Chronic Illness · Exercise · Food · PCOS · Stress Management · Tips

A Round-up of PCOS Tips

I was a little torn with whether to write this PCOS post today, but as you can see I have decided to persevere. The reason I was torn was because my own PCOS diagnosis over the last few weeks has been sketchy to say the least.

I was diagnosed with PCOS several years ago now (you can read previous post here) and I have struggled on with the many symptoms attached to the condition. Some of my symptoms have ‘altered’ I guess in more recent times, however the majority of them are still riding strong. Nevertheless, my GP is now questioning whether the diagnosis was right after all.

I have been back and forth down this path with doctors’ for the majority of my conditions, so why would my PCOS be any different? It is just frustrating more than anything, I know my symptoms are PCOS, so what does this mean? Is it something different? Is there something additional? Or will it be chalked up as nothing at all, taking me back to square one.

Regardless of the outcome, I wanted to share with you the top tips I have discovered over the years regarding the world of PCOS. These are centred around the chronic illness favourites – Food, Exercise and Stress.

Disclaimer- As always please note I am not a doctor, so you should always check with a health professional before trying any new tips.

Food

Diet is important with regards to PCOS for a number of reasons including regulating insulin levels and PCOS related weight gain. Due to other symptoms linked to other conditions I have always struggled getting a good balance with my diet. Several years ago I was three stone heavier than I am now, and weight loss was a very slow process for me. However, I believe it was this slow process that has enabled me to keep the weight off and more importantly not be a fluke. That is why I work on the opinion moderation is key and that making small changes will inevitably lead to bigger ones in the long-term. Small changes to make could include:

  • Eat enough protein
  • Eat little and often
  • Up fruit and veg portions
  • Choose whole foods as much as possible e.g. brown rice, wholemeal bread
  • Reduce caffeine
  • Find things to distract your cravings
  • Drinking water when you are hungry to see if you are indeed hungry or actually thirsty
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Exercise

This section I have to confess is very much based on things I have read rather than done myself. Not because I am lazy or am dismissive of exercise, but because living with ME vigorous exercise is something I am not able to do at this moment in time. My exercise consists of an extremely short walk every few days nevertheless, if you are able to exercise here are some small tips:

  • Try aerobic exercise e.g. jogging, cycling, dancing, swimming, exercise class, walking (I wonder if walking at the speed of a tortoise counts – just saying!)
  • Try to exercise 30 mins a day
  • Find an exercise you enjoy that way you are less likely to give up
  • Make sure you are properly hydrated
  • Be realistic with what you can do and the goals that you set
  • Take breaks and have rest days – remember it is a marathon not a sprint!

Stress

Let’s face it stress is something that is around us most of the time – especially in this modern day climate. It is also something we should be mindful of regardless of what condition we are battling. However, the often unwanted symptoms of PCOS can raise those stress levels significantly causing us additional problems of anxiety and in some cases depression. Tips in combating stress include:

  • Practising meditation, muscle relaxation, mindfulness techniques
  • Getting a good nights sleep
  • Exercise
  • Mindful eating
  • Alternative therapies such as massage, reflexology, aromatherapy
  • Positive thinking (easier said than done I know, but reading up on such theories may be helpful)
  • Counselling
  • Finding a support group

For other stress management tips read my previous article here on managing stress at home and here for managing modern day stress.

For more PCOS symptom related tips check out my symptom of the week post on unwanted/excessive hair growth here and my symptom of the week post on oily skin/acne here.

I hope these tips are somewhat helpful to anyone dealing with the symptoms of PCOS. I know a lot of them are quite generic and trust me I know how annoying this can be, but unfortunately there is no fix me button anywhere. If there was I would have been first in the queue to press it.

I would love to hear if anyone else has any tips they would like to add, or maybe any part of their PCOS journey they would like to share.

Sarah xx

Christmas · Chronic Illness · Outfits · Tips

Chronic Illness Friendly Christmas Outfit Ideas

As we head into the month of December, I can safety say I am getting in the festive mood. Films have been selected (see my top picks here), activities decided (see my Christmas activities post here), and gift ideas are taking shape (check out my low energy/low cost ideas here). All of which have of course been taking into consideration my Christmas on a budget chronic illness lifestyle (see post here).

Next on the list is what to wear. What to wear over Christmas really isn’t a major deal, clothes are clothes at the end of the day. I personally am not going to be going anywhere for Christmas, nor will I be having visitors making it probably matter even less. Even so, Christmas is one of the few times of year I really look forward to and therefore I want to feel I am getting in the spirit regardless.

Getting ‘dressed up’ for the festive season doesn’t necessarily mean dressing up in the traditional sense and it certainly doesn’t mean spending money. It can be as simple as pulling something out of your wardrobe you have wanted to wear for a while, embracing your favourite hoodie, or wearing some jazzy accessories. The key factor is do what makes you feel happy and most of all what makes you feel comfortable.

Clothing idea number 1 – Anything (and I mean anything) that screams Christmas!

I am a Christmas fanatic plain and simple, and I love anything that has xmassy designs on. Think jumpers, t-shirts, shirts, dresses, ties, even socks – the list these days is endless. The best thing being that most of these items – especially the classic Christmas jumper – can be worn dressed ‘down’ yet still make you feel you have made an effort and gotten into the festive celebrations.

