not home I have the TV on for noise in the background when I attempt to fall asleep. I gave in and put it on.

I also ended up taking a sleeping tablet as I didn’t manage to get to sleep until after 1 AM.

As you can see, even a rest day can be busy. The idea though is to do activities that recharge your batteries, not ones that drain them further.

Although I didn’t quite manage the whole day technology free, limiting my exposure to technology did maintain my energy levels slightly higher than on a normal day filled with the internet, tv and phone.

Yesterday was the first day in many, many months that could be classified as an OK day for me (not bad or crash) so obviously I need to do this type of thing more often.

What do you do to rest?

Do you ever take a whole day to just relax and do nothing?

nutrition

Nutrition and Diet – Keep it Simple

07 Apr 15
Megan
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You are what you eat

That’s the saying…

It’s World Health Day today and the focus is on safe food. As a result, the WEGO health activist writer’s challenge is focused on nutrition and diet today.

Last month we talked about eating locally and how you can support your local farmers, and today I’m going to talk about how I eat for my health

Even before March 2013, when my life went upside down with chronic illness, I was on a path to becoming the healthiest I could be. I have suffered from allergies, eczema and asthma my whole life and about 6 months earlier I had gone to an allergist for testing.

At this point my diet changed. I removed all dairy and gluten, and I noticed that my eczema disappeared.

Then the pain and extreme fatigue started.

My diet didn’t really change that much in terms of the types of food I ate but my ability to spend lots of time cooking did change. As my illness progressed I also began to add supplements to help with management.

I now take fish oil, magnesium, calcium, iodine and folic acid, Vitamin D and Vitamin B regularly. Combined these are helping to reduce my pain levels and increase my bone density (which was found to be extremely low last year).

Thankfully my husband is around to help make meals and this means I’ve been able to maintain a healthy diet while managing my energy levels. As I’ve recovered slowly, I’ve been able to make more meals myself although I still have to pace.

When I’m cooking myself I’ve found a variety of meals that are simple and easy to make. These include lentil burgers, pad thai and steak or sausages and veg during summer, and soups during winter. Many of these meals are also generally made in bulk so that after cooking one night we have leftovers for another dinner and usually a lunch or two.

By cooking in bulk I keep it simple. I use fresh produce as much as possible and I get support from family and friends when I need it. As previously discussed, we do grow some of our own vegetables as well. When there’s greens in the garden and I’m home, I tend to get lunch straight from the garden.

Do you focus on your nutrition to maintain your health?

Have you had to change your diet for any reason?

Routines

Routines and Schedules – Creature of Habit

04 Apr 15
Megan
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In March 2013, my life was full of structure and routines. I worked full time, studied (almost full time), visited the gym at least 3 x a week (usually 5-6 x a week), and spent time with family and friends. Then my life came crashing down around me.

Suddenly I was in so much pain I could barely walk let alone visit the gym. I had to give up my full time job and my study and just focus on getting through day to day. Most days for the first 4 – 5 months were spent in bed or on the couch asleep when I wasn’t at doctors and specialist appointments.

I’ve found though that since I’ve focused on my health and worked on trying to improve my health over the last 2 years, having a routine is a key factor in my ability to improve. Learning to pace myself and break up activities with rest has led to me now returning to work on a casual basis and taking on a variety of activities including blogging, sewing, reading and studying again.

Without a routine this wouldn’t be possible and, even though at times I fall off track, knowing what I should be doing and when helps to simplify my life.

So… what routines do I have in place?

Morning Routines

Every day, when I wake up, I lie in bed for a while and just assess where my body is at then I get up and have a shower. The time of this may vary as I no longer use an alarm and lately it can be anywhere between 8 am and 10 am.

After a shower I have a short rest before getting dressed and thinking about breakfast.

If I’m sticking to my routine, breakfast would normally be a smoothie with banana, almond milk and either a gluten free weetbix or greens (cucumber, celery and baby spinach) added to it.

