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image of a toddler standing at the foot of a flight of stairs

Changing “I Can’t” to “I Can”

So often in life it is really easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the negatives, isn’t it? We see all the things that haven’t gone our way, all the things we don’t have, and all the things we can’t do. And it’s understandable, because life is hard. But changing your perception can have such a massive impact on your overall well-being, as I’m sure you all know. It’s why daily gratitude practices are so popular, and it also explains so many of the “you can do it” positive affirmations you find splashed across social media these days. But what happens when life knocks you down and you really can’t do it? What then?

image of a toddler standing at the foot of a flight of stairs

When Even The Smallest Things Feel Impossible

This is where I have found myself for the past couple of years. Chronic illness takes so much away from you, especially when it really impacts your ability to function on a day-to-day basis. When I first started getting sick, I was still able to work through the boom-and-bust cycle, and convinced myself that it was just a bump in the road. After all, I’d been chronically ill for years and had always managed to keep going or bounce back somehow. So I thought I just had to ride this wave out too. Except it didn’t work out that way this time, and I got increasingly more debilitated until even everyday actions such as taking a shower or washing the dishes became impossible most days.

All the planning in the world (and all the dreaming too) couldn’t change the fact that I was really sick. And coming to terms with the fact that I can’t do the things so many people take for granted has been an important step in my healing journey. We all have limitations and we need to respect them. In fact, I’m pretty sure that not respecting my limitations contributed to my becoming this ill in the first place. So I’d say it’s pretty crucial that we accept none of us are superheroes, and that some things are beyond our reach, whether for that particular season in our lives or because we’re simply never going to be able to do them. After all, even superheroes have limits!

Redefining Achievement

But what I’ve come to realise over the past few months is that even though there are so many things I can’t do, there are just as many things that I can. I just have to change my perception of what constitutes a “thing”. Washing the dishes or taking a shower may have once felt like everyday, normal things that didn’t even require any notice whatsoever. But now? Now they are achievements worth celebrating. They mean that I have not only achieved the act of doing them, but that I’ve also achieved a better balance in my life enabling me to be well enough to do them. I’m beginning to learn to live within my limitations, to accept the times when they are simply out of the question, and as a result I am finding myself more able to do things without such major payback. I’m beginning to crack the boom-bust cycle a little bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a long way to go with that. I still regularly push myself beyond my limits and suffer as a result. But it’s usually for a good reason, such as a family gathering, getting to church for an important service, or looking after my family when my husband is ill. But the key thing for me has been learning to accept that sometimes in order to do something I have to not do several other things. If I want to have a friend round for coffee, I have to accept that once they have gone I am going to need to rest in bed. I won’t be able to crochet or read or even watch Netflix, but rather I’ll need to lay down and really let my body rest. But if I refuse to fight the “I can’t” and instead look at what “I can” do I’m better able to see what I’ve achieved.

In the example given, I’ll have not only had chance to catch up with a friend, but I’ll have also made a deliberate choice to rest, which in turn means I can do more things the next day. By more things I mean I might be able to sit in bed and read or crochet, but that’s an improvement on being stuck in bed with major fatigue had I chosen to push through the day before and refused to rest. Sometimes even choosing to rest is an achievement! I don’t always get this balance right, of course, because there is so much more that I want to do. And it can be incredibly frustrating to sit in bed and look at a pile of clothes and wish I had the energy to fold them and put them away, or to hear my son playing in the garden and wish I didn’t have a migraine making the sun too bright for me to go outside and join him. But changing my perception from “I can’t” to “I can” is having an impact.

image of a woman stretching in bed, sitting up with arms raised above her head.

Celebrating The “Small Things”

It doesn’t matter what is happening in your life, whether you’re going through a tough season or are living your best life, I think learning to celebrate the small things can make such a huge difference to your day. There are so many reasons why you may feel overwhelmed, even when living you best life!! Deadlines loom, family needs battle for your attention, bills need to be paid, sleep exhaustion affects your ability to think clearly, the news is downright depressing… the list goes on. When we are so focused on the “big picture” of our lives, it’s hard to notice the everyday, little things that all contribute to our success in surviving this crazy thing called life.

The smaller things may feel like greater achievements to me because of how sick I am and how out of reach the bigger things are, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still huge achievements to everyone else too. Simply getting out of bed after a bad night’s sleep or when faced with a stressful day ahead is a sign of huge resilience and is worth acknowledging and even celebrating. I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate the big things, because we should, of course we should. All I’m saying is that we all have bad days, and on those days being able to celebrate our small successes is so important.

Changing “I Can’t” to “I Can”, one step at a time.