Clothing idea number 2 – Pyjamas or Onesies

Xmas is definitely that time of year where you have the perfect excuse to wear your best chronic illness outfit without any shame – enter the humble onesie and/or pyjamas. Most people chronically ill or not spend at least some time over this period in some sort of nightwear – right? Ok, just me then! Either way, they are incredibly comfy and warm, require zero effort and are the perfect outfit to zonk out in front of the telly with a chocolate or two.

Clothing idea number 3 – Loungewear

Whilst similar to option 2, loungewear is ideal for those of us who don’t like the idea of sitting around in a PJs or a big reindeer onesie when they are with others. Again loungewear can be incredibly comfy and relaxed, but add maybe a bit more glam to your look than a big old T-shirt. Think sweatshirts, hoodies, jogging bottoms and chunky cardigans. Mix and match different colours and styles or go matchy-matchy for a more put together look.

Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

Clothing idea number 4 – Loose fitted items

Ok, I am sure there are some people out there who are not impressed by my ideas so far. Because having chronic illness doesn’t stop people wanting to make an effort and feel like everyone else whilst celebrating. I hear you, in fact for me I tend to ‘dress-up’ more on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve regardless of my symptoms – even if it is to sit in the house – and then dress comfy for all the time in-between. However, even if I am throwing on an actual outfit I always make sure to pick loose fitted items with stretchy waistbands and temperature sensitive materials. Expanded stomachs and digestion issues don’t stop because it’s Christmas day – if anything it can be worse! PCOS sweats combined with Raynaud’s chills don’t quit because it’s the season to be jolly. Therefore, always pick items that you know will be suited to your body’s individual needs and be confident you can still look amazing!

Clothing idea number 5 – Accessories

Regardless of what you have or have not decided to wear, know that any outfit can be completely made by the accessories you rock. Whether that be a pair of jazzy tights, a pair of cute earrings or a pop of colour on your lips, one simple item can help to make you feel magical even if you don’t feel it inside. If all else fails, stick on a Santa’s hat and be done with it!

Here we have it my chronic illness friendly Christmas outfit ideas. Of course, nobody is under any obligation to wear any specific item to get into the festive spirit – Christmas means different things to us all and therefore so is how we choose to spend it.

Remember you can share your own outfit ideas in the comments below. Do you tend to veer for more casual looks or smarter options? Oh, and anyone who would like to share their Christmas jumper picks this year, I am all ears!

Sarah xxx

Activities · Budget · Christmas · Chronic Illness · Tips

Christmas on a Budget

It’s that time of year again folks – it is Christmas blog post time.

Christmas of course, is a different experience for us all and there are many people who do not celebrate this particular holiday. Even for the people that do finances can always be a thorn in the side especially within the chronic illness community. Many chronically ill people are not able to work, and even if they do it is not necessarily full time, therefore having excess funds to spend on Christmas is a big ask.

This doesn’t mean however, we shouldn’t be able to enjoy the holidays if that is what we choose to do. So today I thought I would share with you my top tips on how to celebrate Christmas when on a budget.

Presents /Gifts

  • Set your limit – My first tip when it comes to gift buying is to set a present limit with your friends and family. By telling your loved ones you have a limit this year you are giving them a chance to choose if they too want to match your limit so there are no awkward feelings when the swap comes. Of course, people may still choose to spend more on you, but that is their choice, you are under no obligation to do the same. Set your price point for each person and stick to it.
  • Make gifts – If spending significant money is too much of an ask, then why not think about making a gift instead. You could buy a batch of crafting materials relatively cheap and make everyone the same gift, altering it slightly to match people’s individual personalities. Handmade gifts are a lovely way to express kindness to your loved ones, and are unique to you. For low cost/low energy gift ideas for others check my previous blog here.
  • Send e-cards – Writing out Christmas cards can be a laborious task for any person and they can be costly – especially if you are posting them out. Nowadays, there are many websites where you can create e-cards, many for free – all you need to do is email them.

Decorations

  • Organise a switch and swap – Do you feel sick of using the same ideas every year for your décor? Then one idea would be to switch and swap with others whereby you give them an item (or multiple items) that you no longer want in return for an item or items they no longer want. You could totally transform your winter wonderland without having to spend a single penny. (This is also an idea you can use with unwanted presents.)
Photo by Lucie Liz on Pexels.com
  • Buy reusable items – If you really need to make purchases always look to buy items that can be used year on year. Whilst this may get boring it means you are doing your bit for the planet, as well as your bit for your bank account.
  • Take to discount stores/charity shops – Don’t always believe you need to go to big branded shops or websites to buy ‘quality’ items – they are many beautiful, well-made and more importantly bargain items for Christmas in discount and/or charity shops.

