Happy New Year!

It’s nearly the end of January 2019 – how insane is that?! At the end of this year, it would have been ten years since I left high school, and boy does that blow my mind!

Christmas 2018 was hectic as it usually is, with lots of social events and lots of eating. Although it’s always hectic, it’s also a nice time to reflect on the year, and also take the time to appreciate the friends and family that you have around you. I definitely know that over the last 14 months, I have learnt a lot about the types of friends I have, and the types of friends I want to have around me.

“Surround yourself with people who have a positive impact on your life.”

I think that is something we should all do, and it doesn’t just stop at friends. It also includes making sure we follow social media accounts that lift us up and inspire us, or generally entertain us, rather than accounts that can make us feel bad about ourselves, which is all part of self-care.

The best self-care I could have done at the end of 2018/the start of 2019 was to go down to my cottage, a small home in Owhango. I spent a day or so with a close friend who drove us down, then spent time with my parents (and a few locals), got to finish a 1000 piece puzzle, and read two and a half books! I also got to take some awesome photographs, as well. It was a lovely week and a half of relaxing and spending some chill time doing things I love.

What did you get up to over the Christmas/New Years period? Whatever it was, I hope you had a lovely time.

See below for some of the pictures I was able to capture while I was down in Owhango:

It’s been a while…

I don’t know what it’s like for other people who write similar blogs to me, but I constantly think of things to upload on here and I just never get around to doing it.

Life has been busy for me over the last couple of months. In my role, as Operations Assistant, the end of year amps up, rather than slows down. We have our staff retreat, Christmas related events/activities and then long days of Payroll.

That doesn’t mean to say there haven’t been things I’ve wanted to share on here. For example, I went away with my mother for a week a couple of months ago and I have some beauty pics to share (like below) and I went on the previously mentioned staff retreat just recently.

I’ve also had a rheumatologist appointment and it was disappointing to say the least. I felt like I didn’t get any answers, the computer was broken so the rheumatologist who was seeing me (not my normal lady) couldn’t see my history, and the ultrasound machine was broken, so we were unable to check the inflammation in my joints properly. I felt like the lady was misunderstanding the small amount of medical history she was able to access and was not listening to me, and she couldn’t give me any advice about the side effects of the rheumatoid arthritis medication I’m on. It honestly felt pointless, and therefore disappointing. Aside from that, though, I’m doing pretty well in regards to my arthritis. I still have days were specific joints hurt more than others and I’m generally still tired a lot faster than I used to be, but overall I’m doing well.

I feel lucky to know what kind of condition I have (although they can’t 100% confirm) and I’m taking medication that seems to be working and I have a workplace that is really flexible with my hours when I have appointments to attend.

Anyway, I thought I’d pop by to say hello while I had the chance, and I look forward to my free summer days where I can share more on here.

P.S. my doggo passed away a year ago and I miss her dearly. It was a horrific evening, the night she passed, but it doesn’t reflect the absolutely wonderful life she had and the joy she brought to our family. Love you forever, Brown.

Self-care on the Road to Recovery

How self-care affects recovery

Over the past 8 months, I have come to realise that self-care is a dominant player in my Rheumatoid Arthritis recovery. I am a true believer that recovery is holistic and that overall well-being is important, not just physical improvement. During a conversation I was having with my physio about ‘pacing’ activities (I’m focusing on walking at the moment – read more about ‘pacing’ here) I realised that not only has my ‘pacing’ been helping my recovery physically but so has spending time in nature! I love a good flower find and enjoy breathing in fresh air.

Taking care of ourselves

We have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others – that can be in the context of a parent-child relationship, friend-friend relationship, with your partner or even with a stranger. This concept has been explained to me in relation to flying in an aeroplane – we have to put our oxygen mask on before we can put the mask on a child/any else that needs help. This is pointing out that if we are struggling, it becomes a lot harder for us to help other people.

So, what can we do about it? 

I truly believe that self-care is a crucial part of everyone’s health and well-being, but especially those who are recovering from something, like myself. This is when active self-care comes into play. It’s about making sure we take time out to care for ourselves. There are basic self-care aspects, such as ensuring you are feed balanced, nutritious food and have the appropriate amount of time to sleep, but there is also a deeper level of self-care that we need to take into account. We all have physical, emotional/mental and spiritual needs that we have to consider when thinking about self-care. Self-care changes from person to person, as well. It’s all about listening to your body and being aware of what you need.

How do you know what works well for you? In my experience, it’s all about trial and error. You give something a go and see whether it works for you. For example, sometimes self-care is all about spending time alone and sometimes its all about spending time with others.

Where do I start? 

Below is a list of self-care habits I personally like, which you are encouraged to try out:

  • taking a bath
  • quality time reading a book
  • eating some of my favorite food
  • ‘earthing’ – physically connecting with the earth e.g. walking on the beach barefoot or lying on the grass looking up to the sky (although my hay fever is not a fan of that one)
  • going for a walk either by myself or with friends
  • having a nice nap
  • listening to some music that makes me feel good
  • spending time trying out some new recipes
  • spending some time with my best friend
  • lighting a candle at my meal time and sitting down at the table to eat
  • watching my favorite TV show
  • asking to catch up with a friend I haven’t seen in a while
  • buying something that I usually wouldn’t buy
  • going to the movies
  • doing a face mask
  • thoroughly cleaning my teeth

Self-care can be part of your normal daily routine and it can also be a special time that you have allocated. There are some habits I tend to perform more than others, as I have learnt over the years what I need to on a regular basis and what I need when I’m feeling a certain way.

Can you recognise what self-care habits that you do on a regular basis? If you have any self-care tips, let me know!

