I’m Fine…  What the f**k does that even mean?!

I’m Fine… What the f**k does that even mean?!

I’m fine.

I used to use this reply all the time when people would casually ask me how I was.

Short, sweet and to the point, but what does ‘I’m fine’ even mean? 

The dictionary would have you believe that I was feeling ‘in a satisfactory or pleasing manner or very well.’ as you will see below that was not always the case. 

But why couldn’t I be honest? Why do I still have to work on this? And, what was I scared of?

 

(These examples are all taken from real life.  A snapshot into our families’ life)

I’m fine.  I dislocated my knee this morning and sat on the floor for half an hour wondering how to get up and get all the kids breakfast before school, or if I would manage to drive to get them there, (big sigh). That means that I’ll miss coffee with the girls 🙁  So commonplace are scenes like this that one of my children didn’t move until the adverts of his favourite TV show to wander out to the kitchen to see if I needed anything.

I’m fine.  My wrist gave way as I lifted a pizza out of the oven for lunch, this made me catch the tray on the counter which in turn made me bounce the tray down my other arm leaving three lovely zebra striped burn marks.

I’m fine.  A cover teacher forced my son to participate in PE even though he communicated his pain, she didn’t believe him and joked unkindly that he should see a doctor (he’s seeing many). This teacher will never regain his trust.

I’m fine.  I can’t seem to take a breath today, it is shallow and fast as my autonomic system is struggling to balance itself.  I feel like I’m wading through mud.

I’m fine.  I stepped on a stone at the end of a really nice walk, literally 10 yards from the front door. I sprained my ankle and went over like what only can be described as a see-saw; ankle, knee, hip, elbow, shoulder in perfect succession, finally stopping as my face skimmed the floor.  Managing to cut open my leg through denim.

I’m fine. My daughter is screaming uncontrollably in a combination of pain, exhaustion and helplessness. After pain relief, a massage and a warm bath I can do no more to help her but to gently hold her and re-assure her that she’ll be OK.

I’m fine.  I fell twice out for a walk while pushing my daughter in her wheelchair. Today (well most days actually) walking without looking at my feet seems to render me incapable of staying upright at all. Two scabby knees and a cut on the top of one foot and I’m beginning to regret wearing shorts.

I’m fine.  We’ve spent the last 12 hours being sent across London from one hospital to another for emergency brain scans on our son after they found pressure behind his eyes and his peripheral vision affected, thankfully they rule out a mass. The longest… 12… hours… of… my… life.

I’m fine.  I get barely any sleep and when I finally get up I realise that a bone has subluxated somewhere in my foot.   Weight bearing is agony, actually, sitting is agony.  But the kids have an early orthotics appointment at the hospital, church services, school, so I brace my foot as best I can.  I manage to get a physio appointment 5 days later to manipulate it back into place.

I’m fine.  I learn that my child’s class teacher has decided (all by herself) not to apply her shoulder brace for the last six months in school, the very thing to keep her shoulder safe from a dislocation during play times and PE.

I’m fine. As I stood up in the middle of my Pilates class to change position from lying to standing the sudden pooling of blood in my legs and the inability of my heart to pump enough blood to my brain makes me come over hot and clammy.  As if in slow motion the room started to spin as I began to pass out.

I’m fine.  My son comes home tired, really tired to the point he can barely string a sentence together. I learn that his new teacher is refusing his requests for water in the afternoons even though the importance of hydration is clearly written into his care plan.

I’m fine.  Sometimes talking to my friends I feel like I live in a parallel universe as their lives, worries and hopes can feel a million miles away from mine.

I’m fine.  I had a wonderful day out with my family yesterday. Walking, laughing, picnicking, hey, we even managed a little dancing. Today, I am paying for my fun. Breathless, Potsy, my heart does not know what it is doing and I struggle to even sit awake on the sofa.

I’m fine.  I don’t know if I’m coming or going this week. School meetings to plan provision and care plans, more meetings to educate staff, reviews in physio, telephone calls to sort OT, I must call the EWO. Then on Thursday and Friday autonomic testing at the National Hospital that I’ve waited 18 months for (that I know will flare my POTS). Could I cancel? Should I??