Food

  • Plan your meals – Although Christmas day is indeed one day, there are 12 days of Christmas and therefore an added pressure to splurge out on many festive favourites. With this said there is no set rule to say you need to eat this on Christmas day or that on New Years Eve – think what is realistic for you. Maybe eating your normal meals with one or two added treats thrown in is more appropriate, and by planning your meals you are less likely to go off course when it comes to food shopping.
  • Choose cheaper brands – Depending where you are in the world there are now many ‘cheaper’ supermarkets around. Don’t be lured in by the luxurious adverts on TV, there are many tasty treats of value own products that will hit the spot just as much.
  • Make your own – One of the things I am always tempted by at Christmas time is all the sweet treats. Predominately cakes, cookies, desserts – trust me the list goes on. These bought individually however, are extremely pricey. So why not make your own, the raw ingredients will be cheaper and will probably go further, and it is a great bit of fun to have along the way.

Other Things to Consider

  • Things to do – Finding activities to do at Christmas is exhausting for chronic illness sufferers anyway, finding low cost activities can be even harder. Check out my previous post here on my top 5 Christmas Activities for Chronic Illness Warriors. For Christmas film ideas why not read my suggestions here.

Final Tip

My final and probably most important tip about spending Christmas on a budget is to be honest not only to others, but yourself too. Evaluate your circumstances and remember Christmas itself is one day. The season is about so much more than money or possessions, it is about being kind, and that includes being kind to yourself.

What tips can you offer to people on a budget this year? How will you be spending the festive season?

Sarah xx

Activities · Chronic Illness · Hobbies · Mental Health · Online · Tips

Interactive Online Activities – My Top Picks

Life for a chronically ill/disabled person can be extremely lonely, especially if you are like myself and spend the majority of your life at home, stuck indoors. Of course the last 18 months or so, the world has become more accessible online with many an activity just a few clicks of a button or touch screen away.

The thing is whilst the world may be opening back up to various degrees, for many of of us who are chronically ill/disabled, nothing changes. Outdoor socialising isn’t an easy feat, and a lot of the time isn’t practical due to symptoms and trying to stay safe in current times.

In one of my posts a few weeks ago, I touched upon the use of interactive online activities as a source of meeting new people and staying connected and today I wanted to share my top activities to do online.

Before we continue though I have to say since deciding to write this blog post a few weeks ago, I am rather disappointed to see how many activities which were online through lockdown, have been dramatically dropped and replaced in favour of real-life meets. Yet again that chance to make the world more accessible seems to have missed it’s mark and as a result chronically ill/disabled people are missing out.

Nevertheless, there are online activities out there – they just take some finding and a lot of patience! As well as some basic online searches I would also recommend looking through your local libraries, (I am really happy to see that my local one has kept up it’s online groups to support the most vulnerable in the community), and through resources such as EventBrite. If there are any online things you were part of before, or were something you would of be interested in, that have now disappeared – why not reach out and ask why? Whether they get them up and running again is one thing, but at least you can make them think about accessibility and the importance for everyone to be included.

Photo by Marcus Aurelius on Pexels.com

Online Activity 1 – Support Groups

Depending on your specific condition and the advice you have access to, you may find specific charities or online communities now run online zoom support groups. This can be a great way to connect with people who have the same or similar conditions as you, and provide a network of people experiencing the same struggles (and of course triumphs).

If a group scenario is not your thing, remember there may always be an option of 1:1 sessions, or if you need support with your mental health online professional counselling could be a great alternative.

If you can’t find support groups in your specific condition, you could always reach out to charities directly and ask if they offer such services, or know of anywhere else that does. Still no luck? Why not reach out to others on social media who you may have made connections with and see if it would be something they would be interested in. It doesn’t even need to be in a speaking capacity – it could simply be making a time when you are online at the same time to swap messages and make meaningful connections. Please remember though never give out your personal details to strangers – even ones that appear friendly on the surface!

Online Activity 2 – Hobby Based Groups

We all have a hobby of some sorts no matter how obscure it may seem, and now with the use of online communications you can take part in them from the comfort of your own home, with some much appreciated company and helpful tips. Hobby groups can include:

  • Book clubs
  • Photography
  • Crafting
  • Gardening
  • Singing (with the sound off if preferred!) etc…

Online Activity 3 – Presentations, Lectures and Talks

Now I know that sitting and listening to somebody talking is a sure fire way of having some level of fatigue, but if it is something that interests you it may be more tolerable. Watching real-time lectures and talks can actually be a really good way of feeling connected especially if there is a way of asking questions at the end.

If it is too much however, remember that most of these things are recorded for you to view at a later date which would be more convenient in line with your symptoms and energy levels.

Talks could be about a variety of different topics including:

  • Travel – Discovering new places around the world from your sofa
  • Art – If you are an art fan like myself there are many online events/lectures provided through art gallery websites around a certain theme or painting
  • Disability/Chronic Illness
  • Study/Career Focused

Online Activity 4 – Quizzing

I am not much of a quizzer, but I do think quizzing is a great way of keeping our minds active and can be a great source of interaction. This can take place in the form of online board games playing against others, interactive pub quizzes or holiday themed challenges.

Online Activity 5 – Meditation/Mindfulness

Although meditation and mindfulness are very much solo events, you may find being in an -albeit quiet – group beneficial. This is because it can help to give you focus and motivation which you may lack trying to do it on your own. It can be especially helpful if the sessions are guided as it will help to focus the mind more easily and perhaps encourage discussion afterwards.

