Posts Tagged ‘quality of life’

How Good a Racecar Driver are You?

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

I’m going to start out this post by asking you a favor, which is to please bear with me while I explain why I titled this post How Good a Racecar Driver are You?

My guess is that while you’re probably a good driver, you’re not a racecar driver. But even though you’re not, you know that in any car race, the fastest driver wins. And I’m sure you also know that there are two ways to be go faster in a race.

The first way is to get a car with a more powerful engine, while the second is to be a better driver. And while I have no intention of disparaging any of the drivers who participate in the Indianapolis 500 or the Daytona 500, it seems to me that how fast drivers are able to drive on a course with tight turns, such as the Monaco Grand Prix or the EuroSpeedway Lausitz, depends more on their skill than how fast they are able to drive on a large oval-shaped track.

For that reason, a skilled driver with a slower car could easily do better than than a less skilled driver with a more powerful, faster car.

Having talked about drivers, racing, and cars, I’m going to switch, and talk about you and me, life, and our bodies – and the illnesses we have.

Here’s why: When we have a chronic illness, then if we compare our body to a racecar, it’s probably not a supercharged fast one. But even so, by becoming better and better drivers, we can do better and better on the course of life – even better than people who have healthier bodies.

So how can we become “better drivers?” We can do that by, rather than focusing on the fact that our car isn’t as good or as fast as we would like it to be, focusing instead on the things that add to our quality of life. Maybe that means playing a game of Scrabble with our partner or our children. Maybe it means getting out in nature. Maybe it means nurturing a relationship with a friend by paying a visit or making a call. Maybe it means being gentler and more compassionate with ourselves.

Now it’s your turn. How can you be a more skillful racecar driver on your life’s course?

How to Make Good Decisions When You Have a Chronic Illness

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Every day, all of us have lots of decisions to make. When you have a chronic illness, many of those decisions involve which providers to see, which treatments to try, and things like that. So they can affect whether you get better or worse and many other aspects of your quality of life. So you definitely want to make those decisions good ones.

But it is often hard to make good decisions, especially when you’re struggling with a chronic illness. However, no matter what you’re struggling with or what is going on in your life, it is still possible to make them. In this post, I’m going to share with you a way to do that which works well for me.

I have found, both in my own life and from coaching hundreds of people during the past 10 years, that one of the main things that makes it hard for us to make good decisions is our feelings, especially the unpleasant ones, such as sadness, rejection, fear, etc. We don’t like having those feelings, so without even thinking about it, we automatically make decisions that allows us to avoid them. But those automatic decisions can often have a negative effect on our health and our quality of life.

Knowing that, one of the ways I make better decisions is to think of my mind as a room with windows at both ends and think of my feelings as scents in the air that blows through it. Looking at feelings that way, I’ve found that if I just notice and observe them coming into my mind—the way I would notice and observe scents–without getting caught up in them, the window at the back of the room stays open, and they pass through. But when I get caught up in and dwell on those feelings, the window at the back of the room closes. And I end up making more and more bad decisions in an attempt to either avoid them or pretend they’re not there.

So as I’ve said, I make much better decisions when I just notice and observe my feelings. I know you will too. But there is another benefit—a very big one–that comes from allowing the unpleasant feelings to pass right through the room rather than reacting to them. The more we practice allowing those unpleasant feeling to pass right through, the more our ability to do so increases. I have found and seen that as it does, the more confident we become that we can handle the many challenges that we all experience in our lives. And with that confidence comes a deeper and deeper sense of peace.

Are You Earning Your Own Trust (and Why You Should if You’re Not)?

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

To live the best life you possibly can, you need to take care of yourself well. And doing that is especially important when you have a serious chronic illness. But you’re human, and there are times when you can’t take care of yourself the way you know you should.

When that happens, it’s important to quickly notice and acknowledge that you’ve fallen short, and to start taking care of yourself well again. Doing that is important for two reasons. The first is the obvious one: when you don’t take care of yourself, i.e., when you don’t get the rest you need, when you eat foods that aren’t good for you, etc., your illness, your symptoms, and the quality of your life will keep getting worse.

The second reason it’s important to start taking good care of yourself again right away is not as obvious, but it is equally important. It’s this: every time you do something that takes care of you, you are earning and keeping your trust in yourself. But every time you do something that doesn’t take care of you, you may lose your trust in yourself.

If you’re wondering why having trust in yourself matters and why it’s important to earn it and keep it, just ask yourself the following questions: If you have a boss that you don’t trust, how dedicated will you be to him or her? How much will you do for a friend who has lost or betrayed your trust? What effect does it have on your relationship if your partner does something to lose your trust?

I have no doubt your answers to those questions would be very different if your boss, your friend, and your partner had, rather than having lost your trust, had kept it. You probably would go the extra mile for your boss, would be there for your friend, and would do anything and everything you could for your partner.

The same principle—that we give much more of ourselves to people who have earned and keep earning our trust than we give to those who lose and betray it—also applies to the way we are with ourselves. When we repeatedly do things that don’t take care of ourselves, we stop trusting ourselves. And as a result, we do even less for ourselves. It gets to be a vicious cycle. On the other hand, when we make the effort to take care of ourselves, we earn our own trust, and are likely to continue.

I invite you to ask yourself what you can do each day to build your trust in yourself – and keep it.

If you like this post and found it helpful, I invite you to sign up for my free How to Have a Better Life When You Have a Chronic Illness tips here.

