I’ve mentioned in some previous posts that I’ve spent the last few months largely stuck indoors due to health problems leaving me unable to walk. When it first started, I thought it would just be a short-term problem, so I didn’t focus much of my energy on keeping structure to my days. I enjoyed the respite and really focused on the recovery. As the time went on, I would wake up every day expecting to be ‘better’ and able to go back to my normal life. I became caught in a vicious cycle; constantly holding out for the day I would wake up and feel better, and being absolutely devastated every morning when it hadn’t happened. I began to feel myself falling into a rut and needed to take action.
I realised that even if this situation were to continue for only one more day, I needed to have the right mindset to help me get through that day. Today, I’ll share those steps in case they might help you too:
Find purpose… Studies have proven that ‘purpose’ plays a significant part in the rate of cognitive decline in elderly people. When studied, the brains of those who had a purpose in life and continued to lead full lives into old age, had a far slower cognitive decline than their less-active counterparts. Having a life filled with purpose – something that guides you in your daily actions, no matter how small or large – shapes our lives and our brains. Although your health may be stopping you from continuing with your previous activities, like work or family, it doesn’t mean you have to give up entirely. You just need to adjust your perspective and find something that fulfils you and is achievable in your current circumstance. Finding that new purpose will help you have a reason to get out of bed every day. Granted, I’m only 25, but I’d rather not take my chances – would you?
Stick to a schedule… Starting a routine (and forcing myself to stick to it) made a huge difference for me. Actually, I didn’t fully expect to be so impacted by something as simple as a routine on a piece of paper. Seeing a schedule that I had managed to stick to really allowed me to feel like I had accomplished something each day, even if it was just my ‘normal’ routine. It also helped me pace myself in each activity. If not for the schedule, I could easily spend 8 hours reading in the armchair, despite knowing it’s not very good for my joints. Having a schedule held me accountable.
Put on your glad rags… When I was working, I often heard (and probably repeated) the adage, ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’. Enter enclothed cognition. Essentially, what we wear has a significant influence on our mental and physical well-being. It doesn’t necessarily matter what you see yourself physically wear, but how you feel when you wear that outfit. (So really it should be ‘dress for the day you want, not the day you have’). As tempting as it is, don’t fall into the trap of staying in those snuggly pyjamas all day long. Put on that pretty dress you save for special occasions! Or that tux you’ve only worn twice. There’s no such thing as overdressed if it makes you feel good!
Change of scenery… When you’re in pain or not feeling very well, the natural course of action is to rest. But what do you do when resting doesn’t get you better? Although snuggling in bed all day is a tempting proposition, the act of getting out of it can do wonders for your mental health. It sends a signal to your brain; you’re out of bed, so it’s not the time for sleep. Much like people working from home, if you’re sat at your desk all day, you will work longer. The same applies to your bed! Now if you physically struggle to get out of bed, just take it slow. First, try swinging your legs out of bed (gently does it) and sit for a little while. Or ask someone – a carer, a friend, a partner – to help you to an armchair for a little while. You won’t feel better instantly, it might even make you feel a little worse physically, but the short-term costs are worth the long term benefit to your mental health.
Try to enjoy it… When we aren’t feeling like ourselves or if we aren’t able to do the things we normally can, it’s very easy to be hard on ourselves. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy, holding ourselves to standards or activity levels when we were able to achieve previously. But when we do that, we are forgetting that life is a journey and everyone has ups and downs. If you let your negative thoughts get the better of you, you will stay in that vicious cycle of negativity instead of moving forward. During this difficult time, try to be kind to yourself and treat yourself well. That can be as simple as letting someone help you with a task, having a hot chocolate when you want it, or getting that message you really needing.
There is very little data about the number of people – not just elderly – that are largely housebound/homebound. It estimated that as much as 20% of the elderly people between the ages of 65 – 84 spend the majority of their time indoors, unable to go out. Now I know from personal experience that there are many people under the age of 65 who are in the same situation. Whether it due to health conditions, lack of funding for suitable social care/ accommodation/medical equipment that would help them lead normal lives. And with the further cuts from the government will only cause this to worsen.
Even if there may be limited support from the government, or you may not have many people around you who understand, but there ARE others out there going through the same thing as you. We can support each other – don’t be afraid to reach out.