If you’re struggling to think of something to celebrate today, have a look through this list and see how many of the things you have done. You might be surprised at just how much you have achieved. I’ve tried to make a list that works for as many people as possible, from those chronically ill like myself or raising young children (for whom getting dressed is a major achievement!) to those who never seem to stop! So some of them will be more relevant to you than others. I’ve tried to split it into themes for easy reference, but they are very loosely categorised, and there is a lot of blurring between the lines. And it is far from an exhaustive list, it is simply meant to help nudge you into celebrating the “small things” we often overlook. After all, changing “I can’t” to “I can” is an achievement in and of itself!

daily Living

  • Got out of bed
  • Ate breakfast/lunch/dinner (no skipped meals)
  • Made a packed lunch
  • Made it out of the house (on time)
  • Paid a bill/renewed insurance/dealt with paperwork etc

Work Related activities

  • Got to work on time
  • Answered emails/messages
  • Completed a task
  • Met a deadline
  • Dealt with difficult colleagues/boss/clients/customers

Parent Life

  • Got everyone up (and out the door) on time
  • Spoke to someone at the school gates
  • Made it to parent and baby/toddler group
  • Listened to your child read/practised spellings/helped with homework
  • Survived another crazy day!

Spoonie (Chronically Ill) Achievements

  • Got out of bed
  • Had a shower
  • Got dressed
  • Had a nap (yes, this is an achievement for those who need it!)
  • Visited a friend/had someone visit you

Physical Well-being

  • Got enough sleep
  • Drank enough to remain well hydrated
  • Ate a healthy meal
  • Did some exercise (physio practice/short walk/run/gym)
  • Made a healthy food swap (eg decaffeinated tea/coffee, fruit snack etc)

Mental and Emotional Well-Being

  • Avoided being drawn into drama (in the family/on social media etc)
  • Remembered to breathe through the tough moments
  • Turned off your phone
  • Read a book/watched a film/listened to music
  • Went to bed early

Spiritual Stuff

  • Meditated (or any other mindfulness practice)
  • Made it to church/synagogue/mosque/spiritual gathering
  • Read some scripture/spiritual book
  • Prayed/spoke to God/Angels/Spiritual Guides etc
  • Spoke with others about your faith

I’d love to know what “small things” you are celebrating today. Why not share them with me in the comments?

Brilliance in Blogging (BiBs) Award Finalist Logo for Inspire Category

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Voting closes at 23:45 on Friday 4th October.
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I love myself too

And You Love Yourself Too…

This afternoon I was sitting with Little Man and asked him, “do you know who I love?” When he turned to look at me, waiting for my answer, I told him, “I love you, and I love daddy, and I love Thomas and Percy (our two new guinea pigs)”. And do you know what his reply was?

And you love yourself too!

This isn’t the first time he’s said this to me, but every time he does I am blown away by how deep and profound his response is. And yet, to him, it isn’t deep or profound at all, it just is. And therein lies the beauty of it – if we can love another, we must surely love ourselves.

And it makes me wonder – at what point in my life did I stop seeing things with this kind of clarity and start leaving myself off that all important list of those I love? If asked about self-love, I’d say that of course I think it’s important that we love ourselves as well as others. But thinking it is important is not the same as actually loving myself with the same level of intention and intensity as I love and value others.

Which is why Little Man’s response is so powerful to me, because it challenges me to really consider not only whether I truly love myself (and what that may mean) but also how that love manifests and why I have (until now) valued it far below the love that I have for him and others. I want to live a life with that same kind of simplicity that says, “you love yourself too, don’t forget that!”

You love yourself too, don't forget that!

But then, of course, my rational mind comes into play and I start over-analysing it all.  I begin to ask questions like “what does loving yourself actually mean?” and “what does that even look like?” I don’t know about you, but whenever I think about self-love I often come across a wall where the bricks are engraved with words such as “fear”, “ego”, “pride”, and “selfish”. I am so worried that by loving myself fully I will become unbalanced and “full of myself”, and that scares the hell out of me.

And I wonder why that is, why do I fear love so much when I know how powerful it can be? Of course, therein lies the crux – love is so powerful. I know that by loving myself everything will change, but instead of focusing on all the positive results this could bring I see only the negative possibilities. Why is that? When did I stop trusting love and start fearing it?

Love is so powerful

I’d like to be able to blame it on all the bad things that have happened in my life, all the difficulties with my health, struggles with finances, challenges in the workplace etc, but the reality is that I can’t blame any of these things. The circumstances of my life have naturally had an impact on me, but the lack of self-love goes much deeper. No matter what has happened in my life, I have continued to have a great love for so many people, that side of love (the giving side) has never been compromised. But the receiving side, that’s where I struggle. And that goes right back as far as I can remember…

This lack of self-love has manifested in so many ways – low self-esteem, lack of confidence, inability to say no, acting like a martyr, I could go on and on! In fact , over the past couple of days I have begun to realise that the only reason my dreams of making a living doing the thing I love most has never quite come true is because I do not value myself and my skills enough to expect payment for them. I feel hugely uncomfortable at the idea of charging for my services, even though I know that I do it so well. And so, the reality of this is that year after year my dream remains just that, a dream that other people get to do but I don’t, not because they are any better at it than I am but rather because I do not value myself enough to get out there and do it.

