Today my herbalist and I talked about the effects of chronic stress and how the body can get stuck in fight or flight mode.
Goal-setting is something I have heard of a lot over the past few years. Working, as I did, in online media, it’s hard to miss all the posts aimed at helping you become the best version of yourself and live your dream. And I have nothing against it per se, but it can begin to become toxic if you aren’t setting realistic goals.
Let me explain. Say, for instance, you want to get fit, but the last time you really exercised regularly was in PE lessons at school a couple of decades ago. Can we just stop for a moment and recognise how crazy it feels that it’s been such a long time since our school days? Anyway, back to my point. If you haven’t been very active for the past decade or so, then your goals need to reflect that. You need to slowly build up to where you want to be, even if that means it will take several years, because it’s better to make small progress and keep going than trying to go too fast and losing both confidence and motivation.
I’ve got to admit that I’ve always been someone with high aspirations and a tendency to set totally unrealistic goals. So, if you’re the same, I completely understand how you feel. Even as my life has become more and more limited due to the increase in my symptoms over the past couple of years, I’ve continued to set unrealistic goals. I’ve focused on the “one day” belief, that things will get better and I’ll be able to work again, volunteer with the church, have Little Man’s friends over for play dates, and even teaching kids yoga. And, to be fair, there’s nothing to say that these things won’t happen in future. But they are not things I can plan to achieve by setting goals along the way, because I’m simply not well enough to even make small steps towards them right now.
I can’t set a goal of writing n number of times per week, to keep my hand in as a copywriter. I can’t plan to stay on top of social media and learn new skills, so that in 5 years’ time I can return to self-employment. I can’t will myself to be well enough every week to help out at church. I certainly can’t set plans to exercise every day to build up my stamina for play dates. And whilst I hope to one day complete the training to teach kids’ yoga, I cannot set a time frame on that. Do you see how many “can’t” thoughts come out of trying to set goals beyond my reach?
Your unrealistic goals may be totally different to mine. The things I mention may be things you don’t even need to think about (I know they weren’t for me before I got this sick). But everybody has a limit, and far too often we ignore that limit and think we have to be more than that which we are. And that’s when goal setting becomes toxic, because it makes you feel less than, which is no fun at all. I can’t tell you how often I’ve felt hopeless, particularly over this past year, as the things I can do have become fewer and fewer. But suddenly I’m realising that if I start setting realistic goals I might have a chance to change that inner dialogue that tells me I’m not good enough and that things will never change.
The ironic thing is (I’m hoping it’s ironic, my brain is too fried to work it out), when I’m having a good day I’m terrified that things will all change and it won’t last. Because my experience is that good days are usually followed by bad ones. But when things are bad, I fully believe I may always be that way and change is impossible. And so I’ve started to believe that I cannot possibly set any goals in life, because there’s no point. But the other day something truly magnificent happened and I actually set some realistic goals without even really thinking about them.
It happened near the end of my initial assessment with the pain management service. I had just recounted all the health issues and symptoms, in great detail, to the assessor, and then came the question I always dread; “what do you hope to get out of this?” I always dread it because I never know what to say. But this time three things came out of my mouth, in quick succession, and in that moment I knew something had shifted in my perception. I had begun to accept the reality of how ill I am, and I had adjusted my expectations accordingly. This is what I said:
1) I want to be able to enjoy my hobbies again (eg writing, gardening etc) and do more with my son
2) I want to trust my body again, rather than fearing what it will do next
3) I want to be able to regain some independence, getting to a point where I can walk to the bus stop, get a bus into town, sit and have a drink somewhere, and then get a bus back home.
A few years ago all of these things would have been inconsequential. I would simply do them and never see them as an achievement. In the grand scheme of things, they could feel so small. And yet right now they are out of my reach, and I want to get to the point where they are achievable. And I truly believe that they are. Those “one day” dreams are just that, dreams for a day that may never come. But these are realistic goals, and things I can specifically work towards.
I still need to see the assessor again for a proper physical exam and the chance to create an actionable plan. That will be on Friday. But I know that with the right support, I can set targets that will help me reach these goals I’m aiming for. It may take me several years to get to each one, but at least I’ll be able to see progress along the way. And that fills me with real hope for the first time in a very long time. I’m not waiting for a magical relief from my symptoms, but aiming to be okay with this broken body of mine and to learn how to live well within my limitations. Because no matter how bad things may be, there’s always something you can achieve.
