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Make Time For Health

5 Feb
"no one will take care of you if you don't take care of yourself"

Image credit Mind Body Green

Health is one of life’s most undervalued things. It is so often taken for granted; not thought about; simply assumed that it will always be good.

For those of us dealing with a chronic illness, health is not undervalued. It is often thought of.

For several years, when I was at my sickest, health consumed my life. All my time and energy went into trying to get well.

Now I am a long way recovered, health does not consume all my time, which is hugely liberating, positive and encouraging.

However, ME/CFS is a chronic illness and one that my body still has. And so now more than ever it is important for me to make time for health.

In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Ella Woodward, the creator of the phenomenally successful plant based recipe website Deliciously Ella, summed it up perfectly when she said:

“This horrible disease is always lurking. If I don’t take care of myself something comes back.”

The disease Ella is referring to Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTs). For me the disease is ME/CFS. For others it may be diabetes, fibromyalgia, lupus, M.S., depression or any number of other long term conditions.

I could not agree with Ella’s statement more. This is exactly how I feel.

If I don’t look after myself and do what I know works to maintain my health, then symptoms start to reappear. This might sound hugely limiting. But it’s not. I see it as massively positive. I am in control. Provided I do what I know keeps me in balance then I maintain my health.

Keeping myself balanced and in good health are my goals. They are the ends I seek. My means are: daily yoga and meditation, a gluten and dairy free diet, regular walks, a daily rest period and working with the mind-body connection. What works for me, may well not work for you. Health is incredibly individual. But for me, this is how I am able to live a life with my health in tact, keeping ME/CFS at bay.

I remind myself though that these things, the yoga, the meditation, the restricted special diet, the rests etc are not just means to a higher end. They are ends in themselves. I try to cultivate an approach of being present and enjoying the moment when doing these things rather than just passing through them in a passive state, wanting them ticked off and completed; the end attained for that day.

It is all a matter of perspective. If you can see making time for your health as a joy and foster the belief that it is valuable and enjoyable, something to be embraced rather than struggled against, then it will be so much easier to maintain the practice.

Take Care of your body it's the only place you have to live

Image credit Live 2 B Healthy (via Pinterest)

I am no saint and it is incredibly easy to give into temptation and not be bothered to go for a walk or to sit and meditate. But I have learnt time and time again that when I let things slide, slowly, symptoms creep up on me. It can be hard to see the value in maintaining a ‘health management regime’ (for want of a softer term) when you seem to be doing okay. It’s so easy to think ‘I’m fine, I don’t need to do this today…’ but then today becomes tomorrow, and tomorrow turns into the day after and a week has gone by and you’ve not done the one thing you know will help you the most. And slowly things unravel and ME/CFS starts to regain control. It is especially hard when the consequences of actions, or rather inaction in this case, are delayed. The knock on effect of me not taking a rest for a few days is not immediately obvious and often not at all apparent until it is too late.  And so I have learnt to act pre-emptively and make time for health to keep my illness at bay.

Maintaining good health should be embraced. It is not time wasted. It is necessary and immeasurably valuable. It is not a burden and shouldn’t be seen that way. I am the first to admit that I have on more than one occasion fallen into this trap. Sometimes you just want to live and let live! And sometimes you just don’t feel you have time – ‘I have to go and lay down for 45 minutes and listen to a yoga nidra’?! Really, are you kidding? And yes life sometimes gets in the way. But if more often than not you stick to what maintains good health for you then your body will thank you for it.

It may  not be forever. Health is an evolving (both forwards and back) state for us all. What is helpful or necessary for you right now may just be a passing phase. So for now, take care of yourself, in whatever form that takes for you and your health today.

For myself, from the outside I may seem perfectly well now. The invisible element of ME/CFS has never been truer. I am able to do, in some respects, anything I want to do. But that is only thanks to me making time for my health. I only have to look back to how restricted my life was when I was so sick for a reminder of how vital it is that I do maintain my health in the way that I know works for me.

So the motto is and always will be: Make Time For Health.

Run, Rabbit, Run!

27 Jan
A Runner in the Park © Jess Bruce 2015

A Runner in the Park © Jess Bruce 2015

The past weekend marked another big milestone in my journey thru ME/CFS.

It has been four and a half years since I last went to the gym. And on Sunday, I went for a run! Rather than hitting the treadmill, Mr B and I headed to our local park and ran around there. It was a crisp Winter’s day and the park was full of Sunday morning runners, five a side football matches and kids whirling around on scooters and bikes. It felt wonderful to be part of it.

As I’ve said in previous posts, walking has been a key part of my recovery. I have gradually built my walking up from literally a couple of minutes during some of the worst times of my ME/CFS to most recently walking 4.78 miles on Saturday with Mr B. Walking a few miles has become part of mine and Mr B’s weekend routine. As on Saturday, it usually centres around walking to a cafe for tea (and of course Jess friendly cake), having a sit down and then walking home. I love it.

Me! Running! How many bright colours can one girl wear?!  © Jess Bruce 2015

Me! Running! How many bright colours can one girl wear?! © Jess Bruce 2015.

Walking is very much in my ‘safe’ activity column now. I can do it without ill effect, without triggering ME/CFS symptoms. So on Sunday we decided to step it up a notch and actually go for a run! Now to be clear, I’m not talking about a long run, or a fast run. I’m not trying to pass off any great sporting feat, but for this ME/CFS survivor, who just 15 months ago had to use a wheelchair to be able to go out for more than 20 minutes, anything faster than a walk is an achievement of which I am very proud 🙂

Mr B considers himself a gym bod and fitness guru and so has devised me a programme to start me off running again (I say again, but I wasn’t exactly a runner pre ME/CFS. At most I used to hit the gym treadmill a couple of times a week so that I could eat as much cake as I wanted).

