I put this website together thinking it would be my written word- companion of my steps towards the next phase of my life. I’ve strayed a bit from that personal goal, as I’ve been mostly writing about disability and autism. I suppose that can be seen as the backgrounder to paint a better picture of why I call this a journal to wellness.
I am not the same person that I was last year, for a lot of different reasons. It took some health scares, multiple crises with all three of my boys and a total physical shutdown from stress, to force me to take stock of where I was and where I was headed, if I didn’t make some major changes.
It’s easy to say you’re going to get healthy. Like on New Year’s Eve and you make your resolutions for the year ahead – mine usually include some kind of weight loss plan, a commitment to exercise and something that will help my mental health. Making those lists is the easy part. It’s the follow through that I suck at and when you throw a pandemic into the mix, it sure makes those December 31, 2019 resolutions quite laughable now, looking back.
But for me, I have to admit that the pandemic may just have been the best thing to have ever happened to me.
Don’t get me wrong! This has also been the worst year of my life. In so many ways. I have never felt more isolated, more on my own, more terrified, more exhausted and stressed, than I ever have. Caregiving 24/7 by myself with no one to help has been, quite frankly, the hardest thing I have ever, ever had to do. Some of the most painful moments of my life have happened in the last 8 months.
But. It forced the issue.
So I thought that I would use this post a way to list all the different things that I have been working on since February or so, in my own personal journey to wellness. It comes with the caveat that not all of the things listed were conscious decisions. It’s the retrospective look backwards that has allowed me to see all the key changes that are worth noting.
List of my Wellness Practices
- Put Me First. I have put myself last on every list in every area of my life, or put things in the postpone-pile that never seemed to get picked back up. I’m not sure what I was waiting for – free time that would never come or a day when no one needed me to do something for them – those things were never going to happen so I made the choice to put me first and it became the one overarching themed decision.
- Choose a Path. I’ve been living in a state of fear and indecision in so many areas of my life. I could no longer walk the tightrope and wait for life circumstances to force the decisions for me. I reflected on my life and remembered when I had made life decisions that came from a place of faith versus fear (moving to Calgary) and remembered the biggest lesson of all: all you need is the vision or goal and to take the first step. You don’t need to be ‘ready’ and you don’t need to have steps 1 through 100 all ready to go. Just take that first step and the path will reveal itself. Taking a break from work to take care of my family and addressing a tough situation at home are two examples of how I applied this principle and it’s true.. the path continues to reveal itself, while my biggest goal remains to be well and I know we will all get there.
- Sleep. It goes without saying that without sleep, your body starts to die. None of this mind over matter crap. I don’t buy that. Lack of sleep catches up to you. I had been averaging 3-4 hours a night for the last 6 years – not on purpose. And I have had inconsistent, broken sleep for the last 17 years. I made sleep a non-negotiable in my life. I set the goal and when I was able to make a lot of changes (as listed in the list below), sleep started happening for me. Now my average is 5-7. The goal is still 8, but knowing I have a whole lot more 7’s when I check my sleep tracker on my Fitbit, shows me that I’m getting there and keeps me motivated.
- Book appointments that I had been postponing or had cancelled over the years. Everything from doctors, to specialists, naturopaths, dentists, financial advisor – you name it and I booked it. (It doesn’t mean I’ve worked through them all, because COVID changed the plan. But the commitment was made by scheduling the appointments).
- Naturopathy and Supplements. I reconnected with my naturopath @jen-parsons and addressed a lot of the ongoing health issues that I’ve been living with: hormones, adrenal fatigue, chronic inflammation, hypertension, fibromyalgia, sleep, auto-immune and anxiety. I’ve got my arsenal and I’ve got a plan and very quickly I felt like I finally had a handle on it all.
- Water. This one is simple, folks. Drink water. Lots of it. I fall off this wagon quite often, but when I’m on it I aim to drink 100oz. a day with only a cup of coffee a day. When I do, I see instant results – less headaches, better skin, better digestion, a clearer mind. It’s a piece of the puzzle that I know, together with the other steps, have helped me rid of some of the health issues that had been plaguing me for years.
- Go Clean & Green. This wasn’t a decision based on a desire to be more environmentally conscious, although that was a bonus. I wanted to reduce any external toxins that might be in our home, that might be contributing to the dis-ease in my boys and I, both physically and mentally. I now use natural products and essential oils to make my own household cleaning products, personal hygiene and skincare products, bugspray, sunscreen, air purifiers and a replacement for over the counter medications. This was a game-changer.