I’m fine.  My daughter yelps every time that she moves in bed as her hip partially dislocates and I read her to sleep to distract her from the pain.

I’m fine.  I fell spectacularly into the Thames as I save my daughter from stumbling along a narrow bank. Spraining my ankle and doing something to my right arm that leaves me unable to hold a cup of tea, and we all know a cuppa fixes everything.

I’m fine. It’s my second migraine in three days and this one has really floored me. My arms are heavy my face is numb and I feel like a brass band are playing in my head.

I’m fine.  Today I practiced true calmness under pressure as my son went into shock after a bad break of his wrist BMXing.  I kissed him as he closed his eyes in theatre to manipulate the joint back into alignment and my heart broke a little.

I’m fine.  I’m on my way to Brunel University with the head of the Child Development Centre to present to a full lecture theatre of physiotherapists for an hour or so.  Everything that I need them to know as practitioners before they work in paediatrics, with children like mine. The last time I stood up in front of so many people they were all four and it was my Nursery Class.

I’m fine.  My rib is out, subluxated. As I drive to school to collect the kids I still can’t get it to relocate and as I stand in the playground making small talk it really hurts to breathe.

I’m really NOT fine.

 

I'm fine written on a piece of paper and pinned to a notice board

The three reasons that we say ‘I’m fine’ when we don’t mean it

I think I’ve worked some of it out… which is not to say that I have got it all sussed now, just that I’ve done my inner work and when I say ‘I’m fine’ now, quite often I actually mean it.

So what three things does it boil down to under the surface.

 

How we are raised

As kids ‘I’m fine’ is programmed into us as a way of saying your are OK, there is nothing wrong. If you fell over your parents would often say,

‘Oh dear, up you get, you’re fine’.

When in fact you probably didn’t feel fine at all, you were probably hurt, if not physically then emotionally.  But by saying you were fine you were being taught to dismiss how you were feeling in that moment.

So as adults why would we do anything else?

Avoiding Problems

We may also just want to be low maintenance and easy going, if we are difficult then that may lead to conflict so ‘I’m fine’ works a treat.

We may believe people won’t like us or easily get bored or fed up if we ask for too much or have complicated needs or feelings.

It feels safer to pretend we’re fine and be a dependable, cheerful, easy-going person who never complains or needs anything.

Avoiding Judgement

Pretending that we don’t have any problems or difficult emotions can also be a form of denial. We want the outside world to think that we have it all worked out and together because we are afraid of judgement from others if they knew the truth.  We may also deny our problems if our feelings may be overwhelming, because then we would have to deal with them right?!

 

Moving Forwards

The first thing is working out what ‘I’m fine’ really means to you, ask yourself these questions…

  • Is it true?
  • What does it mean?
  • What is it telling you about your experience with chronic illness and how you deal with it? 

Moving past denial, being honest with yourself and getting to grips with the messy stuff – what you really feel about your experiences and the truth about what your experiences actually are… will mean that next time that you say ‘I’m fine’ it may not be a lie.

 

I’d love to know what you think in the comments 🙂

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The Thrive Tribe is a community of women who have chronic illness.

You may feel like no-one understands what its like living with your chronic illness or worrying everyday about your kids. That you are hanging on by a thread or the future may feel a little uncertain. In The Thrive Tribe we get that.

You value life and want to be the best version of you. To manage your symptoms effectively so that you can live your best life. 

In the community we will be having real, open conversations about how you can do this. With my experience of living with multiple chronic illness’ and raising kids with CMT, EDS, PoTS and ME. I know that the struggle is real. I will be sharing guidance, challenges, my personal tips and real life stories to remind you of how this can become a reality now!

 

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What Is Imposter Syndrome And Do I have it?

What Is Imposter Syndrome And Do I have it?

What Is Imposter Syndrome

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong? Like any second now your friends or work mates will discover that you are a fraud? Do you ever think that your successes are attributed to luck, rather than our own skills or qualifications? Or, do you try to keep more and more balls juggling in the air; always trying to maintain impossibly high standards, and with each success you achieve the greater the feeling that you aren’t enough?

If so, you’ve probably experienced imposter syndrome, right along with an estimated 70% of the population.