The benefits of stretching

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

As you can see from the title, this post is about the benefits of stretching – but not the stretching you do to limber up and prevent your muscles from cramping. The stretching I am referring to is the kind where you do more than you are used to doing or think you can do (but I need to add one more qualification, which is that whatever stretching you do needs to make your life better in some way).

Why is stretching beneficial for those of us with chronic illnesses? It’s beneficial because we often feel depressed and hopeless because of all the things we can no longer do, such as doing things with our children, keeping the house clean, having fund with our friends, etc. And stretching to do more than we normally do or think we can do significantly lessens, and can even eliminate those feelings. Every time we go beyond what we thought our limits were, we feel a sense of accomplishment and hope.

Before I say more, I need to make it clear that I am NOT suggesting that you overextend yourself physically when you know that doing so will exacerbate your symptoms or cause your illness to flare for several days or more. As I said above, the kind of stretches I’m talking about are those that make your life better, not worse. So think of ways you can stretch that will do that. I’ll give you some suggestions a little later in this post.

Stretching, when we don’t overdo it, is very good for us, but most of the time we resist doing it. We resist for lots of reasons, and many of them are from things we learned when we were younger that were either wrong or no longer apply. For example, a baby elephant that is chained to a tree soon learns that struggling to get away is futile (obviously we’re not elephants, but in this case our minds work in the same way that theirs do). When it is an adult, that same elephant can be restrained by a very weak chain. It will not try to break free.

For each of us, from childhood on there have been countless times when we have “learned” that we couldn’t do something, or that doing it was painful. And, as with the elephant, what we “learned” becomes an unconscious limitation. But the process of deliberately trying to stretch makes us question those limitations, and that can enable us to overcome them.

One “chain” that restrains most people is the belief that they need to be in a certain mood to do some things. For example, they don’t think they can reach out and call friends if they don’t feel sociable, or they don’t think they can cook a nice meal for themselves if they are depressed. But the truth is that our actions can be independent of, rather than dependent on, our mood. So don’t let your mood prevent you from stretching!

Hopefully you have thought of some ways that you can stretch. I’ve given you a couple of suggestions: reaching out and calling friends and cooking yourself a nice meal. You can also stretch by taking up a new hobby, planting some flowers in the garden, joining an in person or online club, or countless other ways. So start stretching and you will soon see your depression lessening and your quality of life getting better and better.

Become a Medical Researcher

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Many people with chronic illnesses have symptoms that are very difficult to live with. If you are one of them, here’s a suggestion for you: become a medical researcher, and investigate your disease and its symptoms.

The fact is that you already are a medical researcher. I’m sure you’ve learned what things to avoid, which may be certain foods, stress, cold weather, chemicals or cosmetics, etc. What I’m suggesting here is that you make your research more formal. Make a chart and track and record your symptoms, and do it often enough so that you don’t miss significant changes. I recommend that you also record the different factors you think may cause your symptoms to get better or worse.

Once you’re tracking your symptoms, you can experiment by trying different things, one at a time, and see whether your symptoms get better, get worse, or stay the same. There are lots of different things you can evaluate, from meditating, changing your diet, and trying differing natural treatments. You can get lots of ideas of things to try by doing some searching on the internet. I recommend that you do this in partnership with your doctor or healthcare provider.

As you probably know, most medical research in the United States is funded by drug companies, and since their goal is to make money, they won’t test things that don’t have the potential to be profitable if they turn out to be effective.

You, on the other hand, don’t have that restriction. Your sole goal is to get better, so you can try things that the vast majority of medical researchers never will, even though they have the potential to improve people’s symptoms, health, and quality of life significantly.

You can’t expect everything you try to help, but it’s very possible that some of the things you try will help a lot. And as a life coach for people with chronic illnesses for over seven years, I have found that people’s quality of life gets better as they take a more and more active role in lessening their symptoms and improving their health. I’m confident yours will too.

For more ideas for living well, sign up for my Biweekly Tips For How to Have a Better Life When You Have a Chronic Illness.

Tom Robinson helps people suffering with chronic illnesses stop struggling, and then he helps them find true happiness and joy – even when they don’t think there’s any to be found.

A Special Kind of Love

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

When you were sick as a child, I hope you were taken care of as well as I was when I got sick. I have fond memories of those days. They were very special because I got to stay home from school, lie on the couch in the living room, and read or watch TV as much as I wanted (game shows were my favorite). But what really made those days special was all the extra TLC my mother would give me  (TLC, as I’m sure you know, stands for tender loving care). She would bring me ice cream or chicken soup when I was hungry, something to drink when I was thirsty, and cover me with a blanket to keep me warm. And she would put her hand lovingly on my forehead to check my temperature and to let me know how much she cared about me and that she wanted me to feel better.

It took me many, many years as an adult to learn that whenever I got sick, I could give myself the same kind of TLC my mother gave me as a child. I went through serious illnesses like mononucleosis, many painful medical procedures, three surgeries, and my first 10 years of having Crohn’s disease without that knowledge. Obviously I survived, but I’ve often wondered how.

Taking care of myself  – when I’m sick or when my Crohn’s disease  is active – the way my mother took care of me when I was sick as a child is not a panacea. It doesn’t make everything “all better.” But I have no doubt that it has significantly lessened the duration of my illnesses and flares and it has greatly improved the quality of my life.

What about you? If you had the same positive experience of being taken care of when you were sick as a child as I did, I encourage you to give yourself that same kind of care whenever you need it. If you didn’t get that kind of care, please give yourself extra compassion today because you didn’t get it as a child, and then, every time you need it, give yourself the special kind of love that children – and adults too – deserve when they’re sick.