Here we have it my top picks for online interactive activities. On a slightly separate note I wanted to point out as an introvert, I really struggle engaging with others because of certain personality traits. This is only made harder by my chronic illnesses and the symptoms they bring. However the beauty of online engagement is I can be as present as I choose to be. Being online you can pick events that match your individual preferences with little interaction, you can turn off the audio or the picture if you don’t want to participate, and to be quite frank you can exit stage left if it gets too much. The point is it is an option if you need one.

What online activities do you like to participate in? Are they certain ones you would like to do, but haven’t found? Are there ones you would like to recommend or maybe you run an online group yourself and would like to share some details? Chronic friendly ideas would be much appreciated.

Sarah xx

Chronic Illness · Diagnosis · Hospital · Personal · Stress Management · Tips

My First Face to Face Hospital Visit Since Covid – and how it went

A few weeks ago I mentioned in my I Am Me: Positive Affirmations and Happiness Tips blog post (here), that I was preparing to go to hospital and today seemed a good time to share with you my experience of visiting a hospital for the first time since the pandemic started.

I wanted to share this blog post not only because I wanted to share my health journey, but because I wanted to help others like myself who may find their face to face appointments have started up again, and who are therefore scared at the prospect of attending, in the hope it can can give you some peace of mind with what is to come.

Firstly let me point out this is my experience at a hospital – this doesn’t mean you will have the same experience as me, and therefore you should contact your place of appointment with any concerns you may have.

The Last 16 Months

Like many people for the last 16 months or so, my consultations with my specialists have altered dramatically. In the early days of the pandemic the hospitals requested I had telephone appointments as opposed to my normal face to face ones, which provided major relief knowing I didn’t have to attend in person. During this time one of my newer conditions developed rather rapidly and I was placed on medication with more regular contact with the consultants, turning my review from every 6 months to 3. It was then they said they wanted to see me face to face.

Face to face appointments quite frankly filled me with absolute dread, I have hardly been out of my home for the past 16 months so the thought of going to hospital where there would be sick people was not something I was volunteering for. So, I kept putting it off and getting around it by changing them to phone appointments (which I managed to do for a while) until I had no choice but to go.

My Hospital Trip

The first obstacle for me in my hospital trip was getting to the hospital itself. I do not drive and neither do those close to me. To make matters worst I do not go to a hospital in my local area due to my requirements. So, it was organised that I would go in a community car – essentially like a taxi – which is run by volunteers and that you pay for, but who sit and wait for you in the car. My driver wore a mask which was reassuring on the long drive, as did I, then I got to the hospital.

It was rather strange turning up at a hospital and seeing so many people for the first time in over a year. I won’t lie, I was a little startled especially as some people were maskless on the walking up to the front doors, and instantly taking their masks off on their way out – no thought of the people coming towards them. Nevertheless, once inside the hospital there was a sanitiser station and masks you could take if you didn’t have one (maybe that was why there were people without them), and markings on the floor for a one way system.

Of course, my clinic couldn’t be on the first floor so I had to go in the lift (which luckily was empty), but nonetheless had markings on the floor to give you space and to face away from others if needed. Once inside my clinic there was another sanitiser station and the seating was for a max of 8 spaced out. Thus giving reasonable amounts of space away from other patients. The staff were all wearing masks as were the other patients, and people respected other peoples’ space without complaint.

Photo by Sandy Torchon on Pexels.com

I had felt really nervous going into the hospital, especially as I knew I would have to remove my mask in the appointment due to one of my symptoms, but I was surprised by how comfortable I was in the end due to the kindness of the staff and the patience of those around me. Probably my most uncomfortable part of the experience was going into the hospital and walking through the corridors (as there always has to be one or two who cannot follow simple instructions of a one way system!), but overall my stress levels subsided as the trip went on.

What I found helpful is my particular hospital (I am not sure if this is the case everywhere), had a video you could access online beforehand which showed you what to expect at the hospital – from the layout of the floor markings to the sanitiser points – which helped in showing me things were in place. If you have this facility, I would recommend using it just for peace of mind. I would also recommend taking your own sanitiser, face masks etc. because if you are like me it is nice to have your own things as a way of feeling prepared.

FYI – Make sure to check your face mask is the right type of mask to have in a hospital environment, so you don’t have to change when you get there.

My Health

So, while we are talking all things hospital, my appointment went well. Well as well as a chronic illness appointment where there is no cure can go. I have received another two diagnoses (woo hoo – I am collecting diagnoses like some people collect stamps!), and I am being sent for a scan and more bloods. Oh and a whole lot of monitoring!

At this moment in time I am not ready to discuss these new diagnoses. I think for now I would like to let this sink in for myself, because as much as social media and blogging may make you believe – you really don’t have to share everything.

Aside from some missing blood results and a lost letter to my GP (cannot wait to have to sort this out!), for me this was a good appointment. Not because I want these things to be the case, but because my suspicions were confirmed and therefore I am not losing my mind. But more than that my consultant listened and was kind and those things count for a lot. It really is something when you get to a point in your health where feeling listened to is all you want and need – it really makes the difference – now if only I could get my GP to do the same….