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Today is my 35th birthday, and I really want to mark the occasion with a blog post. It’s not one of the “big birthdays”, but it feels very important to me, and I don’t want to miss this opportunity to reflect upon that and document my thoughts in this moment in time.
The year I came into this third decade of my life was beyond challenging. I honestly thought I had hit rock bottom, and it felt like things couldn’t get any worse. Emotionally I was a wreck, and I was desperately trying to keep my head above water. I felt like I had to fix things, and finding a purpose in my life seemed more important than finding peace. My priorities were all wrong, but I couldn’t see that.
It was at the very end of that year that I first heard the word “surrender” and began to realise the emotional freedom and peace that came with surrendering into the flow of life. But still I had a lot to learn, and the past few years have been one very long journey through some of the scariest places. And I’ve been resisting that call to surrender for far too long.
This morning, for instance, I’m sitting in bed, wondering how I’m going to get through my birthday. I’ve been feeling super nauseated and extremely fatigued for the past week. There have been moments when it has been less pronounced, but on the whole I am feeling truly rotten. And it completely sucks. After all, nobody wants to be ill on their birthday!
When I feel like this, being with others is hard. I struggle to process what is being said to me, and too much noise makes me anxious. All I want to do is close the doors on the world and desperately wish the worst of the symptoms would finally calm down. But whilst that may ease some of the physical symptoms, it makes the emotional ones harder. Guilt, shame, anger, fear, and isolation all rear their ugly heads at times like these. I feel like a burden, I hate missing out, and it pains me to either cancel plans or refuse to even make them in the first place.
I fear what others must think of me, and I swing wildly between feeling like a fraud on my better days (because, hey, I’m not that sick all the time) and frustration on my worst days (because I need people to understand just how sick I truly am). As a result, I tend to only share small snippets of what my life is like, and these usually occur on what I’ll call my “medium days”.
Some of this has happened because of the nature of my illness. On my better days, I’m likely to be enjoying the fact I can actually do things, so talking about how sick I am feels incongruous. Whereas on my worst days I’m so sick I can barely lift my head off the pillow and stringing a coherent sentence together feels impossible. So it’s those inbetween days when I am more likely to share things, because I still feel ill enough to be reminded I’m chronically ill, but I’m not so sick that it keeps me from communicating.
But some of it comes from my own skewed perceptions of the world around me. I have fallen into the trap of needing to find a positive spin for everything, so I look at my illness in what it can teach me rather than what it feels like in the moment. I have assumed that everything I write online needs to add value and be “on brand”, rather than accepting that it’s perfectly okay to simply write from the heart. And I have refused to acknowledge how sick I truly am, focusing on recovery because I feel unworthy as a sick person rather than because I deserve to not feel this rotten.
So today I really want to focus on the idea that my life doesn’t need to have any purpose other than the fact that it is my life and I’m living it. I want to reflect on how far I have come emotionally over the past few years, whilst acknowledging that it’s okay to still feel completely lost in the quagmire of my soul. And I want to start this next year of my life with the understanding that if all I do over the next 12 months is survive then that’s more than enough.
Welcome back to Advent at The North Pole. It’s December 2nd, and today we hear from an Elf with a very important task…
Welcome to the very first day of Advent at The North Pole. It’s December 1st, and the Elves are very excited… are you?
As Samhain approaches, I have felt the call of the Crone to let go of the old and embrace the next stage of my life with open arms. And as I have listened and followed her call, I have discovered the true joy in letting go...
Today I really want to share a fantastic, free resource we have found for both entertaining and relaxing our highly energetic and inquisitive 3 year old! Welcome to Cosmic Kids…
Cosmic Kids is “your place for yoga, stories and fun”. There are so many ways in which the team at Cosmic Kids are making yoga accessible and fun for kids (both at home and at school), but I want to tell you specifically about the yoga adventures on youtube.
All of the videos on youtube are completely free to view, and are an excellent way to get your kids interacting and learning whilst having fun and doing some yoga. Jaime (pictured above) takes you on a magical journey through a story, whilst integrating yoga postures throughout. So, for example, in their latest adventures (Star Wars Episode 4), downward facing dog becomes the posture for R2D2… this is one of Little Man’s favourites!
