Five Things to Give Up in 2016
Most New Year’s resolutions focus on forming new habits or changing old ones in order to get healthier, happier, or more successful. Instead of focusing on losing weight, saving money, or any of the other common January goals (or at least in addition to them), consider improving your mental and emotional health by giving up these five things:
Justifications for Self-Care
Responsible people fulfill their obligations, and as someone with a chronic illness one of your most important obligations is to manage that illness. How you do that and what that means is unique to you, and it requires no excuse. You don’t owe anyone a justification for taking care of your health. Do what works for you without apology. This also means giving up …
Apologies for Being Sick
We migraineurs spend a great deal of time apologizing or feeling like we should be apologizing. We’re sorry for feeling exhausted and irritable. We’re sorry for making plans and then having to cancel them or for declining to make any in the first place. We’re sorry for being late or leaving early or missing an event altogether. We’re sorry we can’t eat that or shouldn’t drink that or for being considered picky. We’re sorry, we’re sorry, we’re sorry. Generally, what we really mean is “I’m sorry for being sick.”
Stop being sorry. It isn’t your fault you’re sick. It isn’t your fault you have certain triggers or that you have to do certain things to manage your illness.
Apologize for misbehavior. Apologize for wrong-doing or rudeness or disregarding someone else’s feelings, if you have, but don’t apologize for being ill. It isn’t something you can change, and it isn’t your fault. You aren’t to blame, so stop speaking as though you are. You’ll likely be amazed at the amount of emotional energy you’ll save by not apologizing.
Pushing too hard to accomplish someone else’s priorities
Energy is a limited resource, especially for those of us with chronic illness. Managing migraine disease, in particular, means keeping many things in our lives in balance – sleep, food, stress, nutrient and mineral levels, and more. This isn’t easy, and it requires tremendous personal resources. Unfortunately, many migraineurs expend these precious resources on other people’s priorities because we’re trying to “make up for” all the things we feel we can’t do (and all the things we think we need to apologize for – see above).
While it’s good and worthwhile to do the most you can to make the loved ones in your life feel valued and cared for, you can’t do it at your own expense. At best, you’ll feel stressed and stretched too thin, which breeds resentment and discontent. At worst, you’ll push yourself into an ever-increasing migraine-attack hell because you’re physically and emotionally drained. Remember: You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Take care of yourself first, and then ask your loved ones what it is that makes them feel nurtured and loved. It might not be what you think. Sometimes all it takes is a dedicated conversation or a long hug, not a series of home-cooked meals or participation in all of their activities. If you’re more likely to over-extend yourself at work, ask what your boss, colleague, or client most needs, and then offer a realistic deadline you can meet while maintaining your health. You might find you were overcompensating all along.
Guilt is only useful if it pushes us toward positive change. You cannot change the fact that you have migraine disease. You may be able to make changes that enable you to more effectively manage your disease, but you cannot fix it. You cannot change its symptoms and you can rarely alter its effects on your and your loved ones’ lives. So let it go. If you need help, read Kerrie’s article on overcoming guilt, consider working with a therapist who specializes in chronic illness, or join a support group in your area.
Fear – of the next attack or worsening symptoms – is common among migraineurs, and this one may be harder to let go of than all the others. Fear, however, does little except rob us of whatever peace or enjoyment we may be able to gain from the present moment. This year, resolve to approach each day with a brave heart. Whatever you can do to protect your health and manage your disease, do it. Then, once it’s done, move forward. We can’t control everything, and this disease reminds us of that daily. We can, however, resolve to have a say over our perspective. And, sometimes, that makes all the difference.