Tag Archive | energy

Positivity wins the day

Tut. Tut. SIX months since my last post-that’s a record and not one I care to brag about. The good news is that I am winning my fight against those Black-Dog and extremely anxious days which can creep up gradually when your guard is down or just as likely strike without warning as a reaction to specific circumstances. At 55 years young I consider myself a slow learner but I’m not sure whether I am slowing down as a result of my age or, more hopefully, my experience but either way, a slower and more measured and calm way of life seems to suit me.

My mother always said that if I had been born 30 years later I would have been diagnosed as “hyper-active.” My psychologist initially thought I was bi-polar due to the extreme fluctuations between energy and fatigue and even now I get comments that I do too much and I have more energy than many people much younger. I make sure every second counts in my waking hours and I am always doing and making something but I am learning to do it slower and try to enjoy being in the moment.

Driven by a combination of both nature and nurture I have to make use of every waking moment and, unless I am making quilts, hedgehog houses, cards, or Twinchies, decorating, gardening, blogging, taking photographs or organising my next project, I am wasting my time.  I can’t help it, I have to be doing something but, although I do get tired, I get a lot of satisfaction from my many and varied activities and this helps me keep mental equilibrium (and sleep).

I have decided that much like Tutenkhamun, I will be buried with my most treasured possessions; knitting needles, sewing machine, crochet hook, camera, hammer, nails and electric saw and, maybe IF I get to heaven,there will be a long-arm quilting machine, unlimited Kaffe Fassett fabric, a very patient crochet teacher, a wide-angle lens and pre-cut wood pieces waiting for me!

Here’s just a few of the projects I have been working recently.

 

 

 

The HSP in me

It’s that time of year. The nights are drawing in; no more sitting outside in a comfortable warmth as it gets dark. The mornings are distinctly chillier and I am more inclined to snuggle back under the duvet than to leap out of bed raring to go. Energy levels are sapping just as work schedules are increasing massively over the winter period.

Of course I have a 16-week break to look forward to between February and June, but it seems a long time to wait just now.

So how do I make sure that I maintain equilibrium in the meantime? I know that I need to rest, stay healthy and as stress-free as possible. But how?

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Targets, financial deadlines, Christmas, all words guaranteed to set my soul a-flutter at the mere mention. I am normally very good at managing my stressors but when I’m busy or distracted it’s easy to forget my coping strategies so here are a couple of reminders to myself;

Plan ahead

This is really important and saves me from a lot of unnecessary stress. Last week for instance I had to travel to London for a training day. I knew that the train would be busy, the Underground even more so. I am used to working from home in a quiet environment much of which I can control directly so being in a lecture room with a group of colleagues can be daunting. As can shopping for lunch at a busy time at the midday break.

I booked my ticket in advance and reserved my seat. An early train to get me into London before the main rush-hour. I took my lunch with me.

I also booked the next day off as holiday. I knew that I would be tired after a long day traveling combined with the training so I made sure that I had a restful day before returning to work. Luckily the weather was sunny and bright and I spent the day in the garden and in the garage making hedgehog houses. Perfect recuperation.

Routine maintenance

Maintaining a routine is not easy for me as my sleep patterns vary so much, as do my energy levels. I have learned instead to “go with the flow” and not worry too much if I don’t quite follow my plans to the letter.

Good routines include, at least an hour or two before bedtime, shutting down all electronic equipment. As an information and social media junkie this is difficult for me and I probably pay the price in that my sleep can be disturbed by vivid dreams and I often wake after just 4 hours rest. Instead, I should read (a proper book, with real paper pages and not on Kindle) and in the morning, I should make time to start the day in a calm way by practising something like yoga or writing my journal.

I definitely need to work on this one. I think I’ll start tomorrow.

Hopefully I shall survive my “busy” season with sanity intact having followed my own advice but roll on February.

hsp

 

 

 

Too tired

There is a very good reason Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is labelled as chronic. That’s because it is unceasing and relentless in its vicious and pervading attack on your physical and mental wellbeing. It is ever-present, long-lasting and, even if you are lucky enough to get a remission, it usually returns. With a vengeance. It is unwelcome and, like a bad penny, it keeps turning up despite your best attempts to fend it off.