Admittedly, Little Man doesn’t follow the entire adventure… he wanders off and does his own thing lots of times, but that’s okay! He’s having fun, exploring new ways of doing things, and comes back to join in with the adventure as and when a part of the story interests him. I love the freedom that the videos give us to let him take part without any kind of pressure to keep up with the story all the way through.
This was certainly not part of the story today, but he had fun and it enabled him to test his strength and agility in his own time (rather than simply running around in a circle and making himself dizzy which is what he often does when he has excess energy to burn!)
No matter how often he gets distracted and goes to do his own thing, he always comes back to the story over and over again and loves trying to do what Jaime is doing. Sometimes that is just repeating a noise she has made or telling me what she is doing. Sometimes it is having a go at the posture, with a little help from mama. And sometimes he just gets it all by himself and gets a thrill from being able to follow along all on his own…
As you can see, Little Man loves having a go and is more than happy to follow along with minimal input from mummy and daddy. That’s not to say that mummy and daddy aren’t invited to join in from time to time, and when we do join in it is just as much fun for us! But it is definitely something that even a 3 year old can manage to follow on their own.
And this, I think, is testament to how wonderfully inclusive the videos are. Jaime and the team at Cosmic Kids seem to totally understand how to get kids involved and using their imaginations and it’s so wonderful to find such a resource available so freely. Little Man adores using his “cosminoculars” at the beginning of adventures…
He also absolutely adores counting down from 3 to 1 and then saying “Namaste” at the beginning and end of an adventure. I wish I had a video of it, but alas my attempts at videoing him this morning didn’t go so well. However if you’d like to see some other kids in action, why not check out the Cosmic Kids’ Yoga Heroes video of other children enjoying the adventures just as much as Little Man does.
As you can see from that video, Cosmic Kids is enjoyed by children of all ages, and their families!! And it’s no wonder, really, when you consider the amazing quality these videos are. They are a fantastic introduction to yoga for children, and also a really good resource for learning mindfulness, something which I know that we as a family want to integrate into our lives more but are often at a loss of how to do so ourselves, let alone for a 3 year old!
Cosmic Kids don’t only produce adventures, you see. Oh no, they also have beautiful videos called “Zen Den” which are perfect for quietening things down and taking some time to reflect and rest. Little Man is more than happy to sit cross legged on the floor, especially as these are much shorter in length and involve enough visual and audio input to keep him concentrating on what is happening on the screen.
I love his little version of sitting cross-legged, it makes my heart melt so much!
Back to the matter at hand!
Cosmic Kids have a wealth of resources available on their website, it’s not just about the youtube videos. There are posters and posture guides to download as well as class plans (did you know that children take part in Cosmic Kids Yoga Adventures in schools? How awesome is that?) There are even a couple of DVDs you can buy, which help the team to cover the costs of producing the videos.
Honestly, I cannot tell you how much we love Cosmic Kids here at The Patch. We have been enjoying the Adventures since summer 2014 and yet I have only just discovered their Facebook and Twitter feeds as well as the instagram hashtag (#cosmickidsyoga), so I shall be exploring those later today.
Will you join me?
We are sharing how much we love Cosmic Kids purely because we love Cosmic Kids. We were not approached by anyone on the team, nor was any incentive given. I contacted Jaime this morning to request the use of their images, but that is the only contact we have had. We hope this honest review makes you even more interested in checking them out!
After a lot of reflection over the past few weeks, I have come to the conclusion that a lot of things need to change in my life. Some of them internal, some of them external. Some are changes I can personally make, and some are changes that rely on things outside of my control.
With that in mind I wanted to focus on setting achievable goals for the months ahead, goals which are not only quantifiable but also have a real impact on my life in a positive way. And for that, I needed to consider what my hopes and dreams were for this year.
It was at this point that I realised that good planning includes not just your hopes and dreams, but also the general aims you have as well as those very specific goals. It’s like three very different but completely complementary layers which, when considered together, create a positive and affirming outlook in life.
And this led me to this…
I feel like these are all really achievable and give me some real focus for creating a far better balance in my life. My word for 2015 is Surrender, and a large part of this includes surrendering the extremely high expectations I hold for myself. Instead of thinking I need to “do it all” I am setting myself some very specific goals which will make a massive difference in my life.
My five goals will assist me in making the five general aims a reality. For instance, working on the crochet blanket enables me to “create more”. Eating at the table helps us have “more family time”. And keeping a personal journal (as opposed to simply writing on the blog) will enable me to “be more mindful” and also “pray more” as I reflect on things.