- Create My Own Space. My boys require my supervision 24/7 so I can’t just escape to a quiet place in my house for a moment to myself. I have to leave the bathroom door open for breaks and can only shower while they’re sleeping. So there has never been much point to set up a place in the house that was just mine. Of course I have my own bedroom. But the second my feet hit the floor when I get up, I don’t usually see it again until bedtime. So it’s never been a place I cared much about. But because I’ve been making a conscious effort to care for myself a bit more, I realize I deserve a nice space. Sure I still have peeling paint that needs retouching and I have furniture I’ve outgrown, but now my room has twinkly lights and photos of people I love hanging on the walls. I’ve got green plants, an oil diffuser, my great grandma’s quilt, my books lined up and at my disposal, my journal and favourite pens and quotes that motivate me to keep the course. Now I go to bed the second my kids do, because I love being in my space.
- Meditation, Mindfulness, Affirmations and Prayer. I have made a conscious effort to be mindful in everything I do (as often as I can). I’m slowing down, I’m appreciating whatever my senses take in from nature, to eating, to the five minutes I have to feel the hot water hit my scalp in the shower. I practice meditation and prayer almost daily – something I never used to do. Practising gratitude and opening myself up to forgiveness of others and myself. It might be anything from chanting the traditional Hawaiian forgiveness prayer – The Ho’oponopono Prayer: “I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you, I love you.” Or it might be the repetition of affirmations or prayer using Mala Prayer Beads (handcrafted by the beautiful MalasbyAnita). This has become a sacred priority for me, to make sure I have at least ten minutes that I can claim for myself each day to ground myself and calm my mind.
- Making My Home a Safe Place. Alarm system, better locks, an emergency plan. This requires a whole post of its own to explain why it’s so important. I’ll just say that by doing these things, my hyper-vigilance isn’t as necessary and as a result, my anxiety has gone down and my sleep has gone up.
- Outdoors. I can go weeks where outdoors meant that I only ever saw the steps from my front door to my car, or my parking space at work to the office door. I have committed to spending 10 minutes to a half hour outside every day, rain or shine. When I’m out there, I take it all in and try to stay off my phone. I am blessed to have a yard that sometimes makes you feel like you are far removed from civilization and in taking in the sky, the greenery, the sun/moon, the fresh air and the birds – it’s pure soul food.
- Music and movement. Sounds silly and simple, but I’ve got music playing all the time. I forgot how much I need it. I dance in my kitchen and whenever I can, I bring the boys in with me. I can’t dance. But I remind myself that no one is watching but the dogs and I just move and let myself cry when the music moves me, or I sing out loud to my favourites. I have woken back up.
- Reconnection. With my people, with old friends, with my faith and with my church family. Some day I’ll share a bit more on this subject, but I had isolated myself to an extent that I didn’t realize was possible over the last few years. I’m slowly but surely letting people back in. They are helping me remember who I am and what is important to me.
- Talk Therapy. Working through trauma. Examining how anxiety presents for me. Can’t live without it and am so grateful for the relationship I have with my psychologist. I’m fortunate and I thank God for benefits.
- Dreaming and Vision Board. My life isn’t over at 46. It might just be the re-beginning. I’m dreaming again. Putting words, images and plans into creating the vision for the life that I want for myself and the boys. 1 year plan, 5 year plan, 10 years and lifelong, “I want it all” goals.
- Life coach – Spiritual Counselling. I hope to someday introduce you to Michelle as I continue to twist her arm into writing with us. If I had to sum up the relationship I have with her and her work over the last 8 months, I can only say that I feel like I have finally found my higher purpose and she has helped me shed all the fears, insecurities and negative stories I have been telling myself for decades that prevented me from being me. I have found an elevated mental space that has freed me up to dream again.
- Writing. Learning. Rediscovering and allowing time to be a student of life again. Creating this website has fulfilled that for me and I look forward to writing the novel I’ve been chipping away at for the last ten years. I have also been digging deeper in learning about issues in allyship that matter to me from inclusion to racism and learning more about my own Indigenous heritage, by virtually attending workshops and festivals and participating in study groups.
- Trusting. That I always have a choice. That nothing is permanent. That there is light ahead.
I’m on my way to better. If you’re stuck, maybe you can think of your own map to chart out your path. At the very least, you can have an empty list, but #1 needs to include one of the following: I am important enough to make the effort. I deserve to be well. I deserve to be happy. I am open. I’m putting me first. Then, if you need a #2, make sure you remember to add: “I’m not alone” and remember I’m on this journey with you.
I’m trying my best to pay it forward by dealing hope and sharing stories & tips on caregiving and how to survive hard things. I blog a lot about single parenting my adult twin sons who both have autism, and the challenges we face in surviving the everyday challenges and planning for a future full of unknowns.