In conclusion..

The reason for this post today was to help anyone feeling anxious about any upcoming hospital visits to feel more positive and relaxed. I hope I could do that and show it is not half as scary as you might have first thought, but to recap..

  • See if there is any info online before you go such as videos to give you an idea of what to expect
  • Take your own bits and pieces such as hospital approved masks and sanitisers
  • Follow any guidelines
  • Practice those positive affirmations – see start of this post
  • Focus on what you are doing not everyone else! I didn’t mention this earlier, but I really think you need to remember the only person you can control is yourself. Don’t worry about what others are doing, just focus on what you need to do and that is more than enough!

I also wanted to take this moment to thank anyone who wished me well before my appointment – your kind words mean the world 🌍❤ !

Sarah xx

Chronic Illness · Dating · Single Life · Single Life Series · Symptoms · Tips

Chronic Illness and the Single Life Series – The Challenges of Dating – Part 2

It’s another week and another blog post, and today we are continuing with our single life series and part 2 of the challenges of dating. For anyone who missed part 1 you can find it here.

Last time we covered the challenges of how to find a date and when to tell someone about your illness, this time we are looking at the challenge of how to handle a date and how to manage symptoms when on a date.

Challenge 3 – Handling a date

So you have secured a date (well done you), and you may or may not have made them aware of your condition/s, but now you have the tricky task of getting through the date, symptoms and all. The problem with a first date is it can be stressful whether you realise it or not, and the problem with chronic illness is the fact it loves to feed off stress. You may be thinking well what is the point then, but you really shouldn’t allow this to put you off.

Probably the most stressful part of a date is the fear of the unknown, the loss of control in knowing what is to come, so why not take back some of the control and take the lead in the actual date planning yourself. By taking the lead in planning your date you can be prepared for any potential issues that may arise and try to work around them before they happen. Going forward once you are more comfortable with your date and vice versa you can let them take more of the reins as hopefully the stress will subside, and they will understand your needs better.

By planning the date yourself you can look at factors which are more inline with what your chronic illness requirements are. Do you find your energy dips as the day goes on? Then opt for a daytime date. Are your pain levels high? Then choose an activity where you are sitting down. Feeling lethargic? Then sitting in a warm indoor environment probably won’t help, so why not suggest going for a gentle walk? Is eating a problem? Why not plan around that incorporating or leaving out food depending on your needs? Personally for me I have digestion issues so eating whilst stressed is not a great idea when I get mega bloating, but equally I have several times a day where I have to take medication with food, so maybe a snack rather than a four course meal would be a good middle ground.

I want to also point out that with current Covid times it is not possible for everyone to just go out on a date. I would class myself as one of those people, yet this doesn’t mean you or I need to miss out. As I mentioned in my last post there are many interactive things you can do online, or simply having a virtual date over video chat is more than enough. You can even set the scene to how you would like it – all from the comfort of your own home. Alternatively if you want to meet in person (and it is safe to) opt for outdoor settings still basing it on your needs.

Another key element to handling a date is to set yourself a time limit. Now you can choose to tell the other person this or just keep it to yourself to give yourself a target. Give yourself a realistic timescale based on how much energy you think you will use and try to bring it to a close before it gets too much. But most importantly stick to it! It can be difficult when you are getting on with someone to want to leave, but if you know your body needs it there is no harm in making sure it finishes when you planned it to. Plus, if you like each other that won’t matter in the long run as all you need to do is arrange to speak again.

Of course, as with all things it is personal choice – our bodies are all different and we all tolerate things at different levels. You may feel the payback is worth it or equally you may want to end the date even sooner than you planned due to any aggravating symptoms – there is no right or wrong.

Challenge 4 – Managing symptoms on a date

Let’s be honest for a minute – you can plan, plan, plan and still be symptom overloaded. So, what if this happens? My suggestions are as follows:

  • Do a bit more planning (ahhh! This is never-ending!), and try to rest up the day before, and prior to the date
  • Take any aids you need with you on the date e.g. medications
  • Research menus if in a scenario where you will be eating
Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels.com
  • Take time out on your own – Just because you are on a date doesn’t mean you have to be glued to them, you can take some time to regroup if you need time on your own. Make excuses to go to the bathroom, or take a phone call, or if online move away from the screen and have a breather
  • Practice relaxation techniques – This is hugely dependent on the symptom bothering you, but you may find practicing mindfulness and meditation helpful
  • Alternate between standing and sitting – Mixing up the activities on your date may help with symptoms such as tiredness and pain
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Keep snacks and drinks to hand – This can be helpful with nausea, dizziness and blood pressure issues
  • Cut the date short – If symptoms are too much there is no shame in cutting it short. Let’s be honest this is probably way better than carrying on and leaving an impression you are not interested because you are too distracted
  • Be honest – This is probably the thing that will benefit you the most in a dating scenario. Because let’s face it, it is obvious when someone isn’t enjoying themselves and unless you are a A-list actor you will probably have it written all over your face, and if you like them you really don’t want them thinking it is because of them. Being honest also allows your date to really understand not only you as a person, but your illnesses too. As cliched as this sounds you will know if they are the right one for you because they will be the one who accepts all of you – chronic illness and all – and they will be the one who sticks around long after a symptom filled date!

