Spring Cleaning Week – 10 Chronic Illness Cleaning Hacks

Happy Friday everyone! We have made it through another week! Who has kids that are breaking up for the Easter holiday today? The boys are spending the first week with their Dad and the second with me, I can’t wait! Today as part of my Spring Cleaning Week I am sharing ten hacks to make cleaning easier for those with chronic illnesses. I hope you find my tips useful and if you have any more, please add them in the comments below so everyone reading this can see them as well.

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Coping With Anxiety – Grounding Techniques

Anxiety is the feeling of unease, worry or fear.  Everyone experiences anxiety during their lives – you may worry about taking an exam for example.  But there are peopl who experience these symptoms daily and struggle to control them.  Anxiety can take over a person’s life and be a constant struggle.

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Anxiety is common in people with chronic illnesses.  Our lives often give us lots of extra things to worry about – our health, hospital appointments and tests, eating well etc.  Symptoms include overwhelming nausea and sometimes actually being sick, breathlessness, palpitations, trouble sleeping, feeling out of your depth and feeling numb.

Grounding is a simple technique which you cn use during these times to help you feel reconnected and calmer.  Today I wanted to share a few of these techniques which I have found help me when I feel an anxiety attack start to come on.

Breathe Square

This is one of my favourite techniques and it is really simple.  Getting your breathing to steady when you feel anxious is a quick way to begin the process of you feeling calmer.  Our breathing often speeds up during an anxiety attack, and sometimes people hold their breath to try and counteract that.

First up, trace a square with your finger in front of you.  As you go up the side, breathe in for three seconds.  As you go along the top, hold for one second.  Down the other side and breathe out for three and then along the bottom hold for anther second.  Keep your finger moving steadily so your breathing becomes the same.

5. 4, 3, 2, 1

This is a common one and is used well by many people.  However, I find myself struggling to remember the order which then results in more worrying for me.  I suggest writing it down on a small piece of paper which you can keep close at hand,  to save that from happening to you!

Name 5 things you can see in the room around you (eg. chair, mirror)

Name 4 things you can feel (eg. the cool breeze on your skin, the leather chair you are sat on)

Name 3 things you can hear (eg. children playing outside, the fridge humming)

Name 2 things you can smell (eg.  bacon cooking, perfume)

Name 1 thing that is good about you (eg. I am a great teacher, I am strong)

Find Your Feet

This can be done siting or standing.  For a minute, place all of your focus on the soles of your feet.  Pay attention to any feelings or sensations.  Yu can also close your eyes if this helps you concentrate

Mental Distraction

There are different ways you can do this, but this is the one I find easiest and most useful. Think of a catagory and then name as many things as you can relating to it.  For example you could choose dog breeds, capital cities, football teams or authors.  This will help focus your mind on something oither than what is causing your anxiety.

Re-orientation Technique

Again, there are different versions of this, but this is one that’s easy to do. Ask yourself who you are, where you are, what you are wearing etc.  These questions and the answers you give will help you focus on the present and reorientate you, bringing you back to yourself.

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These five different techniques are all simple and can be used anywhere and I hope they will be helpful to you, like they are to me. If you find your anxiety getting worse or you are struggling wth the effect it is having on your life, please visit your GP and speak to them about it.  They can help in many differenmt ways including with talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and/or medication.  Nothing should be forced on you and you need to feel comfortable with the plan your treatment will take, but please do go with an open mind.

I am more than happy to discuss this privately as I know how difficult it can be to find someone you can  talk to.  I will add a comment box to the bottom of this paragraph, you can fill it in and it will send me an email, which I can reply to privately.

If you have any more grounding techniques that work for you, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.  Anxiety comes under the umbrella of mental health and should not be something we shy away from discussing.  It is very common and you are not to blame.  The best way to overcome it is to take the power back, regain control of your thoughts, speak up and get help and support.

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Why Online Support Groups Can Be So Helpful

I joined my first IBD online support group in September 2015. I had been struggling for a while with my mental health and had just made the big step of opening up to my rheumatology nurse about how I was feeling.

I had been diagnosed with Crohns Disease almost three years previously but still didn’t know much about it. After starting to open up, I knew one of the steps that would help would be to learn more about my illness.

After a quick search on Facebook I found the CCUK charity page and support group. The group was full of people with Crohns Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, people who had gone through surgery, people with Ostomies and more. Within a few days I had joined another couple of groups and began talking to some people. I read alot of posts and started to learn more about Crohns Disease. At times the information and people’s stories seemed scary. But what I noticed most was the still positive nature of so many people going through some of the hardest times and the sense of community.

I learnt about things the doctors should have told me when I was diagnosed. I was told I had Crohns Disease and pretty much sent on my way. I have also learnt a lot that the doctor’s don’t tell you!

Talking to people with the same illness as me was amazing – they knew exactly what I was going through and how I was feeling. I also loved seeing the ‘ordinary’ day to day photos and posts about people’s lives. It helped me remember that whatever was going on, I was still a person too. My illnesses are only part of my life and do not define me as a person.

I have had some great opportunities including setting up my blog and being invited to be part of The IBD & Ostomy Support Show. The community has been amazingly supportive and lovely and I can’t thank them enough for reading and sharing my blog and the lovely comments and messages I receive.

I have also been lucky enough to make some of the most amazing friends. Some of these people have supported me during the most difficult times of my life – hospitalisations, my marriage breakdown and my stoma surgery. I couldn’t imagine where I would be without them, which sounds cheesy, but they have become like family.