If my fatigue and related symptoms were just a flash-in-the-pan, over and done with in a jiffy leaving me to return to normal energy levels within a few weeks or months it would be called Acute Fatigue Syndrome. But it’s not.

This time of year is particularly difficult for many people I’m sure with invitations to Christmas parties, meals out and shopping trips dripping from the calendar but if you are like me, you really don’t have the energy to spare on these “optional extras.”

The extra energy required to cope with overcrowded public transport and supermarkets, busy roads, presents to buy, cards to send and people to see is just too much and I therefore have to bow to my enforced lethargy and say “No, thanks”. It can be seen as Bah! Humbug, but so be it. The most frustrating aspect for me however is the assumption that after months of being “in recovery” I should be “better” now and able to join in the merriment along with everyone else.

Sadly, this is not the case and my “recovery” will continue for many months and years. There is no quick remedy for CFS. It is an illness that must be managed constantly if a relapse or crash is to be avoided. Most people don’t understand this and look at you as if you have turned into a Couch Potato by choice. I can’t imagine anything worse and the frustration that being so inactive brings cannot be described. I could get really angry about it but that would waste yet more precious energy so I try to accept my new limitations with good grace. This has never been a strong point of mine so I am on a steep learning curve.

All I want this Christmas is to step aside from extra activity and stress, to avoid being out of routine and being late to bed and to spend the few days that I have off work with my family and not tucked up in bed exhausted by the build-up of extra effort.

So if I say “No thanks” to the department Christmas outing, the office Christmas meal, drinks on the last day before the holiday and anything else in-between, please don’t think I am unwilling, uncaring, selfish, lazy or unsociable.

I’m just too tired-really.

Available energy

Ra! Ra! as the posh people say.

Today I had energy enough to avoid working the afternoon through a brain=gof (oops! that should be brain-fog so perhaps I spoke too soon) and fall into bed as soon as I got in the door. This makes a pleasant change and one which I appreciate and certainly don’t take for granted.

brain-fog (1)

Without realising it at the time, last week was very stressful for me. And here is where I get frustrated most. I have worked in a tax team for more years than I care to mention and I have taken necessary tasks like billing clients, people management (appraisals and goal-setting), management meetings, and doing my day-job in my stride. So why now do I, subconsciously, find it all so difficult to cope with when they all come along at once? It’s stress Caroline but not as you know it.

One of my strengths has always been my ruthless organisation and multi-tasking skills. I have always played these down as being normal attributes for someone in my position, but I am realising now that actually, I was pretty good at this. Sadly now however I am Mrs Average. I haven’t lost the skill, I’m pretty sure that it still lurks within me, but at the moment it is impaired by the lack of energy, poor concentration and focus, and ability to separate the necessary from the “nice-to-have.”

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I am determined to see this through and come to some sort of compromise whereby I can fulfill my potential without crippling myself with fatigue in the process. I must be a slow learner on this score which is why I am so reliant on Doc Fraser keeping me on the straight and narrow. I am so lucky to have access to Doc Fraser’s vast knowledge and experience in advising those with ME and chronic fatigue syndrome and he is full of suggestions and practical solutions to help me recover.

My next appointment with him is tomorrow and I am looking forward to sitting down for 40 minutes with someone who listens, understands and provides the necessary advice in the nicest way possible. (It’s not everyone who can ask me to lose weight without incurring an indignant response!)

I should keep an energy diary. By keeping a mood diary I was able to identify patterns in mood-changes and reasons for them so perhaps I can do the same for energy highs and lows. Mmmm….I saw a lovely 2014 diary in Paperchase which would be ideal.

There are always compensations!

Keep taking the pills….

I have been trying to manage my fatigue by “pacing”, a well-known and proven method of conserving precious energy, but I am finding it very difficult. I am by nature a high-energy, productive and competitive person and having to change into a relaxed, measured and accepting personality in order to recover my physical and mental capacity is proving hard.