Here we have it my final challenges of dating with chronic illness. I hope you found this posts helpful and that they resonate with those of you who are single pringles like myself. This isn’t the end of the single life series as I would like to share further posts of my own experiences of the single life with chronic illnesses, and more posts surrounding dating, relationships, body changes and sex – so stay tuned. If there are any topics you would like me to cover in this series, as always just let me know.

Sarah xx

Activities · Happiness · Mental Health · Positive Affirmations · Self-Esteem · Stress Management · Tips

I Am Me: Positive Affirmations and Happiness Tips

Today’s blog post is a little different from what I had originally planned. This is because the last week or so for me has been filled with many days of illness and symptom flare-ups, and therefore today I wanted to do a post that was simple yet positive.

In addition next week is my first face to face appointment at the hospital since the pandemic and I need this week to be as relaxing as possible. These things combined have inspired my topic for this week: Positive Affirmations.

Positive Affirmations are statements that have meaning. People use them for a number of different reasons including to motivate, to encourage, to inspire, to be happy, to heal and to change the way they think and feel. Positive affirmations are also believed to rewire the brain as they work to challenge any negative thought processes we may be harbouring.

Traditionally affirmations are said repeatedly aloud or inside your head. They are often short, used in the present tense, include the word ‘I’ and are of course of a positive nature! Examples include:

  • I am happy
  • I am confident
  • I am strong

Needless to say you don’t need to stick with tradition, you can say them to yourself whilst looking in the mirror, you could write them down, you can use them in longer sentences – in any way that makes them meaningful to you. The only suggestion I would make is you keep them positive and that you make them in the present tense because after all it is about feeling good in the moment – not in a months time. Examples could include:

  • Today is going to be a great day
  • I stand up for what I believe in
  • I can become anything I put my mind to
Photo by Binti Malu on Pexels.com

In line with the fact I have hospital next week I thought I would share some of my own positive affirmations to prepare me for what is to come.

  • I am calm
  • I am worthy of good health
  • I am important and therefore will be listened to
  • I love my body

In addition to affirmations I am going to spend the week finding little pockets of happiness to pick me up from the week I have just had, and to keep my mind productive knowing what’s to come. It sounds strange, but sometimes I think how do you make yourself happy? What constitutes as happiness? Here are some ideas:

  • Write a gratitude list – For more on gratitude lists read my previous blog post here
  • Better sleep
  • Get outside – Even if this is just sitting at your door or window.
  • Smile
  • Laugh – It’s difficult to just roll around laughing, but even watching some funny videos or programmes can help to realise some feel good hormones.
  • Treat yourself
  • Practise kindness – Do something nice for someone else if you struggle being nice to yourself.
  • Embrace the small things
  • Exercise – Highly debatable with certain chronic illnesses!
  • Keep learning
  • Do something you love – This doesn’t have to be major, something as small as having a cup of tea or a bath is more than enough.

Here we have it my list of happiness inducing ideas and positive affirmations. If you have any affirmations you would like to share I would love to hear them.

Sarah xx

Chronic Illness · Dating · Single Life · Single Life Series · Tips

Chronic Illness and the Single Life Series – The Challenges of Dating

Another social media notification of yet another university friend getting married – woo hoo! I think this now makes me one of the only remaining singletons of the people I grew up with. Of course there is nothing wrong with being single, singledom definitely has it’s perks, and there are many an individual who have no desire whatsoever to be in a relationship, but what if you have?

In this modern world of dating there are many formats when it comes to being in a relationship. There is also a strong sense of not needing to be in a relationship to be happy. That is all great and I fly the single flag for all the singletons out there, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to experience one myself.

I am in my early thirties and I can count on one hand the amount of ‘relationships’ I have had in my life. Quality always tops quantity, but the problem is I haven’t had quality either. Part of this was because when I was younger I thought I would have all the time in the world to meet someone, and then I became ill. Being in your mid-twenties and feeling so terrible, quite quickly puts a stopper on all things social and as a result meeting anybody new. I guess as well as dealing with my symptoms, I was waiting for that day when I would suddenly feel better, which of course never came. Before I knew it a lack of dating went from months to years and as I now know I will never get better, it leads to the question how and when am I going to meet someone.

Putting aside the recent times of Covid, dating is difficult, even for non-chronically ill people, but being ill adds that extra level of pressure. From experiencing symptoms on a date, to knowing when and how you tell your date about your chronic illness life – there are many a challenge to have to contend with…

Challenge 1 – Where to find a date

As we have established being chronically ill equals not being particularly social (or in my case, not social ever!) so one of the most popular options for modern day dating is the internet. Internet dating is a very hit and miss scenario – I know people who have met their husbands/wives on dating sites and equally I know people who have only met idiots. My experience has been filled with not so great people, I even had one guy change his dating profile after speaking to me so it read that he was ‘looking for someone healthy.’ What a gent! Even without mentioning my illnesses though I found trawling through profiles incredibly draining and would find myself exhausted. But like I said it does work for some! If internet dating does appeal to you, but the type of sites you are using are not working then how about trying disabled dating sites instead. Disabled dating allegedly cater for both disabled and non-disabled people, but the beauty of sites like this is people are more likely to be accepting of your situation and that awkward conversation hopefully becomes less so.

