Daily Mindfulness: Loving Kindness Meditation

This week we’re going to do a loving kindness mediation. I’ve done one of these on the podcast as well, in our self-compassion episode, which you can access here. It can greatly improve our mental health to show ourselves some self-love and self-kindness. This meditation is a way to do that. Many therapy modalities use loving kindness in their mindfulness practices. Though mindfulness isn’t for everyone, I discuss the benefits of it in another podcast episode, which you can find here.

Use this meditation as often as you need so that you can keep making the most of it!

Connecting for Mental Health

This is my little early Merry Christmas/general Happy Holidays post for 2020. This year has been hard for many people, and the holidays are probably stressful or sad for many people this year, especially without being able to see family as normal. I don’t want to repeat my podcast topic for the week (you can find that here), so I’m not going to talk about stress, I’m going to talk about connecting during the holidays. I will state that I am with my parents. As a single person I’ve joined another household and this is my first Christmas not working in retail as well so I actually have time off (though according to my friends in retail this year is not like a regular holiday season there anyway). We’re also very careful, literally take our temperatures every morning and don’t leave the house to go anywhere. Safety first.

Christmas socks

Now, for this connections thing. Yes, it’s important to be safe and try to avoid cross-household gatherings. But we’ve all heard this in the news for weeks already. What can we do to have connections? How can we still be social or have a normal Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate)? Here are some of my suggestions:

  • use Facetime/Zoom/Skype/whatever video chat service you like to connect with family on the holiday. This could mean eating dinner together while video chatting. Opening presents while video chatting. Playing games over video chat. Or all of the above. It can help make it feel a lot less lonely and a bit more normal.
  • use those video chat services to connect with your friends! Much of the same way listed above. This is how I’ve connected with most of my friends over the past 9 months anyway, so might as well continue!
  • Do some holiday baking and gift wrapping! Whatever you normally do (or maybe this year try it if you don’t normally) and leave it on the door steps of neighbours, friends, or family. Have a socially distanced conversation when you drop it off.
  • Spend time with your fur babies. They are a great way to feel less lonely and connect.
  • If you’re feeling desperate make sure you reach out to a hotline or textline for support. That’s what these lines are for. I signed up for a 2 hour shift on Christmas Day with Kids Help Phone. I have no idea if it will be busy or slow but I do know that this year more than ever, people need support. So use these programs if you need them.
Amazing cuddles with this fur baby.

Remember, you are loved. This year is not normal. It doesn’t have to be terrible. Try to remember the positive, and make as many connections as you can.

Happy Holidays. Make sure you make the most of it!

All the Cozy Things for Fall & Winter

This is a self-care type of post I supposed but in the past week of not being able to do much, I’ve been thinking about how, even during a pandemic, there are amazing, cozy, self-care activities… well, activities in general… we can do inside and at-home during the winter. I live in Canada, so winters are already long, and yesterday I watched a news report where experts said the “darkest” months for Covid will be January-March so I guess we should be prepared for the continuation of strict measures.

Image from: http://www.ottawafamilyliving.com/cozy-home-cozy-life-preparations-winter/

Let’s start off with some of my favourite things to wear. Pyjamas – because as spoonies we can’t have enough of these – and especially cozy ones like fleece or flannel. Who doesn’t want to lounge around in PJs all day, especially when it’s cold and gloomy outside. Sweaters are another one. Big, comfy, cozy sweaters. And for the holiday season, Ugly Christmas Sweaters (I have three Star Wars ones… I don’t think they’re ugly though!). Sweaters can also just make you feel warm and relaxed – at least I think so! Finally, slipping on some of those fuzzy socks, or a nice pair of slippers (my feet always get cold first… also I can’t get on socks at the moment because of my surgery, so I’m looking forward to 5 weeks from now when I can properly dress myself again).

New fall/winter sweater I ordered online.

Part 2: Delicious Drinks. Hot chocolate, coffee, and tea. All of these just feel warm and wintery. I maybe have hot chocolate once a year because it’s way too sweet. What I do like are some of Starbucks’ holiday drinks like the peppermint mocha (half sweet though) because it gives that combo of hot chocolate and coffee (best of both worlds)! Though if you have any local coffee places that make something similar, I definitely encourage you to support them instead! Or if you don’t want to go out, there are tons of recipes online to make them at home! Teas are all great. Usually in the winter I end up preferring black tea over coffee at some point and switch over in the mornings. I also love herbal teas. Peppermint tea is another great wintery classic.

Image (and recipe) from: https://bakingmischief.com/peppermint-mocha/

Finally, being creative. Baking, doing crafts, decorating your house, playing music, reading, and even some throw backs like playing board and card games (instead of video games) and doing puzzles can be great ways to get through the extra in door time. Varying up the routine to prevent boredom is essential (my parents used to tell us that “if you’re bored, you must be boring.”). These things all have a cozy, wintery feel to them (yes they can all be done throughout the year) and maybe that’s just some nostalgia from memories of growing up in a snow-infested, bitter-cold province.

Image (and recipes) from: https://www.chatelaine.com/food/kitchen-tips/baking-perfect-christmas-cookies/

I think my point here, is that we can help our health and our mental health by thinking outside of the box and making ourselves feel good with the little things. Because sometimes little things can have big impacts. Keep making the most of it, folks!

The Benefits of Heating Pads

I personally find heat very helpful for a lot of my chronic pain. Though I typically use heating pads on my back, I have been known to use them on my legs, glutes, shoulders, neck, and stomach. And the moist heating pads – bless! Check out the video for more information!

I really believe that we should do as much as possible to treat our symptoms. For more on this topic, check out my podcast episode, “Can We Cure or Can’t We Cure? That is the Question.” The link for Apple is below, but the podcast is available on Spotify and everywhere else you get your podcasts! Feel free to send in a review as it helps my podcast get noticed!

https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/chronically-living-and-how-to-make-the-most-of-it/id1521945719?i=1000494458023

Santosha

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.

Can you spot me up there?

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.
Content.

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.

Chronic Pain and Trying to Produce More

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!

Image from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/gabrielshaoolian/2018/06/13/how-to-actually-market-your-content-marketing-initiatives/#77e2a40021f9
Linkup URL: https://www.achronicvoice.com/2020/09/28/october-linkup-2020/

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).

The other podcast.

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.

If you enjoy this blog, definitely check out my podcast!

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!

His snuggles used to make me feel better when I was tired or in pain. RIP my baby.

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.

10-Minute Body Scan

Welcome back for another, and a little bit longer, body scan. Body scans can be excellent for relaxation, improving mindful awareness, and even pain management. Join me in this 10-minute scan, which can be an amazing way to start your day, take a break half way through, or even end it.