To start my running journey we are alternating a light jog with a gentle walk, doing a minute of each. Using Mr B’s fancy pants running watch (which I struggle to turn on at times…) we set a target average pace of 9 minutes 30 seconds per kilometer. When I walk, I use the Nike Run App to track my distances. and from that I know my average walking speed is 10 minutes 45 seconds per kilometer. So my target speed for my running/walking combo is quicker but not by too much. The aim is to ease myself into running rather than to knock me out at the start line – which I nearly did by deciding to sprint before Mr B had fully explained his strategy to me. He said he was worried at that point that I may not have made it round the park! We are using all the pacing and incremental activity knowledge we have gained over the last few years for managing activity for my ME/CFS and simply applying it to running.

So there we were jogging for a minute getting our pace 30 seconds in front of our 9 minutes 30 target and then once we hit 30 seconds in front we slowed to a walk to let the pace fall back to the 9 minutes 30 seconds target. This pattern also gave my little legs time to recover before repeating the jog! Each jog and walk lasted about a minute each time. Turns out a gentle jog for a minute is well within my ability. I am pleased to report I did not collapse in a heap, turn bright red or have to to be carried home 🙂

In total we jogged/walked 2.12 km in 19 minutes 30 seconds and I absolutely loved it.

My TINY Cherry Bakewells!  © Jess Bruce 2015.

My TINY Cherry Bakewells! © Jess Bruce 2015.

My reward was of course cake. We stopped at a local coffee shop on our way home where I had gluten free dairy free Bakewell tarts (yes plural, they come as a pack of 2 as they are tiny!). If I’m allowed that after each run, I will keep on running!

My challenge this week is to go out and repeat the exercise on my own and then next weekend Mr B and I will do it together again,. Depending how I’m doing, we will probably increase things slightly by either upping the distance or the average pace. We’ll do one or the other, not both together. And gradually over time my running will get faster and longer. You never know maybe you’ll see me running the London marathon one day. Yeh right. And maybe there are pink pigs flying outside my window!

I am perfectly content with my gentle jog/walk. I absolutely loved it, yes that was a surprise to me and Mr B too! It felt great to be alive and well enough to be moving my body that bit faster than a walk – I’m not knocking walking, I’m still going to be keeping that going too. I am forever grateful that I’m well enough to be able to walk as much as I like after so many years of being too ill to do more than a short strictly paced walk that would see me needing to rest for hours afterwards.

ME/CFS wise I felt pretty much okay after my run. I feel as I do most days now. So it’s with immense pleasure and relief I can say that my gentle run has not upset the recovery apple cart. Thank goodness. That is not to say my legs feel perfectly okay. Oh no. Walking up and down stairs is a bit of a challenge. I think they are in shock that I required them to move more quickly than a walk and are rebelling! It feels like I have muscles I didn’t know existed until now! But no pain no gain. It will pass and it’s very much normal post exercise soreness rather than acute ME/CFS myalgia body pain. There is a difference. A big difference.

When we got back from our little run, I managed to convince Mr B to do a short yoga for runners cool down sequence with me from Yoga with Adriene. Mr B usually refuses all of my yoga invites so I was very pleased that he joined me on the mat. And I’m sure that the stretching will have helped. Without that, I’d no doubt be even more sore and stiff today!

So now my challenge is to go running again. I have motivation, not least that I enjoyed every minute of it. But more so because my sister is moving home in the summer and wants a running buddy and then there’s that small matter of fitting into a gorgeous white gown in August.

So yes, run Jess, run. You can do this!

ME/CFS zero, Jess a giant win!

I’m Back! Yoga and ME/CFS

30 Nov

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Jenny over at MEcuperate recently asked me to write a post about yoga for ME/CFS. She had picked up on my love of yoga through my persistent tweeting on the subject. I was more than happy to oblige. As regular readers of my blog will know, I am well and truly, madly and totally, in love with yoga and it’s wondrous effects on my body and ME/CFS.

To read my article please pop over to MEcuperate. You can find my article directly by clicking this link.

Once you’re done reading all about how yoga has helped me in my journey thru ME/CFS please do have an explore of Jenny’s site. MEcuperate is a treasure trove of insight, experience and positivity for all of us touched by ME/CFS.

This is the first blog post I have written in a month. My last post was all about the big step forward I had taken in my health thanks to the Lightning Process and how I was going to take a little blogging break to focus on my recovery. I am pleased to report that things are going well for me. I am steadily building my strength and stamina and continuing to take steps ever more towards a Life I Love.

I want to take a moment to say a HUGE thank you for all the lovely supportive comments that so many of you, my dear readers, left for me on that last post. It meant the world to me that you were supportive and happy for me. I’m sorry that I haven’t replied to all of you individually. But please do know that I am sincerely grateful for your support and kind words.

Writing this article for Jenny made me realize just how much I’ve missed blogging in the last few weeks. The break was necessary and very helpful for me but I feel now that I am ready to return to the blogging world. So watch this space, another post from me will be winging its way through cyber space very soon.

Until then, why not check out my article on MEcuperate and all of the other wonderful information and resources that Jenny has compiled there.

 

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