While I’ve felt better during the last couple of years than I have at any point since I became ill, I still have bad days. Lately, I’ve been having more of them and I know why. I’ve been pushing myself harder and doing a lot more than I really should. As a result I have to keep reminding myself that these bad days come with a reason, and that they are JUST bad days, not the start of a bad week or month (or worse).
I’ve spent my weekends for the last two months working on my house- sanding, scraping, painting, tiling. I’ve even even done a little plumbing work. I’m actually really proud of all that I’ve accomplished (not without help).
However, every weekend I spend working I’m reminded of my limitations. Power tools are fun, but they wreck havoc on my nerves and just an hour or two will leave me feeling it for a day or two. Thanks to Oska Pulse I can use my arms and shoulders to actually paint walls, but more than a few hours of that and I’m wiped out for several days.
Each week I’ve made little adjustments to how I work. Saying no to specific jobs that I quickly realize will leave me hurting worse – like scraping and painting ceilings. And, coming to the realization that working two days in a row is a terrible idea (even though weekends are when I have the most time and available help).
Then last week two things happened that left me worried that I’d really done it… that I’d sent myself backwards to a point of no return. A stressful call sent me into a migraine to the level I haven’t had in a year. And, lack of regular walking caused a return of sciatica pain in my hip.
I’ve realized the last year or so just how much stress has played into my pain (and fatigue) levels. Since my divorce my stress levels have been so much lower. As a result, I’ve only had two major migraines. Just two years ago I was living in a chronic migraine.
Both of those major migraines were (very obviously) brought on by stress. Even knowing what brought it on, when I woke up on the second day still feeling that migraine, it scared me. I was so worried that it was the start of another chronic migraine.
It took a lot to convince myself that I shouldn’t go there (yet) and that the migraine would go away. However, in doing so, I realized just how easily that stress and worry could have compounded causing the very thing I was afraid of.
The same thing happened with the hip pain. I’ve dealt with sciatica pain for twenty years. After my second major bout with it I learned that the best thing I can do to avoid it (and to get it to go away when it does show up) is to walk. I’ve learned that typically just that it shows up at all is a sign that I’m not walking enough.
Since I moved I don’t have my treadmill and while I’ve been exercising, I haven’t been doing so regularly – in large part because I keep wiping myself out every weekend to the point that I barely feel like moving for several days.
Again, when that pain arrived (and it arrived in a big way), my fear came with it. I remembered what it was like the last time it was this bad. I remembered how long it lasted and how much it hurt to do anything. Thankfully, I also remembered what helps it.
As I’ve dealt with these reminders that last couple of weeks, I’ve had to spend a lot of time reminding myself that these are just bad days. That they are not signs of things to come. There were four basic things I needed to do to get me through this.
Four things to remember when bad days strike
1 . Rest when necessary
While it’s not possible for me to “rest up” and save my energy for major endeavors. I have found that proper rest after those endeavors greatly reduces my down time. Unfortunately, getting that rest isn’t always possible.
I’ve found that after a day of working really hard on my house I will be wiped that night and through the next day. If I can take the next day off and completely rest, I can usually recover enough to be functional the following day.
Completely resting means sleeping in as long as my body feels it needs to. Then, when I do get up, it means allowing my mind and body to continue resting. I avoid working or getting too engaged in anything on those days – usually chilling out on the sofa watching TV or playing a video game.
However, sometimes life doesn’t work that way. I’ve had a few weekends where I’ve either ended up working on the house two days in a row (really bad idea), or one weekend where I worked on the house Sunday only to have to do a 4-hour round trip to a doctor appointment the next day. In both of those cases I ended up wiped out and worthless for most of that week.
My takeaway: If I’ve got something that will be a major energy expenditure, I need to make sure I can follow that with a solid day of rest to recuperate enough to function.
2 . Take action as appropriate
In addition to rest, there are certain actions I need to do to help myself avoid bad days turning into bad weeks (or worse). Primarily, I need to remember to exercise regularly, take my meds, and hydrate properly.
Exercising regularly is the hardest thing when I’m feeling fatigued. But, there are activities I can do even for a few minutes on the bad days. A few minutes of stretching or tai chi can go a long way to getting my circulation moving properly and avoiding feeling sore.
Remembering to take all of my meds and supplements is also important. I’ve found that CBD oil has been the most important thing for helping me sleep. Even when I feel dead tired from so much work, sleep often won’t come. However, for some reason, CBD oil allows me to fall asleep so much easier and sleep well through the night.
Hydration is paramount. I find that often with massive fatigue I’m also seriously dehydrated. This is especially true following work days (when I’m really bad about not drinking enough water). So, I play catch-up. I’ve been using Ultima Replenisher the last few months and have found it does a great job of helping me get re-hydrated faster than just drinking water.
I can feel my energy improve as my hydration improves throughout the day. With water alone it would usually take about 2 gallons of water for me to start feeling better. With a hydration supplement I can usually cut that in half.
With the sciatica pain I know what causes it (not walking enough) and I know how to fix it (walk more). So, that’s what I did. I spent an entire day walking (it actually kind of helps that sitting hurts but walking doesn’t). It helped. The key is to continue to walk more.
My takeaway: Focus on doing ONLY what you need to do to feel better.
3 . Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
It’s so easy to begin ruminating on bad days. To let myself go into a tailspin of worry that my good days are over and that I’m starting into a flare that won’t go away. I have to make an effort to remind myself that that is not the case.
I have to focus on the fact that I’ve had more good days than bad in the last 6 years and that that will continue.
When the negative thoughts pop up I have to purposefully replace them with positive thoughts. When my mind tries to tell me that this migraine is the return of chronic migraines, I have to make the effort to tell myself that I don’t know that. That it is possible to just have a solitary bad migraine without having chronic migraines (I’ve had hundreds of migraines in my life).
When the hip pain popped up I had to remind myself that I know exactly how to make the pain go away (and I know exactly what to do to avoid it). Then I had to take positive action to help it. It would have been so easy to just curl up in a ball in pain (I wanted to), but I knew that wouldn’t help me feel better.
My takeaway: I can let myself go down a negative thought trail, but that will only make me feel worse. If I can focus on the positive outcomes, it reduces stress and helps me take appropriate action.I can let myself go down a negative thought trail, but that will only make me feel worse. If I can focus on the positive outcomes, it reduces stress and helps me take appropriate action. Click To Tweet
4 . Remember that I’ve gotten through this before and I will again
When it comes to chronic pain, we’ve all dealt with more it than we should. The key is to look back at all those days we’ve survived and remind ourselves that if we can do that we can get through another one.
Years ago I had a personal trainer. He would push us pretty hard (this was before I got sick). His catchphrase was “what’s one more” (one more rep, one more whatever). That if we’ve already done X number, one more isn’t that big of a deal.
After all these years, that has stuck in my head and that’s what I think to myself. “I’ve made it through so many bad days, what’s one more?”
My takeaway: If I can just take it one bad day at a time I can get through them all. I just can’t allow myself to get focused on next week or next month or what if. Focus on today. I can get through today.If I can just take it one bad day at a time I can get through them all. I just can't allow myself to get focused on next week or next month or what if. Focus on today. I can get through today. Click To Tweet
So, what do you do to get through the bad days? How do you remind yourself that it’s only temporary? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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