And even though I know this, I find it so hard to change. But change I will. I want to love myself, I want to follow the advice and inspiration of so many who have said time and time again that the key to living a happy and successful life lies in loving yourself enough to feel you deserve a happy and successful life. And I want be like Little Man, with the knowledge that self-love is the most natural thing in the world. And that starts today…

I love myself too

Tell me – do you love yourself too?

I’m linking this post up with the #sharethejoy linky hosted by Michelle at The Joy Chaser and Regina at You are a Daisy, because this post really was written at the start of a very incredible week for me, one which brought me a huge sense of joy! I have so much more I want to write about the amazing shift in perception that self-love can bring, and just how much that changes everything in your life, but for now I am sharing the post that started one of the most amazing weeks I’ve had in a very long time!


Nurturing Ourselves – The Importance of Looking After Ourselves in Times of Stress

I wrote earlier this week about how TJ and I support each other through our various health issues, and it really started me thinking. Whilst we are good at keeping each other going, no matter what, we are terrible at nurturing ourselves (physically and mentally).

I have known this for a long time, at some level, but it was showed to me very clearly Thursday afternoon when I visited a dietician for the very first time. After around 10 years of IBS-type symptoms, I’ve gradually discovered some major triggers, however recently it has felt like it doesn’t matter what I eat, I still get sick regularly. I’ve asked for help figuring this all out before, but never been referred, so it felt like a huge relief to finally see someone.

In reality however, the appointment simply reflected things I have always known – my diet is very limited and lacking spectacularly in various ways, which is having a direct impact on my energy levels. But more importantly, my biggest factor is most definitely stress rather than any particular food group, and therefore getting that under control is the key to eating better.

Nurturing Ourselves Importance of Self Care During Times of Stress

The problem is, how do you reduce your stress when life is throwing stressful situation after stressful situation your way? These past few years have been a constant stream of one new concern after another, and when I look back I can clearly see how the deterioration of my health directly corresponds to increasing levels of stress in my life.

The stress has come from three sources: a difficult work environment; TJ’s deteriorating health; and the financial implications of balancing the first two. Whilst I have made major changes to my work, reducing stress significantly, the impact that my previous job had still plays on my mind. I still have a fair amount of healing to do from that – there is no quick-fix to help recover from burnout, especially when your recovery included the stress of relocation and starting two new jobs.

And though we can make changes to our working life, the health issues we both face and the difficulty balancing a tight budget remain a source of real worry. It feels like we sometimes live life on a knife-edge, constantly ready to spring into battle at the first sign of trouble, meaning that the stress is there even when it isn’t!

When I look at all we have to cope with, I realise that it is no wonder I find myself with a pounding head, churning stomach, or abdominal cramps more days than not. It is also unsurprising that this then means I do not feel like eating, which in turn impacts on my energy levels. After a day at work, on my feet all day, I will often struggle to make more than a bowl of porridge for tea, having barely eaten at work as well. But eating like this only adds to the problem.

My appointment with the dietician may not have given me any answers I didn’t already really know, deep down. But it did make me realise how very much I have been neglecting my own well-being. I have been so busy caring for (and worrying about) others, both through work and at home, that I have forgotten to care for myself in a massive way. And that needs to change.

Which leads me to today. Today I am looking at how I can nurture myself. I have filled my kitchen cupboards with a variety of foods that will help me increase my protein intake, the aspect of my diet that was massively missing. And I am researching quick and easy meals we can make, as well as beginning to take vitamins to give that extra boost.

But this goes beyond the food I eat. It needs to include finding ways to deal with the stress in my life. The reality is that the stress is going to be there, no matter what, so rather than hoping for it to disappear, I need to find ways to relax amid the chaos. I started this earlier in the year with chanting, but I need more than the odd bit here and there… I need a daily routine of making time for myself, and for family.

TJ is with me on this – we are looking at ways to get out in nature, reduce our time glued to our phones or Netflix, and getting some quiet time in our day-to-day lives to reflect and recuperate. And I’ve decided to write about it here, on the blog, as a way of both holding myself accountable to actually doing this (rather than having the idea and never really doing anything about it) and seeing the impact it has on our lives.

It feels like a good time to do this, as we reach the end of Summer and feel Autumn fast approaching. I’ve always felt like September was a month of new beginnings, perhaps due to all those years when the new school term began at this time. And Autumn itself feels perfect for some self-reflection and nurturing as we surround ourselves with home comforts and close friends ready for the Winter months to come.

It’s always been my favourite season, and with Little Man’s birthday and our Wedding Anniversary added to Halloween, Guy Fawkes and Christmas, it feels like a truly magical and celebratory time too. I want to be well enough to enjoy all of this, rather than simply surviving it like I did last year, and that means finally putting my health and well-being first.

So that’s where I am and I’m excited for this journey ahead. I do hope you enjoy coming along with me.