Last night after I finished dinner, I was getting in some much-earned rest and relaxation after a long day of work. My brain was fried, and my body was exhausted. Then while sitting there, perfectly comfortable, and while this felt perfect, it was interrupted. My phone starts beeping and vibrating, so I reach down and see that it is my “Night time health routine” notification, something I set up to remind me to get up, start stretching and getting my blood flowing before bed .
Recently I have been spending a reasonable amount of time on my couch, relaxing after work, and in a real rut. While it’s nice to rest up and give my body a break, I also notice when I do this for too long my body and mind feel weak. Almost like everything in my body is shutting down. And while we all need downtime, there are times when moving with a chronic illness when is better, and this means we never get a true break both mentally and physically.
Currently, I am fighting some stomach pain with my Crohn’s disease, breathing problems with my asthma, stiffness in all my joints with rheumatoid arthritis, general fatigue with all my autoimmune diseases, and on top of all of that some problems with my back. With all of the above going on, it’s been easy to fall into a bad routine and not taking care of myself as I should be. Even though the position I am in feels comfortable on the couch, I know it is not suitable for me long term.
After everything I went through last year with my Ironman, I actually felt better if you can believe that. With all the training I was doing, I also put a lot of time in for self-care. This included meditating, stretching, foam rolling, eating properly, going through both my nightly and morning routines every day, and this was on top of all the exercise I was completing. If I wanted to cross the finish line at 140.6 miles, I knew that I couldn’t take a break.
Now I realize that if any of us want to manage our chronic illnesses to the best of our availability, there aren’t many breaks we can take along our journey. Every single day there is a list of tasks that we should be completing to help ourselves. Each of us has a different situation which results in various jobs, but at the end of the day it means one thing, we don’t get a break.
It would be nice if we can shut our minds off and stop thinking about everything we can or should be doing. It would be nice to shut our bodies down and just get into bed thinking there is nothing to do. Sadly both of these scenarios don’t happen that often, and it can be really frustrating. But I know something that is even more frustrating, FEELING LIKE SHIT!
So what did I do last night? After about 5 minutes I got up, turned on my timer app, and started stretching. In a matter of moments my body felt better, my muscles felt looser, my mind was active again, and I was ready to get a few more things done before getting into bed. It was amazing how quickly things changed.
Before I knew it, I was getting into bed after my nightly routine with a clear mind. I read for a few minutes before rolling over in bed to get more comfortable. It was a nice feeling for a variety of reasons. I accomplished something I knew was right for me before bed, so there was a feeling of accomplishment. I completed my nightly routine, so I cleared my mind and had a good idea was my agenda was for tomorrow. My eyes began to close, and I was in a more relaxed state than I ever could have reached on the couch because I completed the day the way I should.
So while I was upset, frustrated, and mad that I couldn’t just lay there the entire night until I really wanted to get into bed, it was better that I didn’t. What I have to do again and what I believe we all should strive for is to reach a place in our lives when not taking a break or going through a routine isn’t a chore, it’s just a natural part of what we do. Habits are critical, and if we can put in place the right ones, we can turn “breaks” into a productive use of our time.
Comment below with your perspective on taking breaks with a chronic illness! I would love to hear your thoughts.