In the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, my symptoms took a significant turn for the worse. Out of the blue, I seemed to suffer a major blip that took me back to where I was soon after my chronic illness diagnosis when everyday tasks were too much for my body to handle. I was frequently close to passing out, which is one of the most difficult of my symptoms to manage.
Along with everyone else, I was reading stories of this mysterious and deadly virus that was sweeping across the world and was heading straight for us here in the UK. I was worried about what it would bring and how we were going to cope with it on an individual level as well as a national and global level.
So, it seemed like incredibly bad timing that my body decided that it was going to give me something else to add the situation.
I don’t know about you, but a flare-up of my chronic illness always sparks an instant feeling of gloom for me. It reminds me that I’m ‘not well’ and triggers feelings of resentment that I even have to think about this stuff when most people go about their daily lives with a body that ‘works’ properly. (Now, of course, I know logically that’s not true. I spent 14 years as a nurse treating people whose bodies were not ‘working properly’ for whatever reason.) But this time, with the world descending into chaos, I decided to view this sudden change in symptoms in a different way.
I couldn’t control whether coronavirus was coming, whether my neighbours were sticking to lockdown rules or whether the supermarket was going to have any loo roll in stock this week. But I could control how I viewed my body and my symptoms.
Instead of my body letting me down, this time I thought what if it’s giving me a warning shot?
It was pretty obvious at that point that things were going to get way more intense, as the first wave of COVID-19 hit. Events outside my control were going to unfold anyway – but this was a timely reminder that things closer to home still needed my attention.
I have generally reached a point where I am in tune with how my body feels and the little signs that things may be getting off balance. I’ve learned to tweak my activities and habits daily, to help me stay on an even keel. But with the onset of the pandemic, and all that came with it (Would schools close? Should we be taking Vitamin C supplements? Could we catch it from our post?!), I had ignored these little signs and had let my good practice slip.
When I really thought about it, I realised I had probably let my body down – not the other way round.
So, I decided to go back to basics.
Over the years, I’ve learned which factors influence how I feel. I wrote down all these areas and made notes on everything that had happened over the previous week. It was pretty illuminating! With all my actions and behaviours laid out in front of me, it became apparent why my chronic illness had flared up.
That one simple act of taking stock and reviewing everything had shown me a new way of thinking about my symptoms – rather than being a blight and a burden; they were actually little signs that helped me stay well. They may start off small, but if I don’t give them attention, they build and build until it becomes impossible to ignore them. The key is to tune in to my mind and body, checking in with how I’m feeling every day.
In the days that followed, I made a real effort to reconnect with myself and give my body the basic requirements that I’ve learned it needs to function properly. At the same time, I realised that I probably wasn’t the only one going through this period of sudden change.
I knew that there would be other women who would unintentionally let their good habits slip and would experience a change in their chronic illness symptoms as they processed the events that were unfolding around the world.
Using the same process of going back to basics and tracking my weekly behaviours and activity, I created a resource called The Weekly Wellness Tracker. It outlines the areas of life that can influence how we feel, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and allows us to record and reflect on which areas we can focus on to get back on track.
I made this resource available for other women to download so it can help them too. It can be printed out and filled in as many times as needed. Knowing that I have this resource to hand to help me recalibrate when I need to, helps me face the constant changes and anxieties that the pandemic situation brings. I’d love it to do the same for you.
Do you want to get back to basics, identify your triggers and start to feel better? Download your copy of The Weekly Wellness Tracker here. I’d love to hear how it helps you – let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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