How I Stay Healthy in the Summer

Love it or hate it, summer comes every year. I personally love the summer. I’ll take heat over cold any day (I grew up in Winnipeg which is hella cold). I find the heat takes a slightly less toll on my body than freezing temperatures. And though I live in Vancouver now, where winter has more rain than snow and extreme colds, the changes in the barometric pressure are never fun for my body either. All that said, I know a ton of people who prefer winter over summer, because they don’t like being hot and/or their illness symptoms worsen in the heat (which I’ll admit when it’s really hot, mine aren’t superb either). Even without illness, we need to prioritize staying healthy in the summer. And though summer is coming to an end, any time left does need us to consider a few things.

I’ll admit that I sometimes take off my hat before taking pictures (especially if I’m going to post them on Instagram).

The first thing I do is dress appropriately. I try to go for outfits that are cooling, regardless of whether I’m working or lazing about. Probably most importantly in how I dress for the summer is always having a hat on (ball cap or brimmed hat) while I’m outside and always having sunglasses. That way I can help prevent heat stroke, symptom flare ups, and my eye health. Also, it requires basically no effort to grab my hat and sunglasses when I go out. I’m always a little shocked when other people aren’t wearing them to be honest.

Second, I put on a lot of sunscreen – and reapply as needed. I typically use SPF50 on my face (it’s built into my moisturizer) and SPF30 on my body. I’d rather use “too much” (because that’s not actually a thing) than not enough. Not to mention skin cancer doesn’t sound fun, and I once read that being sun burnt even once in your life greatly increases your risk of melanoma.

Third, I stay hydrated. I always have a water bottle with me. I always make sure there is a bunch of ice in it as well (it’s also an insulated water bottle which helps). I drink a ton of water while working and even just in my apartment. Constantly drinking water because, well, we know that water has a ton of health benefits, plus dehydration is not going to help me feel physically or mentally well.

Fourth, I try to make sure my sleep is as good as possible. I don’t have A/C currently and it gets hot. So I keep windows open, fan on when necessary – even if that means I have to wear earplugs to bed. I have an east facing bedroom window, and while I do need to invest in some blackout blinds, I often wear a sleep mask to bed so that the light doesn’t wake me up. I also ditch most of the blankets and sleep under just a top sheet to try to keep my body temperature down.

Finally, I still get all my movement in. There is a tendency to want to avoid exercise due to heat (trust me, I know firsthand I’m less inspired to workout when it’s hot). I do still make it a priority. If I go for a walk, it’s earlier in the day or later in the day and I try to stick to the shade. My strength training routine is done with a fan blowing at me (though I’m tempted to invest in a gym membership again just to have a cool workout facility), and I do yoga (also with the fan blowing at me). And while I do vinyasa and yin, I find that yin can be a bit better in the heat because you hold poses longer.

So, that sums up how I stay healthy in the summer. What do you do?

Take care & keep making the most of it!

Video: How to Find Your Values Based Activities Part 4

If you’re anything like me you’ll run into some barriers when actually trying to complete these activities, even though they make your life good and you probably realize it. Barriers are normal and natural. Let’s talk about 4 common ones and how to overcome them.

I hope this helps you on your way to more values based activities so that you can keep making the most of it!

Information in this video is for psychoeducational purposes only and does not constitute mental health or physical health advice. Please consult with a mental health or healthcare professional in your area.

How to Stay Hydrated in the Summer

Okay, this might seem simple, but sometimes I forget to hydrate enough. Last year I was on an app that had us do a 30 day challenge, part of which was drinking 8 glasses of water a day. I honestly felt so great that whole punch (despite having to pee all the time). Unfortunately, I have not been able to keep up the habit. It’s not that I don’t want to or think it’s important, it’s that for some reason it’s a little harder than I thought it would be (this reminds me that I might do a post on habit forming in the future). What I have noticed for myself is that when I’m working, especially from home, I drink a lot of water. One glass per client, plus probably 2 extra on top of that. So on days where I have 4 clients, that ends up being at least 6 glasses of water. In the office, it’s close to the same, but perhaps a little less. The less I work, the less I drink water…

Always have that water bottle.

Except for when I go for a hike, walk, or to the beach. The summer is my favourite time of year. Yes there are some downsides to the weather being hot, but I do love outdoor activities. And I normally do pretty well at staying hydrated. I always bring a water bottle, though I’ll admit sometimes I should probably bring 2, and it’s always empty by the time I’ve returned home. I’m also always happy to get a glass of water at a restaurant, or buy a bottled water at a convenience store if I’ve run out and need more.

While water is 100% important for every human, I think it’s additionally important for Chronic Pain/Illness Warriors. Research suggests that staying hydrated can improve our joint health and functioning by increasing flexibility and lubrication within the joints (could’ve helped the Tin Man). It also has been shown to remove toxins in the body, and toxins are often the source of inflammation. Less inflammation = less pain. Added benefits are improved mood (because being dehydrated can make us angry, depressed and tense – I’ve definitely experience this before, have you?); and it can aid in weight loss, if you have that goal. We know that the mind and body are connected, so when we feel emotions like sadness, anger, and anxiety we tend to feel more pain. When we feel more pain we get into these states easier (so imagine being dehydrated as well).