Some of us were able to meet up at the GYBO Ball at the weekend. We have done weekends away, nights out, charity events and stayed at each others houses. We live in all different areas of the country and don’t get to see each other as often as we would like but I know whenever I need something, these people are only a call or message away.

And finally (now time for the soppy part), I’ve met the most amazing man. After starting chatting due to a mutual friend from the groups we became friends. Things progressed and we decided to meet up. Since then, despite our health problems, he has been my little bit of fairytale. Eight months on from that first meet up and I’m happier and more in love than I could have ever imagined. I’m definitely a very lucky girl!

The online forums have their faults. There are trolls, people can be mean, ill informed and some people aren’t who they pretend to be. Overall though, I hope my experience shows that the positives can outweigh the negatives. Depression and anxiety is common when you suffer from IBD. This can make it difficult but I would honestly say if you get the chance to attend a meet you will not regret it!

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Check out this great post from Counting My Spoons who writes about ‘The Importance Of Support Groups’

‘Good To Talk’

Today is the World Health Organisation’s World Health Day 2017. The focus for this year’s World Health Day is depression. The WHO are running a year long campaign to raise awareness of depression and promote the slogan ‘good to talk’.

Close to 10% of the world’s population suffer with depression or anxiety. It’s an illness that can strike anyone, at any time. It is also very common in people with chronic illnesses.

I was first diagnosed with depression in October 2015. My marriage was in trouble but since my Crohns diagnosis three year previously, I had spiralled. I have had Rheumatoid Arthritis since being a baby and could probably tell a doctor a thing or two about it. This disease was new, scary and I wasn’t really sure what it meant for me.

For a long while I tried to ignore the Crohns. I was basically told ‘you have Crohns Disease’ at my colonoscopy. I was asked if I had any questions but in my post sedation, shocked haze, I couldn’t think of any. I was told the biologic medication I was on would be switched to one that would hopefully treat both the Crohns and Arthritis and sent home.

During the next three years I tried to carry on as normal. It didn’t turn out so well! Aside from the problems in my marriage (I won’t go into everything now but he was very unsupportive of my health problems for one) I didn’t have a clue as to how my Crohns could affect me. One flare I had over Christmas 2014 was so bad I lost a stone in weight in 6 days. Looking back on how ill I was I should have been in hospital more than once but I thought it was just something to be coped with, as I had with my Arthritis for so long at home.

I started to avoid the hospital and missed alot of appointments in all my clinics. I lost my fighting spirit, my positive outlook and could barely drag myself out of bed. I felt like a terrible mum and had no motivation to do anything. I just wanted to be ‘normal’, not an ill person anymore.

At the end of September 2015 I decided I needed to learn more about my disease. That’s when I discovered online Crohns support groups. I can’t begin to tell you how much the help, support and information I got online helped me. Having people who had similar problems to me and understood exactly how I was feeling was amazing.

I decided things had to change and attended a hospital appointment for the first time in a while with my rheumatology nurse. After going through all the normal checks she asked if there was anything else I wanted to talk about. And that’s when I burst into tears and it all came out about how I was feeling.

I can’t tell you how good it was to finally open up and tell someone about how I felt. She was really lovely and understanding, telling me many of the patients she saw had similar issues at one time or another with being ill for such a long time. She asked if I had support at home and this was the only time I lied, I just wasn’t ready to address my marriage issues and talk about what was happening.

She advised I go and see my GP which I did and she was equally lovely. She reiterated that a lot of people with a chronic illness get depression and I had three of them, as well as a young family to deal with. She prescribed some anti depressants (which I didn’t end up taking as my husband didn’t like them but that’s another story) and helped me get back on track with my appointments at the hospital. She then arranged to see me monthly so we could see how things went.

In the last few months I have been struggling again with the depression but I have also been diagnosed with anxiety. This is much more to do with my personal life and things that have happened with my ex husband. I have been offered CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which I started and was finding really useful. Due to my physical health being bad and being back in hospital I have taken a break from it for now but will restart once I am physically well enough.

I can’t tell you the relief you get when you start opening up and telling someone what you are feeling. Whether it is a professional, family member or friend, it really is the first step to helping you feel better. Since my diagnosis I have been able to share more about my feelings with family and friends too which is great as they understand a lot more now and will help and support me too. It is treatable with medication and talking therapies (CBT, counselling etc) so although it may seem impossible, you will start to feel better once you have taken that first step to open up.

Mental health awareness and provision isn’t the best here. By discussing it and making people aware, we can start to overcome the stigma and hopefully get more people seeking the help they need. I’m hoping sharing some of my story helps support the ‘good to talk’ slogan of this campaign and will help people become aware of how depression and anxiety can take over your life, but opening up is the first step to starting to feel better.

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Stoma Mail

When I had first had my operation one of the most amazing things was the support I received from people in the IBD and Ostomy communities.

From the visit from wonderful Lauren from Purple Wings, to mailed gifts from far and wide to so many messages from people checking up on me – it all meant so much!

I was lucky enough to have some friends send me some parcels with different bags and stoma supplies for me to try out once I was out of hospital and feeling up to it. This was such a fabulous help and I am really pleased to now be doing the same for others.

A couple of lovely ladies I know who have just had their stoma surgery and a man who wants to try the bags I use and have been chatting to about medication recently will all shortly be receiving their parcels. I have put them together today so I can take them to the post office tomorrow.

I think this is a great way of showing how the community pulls together and helps one another. I feel like I’m paying forward the kindness and support I was shown after my surgery, and if it helps people get a good routine for themselves with their stoma all the better!!

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