Another option would to be to a date through others. This can be difficult if you don’t have many pals, but if you are lucky enough to have matchmaking friends this could save you the stress of trying to find a date yourself. Hopefully your friend would know you well enough to know the right type of person for you too!

Option three would be meeting someone through an activity you enjoy to establish a joint interest from the get go. Now I for one know how difficult this is with not only chronic illness, but also Covid and as someone who hasn’t be out their home for anything other than medical appointments and short walks for the last 16 months – this isn’t easy. One way of doing this would be to find interactive events online (hopefully such things will be accessible after restrictions ease) and to engage with these. Obviously these won’t be designed for dating, but it will help in building your confidence with talking to others in an environment in which you will be comfortable. Keep an eye out for upcoming posts in which I talk about different interactive hobby ideas.

Staying on the interactive theme for dating I have recently discovered such a thing as online speed dating. This could be a great way in ciphering through the rubbish without having to trawl through tedious profiles, all whilst staying in the comfort of your own home. Of course this could be extremely fatigue inducing, but it is a worthwhile option nevertheless and definitely something I will be considering going forward.

Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

Challenge 2 – When to tell someone about your illness

This is a very personal and individual choice that only you can decide. Do you get it out in the open from the get go, or do you wait until you feel comfortable enough with someone in the hope they will understand better? Of course depending on our specific chronic conditions ‘hiding’ it to begin with may not be an option based on our symptoms and condition management.

I have had experiences where I have leapt in and revealed my situation early on and was then ridiculed for it, and equally kept it to myself and was looked upon as not being honest.

I think sometimes it is a case of sussing somebody’s personality and what their values are in life. It is also important to know what they want from life too and whether that aligns with what you want. If someone is looking for a party buddy who wants to go out every night of the week, it’s probably a no go – I’ll be too busy sleeping! That said I think initial chatting (online or other) can be a great way to find out if this is somebody you feel comfortable with and moving forward divulge more details about your chronic illness.

Some people may not be comfortable with this, but the problem about chronic illness is the fact it is just that – chronic. It isn’t going anywhere, or at least not anytime soon, therefore it is part of our lives whether we like it or not. This only signifies the importance of finding someone understanding and accepting even more so.

Like with most things in a chronic illness life there are downsides to dating and sometimes this can rear it’s ugly head in the form of telling someone about your condition/s. As I mentioned earlier I have had people drop me quite quickly after hearing about my health (enter the knob who changed his profile) and I have been judged with all the usual flattering comments – ‘But, you don’t look ill,’ ‘Are you better yet?’ – That is always a fav, like I am going to awake one morning and it will be like nothing ever happened. The sad thing about dating, chronically ill or not, is that not everyone can like everyone and therefore people can and will judge. Sometimes you can bare your soul and sometimes the response you get may not be the one you want.

Saying that it is also about giving people a chance, not everyone you meet will be a grade A ****head. People can surprise you. Sometimes it is about taking a risk and putting yourself out there. It’s also about being honest about your illness and how it affects your life, but pointing out it is not your life. Sometimes when we are ill, it can be hard to see anything else in life, but we are more than an illness and sometimes it is about reminding ourselves of that not just potential partners.

So, our first two dating challenges are down – more to come in the part 2 instalment. FYI – The part 2 instalment is now available here. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with reading (and writing) big blog posts, so I thought on this occasion I would split this into two sections. Next time we shall focus on the challenges of handling a date and managing symptoms on a date. Make sure to follow the blog or my social media to look out for the next part and if there are any particular challenges you would like me to feature – make sure you let me know!

Sarah xx

Chronic Illness · Fibromyalgia · Heat · Summer · Tips · UCTD

The Downsides to Summer Heat When You Have a Chronic Illness

I feel a slight fraud writing about summer heat when the rain has been pouring down for the last few days. Even so we are now approaching the summer months and whilst many people up and down the country welcome the hot weather, for many with chronic illnesses the heat can be a nightmare.

For some people the summer heat can bring on flare-ups and introduce many unwanted symptoms. You may find the heat actually improves some conditions, but of course this will vary from person to person. However, for those of us who find heat a problem this can manifest in a number of ways including:

  • Increased fatigue
  • Increased pain
  • Dizziness
  • Sensitivities to sunlight
  • Overheating of body
  • Finding it harder to breathe
  • Increase in Hay fever/Allergens
  • Nausea
  • Irritation of skin
  • Struggling to sleep
  • Headaches

So, how can we prepare ourselves for the summer heat?

As we know by now chronic illness symptoms are often out of our control, even in the best of times, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do all we can to minimise these effects and try to help ourselves along the way. Remember you don’t need to be sunning yourself on a beach to have heat affect you – even sitting indoors at home when the hot weather hits can be a challenge!