Here are some ways I make sure I’m staying hydrated:

  1. I always have a full glass of water within arms reach. As soon as the glass is empty (or low) I fill it up, with some ice cubes and just carry it from room to room with me throughout the day.
  2. I bring a water bottle with me as often as possible. I take it to work, on walks, etc. Again, having it near means I’m more likely to drink it.
  3. I order a glass of water at the restaurant. Even if I’m also ordering another drink. Nothing else really hydrates us, so while I’m happy to have a beer or a soda or coffee, etc. that is really for the flavour, socializing experience, etc. I need to have water for the hydration.

Also, side note PSA, if you have a dog and you’re taking him or her for a walk, please, please bring one of those doggy water bottles for them. If you need to be hydrated, they do too!

Enjoy the rest of your summer and keep making the most of it!

Video: How to Find Your Values Based Activities Part 3

Brainstorming time! I think this is the most fun part personally. What are all the things I would like to do regardless of whether I can or not. It actually can help find the things we can do. Honestly, I would never have considered “colouring” a values based activity if I hadn’t approached it this way.

Hope this help you to keep making the most of it!

The information in this video is for psychoeducational purposes only and does not constitute mental health or physical health advice. Please consult a licensed mental health or healthcare professional in your area.

Ways to Engage in More Self-Care as a Spoonie

The difference between the media’s version of self-care and healthcare’s version of self-care is huge. In the media we see bubble baths, spa days, “me time,” wine nights, and girls trips. In healthcare we talk about activities of daily living – showering, getting dressed, eating nutritious meals, doing light exercise, etc. I mean, I’ll admit that I definitely engage in all of the media’s version of self-care as well (well, I prefer solo trips to girls trips, just sayin’). And that’s fine. It’s totally all well to do all of that. As a person with a chronic health condition, I find it more beneficial to make sure all of my ADLs are done on a regular basis. Why? Because it helps not only my physical health (I’m literally more mobile when I do them), it also helps my mental health (mood is better, anxiety is less). Yet it can be hard to do these activities when we’re feeling low, when we’re super anxious, when we’re in a lot of pain. The thing is, doing them can help with all of these things.

Read more here:

https://www.kelseylharriscounselling.com/post/5-ways-to-practice-self-care

Getting out for a walk (I prefer one with a view).

Keep making the most of it!

Video: How to Find Your Values Based Activities Part 2

In our search for our unique, individual values based activities, it can be helpful to determine how well we are currently living by our values in each of our life domains, and which values we’d like to live. I find that taking the time to do this has been really beneficial, especially when I’m feeling out-of-balance, which can happen a lot as a chronic pain/illness warrior.

Keep making the most of it everyone!

Information in this video is for psychoeducational purposes only and does not constitute mental health or physical health advice. Please consult a licensed mental health or healthcare professional in your area.

How to Get in More Relaxation as a Spoonie

I’ll admit I’m having a busy summer in that there are a lot of things that I want to do and it’s pulling my time away from a lot of blog writing. Also I do a lot of blog writing. Also I’m not overly impressed with wordpress right now while acknowledging that I have a lot of followers on here, so I was figuring out how to get you all of this relevant and hopefully helpful information in the easiest way possible. This is how I’ve decided to go about it (for the summer at least). Honestly, it’s helping me relax.

Relaxation is actually extremely important when you have a chronic health condition. Tension can lead to more physical pain, increased gastrointestinal issues, and other symptoms of our autoimmune (or any other) conditions. So, I think it’s really important to explore some relaxation ideas. Follow the link for more:

Keep making the most of it!

Video: How to Find Your Values Based Activities Part 1

I love doing values based activities. For me this includes playing the piano, writing blog posts, going for a hike, traveling, colouring, and a lot in between. I really encourage my fellow Spoonies to also engage in these types of activities too! They make life better. But how do we figure out what these activities for each of us individually? It starts with determining what your values are.

Keep making the most of it!

Information in this video is for psychoeducational purposes only and does not constitute mental health or physical health advice. Please consult a licensed mental health or healthcare professional in your area.

How to Improve Your Health through Sleep

So I write a lot of blog posts for my clinics that are really relevant to all of you as well. As a counsellor I specialize in working with people with chronic pain and chronic illness and concussion. As someone who has chronic pain and illness I know how difficult having these conditions can be. I also know how difficult it can be to get a good sleep… but also how important a good sleep is to improving our health. Quite a conundrum. Check out this post I wrote about sleep hygiene and its benefits for our overall health, as well as some sleep hygiene tips that are totally applicable to spoonies (I use them myself!):

Ways to Recognize Anxiety When You Have Chronic Pain

I wrote a blog post for my therapy blog on recognizing the physical symptoms of anxiety. The information is also relevant for recognizing the physical symptoms when you have chronic pain or illness because some of these issues are overlapping, which makes it hard for us to figure out if it’s our illness or anxiety, and then what to do about it. Also, remember the mind and body are deeply connected, which means anxiety = more pain/illness symptoms and more pain/illness symptoms = more anxiety. Vicious cycle. Check out the post:

https://www.kelseylharriscounselling.com/post/how-to-recognize-the-physical-symptoms-of-anxiety

If the smokey image is anxiety, this is me trying to hide from it.