Surviving a Crash When You Have a Chronic Illness
When you live with chronic illness ‘crashes’ are inevitable no matter how hard you try to avoid them.
Getting the balance between doing too much or too little is like walking a tightrope. Mostly for me a crash comes when I do too much for too long. I’m not stupid and I have lived with this for long enough to recognise the subtle signs that my body gives me, trying to warn me to slow down, to take a breath, to re-charge. However more often than not I ignore them.
Why do I do this?!? Is it a conscious decision? To be completely honest I’m not sure. I really should know better, burying my head in the sand and pretending that everything is OK will not make this go away. The only way to avoid a monumental crash is to listen to my body and treat it with respect. To manage, to pace and to keep all the plates spinning delicately in the air.
The reality is that this doesn’t always happen.
6 Signs that a crash is coming
Here are the top 5 ways to spot a crash is on its way and try to do something about it before it floors you. Hopefully by recognising the signs and acting on them a crash can be lessened or avoided.
- A really big appetite. For a few days before a crash hits it is like my body needs extra fuel, I often crave sweet, empty carbs.
- Being teary. From crying at Countryfile’s stories promoting the big Ramble for Children in Need watching the Undateables (I love a happy ending) to welling up when I have to ask my kids to do their H.W. for the 11th time.
- Brain fog. Why did I want to put the milk away in the oven? I have to think extra hard when I’m doing something as I lose my train of thought really quickly. Focusing on reading is impossible and I forget why I have walked into a room in the first place.
- Being cold. I can’t regulate my body temperature at the best of times but when a crash is coming I’m cold all the time.
- Breathlessness. From walking to the kitchen to pop the kettle on to sitting and having a conversation.
- Poor sleep. When a crash is coming I become tired but wired.
6 Things to do to minimise a crash
- Rest. Simple to say but impossible to actually put into practice when you have demands placed on you from family, friends, work or study. Resting completely it is the best way to stop the crash getting worse. Rest now.
- Act immediately. When you know (and in my case finally admit to yourself) that a crash is coming you have to stop. The sooner the act the easier that it is to minimise the fallout. I have been at my poorliest when I have pushed and pushed through.
- Delegate. You are not invincible and not everything is ‘your job’. My problem is that my family don’t always do the things that I ask them to do a) to my standard, or, b) the second I ask them to do it – which just stresses me out! but I have to learn that the house will not fall down and I will become well much quicker if I let them help. And it’s never a bad idea to organise my lazy kids with some chores
- Prepare. Think ahead – A little time spent planning things in advance can save heaps of energy later. From online shopping to planning your tasks and energy over a week. If you have something unavoidable to do plan good rest before and after.
- Ask for help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help, yet it is the thing I struggle the most with. Start with those people that you know best and that love you dearly. You might be surprised at how willing they are to lend a hand – I always am. From doing the school run for you or making dinner to doing the ironing. Think about what will help you the most and if people offer without you having to ask, say YES!!!
- Pace yourself. To get over a crash pacing is key and pulling back from non essential activities will help you to recover more quickly. I try to look ahead for a few weeks and plan my energy levels: I never have two busy days in a row, I plan plenty of time to recover from activities, I cancel non-essential activities or appointments and I only socialise with people that make my heart jump or if it’s something I’m really looking forward to.
I hope it helps you to recognise and act on the warning signs that a crash may be brewing, and to get back to normal more quickly (whatever normal is)!