In addition, last week I had a few days when I was extremely agitated for no apparent reason. I was pacing up and down, couldn’t settle to anything, I had no focus or concentration and was  restless to the extreme. It worried me as I couldn’t link these reactions to anything in particular so I rang my GP who advised me to increase my medication…in fact my doseage was quadrupled. I have seen my psychologist this evening and I now understand why that was done but the explanation wasn’t reassuring.

I could be experiencing a rare side-effect to my drugs called Akasthesia. Thankfully it seems to have calmed down now and I am back on an even keel. I suspect that is something to do with the sedating effect of the increased dose of Venlafaxine, but whatever the cause of my becalmed state, it is welcome.

Hopefully, I won’t experience any further unexplained agitation but I have to report it if I do.

So, onwards and upwards….next week I am going to start a little gentle walking exercise in the mornings. Nothing too strenuous and will try to build up my stamina gradually.

I was definitely at the back of the patience queue!

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Monsters

Dementor

Dementor

“You can exist without your soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you’ll have no sense of self anymore, no memory, no . . . anything. There’s no chance at all of recovery. You’ll just — exist. As an empty shell. And your soul is gone forever . . . lost.”

 From “The Prisoner of Azkabahn”  by J K Rowling

This week I have been battling my demons. At first I was focused on the internal hellions creating chaos in my head but being back at work and out of my comfort zone  I was soon fighting more monsters and found myself on the back foot from the start.

The telephone is one of the biggest and blackest monsters that walks this earth when I am in a depression. Normally chatty, sociable, positive and energetic the telephone has again reduced me to a quivering jelly. Thank goodness for email and voicemail. During the week the phone grew three heads, multiple arms and flailing legs covered in scabs and oozing thick yellow pus all over my desk. It stared at me unrelentingly challenging me to pick it up every minute of every day until I started to feel sick when I looked at it. It sounds ridiculous but it’s at times like this when I realise just how poorly I feel and how out of character this damn illness makes me. If I had more energy I would be frustrated and angry. As it is, it’s too much effort to care.

 I have to stay positive and think that I will improve as I have done in the past. I have to keep on trying. I have to do a lot of things to maintain not just my sanity but any semblance of a life in future. It’s so hard and it takes all my energy. I slept for 14 hours last night, exhausted by my week’s efforts and I still struggled to prise myself out of bed this morning.

I won’t give up and I will beat this illness yet again. But I wish it would go away now.

I’m tired.

Telephone Monster

Telephone Monster

How do I stay focussed?

An interesting question for someone who fluctuates between the upbeat, confident and “kick-ass”, get things done mentality, and the gloomy, depressed, couldn’t-give-a-damn mode. Depression is unpredictable and strikes at random so unless you have Plan B waiting in the wings it can catch you unawares when “focus” is not in your vocabulary.

In good times focus comes naturally. I am  an inquisitive, energetic, interested, passionate, fun, devoted, loving employee, wife and mother. Jobs get done effortlessly, birthdays and Christmas are remembered, holidays are booked way in advance and everything is in its place and under control. This is focus.

When depressed however things are very different. It’s hard work. There is no focus. You flit from thought to thought, task to task nothing finished, no conclusions, no plans, birthdays and Christmas overlooked. Friends and family are disappointed and you feel disillusioned and upset by the lack of progress.

How do I manage this periodic inability to concentrate? I plan,plan, plan. Then I plan some more.

During the bad times, my days are divided up religiously into sections. From the time I get up to the time I go to bed everything I do has a time limit and its own window of opportunity. There is no room for surprises or unplanned events. It is the only way to get through the day and get everything done. It requires discipline, advance thinking and lots of lists and timetables.

But it works for me.

This is what Patrick Lindsay has to say about Focus in his book, “Be Happy”

Focus

It’s so easy to dissipate our energies,
to dilute our creativity on too many tasks at once.
Virtuosos apply all their skill and energy
to one aim at a time.
Select your key tasks.
Concentrate on one at a time.
Avoid distractions.
Marshall your skills.
Direct all your energies at your target.