The KeepCup that’s here to stay

In the lead up to #PlasticFreeJuly, I thought it was an appropriate time to finally purchase a KeepCup. I had been given a reusable cup from my mum, which she got for free after shopping at Farmers. I appreciated the gift and used it a few times, but soon realised it didn’t vibe with me very well. I ended up passing it on to someone who really enjoyed it.

I don’t buy a lot of takeaway coffees, so was in no rush to find a reusable cup that I liked and for those that know me, know that it’s not often I buy things like this when full price. I kept an eye out on places that sold KeepCups, checking out their colour combos and looking out for any sales. Last weekend, when I was at St Lukes Mall, I walked into Stevens and finally found one that I liked. As someone at work said to me, the cup you choose can potentially say a lot about you, so picking a colour combination that suited me was important. I also happened to get 15% off – bonus!!

Have you got a KeepCup, or something similar?

What’s your Daily Mantra?

Thanks to a KikkiK purchase a few years ago (similar to this), I’ve constantly got a ‘mantra’ that I say to myself. A mantra is a statement or slogan repeated frequently that helps create a positive mindset. These mantras not only help create a positive mindset, but I feel like they help create a healthy mindset, too. It’s important to feel confidence in oneself and these little sayings encourage me to practice mental self-care. I replace these KikkK ‘inspiration cards’ weekly, to help me have a focus and feel like I have a purpose. For the week, I see the mantra every morning and say it to myself – well, that’s how it started anyway…

More often than not, I now make up my own mantra and have it much longer than a week. At the moment, my mantra is ‘I can do this’. Why? Well, if you have read some of my previous blogs, you’ll know that I am currently living with arthritis. It started with salmonella; something that is unpleasant, but not something I knew could cause me to get reactive arthritis. It was supposed to be a rather temporary disease but unfortunately, that’s not the case for me and I now have whats being categorised as ‘seronegative rheumatoid arthritis’. So, every day, I am saying to myself “I can do this” because every day has its struggles and I’m fighting my way through it. Some days are harder than others, but each day has its own battle and whats hard is that it looks like I’m okay to everyone else i.e. when I was lying in a hospital bed, it was obvious that I wasn’t well, but when I’m walking around (albeit still on crutches) most people think I’m doing okay. So, to set my day up with a positive mindset, I start with saying my mantra to myself.

Do you have a statement or slogan that you often say to yourself to help you keep a positive, healthy mindset?

A Quiet Reflection

During the first month of being ill, the pain was unbearable and the hospital visits became extremely tedious, so I’m rather grateful for the position I’m currently in. I can walk more freely with my crutches, spend at least 9 hours of the day out of bed and can put my clothes on without having to sit down (well, most of the time). It really is the small things that count!

My arthritis is still very much alive, however, and I’m having to battle the physical and emotional consequences of that daily. I’m taking an average of 18 pills per day and I’m seriously over it. The medication I’m on causes horrible side effects, where it becomes harder to function and I’m currently living every day as it comes, not knowing what part of my body will hurt next or whether or not I’ll wake up with a headache and feeling nauseous.

Becoming ill has certainly changed my life. With the surplus hours I’ve spent lying in bed, I’ve had time to reflect on my life, thinking about who and what is important to me. I’m having to live life at a slower pace as well and take things as they come. This illness has certainly tested my patience and the patience of those around me.

I recently asked to change roles at my work. It’s a decision I didn’t make lightly, but one that I think is best for my health and best for those who work with me (especially the ones who have been helping out with tasks I’m unable to perform at the moment). I am so grateful for my workplace. The organisation I work for, along with those I work with, are amazing. Everyone has been immeasurably compassionate and flexible with me, making sure I put my health first where needed, being understanding of my shortened hours and finally, my request for a role change has been accepted.

I am also so grateful for my friends. ‘Hard times will always reveal true friends’ is a saying that rings quite true at the moment. It’s funny how something like this would shed so much light on the relationships that I have, making some stronger and some not so much. I’m so grateful for having friends who check up on me, pick me up because I still can’t drive yet, make plans with me even though I’m limited in what I can do and generally show that they care about my wellbeing.

And finally, I am so grateful for my family. I wouldn’t know what to do without them! They have been so supportive, especially my mum who drives me everywhere, rubs my sore joints and cooks me delicious food. It’s hard to live with someone who is unable to function completely without help and I appreciate all the extra effort my family make to help make my life a bit easier.

My hope is that as these negative side effects are emerging, that underneath, slowly the life-changing positive side effects are working their magic too. I’ll be seeing my rheumatologist in about a month, and she’ll be able to tell me whether or not things are truly improving!

I’ll finish with this:

You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot before the other, and God damn it, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way. – Elizabeth Taylor

It’s time to step back

I have been part of a small team that organises events once every couple of months for young people (talking about topics such as money, gender equality, mental health etc.) for a few years now. I was in charge of taking photos of the events and generally having a creative touch when needed – like occasionally helping out with table ‘conversation starters’. I have thoroughly enjoyed spending my time being a part of the core team that run these events, but its time to step down from the role.

It’s not something I randomly decided – I thought about it for quite a while, but with the news that my health is not going so well, it made me decide that it was time to let go of that responsibility in my life so I can focus on my health.

I’ve always been a person who struggles to say ‘no’ to things. I often take on too much responsibility and it’s not until something goes wrong (like I double book myself) that I step back to see how much I have on my shoulders. Taking a journey of self-awareness means that I am stepping back before things become a problem. I acknowledge that saying ‘yes’ is something that I often do before really thinking about what it means for my life and I am trying to change that behaviour. So, I am taking the first step by stepping down from my role with this group, as a way to care for myself – by freeing up some of my spare time and concentrating on things like learning more about healthy foods that I can eat and reading more books in nature.

Do you take on too much? Think about it next time you say ‘yes’ to something!