After January feeling like it was about 90 days long and experiencing a bad flare for most of the month, I thought in February I would challenge myself to do activities that make me feel good.
Naturally, I started with the obvious: drink six to eight glasses of water, eat healthily and exercise daily. I don’t sleep very well so I scheduled a do not disturb mode on my phone starting from 8pm so I can’t see notifications, texts or phone calls (excluding family). I also use night mode on my phone so when it starts to get dark, my screen adjusts its brightness and goes darker. I really recommend doing this so you can have a digital detox before bed.
Apparently, I’m a pluviophile – somebody who likes listening to the rain. I have found listening to rain soundscapes through the night helps me drift to sleep. It also helps me through the night when I wake up constantly due to pain.
I start each morning after my glass of water with guided meditation. There are so many places you can find guided meditation for free; YouTube is a great place. I first started by using Meditainment as it’s free to use where you have access to a pain management and falling asleep meditation. I now use Headspace which I absolute love, it contains so many courses – some are as short as three minutes which just makes it so easy to slip in your daily routine and I always feel better and lighter afterwards. If you haven’t tried meditation, I would definitely recommend giving it a try, even just the breathing practices can be so helpful if you have anxiety or experience chronic pain.
The single biggest thing that always makes me feel good is getting outdoors. A love for nature and exploring was something that my grandad nurtured in me as a child – what a truly wonderful gift to give. Due to hEDS and a POTs flare I wasn’t able to get out much in January which I hated. I really felt the effects and I was aware of the negative impact it had on me and how I was feeling. I openly admit I was jealous when my husband came back from walking our dogs every day as I had missed my me time.
I thought I would share some of the things I love to do on our walks on my TGA Vita S to keep them interesting. Firstly, I’m always present and engaged in the natural beauty on our walks. No matter where you live – town or country – there is always beauty around you from architecture, trees and birds. Spring and autumn are my favourite times of the year, I always try to notice the subtle changes that are going on around. There are so many beautiful things to find at this time of year, snowdrops, crocus, daffodils, all the buds on the trees, bird spotting/watching, I almost go out on a mini treasure hunt to see what I can find on every walk twice a day.
I used to like drawing but as I can’t do that now, I use photography as a creative release. I’m very much an amateur but it’s something I really enjoy doing. I normally go out for a walk with my camera or if not, I use my phone. You definitely don’t need to have access to a camera, phone cameras as so good now and it’s what I first used for a long time. I love taking photographs, capturing moments and memories and it definitely makes you look and appreciate the beauty that is around you even more.
Obviously with the current restrictions and all the mud winter brings, routes can get a little bit repetitive and crowded at times. Although there are loads of footpaths in the village I live, only two are accessible because they are bridlepaths. A great app to use in your local area where you can view routes that others have completed or create and share your routes is ViewRanger. You can filter the walks to just walking with wheels and it will show you routes that have been shared in your local area. You can also download the route and map to follow.
Something I like to do is change my route slightly like making it longer or shorter, doing the route in reverse or in a different order. As a dog owner, especially at the moment with so many dog thefts, I think this is a good idea anyway as it keeps routes a little bit more varied. I also go out at different times of the day. I love sunrise, it’s my favourite time of day as it feels so intimate and the birds sing louder. it’s such a special time of the day, so peaceful I always feel exhilarated and calm after a walk. I will also do sunset walks which are also beautiful in a different way. You see different things at different times of the day, you also see different people.
If you are a dog owner, I always do different types of walks: structured lead walks for engagement, walks where I just let them use their noses as much as they want (they are spaniels so that’s a lot), off-lead walks where they can explore areas that are safe for them so they can do what spaniels love to do, and walks where I take toys out with me and we play. This adds such variety not only to their walks but mine also. I absolutely love tug-e-nuff toys – they are the best toys I have found as a disabled dog owner and what’s even better is the toys encourage close play and engagement unlike a ball, so not only do the dogs get those happy endorphins, you do as well.
I am so thankful I had already started this challenge as February turned out to be a shocker of a month. Our son had quite a serious accident at work at the beginning of February, injuring his spine and neck, and then my grandad who has played such a massive role in my life, passed away towards the end of the month. Never has getting outdoors been more important to me, that ability to get some headspace, reconnect with myself and to find peace and inner strength – if I didn’t have my Vita S, this just wouldn’t be possible.