It was first described back in the late 70’s by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes who recognised that this imposter phenomenon was particularly prevalent amongst a select group of high achieving women. But, it is known to affect all kinds of people from all walks of life, men, women, medical students and managers.

Even international superstars are not immune to it’s effects. Emma Watson, star of the Harry Potter movies told Rookie magazine, in an interview (2013), “It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved.”

More and more imposter syndrome is being seen in marginalised groups and shows up regularly in the disabled and chronic illness communities. It makes perfect sense that your feelings of self doubt and fraud are more likely to show up if you have grown up belonging to a group that was historically believed to be less capable.

Sonia Sotomayor was the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, she spent her whole life growing up in the Bronx and never really thought of herself as a candidate for law school. “I have spent my years since Princeton, while at law school and in my various professional jobs, not feeling completely a part of the worlds I inhabit. I am always looking over my shoulder wondering if I measure up.”

 

The 5 Imposter Archetypes

Expert on the subject, Dr. Valerie Young, has categorised imposter syndrome into five subgroups: the Perfectionist, the Superhero, the Expert, the Soloist, and the Natural Genius. In her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, Dr. Young builds on decades of research addressing the reasons why so many accomplished women suffer from this crippling self doubt.

Perfectionist

Perfectionism and Imposter syndrome go hand in hand. These people set impossibly high standards for themselves not wanting to let things go until they are perfect because of the fear that they won’t be good enough. When they inevitably don’t match up to their self imposed bar, the self doubt and feelings of not being enough are reinforced again. Fear may also paralyse them into not producing any work at all because they do not want to fail, and anything short of just perfect would be just that – a failure. Even with success comes the feeling of ‘I could have done better’.

Superhero

These people are convinced they are phonies amongst their work colleagues or the group they are in and often work super hard so that they measure up. Over preparing, taking on extra jobs and even working weekends. This is less about their skills and capabilities but has everything to do with their own insecurities. These people need the external validation that comes from the feedback of working hard. They are often over achievers and the fear of failure can sabotage their own success.

Expert

Experts base their competence on how much they know, they strongly believe that they will never ‘know’ enough. They expect to know everything that there is to know and even a minor lack of knowledge denotes failure and shame to the expert. Because, if they were truly competent then they wouldn’t have had to work so hard to acquire the knowledge in the first place.

In a similar way to the perfectionist they set their internal bar incredibly high. An expert, even with all the qualifications in their field, genuinely feels inexperienced or lacking knowledge. When they seek to learn more all the time they are actually feeding their procrastinist tendencies.

Natural Genius

The natural genius judges themselves based on how easily and quickly a skill can be mastered. Therefore if they have to work hard to learn something new or simply don’t pick it up the first time they feel shame. Like perfectionists the bar is set impossibly high and the Natural Genius will believe that if they have to work hard at something, then they must not be very good at it.

They find that setbacks completely throw them and they avoid taking risks in case they fail.

Soloist

Soloists see asking for help as a sign of failure and weakness and believe that to show competence in a task it must be completed unassisted.

A soloist always turns down help to prove themselves as an individual, needing help would evoke feelings of shame. They value this independence over and above their own needs, when they get stuck it leads to procrastination, just to avoid admitting defeat.

 

Which Imposter Archetype are you?

Which imposter archetype do you relate to? Are you the expert, the superhero? Do you overwork to prove your worth? Do you withhold your talents and opinions or never finish important projects?

Perhaps you strongly relate to just one archetype, or perhaps you see bits of your self in all five?

 

How to stop Imposter feelings?

To move past your imposter feelings requires you to work on the deep held beliefs that you may have about yourself, which may be hard as you may not even realise that you have them. The work on self-sabotage, negative thoughts, assessing your long held beliefs about you abilities and building your confidence will not be quick fixes and may require regular work.

The power overcoming feeling that you are an imposter lies with you stopping thinking like an imposter. To do that you will have to re-write your internal narrative.

 

Before you go  

There is much more coming over the coming weeks on imposter syndrome. How it shows up in the chronic illness and disability communities and some Top Tips to help you to overcome your imposter, whichever archetype you resonate with!

You can sign up here to get these posts straight to you inbox.

I would love to hear what you think, let me know in the comments.