And hopefully, these five goals and five aims will in turn impact on my five hopes and dreams. Being more mindful will help me live on purpose. Spending more time with family and embracing community will bring more stability to our lives. And that will all hopefully bring about some better health through having better support and worrying less.
Do you see how I have tried to connect everything together in some way? It’s the first time I have really tried to do this on a personal level and I do so hope it will help… but only time will tell and I am “surrendering” my expectations of this and simply choosing to see how it all pans out!
Have you set any goals for the year? Please do leave your comments below, I would love to read about your hopes and dreams for the year ahead!
I don’t know about you, but it feels to me as if 2014 has been a year of battles and anguish. Throughout the world there have been so many heart-wrenching stories of pain and loss, coming one after the other in quick succession, providing very little chance to try and get your head around one thing before another comes to rock your world view.
There have been lost planes, mass conflicts in both the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and then the Ebola Crisis in Africa. And it doesn’t seem to be letting up… a few days before Christmas lives were lost in Glasgow as a dustbin lorry veered out of control, and then today yet another airplane has been lost. It just keeps coming.
And away from the large scale news, there are the individual lives that are affected every single day. The deeply personal stories of those affected by the above mentioned events, as well as those fighting their own personal battles. And I count TJ and myself in this.
2014 has been one of the hardest years we have ever had to face. And that is saying something. Since we met in 2007 I have been through 3 pseudo-menopauses, surgery, and a HG pregnancy (further complicated by Obstetric Cholestasis). And TJ has changed careers twice in an effort to continue working despite increasing pain and symptoms that have affected every part of his life. We’ve both faced depression head on, both been in therapy, and both come out fighting another day. Yet this year has pretty much broken us!
TJ’s health took such a huge turn for the worst this year, and in turn so did mine as the stress of working full-time whilst trying to meet the needs of an active 3 year old and a very poorly husband really began to take its toll. We have fought until we had no fight left in us, and thankfully it seems as if the tides are slowly turning and we’re beginning to surface above the crashing waves once more. And we have hope that 2015 will bring us more good news. But we are beat.
And over the past few days I have been reflecting on this a lot. I find that I am in need of a complete change of attitude to the world around us and the personal battles that we all face. For too long now I have been fighting against the tide, passionately hoping beyond hope that one day things will change, when really it might have been easier to choose to surrender and ride the waves instead. But how do you do that when every inch of your being tells you to fight?
It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote a blog post called “Warrior“. And I do still relate to that post a lot. But I’m beginning to wonder whether there is a balance between fighting and surrendering. Choosing our battles has to be wiser than fighting in each and every one that comes our way, surely?
This doesn’t mean accepting injustice, or allowing things that we feel are inherently “wrong” to go unchecked. But it does mean realising that some battles are not ours to fight. Some battles simply cannot be won by giving everything you have to them. Sometimes the battle is not so much the outer experience, but your inner one.
Last night I did something that I haven’t done in a very long time. I prayed. I mean I really, truly opened my heart and asked for help. I didn’t scream out my need for help in desperation, like I have been doing recently, only to then continue trying to fight the battle myself. Rather, I sat in silence and focused on what I really needed. And that was love, acceptance and peace.
TJ and I have so much more ahead of us that we need to face together. Our lives are pretty turbulent at the moment, and it can feel utterly overwhelming at times. And that isn’t going to change overnight. But what can change is our perception of this. We can give ourselves some grace to breathe and be and accept that even when every day feels like a battle, it’s okay.
And I know that for me this means learning how to surrender. I need to give up this idea that I have to fix it all myself. I need to relinquish the thought that I am not good enough, because if only I were better our lives would be better too. And I need to surrender my pride enough to open up my heart and let others in.
It isn’t an easy concept for me to grasp. I have become used to surviving on my own merit. But doing so has led me to become very cynical about life and closed to a lot of the wonderful things in our lives right now. And this needs to change. It is a change worth making, a risk worth taking, and it just feels right.
So my word for 2015 is surrender. I’m going to stick it up on my blog sidebar so that it reminds me every time I log on. I’m also going to add it to the manifestation collage I made for myself on the eve of the Winter Solstice. And I am going to be intentional about surrendering myself to what is happening right now in my life and what is to come over the next 12 months.
Tell me, what changes do you want to make for 2015?