I was doing a meditation recently (through my favourite meditation app) and the meditation teacher brought up of the concept of Santosha, which is a Sanskrit word that essentially translates to contentment. After doing the meditation I decided to look a little more into the word and it’s meaning because I think contentment is a really hard concept for many people to practice (myself included) and especially for those with chronic illness.
What is contentment exactly? The dictionary defines it as a “state of happiness and satisfaction.” It can be viewed as being positive even when things are difficult. Now I know I can hear some groans. Yes, positivity isn’t a cure for anything, disease or otherwise. And no, I’m not saying one needs to be positive 24/7. In fact there is some psychological research that states that too much positivity is counterproductive. However, what I mean here is not just giving up on life because of its difficulties (and let’s face it, every human faces difficulties… those of us with chronic illness might just face a few more). Instead we look to find how our difficulties and challenges can lead us to personal growth. My own personal growth journey has included riding the waves of the good and the bad and learning to to (mostly) be content with my life as I have made changes. Yes, I get sad, depressed, anxious, anger, angry, frustrated, and the whole variety of human emotions. I also try to find the good in my experiences, come up with plans, and change and grow as necessary.
How do we practice the concept of santosha? I think it begins with mindfulness, through practices like meditations, body scans, yoga, breathwork, and so on, that keep us in tune with the present. Because anxiety is worrying about the future and depression is ruminating about the past. We can’t change the past and the future hasn’t come to fruition just yet.
practice positivity as much as you can and remember that making assumptions about yourself, others, the world, your illness, etc. can hinder your own personal growth.
be purposeful in your actions and put your best effort into everything you do, even if you’re not well enough to do much.
control what you can, and let go of what you can’t, or as with mindfulness – just keep breathing.
remember that contentment supports compassion, including self-compassion, which you definitely need if you’re a chronic illness warrior.
be grateful for the good things in your life because even at it’s worst, there’s usually at least one thing you can be grateful for.
serenity goes with contentment and giving up the excess, the things you don’t need, may help with that.
I am 100% not saying that this is easy to practice. Nor am I suggesting that it can be (or should be) done all of the time. I do think that there is some benefit in it though. Being content with ourselves, circumstances, whatever, doesn’t mean we can’t change and grow, but rather may facilitate it instead. As always friends, keep making the most of it.
Diaphragmatic breathing has a lot of health benefits including for COPD, stress management and anxiety, and lowering heart rate and blood pressure. It is also what is used in progressive muscle relaxation, which is an excellent mindfulness exercise for anxiety and mental health. This is a good place to start if you haven’t yet done the progressive muscle relaxation that I posted awhile back. I hope after this practice you feel calm and relaxed.
If you like these mindfulness practices, I also guide them in the first two episodes of my podcast. Here are the links for Apple Podcasts. The podcast is available on Spotify and everywhere you get your podcasts. And if you’re using Apple, please submit a review as it would help me continue to bring you amazing content!
Let me start off by saying that I’m doing a series of posts this month for a link-up. My understanding was to pick 3 prompts and do a post on each. I just found out this morning from the link-up coordinator that you are supposed to do three prompts in one post. If I had known that, I probably wouldn’t have done it. To me, that makes the blog more like a journal. While, I definitely share my personal experiences in my posts, I always set out to make this more of a self-help journey we can all be on together, with hopes that people can take something away to apply to their own lives. I also prefer to do a “theme” of the week (as you’ve probably noticed) rather than a hodge-podge of random information. Since I technically broke the rules of the link-up, I won’t be allowed to participate in any future ones, which is honestly fine with me as I never need writing prompts… I just thought it would be fun to connect with other bloggers.
Anyway, on the topic of disappointment, I know that 2020 has been a s*** show for most people, and we’ve probably all seen our fair share of disappointment this year. The last few months have definitely been that way for me – first my dog being put down, and now, well, current circumstances, which have left me feeling depressed, which is not normal for me (thankfully I have a therapy appointment today). I’m going to share my current disappointment with you in a moment, I am also going to (try to) set myself up (and you too) on the right path to move beyond disappointment, because it is a necessary part of life.
