If you’re looking for a healthy and delicious breakfast idea, this might be a good place to start. The egg gives you protein, the veggies are all super health and full of nutritional benefits, and the bread can be whatever you prefer! Thanks to my friend Charity for helping me up my avocado toast game!
I truly hope most you haven’t and don’t ever experience problems with your eye health, because those just additional chronic illnesses that no one needs (not that anyone needs ANY chronic illness in the first place, but you know what I mean!). Eye health problems usually become more frequent as we age, so typically you see people fifty and older with them. I have always laughed because whenever I have seen my ophthalmologist, I’m always the youngest person in the waiting room (I’m sure my younger brother feels the same way too). Now when I talk about eye health, I’m not necessarily meaning poor eyesight and thus needing to wear glasses. That’s quite common. What I mean is having some kind of eye disease or illness – cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, etc.
My glasses prescription is also pretty strong but I typically wear contacts so you’d never know.
To give you some context, both of my parents have glaucoma. My paternal grandmother also had glaucoma and was legally blind for several years before she died. My father has had surgery on his eyes, and both my parents have had laser treatments and eye drops. They were also both diagnosed older. However, because glaucoma is hereditary, my brother and I have always seen an ophthalmologist so that we can be tested yearly “just in case.” For me, just in case turned out to be an actual thing shortly after my 29th birthday. My eye pressure in both eyes was too high, and I subsequently had laser treatment to bring down the pressure. I ended up having the treatment twice that summer and then it became suitable.
How I learned the basics of glaucoma back in the day – informational posters at the ophthalmologist’s office.
Now, in the 6 years since, I have not had high eye pressure again, though it continues to be monitored yearly. Cannabis has shown to have mixed results in studies using it for glaucoma but using it for chronic pain is one of the lifestyle changes I have made in the past four years. Is this helping keep my eye pressure down? I don’t know but it’s interesting to consider. Like all other aspects of my health, keeping on top of it is something I do, which is as simple as making sure I see my ophthalmologist as frequently as she suggests. Understanding anything you are predisposed to is also an essential part of taking care of your health, so getting tested regularly for those things is something I highly recommend!
Getting tested regularly for any health issues is an essential part of being a chronic illness warrior!
Stretches can be great for chronic pain. This is one of my favourites and there are two versions I share with you this week. Let me know what your favourite stretches are in the comments!
As my many of my fellow chronic illness warriors know, mental health struggles such as depression and anxiety are real…ly common . Not that they are necessarily constant, though the can be. I actually do a whole episode of my podcast on mental health and it’s relation to chronic illness, so feel free to check that out for more info. For today however, I want to take a look at one element of our mental health, which is commonly experienced by everyone (seriously everyone) whether or not they have another underlying physical or mental illness. Negative automatic thoughts (or NATs).
NATs are those subconscious thoughts that you don’t realize you’re having until you do (and even then you may not realize that’s what they are). It’s the thoughts of “I suck,” “how could I be so stupid,” “what an idiot I am,” “why am I dumb enough to say that,” etc, etc, etc. Are they accurate thoughts? Usually not. But we all have them from time to time (or more often, but we’ll get to that in a minute). These thoughts, according to cognitive behavioural therapy, can lead to anxiety and depression. Why? Because our thoughts cause our feelings. If we keep telling ourselves that we are “stupid” or “not good enough” or whatever terrible thing we say to ourselves, we will (a) start to believe it, and (b) feel upset about it. Makes sense right?
Image from: https://iveronicawalsh.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/the-vicious-circle-of-negative-auto-pilot-thinking/
If you’ve gone to a CBT therapist, you may have experience with thought records. Basically, this is a sheet (or note on your phone) where you record your thought and your feeling every time you have one of these negative automatic thoughts. The point is twofold. First, it’s to see how often you are having these thoughts and what emotions are connected to them. Second, it allows you the opportunity to begin changing these thoughts. If you can catch yourself saying “I’m stupid” then you can change it to, “you know that may have not been the smartest choice to make but I’ve learned from it so I won’t do it again.” Or more simply, “I’m not stupid, I’m smart, I just did a silly thing.” To be honest, this is a much harder skill to learn than it seems, but it can be done.
Changing these thoughts into positive ones instead of negative is an ultimate act of self-love. To be honest, since I started to practice this a few years ago, I have less NATs than I did before. Yes, they still pop up, but I can catch myself and reframe the thought because I know that the thought isn’t true. I encourage everyone to try to keep track of your thoughts for awhile so you can catch these nasty little NATs and try to take some ownership of your mental health through self-love.
As we continue our mindfulness practices, I encourage you to be active this week and be in touch with the world around you during this 5-minute walk.