Then I move on with my day. Depending on what’s scheduled, this could involve writing a blog post, doing some housework, or driving to an appointment.

Cleaning Routines

I’ve found without a routine, maintaining the house is impossible with a chronic illness. If I only cleaned when I had the energy it would never get done so I have a routine in place:

Daily: Run robo-vacuum on hard floors downstairs

Monday: Dust and run robo-vacuum around upstairs to clean floors

Tuesday: Load of washing

Wednesday: Day off as I usually have my doctors appointments

Thursday: Load of washing

Friday: Clean shower and toilets

Saturday: Load of washing

Sunday: Day off

As you can see, I do washing every 2-3 days. This helps keep the size of the load down so that I can carry the basket myself. Usually the clothes are folded and put away the day after they’re washed (we line dry).

This routine helps keep the house at a reasonable level of cleanliness. I don’t always manage the dusting on the Monday, and obviously there is other big jobs that need doing less often, but so far this routine is working for us.

Exercise Routines

Before getting sick, I was passionate about staying fit and healthy. I walked everywhere I could and, as mentioned above, I went to the gym regularly. Now my routine is a lot more relaxed…

My goal is to average 5,000 steps a day on good days and 2-3,000 on a crash day (tracked with my Garmin Vivofit).  This goal is usually reached just maintaining my day to day activities without any specific walks.

I meditate, including body relaxation techniques, and do gentle yoga stretches daily. The yoga stretches include a series of stretches specifically to reduce pelvic pain from the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia.

Occasionally, I may get to a pool and participate in some hydrotherapy. This is something I’m working on making more regular.

Routines, Routines, Routines

As you can see above, I have plenty of routines in my life that are helping me to maintain and improve my health (and I’m sure I’ve missed some of them out here!).

Do you have any routines that you stick to?

What have you found helps you?

Happiness

Happiness – Enough and random acts of kindness

03 Apr 15
Megan
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As those of you who follow us on social media would be aware, I’m participating in WEGO Health‘s Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge.

Here at LiveKen we are on a journey to discover what a simple, sustainable and meaningful life is for us.  On this journey we have discovered that recognising that we are enough and we have enough is one of the key steps towards being happy with your life.

Yesterday’s prompt for the challenge was to answer the question

What is the key to happiness?

My key to happiness is to be grateful for what I have. To recognise that Enough is all that is needed to be happy with life. I may have several chronic illnesses which impact on my ability to live what is considered a normal life, but I have enough health to do the things which matter the most to me. I have enough health to spend time with my family and friends, to read a good book, write this blog, and make a contribution to the world. I am enough just the way I am.

Today’s prompt for the challenge is

Random Acts of Kindness

To me, these two prompts are linked. The random acts of kindness I observe and participate day to day are the things that remind me of the fact that I am, and have, enough.

When I do a random act of kindness, whether that is to make a meal for someone I love or give someone a big hug, I feel that I am making someone else’s life better. I am enough as I am to make a difference.

When I am the recipient of a random act of kindness, I am reminded that I have enough people who love and care for me to make my life special.

For example, the other week we were at a friends house for drinks. The host had made lasagna for dinner. 2 large ones full of dairy and gluten. We had only RSVP’d that day, as I’m usually unable to be sure of whether I can commit until the last moment, and I can’t eat dairy or gluten. Even though we RSVP’d so late, they went to a lot of effort making me a separate, smaller heart shaped lasagna with gluten free pasta sheets and a potato topping instead of the cheese sauce.

I am so grateful that they had made such a special effort to make sure I had enough to eat. In fact, the special heart shaped lasagna was so big I could only eat half, and shared the rest with others around the table.

To me, the key to happiness is being grateful for what you do have. It is recognising that you are, and you have, enough and celebrating every achievement no matter how small.

Random Acts of Kindness act as a reminder of how important it is to be a part of a community and to contribute to that community to help everyone find their key to happiness.

What is your key to happiness?

Have you been a recipient of a random act of kindness?