As you may know, I am doing my Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology (future therapist here!). What you may not know is that I am excelling in the program (literally have never had a 4.0 GPA and mine is actually higher than that – yes, I’m bragging a bit but I usually eat a lot of humble pie). What you also may not now is that Covid has f***ed practicum opportunities in Canada. We have to acquire our own practicums, and the university told us if we live in a major centre to contact at least 30 sites. I reached out to 63 in the city I currently live. Of these, only three confirmed they are taking students this year (1 I didn’t qualify for based on experience, 1 I interviewed for and didn’t get, and 2 I applied to but didn’t get an interview); 16 places never responded at all, and the rest said they weren’t taking students because of the pandemic. As a result, I also applied/contacted to 5 sites in a neighbouring city (all of which decided not to take any students); 5 in my hometown (2 never responded, 3 said they aren’t taking students); 1 in a city my older brother lives in (had an interview, didn’t get it), and 15 in a city my younger brother lives in (applied to 3, didn’t hear from 3, and the rest said they aren’t taking students).
Okay, so that’s the backstory. The thing is, one of the places in the city my younger brother lives in actually accepted me as a student at the end of September. So, though I still had to do an application process through my uni, I did get some initial excitement going about living near family again and moving to the mountains! I have been in contact with my site supervisor, and have almost all my forms ready to go for school – the package is due Nov 1. Then yesterday, I hear from the university (who had initially sent off my application as the site is with a health authority) that the site has decided they took on too many students and cancelled my placement. While they didn’t say why mine was the one that was cancelled, it can be assumed it is because I currently live in a different province, as the health authority itself stated it prioritizes in province students. Here’s the thing, the site supervisor said he was still willing to supervise, and the whole thing is of no cost (at least monetary) to the site. It’s hard not to feel like I’m being penalized for the pandemic/living in the wrong province apparently. I know a lot of other students have had to defer their practicum until May but I’m already 35 and just want to get my career started. Thus disappointment. By the way, the health authority did tell the university they could submit my application to some of their other sites in the same region, so they did yesterday, but it sure puts a time crunch on the whole thing for me if there is a yes out there (fingers crossed).
So how do we work through disappointment? First and foremost I think it’s necessary to live in the emotions we feel. For me that started as stress and anxiety and has lead to deep sadness. I can only really move on if I fully feel these emotions, and so I will. Second, it is important to talk and process with someone. Like I mentioned, I will be having a session with my own therapist today (and yes, therapists do often have therapists) to do just that. If you don’t have one (you should!) then with a family member, friend, or partner also suffices. What I like about an impartial person to do this with is that they can get you to do more exploration and problem solving than someone who is just going to reiterate your own feelings and concerns back to you, or blame someone/something else for your disappointment (not saying the disappointment is your fault). Third, is to be proactive with what you can do. Apparently my decision could not be appealed by my site supervisor or the school, so I found a contact form and sent it off to the site explaining the situation and asking for a decision-maker to contact me. I also had the university send off my application to the other sites. I will continue to work on my school work (paper due this week) and try to keep myself busy and distracted while I wait to hear. Finally, I look at the worst case scenario. For me that is differing my practicum and doing in it May. Is that ideal or what I want? Nope. But will I survive? Yes. As I said, disappointment is a part of life, but it is the choices that we make when disappointment arrives that determine what our futures will be like.
Thanks for reading, and keep making the most of it!
I hope you’re enjoying the “stretch” series. This week we’re doing stretches for our back. I’ve added two more in addition to the cat cow. As always, please consult with your own professionals if you are unsure of how to do the stretches or don’t know if you should be. These were given to me by current and former physiotherapists and chiropractors. I personally find them to help alleviate some of my back pain. Enjoy! And let me know in the comments if you have some of your own favourite back stretches!
As the second post in the October linkup, I decided to use the prompt of producing. Why? Because I have started and plan on continuing creating more and more content and a few other goodies in the next while. However, sometimes chronic pain, fatigue, and the mass amount of appointments I have coming up, get in the way of what I want to do. Luckily, I’m not working right now, but with school there is a lot of work, so factoring that plus exercise and trying to keep my body as “healthy” (silly term when dealing with chronic illness) as possible, and volunteering between 4-8 hours a week, I find that I run out of time in the day as quickly as I ever have!
Let’s start with what I have been doing. First of all, I’ve been putting out weekly blog posts like these for a few years now. I love it and will continue to do it (I hope you all love it too!). In the summer (or was it spring?) I started to bring you weekly Sunday video content as well. These I am usually able to record and edit at least a few weeks in advance. Did anyone ever mention how much work editing is? I feel like film editors do not get enough props! And I’ve started to bring some premium content (paid membership… i’m not working right now…) which is honestly worth the small investment you’d put in because that content is top notch! Of course, I have my podcast, Chronically Living and how to make the most of it. I love podcasting and have a ton of topics written down. This does involve planning (I like to have a solid outline for solo episodes, and there is tons of planning involved in interviewing), and while enjoyable, it is work! I also co-host another podcast (Into Everything with Pete and Kels) that is pretty light and fun (great if you’re looking for something pop culturey/easy-listening) but again that involves a lot of work (slightly less because my co-host splits the work with me).