My top tips for staying a cool cat in the hot heat are:

  • Stay hydrated – This is probably a no-brainer, but for someone like me with gastro issues it can be really difficult to keep drinking. Nevertheless, staying hydrated in hot weather is so important when you are sweating more to stop you becoming dehydrated. Dehydration can increase dizziness, headaches and other nasty symptoms, so remember to carry a bottle with you even around the house so you can keep having a sip.
  • Pick your outfits accordingly – When the weather is hot we want to be paying attention to our fabric choices to minimise excess heat. Fabrics such as cotton or linen are ideal in warmer weather as they are lightweight and breathable. For people who are sun sensitive remember to wear long sleeved garments and coverings to protect your skin from the sun.
  • Go indoors – Being a chronically ill person you are probably used to staying indoors and when it comes to the summer heat this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As a general rule you should aim to stay inside during the hottest points of the day when the sun/heat can do the most damage.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com
  • Stay protected – If you have no choice to be out in the sun – always remember to wear sunscreen with a high factor, protect your eyes with UV protection sunglasses and protect your self from brightness by wearing a wide rimmed hat or putting up an umbrella.
  • Eat well – As well as drinking lots, eating is important too to help with our blood sugars. Heat can make our appetites decrease, so make sure in the times you do eat your eating nutritional food that is easy to digest and has high fluid content (to help with hydration).
  • Invest in cooling products – Take advantage of any deals you find on products that will help with keeping you cool. For example portable and/or room fans, cooling pillows, cooling packs, neck fans, sunshades for windows, water bottles, facial sprays, cooling towels, neck wraps etc. For those on a budget there are many DIY things you can make yourself to keep the heat at bay. Even wetting a towel may be helpful!
  • Listen to your body and know when enough is enough – The summer months always put a smile on people’s faces, and because of this happiness it can be hard to listen to a body that is screaming for you to stop. But, unfortunately summer doesn’t mean you can ignore what your body needs. Don’t take your lead from others, listen to your own requirements to keep as well as can be, and weigh up the pros and cons to any situation you are in. Rest is so important in the summer, so don’t forget to factor this into your day as much as everything else.

Here we are everyone, my top tips to staying cool in the summer heat. Like I said before, specific conditions are extremely problematic in hot weather and there is not a great deal that will change about that, but hopefully having some preparation will make it more manageable.

What do you find helps you in the summer months?

Sarah xx

Awareness · Chronic Illness · Fibromyalgia · ME/CFS · Mental Health · Tips

The Month of May – Awareness Days/Weeks

Wow the month of May really is a busy one when it comes to awareness events. Especially when three of your conditions have their awareness days all in the same week, the same day even!

We have Fibromyalgia awareness day on 12th and depending on where you are in the world for the whole of May. M.E awareness day again on 12th and awareness week 9th -15th (Updated for 2022) . Finally, Mental Health week from 9th-15th May. (Updated for 2022).

For more information on living with each condition – check out my previous blogs posts here: Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS and Mental Health.

Why are awareness days significant?

Many people would argue that technically awareness of conditions should be something that is happening all year round and not just at a particular time of year, and I would agree. However, awareness days are great for a number of reasons too.

Firstly, they help you to engage with others with the same conditions as you come together to get the word out.

Secondly, when there is an influx of information on social media things are more likely to be seen and read rather than be dismissed, with the hope to educate others.

Thirdly, it can help to reach people who may be struggling and give a sense of community.

Finally, they can hopefully help to raise some much needed money for the charities that help us the most.

The downsides to awareness days

As someone with a chronic illness you can often feel an overwhelming pressure to fly the flag for your particular condition, like it’s your duty. When you blog about chronic illness, you can feel an obligation to do something to show support.

This year I started out with vigour, researching what different charities were doing for the day/week (online of course), and made a conscious decision that I would show my support with various ones in order to represent all three of my conditions. All it would take was sharing a few social media posts each day, and completing a few ways to wellness activities (mental health related).

Day 1 was great, I felt positive and productive and by day 2 I crashed. A mere two days in!! To begin with I couldn’t understand this overwhelming fatigue – sure I am used to it happening, but usually I have an idea why. Then it hit me – it was the awareness planning. Not necessarily the tweets themselves, but the planning of what to write, accessing templates, when to send them, and the fact I was trying to do it for three separate conditions.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

It was this moment I decided I had no choice, but to scale back. Still show my support yes, (luckily I had scheduled several tweets to go out later in the week), but to stop and put my needs first, and if able to pick it up a few days later.

In hindsight, I think maybe I should have picked one condition to focus on , or maybe one day. Nevertheless I did my best and that is enough. Wow wee, with comments like this I think my mental health has definitely improved!!!

What I am trying to say is you should never feel guilty for putting your health first. As I mentioned at the start of this post technically awareness is all year round, not just for one day or one week.

What you can do to raise awareness.

Equally if you do feel like you would like to do something, don’t be confined to a date and make it an action that is doable for you. You could:

  • Re-tweet or share a post
  • Start a conversation with a loved one
  • Direct people to your favourite charity
  • Make a piece of art
  • Donate or purchase an item from an online charity shop
  • Share your story with others

Being chronically ill you are raising awareness all the time through the people you meet and your family and friends. In turn these people will also raise awareness when talking about your situation with others, and hopefully the domino effect begins. This is what awareness is all about – changing perception, teaching others and getting the word out there.

Sarah xx