Join The Community

The Thrive Tribe is a community of women who have chronic illness or are a parent to a child who has an illness or disability.

You may feel like no-one understands what its like living with your chronic illness or worrying everyday about your kids. That you are hanging on by a thread or the future may feel a little uncertain. In The Thrive Tribe we get that.

You value life and want to be the best version of you. To manage your symptoms effectively so that you can live your best life. Or, to support your children to live theirs.

In the community we will be having real, open conversations about how you can do this. With my experience of living with multiple chronic illness’ and raising kids with CMT, EDS, PoTS and ME. I know that the struggle is real. I will be sharing guidance, challenges, my personal tips and real life stories to remind you of how this can become a reality now!

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Home Schooling During The COVID Lockdown – Top Tips To Survive!

Let’s face it, for all parents in the UK this January plans will have changed. The further restrictions placed on us all by the latest COVID lockdown means the nation once again will be faced with our children accessing learning from home.

Some of you will have started with your kids in school. Some will have known they were home for a little while but were planning to have them back in school within a couple of weeks. Others may have made the decision themselves to keep them home anyway.

Whatever your situation we are all facing the prospect of home schooling our children till at least February half term and unlike the first lockdown the weather is not on our side.

It can feel a bit like groundhog day.

The hardest things to deal with during times of uncertainty can be the unknown and the lack of control over the whole situation.

Four years ago my oldest son got sick with myalgic encephalomyelitis on top of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.

Since that point he has been home schooled or has had access to online learning as he isn’t well enough to attend school in a physical school building. His GCSE’s were planned to be taken from home long before the pandemic took hold. Lockdown has been going on in this house far before COVID.

I’d like to share what I have learnt over the last four years of having a child in lockdown so that you can survive homeschooling and to use the time to make the bond between you and your kids stronger than ever.

 

Communicate

Keep talking and listening to each other, even messaging your teenage kids throughout the day. Making time each day to be present with each of your children.

There is definitely a place for Disney + or bingeing on Netflix, if you have an important work call to take, or are trying to get dinner ready – you are not superhuman. At the very least ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ has inspired a love of chess in our house. But, ask yourself at the end of every day ‘How long have I truly been present with my children today?’ Listened without distraction, laughed, hugged?

When my children were little they used to love to do the ‘key jar’ activities at meal times, a jar full of random questions to get everyone talking and listening to each others point of view.

We still all have meal times together and I make sure that I spend time with each of them every day to chat doing something different – right now that’s playing cards, painting, completing physio exercises or checking on the chickens together.

However, when our son was first sick and bed bound with ME it would just laying with him while he slept so he knew that we were there. There are no right and wrong things to do, whatever works for your family.

 

Have fun

Right now it is really important to provide lots of light relief, all work and no play is no fun for anyone, especially children. There has to be a balance between the work you want them to do and opportunities to have fun.

Your child may have been sent home work to complete independently (or with your help) as opposed to online with face to face teaching support. The teachers will be providing worksheets and tasks to make your life as easy as possible but the activities may not be the most stimulating for your child. Remember right now most of this work will be revision, so don’t stress about it.

Inject some fun into the tasks that have been set. You know your child best so are best placed to tap into what they love and make the whole homeschool experience more interesting.  If they are learning WW2 how about researching the German officers with the best moustaches and write about them. If they are learning money in maths and have a slime obsession (if you are a parent to an under 10 you will understand), ask them to work out how much it would cost to make enough slime for their whole class. Extend them by asking them if they could they sell it for a profit? This can be applied to anything that they are learning.

It also involves having fun outside of whatever learning has been set. Playing games, having movie nights, holding a disco with a playlist of everyone’s favourite music, having an indoor picnic (or outside if you are brave enough), building a den, going for walks. Ask your children what they would like to do for fun with you, I bet that they have loads of ideas.

 

Be calm

Stay calm especially if your child isn’t. Your child may be feeling all different emotions such as highs and lows, anger, blame, sadness etc. Allow them their feelings and to talk them through but don’t force it. They may be a little unsure of the expectations on them at the moment, depending on their age they may be stressed out over exams or missed school trips. Stress and anxiety will show its self in different ways.