Now, what do I have coming up? Well, remember when I wrote that book in the spring? I still need to edit it (I started but then stopped due to lack of time) and write a proposal because I would like to get it published instead of self-publishing. And then there is the children’s book I wrote, which my friend is illustrating for me. We plan on self-publishing that one but will probably need a GoFundMe campaign to cover the costs (it’s about a diabetic dog and is a great way to talk to children about chronic illness). Finally, I want to create some merch to sell, but that is a project and a half indeed. Create, create, create is the name of the game right now.
I did mention some of my roadblocks (time, money) but there are others that I encounter. One big one is fatigue. If I don’t get what I need to get done before supper, I’m pretty much out of the game afterwards. Sometimes I can do some promo pic creation in the evening but that’s about it. And honestly, resting is part of self-care so I don’t get upset with myself for needing it, yet at the same time, I wish I could do more in a day. The second roadblock is pain. The weather is starting to change so my body is freaking out, plus my hip tear makes it hard to sit for more than about an hour at a time (I probably should have a standing desk now that I think of it so at least I could alternate positions). Finally, I seem to have a lot of appointments. Okay, this is mainly because I only have benefits until mid-January, but I’m probably moving at the end of December (I’ll let you all know when it’s official) so I really only have them until about the end of the 3rd week of December. Next week for example, I have an appointment with a surgeon on Monday, psychotherapy on Wednesday, chiropractor on Thursday, and massage therapy on Friday. Busy!
Will this stop me from getting everything I want to get done? Possibly. Or possibly a bit of it, but it won’t stop me from trying to create when I can, because that’s what I love to do.
Hey everyone! Welcome to my little cooking show this week. I hope you’ve been enjoying these! This is my Baba’s (grandma in Ukrainian) recipe. They are super delicious so I encourage some baking self-care and whipping up a batch!
Hey Everyone! I decided to join this chronic illness blog linkup thing this month so I’m going to use their writing prompts for a few of my posts. Honestly, I think it can be helpful to use writing prompts from time to time. Not because I ever run out of topics to write about (I doubt that will ever happen) but because it causes me to think differently and even more critically. I decided to start with the topic of “switching” which can be anything that has switched up in our lives.
I recently left my retail job of the past 7 years. I was burnt out, had ongoing issues with a manager, anxiety about working with customers so closely during covid (so many anti-maskers and people just not understanding how to wear masks, and/or socially distance), and I wanted to concentrate on school. I am halfway through my third last course of my Master’s, and my Practicum Application Package is due November 1, so I basically have October to complete it (and trust me it’s huge). So, this means that I’ve had to switch a lot up in my life. But I view change as a good thing, and there are things about this change that can benefit my health.
First of all, my mental health has already benefited because there is one less thing on my plate. And, like I said, it was something that was causing me a lot of stress. My physical health is also benefiting. My labral hip tear was always made worse by standing for 8+ hours straight every day (okay there was a half hour break in there I guess). Now I am able to “switch up” (like what I did there?) whether I’m sitting, standing, walking, stretching, exercising, laying down, as much as I want! My hip pain has already decreased tremendously which is awesome. I will still likely need surgery but I don’t feel as desperate for it at the moment. My health is also benefiting because I have more time to schedule in appointments. I’ve already talked to my chiropractor about more sessions, and I can fit in physio, massage therapy, acupuncture, and psychotherapy much more easily because my time is flexible.
My daily routine is switching up in other ways too. I have more time to focus on my side projects – like this blog, my podcasts (I have two), some other content and merch I want to create. Plus integrating school into the mix, and finding time for other things I love like playing the piano as well. My routine isn’t the same everyday, though there are similarities – like I wake up and exercise or do yoga first thing. Change is a part of life, it is inevitable. Whether change is good or bad we have to embrace it. Yes, for me this change has been good, but even when change is not good (like the loss of my sweet Spike), I know that it is what we do with the change – the free will and choices we have and make – is what is important. I could have just filled my free time playing video games and watching movies (not to say I won’t do any of that) but instead I choose to be productive and creative with this extra time.
How are you switching things up this month? What changes are you encountering and how are you dealing with them? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, or via DM on Instagram (@janeversuspain).