So, if you’ve read by blog in the past you’re probably quite aware that I do love the outdoors, particularly in the summer. Did you know that as well as the physical benefits of being outside (Vitamin D, exercise, and so on) there are some mental health benefits as well? Also, did you know that both adventure therapy and nature therapy are real things?
Bestie and I having a beach day.
I’ve followed an Adventure Therapist on Instagram for awhile but I didn’t know anything about it (other than that it sounded cool). This week in my course readings (my course is on multicultural counselling) I was reading about adventure and nature therapy. Sounds kind of weird for a multicultural counselling course, right? Not really, because a lot of the course is looking at different perspectives and cultural world views. Indigenous peoples often use nature as a part of healing. As my textbook points out, the modern world and technology is actually stress-inducing, so going into nature to “escape” can have psychological benefits (as well as spiritual ones). Many cultures believe that we are to be connected with nature, and to be quite honest, I completely agree with this view. Yes, I love the modern world and using my computer to write this and living in a big city. But I’m also excited to go visit my brother who lives in a much, much smaller city in the middle of the mountains. I like hiking and being outside by myself or with just one or two other people. It is an escape and it is relaxing.
Kayaking in nature (without leaving the city!)
What is adventure therapy? Adventure therapy utilizes the outdoors and experiences like hiking and trekking, to help being become more cooperative, less selfish, and more in tune with themselves. Nature therapy, is essentially the same, but includes spiritual elements and things like art therapy, drama, and eco-psychology. Some cool things can come out of it (assuming you have a good nature/adventure therapist). Your values may become clearer, your personal awareness should increase, your self-esteem can improve, and you should have a lot less stress. You’re also likely to become more present (mindfulness, yay!) and have clearer goals for the future. Even without a therapist, just allowing yourself to be in nature, be mindfulness and present while there, and believe in the healing powers of the earth, you’re likely to feel more grounded when you head back into society.
I always seem to be able to fit a hike in!
Let me know what you think about nature, adventure, the therapies of the earth, and being open to other perspectives, in the comments!
France, M.H., Rodriguez, M. del C., & Hett, G.G. (Eds.). (2013). Diversity, culture and counseling: A Canadian perspective (2nd ed.). Calgary, AB: Brush Education.
Sometimes when we can’t afford to go to chiro or physio, or we just need to get by in between appointments, there are some awesome self-care items we can buy that will provide a ton of relief. In this week’s video, I tell you about one of my favourites. For more tips, check out my podcast – Chronically Living and how to make the most of it (available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify). The episode with Queenie Wu, and the upcoming one with Dr. Frank Nhan, will get you some more info on what you can do at home (as well as great reasons to check out physio and chiro as health options).
Every time I say the word summertime I start singing: “Summertime and the livin’ is easy.” I think it’s from playing it in high school jazz band many moons ago, and actually when I pulled my sax out in the spring it was an easy song to get back into and play. Yes, here in Canada we are already half way through summer because let’s face it, summer is June, July, August, and if we’re lucky, September. That doesn’t mean we should talk about some summer-related self-care we are all hopefully engaging in, and if not, then it’s not too late to start!
Hot town, summer in the city.
Obviously this year is a bit different due to the pandemic which is spiking and second waving in certain parts of the world, while other parts (ahem USA) haven’t finished their first wave yet. But there are still some activities I’ve found to do this summer that have been great for my body, mind, and spirit – three important aspects of self-care. Personally, I think spending as much time as possible outside is really important for my mental health. If you live anywhere that gets a long, cold winter (Canada, northern US, Russia, Scandinavia, etc) then you understand how much needed the summer sun is. Whether it’s sitting in your back (or front) yard, on your porch, your balcony (apartment dwellers), a bench in a park, or wherever, getting outside for at least an hour a day can make you feel a lot better. And many other favourite self-care activities can be done outside – meditation, yoga, reading, etc.
Backyard chillaxin’ with Spike!
If you’re looking for something a little more physical, I’ve talked about hiking and kayaking, but really any outdoor sport you’re capable of doing is great, even just going for a walk. If it’s safe to do so, having dinner or a drink with a friend on a patio (social distanced of course) can be a good way to get some social self-care in, which many of us weren’t able to do (other than Zoom) during self-isolation. So if you’re in a place that is a little more open and not currently spiking, and you’re safe to do so, getting out with a friend or two might be a good idea.
I always aim to get a little movement in!
Whatever you decide to do for summertime self-care, just make sure you’re staying safe, wearing a mask, and continuing to social distance until the medical professionals tell us it’s safe to do otherwise. Yes, this year is different, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still be taking care of ourselves.