They may also not do exactly what you want them to do exactly when you want them to. Here it is important to be calm and step back and be aware of your own feelings before responding, you will be much more likely to respond with calmness and purpose. Good communication and setting clear boundries will really help.

 

Work together

This will help to get everyone on the same page and get clear on those expectations and boundries without setting strict rules. By creating action plans and timetables for their work it will help them be more independent and stay on track.

Is their a project at home your kids would like to do with you throughout this time? When my son was poorly with ME we made a vivarium for his lizard.  My husband built it, with our son offering support mainly in a supervisory capacity! Then our son designed his vision for the vivarium and together we built it. It took much longer than we initially planned because he wasn’t well enough to do much in one go but it got us together, it involved lots of problem solving and gave him a purpose. He was really pleased with the end result.

During this lockdown our middle son has built perches and roost ramps for our chickens and is learning how to wire electrical circuits to support his latest science module at school. These types of activities are great for problem solving and solution focussed outcomes. Whatever they do make sure that you celebrate their achievements.

 

Be the anchor

In times of change this is really important that you are the constant in their lives, so much of what they are experiencing now is different – they can’t go to school, the clubs they attended are all closed, they can’t see their friends or even their grandparents. Their home has suddenly turned into a place of work. They need you to be your normal funny, annoying, kind, (insert you own adjectives here) selves. They don’t need to see you stressed out by the latest news bulletin or yelling at the TV when the education secretary starts talking about schools.

Keep your routines as normal as possible and aim to keep things familiar. When our son was sick some days he would make it downstairs and promptly fall fast asleep on the living room carpet, he was 12 and as big as me at this point so any attempts to carry him back to bed were long gone. Life carried on around him mostly. His brother in and out from the garden shouting. I even have an image of his little sister dancing round him watching a DVD of his performance in a street dance show the year before and copying all his moves. I clearly remember laughing at the irony. But, life had to go on for everyone else, and those routines and normality were even more important during our time of uncertainty.

 

Boy asleep on carpet with his dog, he has been home schooled long before the COVID lockdown due to ME

Choose health

You know your child best and what makes them tick and now more than ever this is going to be important. Think about how much sleep do they need? If they are teenagers and don’t have live lessons first thing in the morning, would they function better with an extra hour in bed? Are they better with an early night and are most productive in the mornings? Understanding when they work best and getting to grips with exactly what they need to do can revolutionise the way they spend their time and increase their productivity. Leaving them more time to have fun.

Do they need lots of snacks? Are the the type of kid that needs space? Do they thrive on the company of others? Do they need to run off steam outside? All three of my children are very different and they all have very different needs, partly due to their different ages but mostly because they are very different people.

Are their any fitness challenges that they would enjoy? Would they like to try a new sport at home? Could you get them moving by setting challenges within a sport they already love? Could you get them involved in the kitchen?

 

To Sum up 

Learning is way down the list of priorities during lockdown. I am sure that all of my children will get done what they need to however I see the six things that I have listed above as far more important. I know that if they are in place learning will happen easily.

When my son was first sick an I was in survival mode and I didn’t always get it right. When I relaxed and focussed on what was important – him! It made all the difference to his health – mentally and physically and to his learning.

I would love to hear the ways that you have thought of to have fun and work together with your kids throughout the COVID lockdowns. Share your ideas you never know you may see them and be inspired by you.

 

 

Would you like to know how to get the best out of having the kids home during another COVID lockdown

Having  your child or children home without the time to properly plan for this change may feel overwhelming.

Getting a schedule together, keeping everyone motivated, managing all the things you usually have to do and God forbid actually trying to work from home.

If your child has a health condition or disability there will be another level to all of this. Missed hospital appointments or tests causing stress and now the responsibility of physio, occupational therapy or speech and language therapy may now fall solely on your shoulders. Which, let’s face it, is likely to make you feel stressed, overwhelmed and alone.

Imagine having a best friend by your side, who has been through all the things that you are experiencing, feeling all the raw emotions and has the answers?

Together we will will focus on the areas where you feel that you need support and create a plan to support you. So, are you ready to start achieving the best outcomes for you and your child during lockdown?

Join The Community

The Thrive Tribe is a community of women who have chronic illness or are a parent to a child who has an illness or disability.

