I’ve been quite on the blog partly because we took a mini-vacation and partly because I was hit hard with health issues. I have fibromyalgia, endometriosis and chronic migraines. Pain is a real part of my everyday world. But despite my chronic illness I am determined to homeschool my child while running my own business. If you’re in the same boat as me with health struggles, these are my tips on coping with the challenges we face.
Be gentle with yourself.
If you’ve been dealing with chronic illness for awhile you probably already know the importance of being gentle with yourself. The reality is we can’t always do everything people without health issues are able to do. Not comparing yourself to them is part of being gentle with yourself. Knowing your limits and not pushing too hard is also important.
For me, this means during a fibro flare or when I have endo pain we stay close to home. On my extreme pain days we might snuggle up in my bed and do school there. We have a pretty relaxed homeschool and incorporate a lot of tech. By simply hooking up the laptop to the TV in my bedroom we are able to do everything we normally do. If I have a migraine that prevents me from being able to read my son gets a “Documentary Day” where he’s allowed to watch whatever he wants on CuriosityStream.com and then tell me about what he’s learned. The upside to this is that I get clues to what he’s interested in by the selections he makes. Animals are still big on his list, as is space exploration.
Try not to worry.
I say try because it’s the thing I struggle with the most. I worry that we’re not doing enough; take too much time off; don’t get enough exercise. If there’s a thing to worry about, it comes to my mind and nags me. When worry attacks I fight back with yoga. Many poses help with anxiety by calming down the central nervous system. If you’re really not into yoga there are meditations to help combat anxiety. If you believe in God, He says to give your worries to Him.
Stress and worry can actually increase the effects of some chronic illness. I know that stress increases the frequency of my migraines and fibro flares. Through mindfulness meditation I have learned to recognize how worry affects my body and take action when these sensations start occurring.
Stay up to date on your illness.
Due to the nature of my chronic illness I see my family doctor regularly as well as a specialist. It’s annoying but both physicians are knowledgeable on the latest updates on my illnesses. I also try to read the latest medical news and have tried a number of alternative medicines to help. Anything that might ease my pain is worth investigating. I am lucky to have a family doctor that supports acupuncture and aromatherapy. Checking in with her about various treatments is generally well received.
A great place to find the latest news is through Google Scholar. This filters out some of the “noise” and gets you to the medical journals. Google alerts can also help keep you updated on the latest headlines on any topic. When relying on information online make sure you know the source and how educated they are on the topic. Anecdotal blogs (like mine) are great for support or learning about what other people are trying but not necessarily the best place for medical advice. I am not a doctor but after living with my illnesses for a few decades I can tell you what’s worked for me and what hasn’t.
Build “Me Time” into your schedule.
My best friend will tell you that I lose my mind if I don’t get my “Me Time”. Which is true. I am more anxious and jumpy when I can’t start my day with some quiet time. I need a good hour to myself to drink my coffee and fully wake up before I can talk to anyone. It is so important to my sanity that my entire family, immediate and extended acknowledge and respect this. I purposely get up an hour before my son in order to get my quiet time. And I’m not a morning person! In the evenings I also need some solitude to unwind.
Me Time can be anything that you find relaxing. For me, in the morning it is drinking my coffee while reading my bible. I also enjoy baths, yoga, TV, listening to podcasts or music, watching professional development videos (I’m a bit of a junky for self-improvement) and listening to audiobooks (I don’t actually enjoy reading).
Involve kids with housework.
Let’s face it, running a household is an important skill. My mom has her own health issues and passed on some of the cleaning and cooking responsibilities to my brother and I when we were young. My sister-in-law has thanked my mom for this because he helps her out. Personally, I believe these skills should be taught in homeschools and classrooms. My son’s old school did have classroom chores which included washing lunch trays, sorting recycling, sharpening pencil crayons, and turning off the lights when they leave the classroom. But at some point, whether you have a boy or a girl, they will live on their own and need to take care of themselves.
In our home, B took the initiative with cleaning and cooking. Being home he learned how much I do around the home. He has a natural desire to help and decided he needed to help me. There may have been an ulterior motive in that if he helped me it would free me up to play more games with him. But that’s not a bad trade off. I’d much rather play Uno than wash the dishes. Now he makes his own lunch which means one less meal for me to look after. I just need to provide the food.
How do you cope?
These are the ways that I cope with my chronic illness. It’s not a conclusive list, but my top pieces of advice. I’d like to hear what you do. Leave a comment or message me with your ideas.