You may feel like no-one understands what its like living with your chronic illness or worrying everyday about your kids. That you are hanging on by a thread or the future may feel a little uncertain. In The Thrive Tribe we get that.

You value life and want to be the best version of you. To manage your symptoms effectively so that you can live your best life. Or, to support your children to live theirs.

In the community we will be having real, open conversations about how you can do this. With my experience of living with multiple chronic illness’ and raising kids with CMT, EDS, PoTS and ME. I know that the struggle is real. I will be sharing guidance, challenges, my personal tips and real life stories to remind you of how this can become a reality now!

 

How Self Compassion Helps To Combat Loneliness

How Self Compassion Helps To Combat Loneliness

I have written this article after being asked to share my thoughts on how self compassion can help with loneliness for the Podcast ‘How To Be…’ by the amazing Suswati Basu.

 

What self compassion means to me

Self compassion, put simply, is the ability to have self kindness in the face of failure and a realistic mindset where you don’t obsess over the negatives.

It can really support you to deal with difficult situations. So if you have chronic illness in your life, either for you or a loved one self compassion is going to be important to see you through the tough times.

Chronic illness aside, being a self compassionate person can enhance your overall life satisfaction and both your psychological and emotional wellbeing.

 

How does self compassion link with loneliness

The holiday season is typically a tough time for some and this year with the COVID pandemic and travel and social mixing restricted the issue of loneliness has been brought to the fore. We all recognise how essential social connection is for us as humans.

But, loneliness doesn’t always happen just because you are alone, it’s a feeling and is very personal so everyone’s experience of loneliness will be different. You can feel lonely in a room full of people because your need for social interaction is just not being met.

I know because the most alone I have ever felt in my life was when I was surrounded by my family and friends and a husband that adored me. It was a little after my son had become bed bound with M.E. (Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome).  I felt completely disconnected from the world in which I was living.  It was like I was going through the motions each day in some kind of outer body experience.

Practicing self compassion can counter some of the feelings of loneliness such as depression, anxiety, inadequacy or low self confidence. On the whole compassionate people generally have better social connections, it can help to reduce stress, lower anxiety and helps you cope with stressful life events. It certainly helped me when my son was ill.

 

What can you do to increase self compassion?

There are some things that you can start to do today to improve your self compassion. The more you practice the easier it will become as new neural pathways are formed in the brain. It’s like training a muscle, the more you work it the stronger it gets.

1. The first is to really acknowledge your feelings and think them through – meet those feelings with compassion but don’t let them consume you.  Try planning something fun to look forward to, do something positive (no matter how small) to move you away from any negative thoughts or feelings.  Allow your feelings but allow fun too.

2. Make sure that you prioritise self-care – this can range from a simple walk outside in nature to sitting and just being with your favourite hot drink and a book, whatever works for you.

3. Mindfulness is really helpful to reconnect you with the present moment – you can often feel disconnected because you are in a place of judgement about yourself or others. Practicing mindfulness will help you feel calm and respond with a greater awareness and perception.

4. Stop comparing yourself to others, your life is your life – it’s your journey no one else’s. Constant comparisons just lead to resentment and deprive you of joy. Your gifts and talents, successes, contributions, and value are entirely unique to you and your purpose in this world. They can never be properly compared to anyone else.

5. Interact with friends or family to improve your relationships and if that’s hard, start with the relationship that you have with yourself.  When that improves your relationships with others will.

6. Finally and one of the most important things to do is to give yourself the same compassion that you would a really good friend, including how you talk to yourself.  Be kind to yourself first.

 

Join The Community

The Thrive Tribe is a safe place for women with long term, chronic illness or disability (or those who are carers of kids with chronic illness). It is a space to be you, to be honest that you want more than this, to be honest about not knowing how to start. A place where we can lift each other up and support each other. Where you can share your story and where we can inspire each other with our wins.  It’s about understanding that life can be tough but also that we can do hard things. About recognising your own unique superpowers! To feel like you belong in a community that has your back.

The Giveaway

This month if you join The Thrive Tribe I am offering you the chance to win 1 hour 1:1 private NLP coaching with me, to be taken in January.  All you have to do is follow the link below and join the group! See you over there 🙂

Join The Tribe Here

 

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