How to Bring More Life Into Your Life
MAKING THE MOST OF IT
My approach to improving quality of life for my clients focuses on two broad goals: conserving energy and reducing anxiety.
1. Energy conservation. The vast majority of the changes seen in the natural decline of the aging process as well as during the course of a terminal illness can be seen as a function of gradually diminishing energy reserves combined with the body's natural tendency to conserve and prioritize those resources. This natural lifelong process becomes more noticeable in our later years and may accelerate in the presence of a terminal illness. Discomforts of any kind, activities that require more and more effort, nagging worries, all of these take a toll physically, mentally or emotionally and all of them will steal your energy. There are multitudes of ways to conserve personal energy. Doing so, however, requires a willingness to make choices and implement change. The barriers to change are habit, lack of information, pride, and initial inconvenience. Only YOU can make the decision to change.
2. Reducing anxiety. Fears and worries are among the biggest energy thieves we deal with in our daily lives. Fear of the unknown, and a reluctance to talk openly about aging and dying, while natural enough, can severely affect quality of life in the later years. The remedies for worries are information and decision making.
AGING IS NOT A DISEASE
Every day we are bombarded with images of youth. Advertisements send us daily message that growing old is a disgrace bordering on failure which should be avoided at all cost. Our medical establishment is called on by the consumers of this youth culture to "fix it"! In other words, we are encouraged to forget or ignore the fact that aging and dying are merely natural parts of our journey here on earth. In the natural course of a life time, we are all destined to grow old and to die. Medical science can improve our lives in many ways, but cannot, and should not, keep us alive forever. Spending precious time and energy in the pursuit of something we cannot have seems a tragic waste. It is OK to grow old and it is OK to die! It is what we humans do!
Many treatable physical symptoms and discomforts can leave you exhausted. Of these, pain, breathing difficulty, and sleep disturbances are the most common.
1. Pain. Many believe daily aches and pains simply come with the territory of getting older. There is, however, a difference between temporary discomfort and stiffness and chronic pain that keeps you from activities you would otherwise be able to participate in. The solution may be as simple as more supportive footwear or a different sleeping surface. There are a multitude of both medical and non-medical interventions available. Consult your physician to ensure that you choose methods that are appropriate for you. Do not assume you have to suffer!
2. Breathing. Having to work to get air into your lungs can be exhausting. Few people realize that simple dietary changes can make a significant difference in easing respirations. Awareness of, and changes in posture, especially reclining or semi-reclining, is easily achieved. Find what works for you and consult your physician if you believe you require medication to get relief. Save your energy for something other than breathing!
3. Sleep disturbances. Sleeplessness leaves you tired before your day gets started. This problem usually has an underlying issue. Pain, breathing difficulty, gastric distress, and worries are the most common barriers to a good night's sleep. If you know what your issue is, do what you need to do to eliminate this drain on your energy.
Get some relief! Believe me when I tell you that a stiff upper lip won't bring you much joy. Physical discomfort should not be a guiding factor in how you live your life.
Adaptation of your home, both minor and major can make a significant difference in how much energy you have left at the end of the day.
Ask yourself - and answer honestly - what are some things you don't do, or do less frequently, because of the effort it takes or because you don't feel quite safe? How do you get up from your chair or bed? Does taking a shower wear you out? These are problems that have simple solutions. Here are but a few: Grab bars and railings for extra support , a shower seat and a hand held shower head, elevating your easy chair, your bed, and your toilet seat. Using a wheel chair gets you to your destination with energy left over to enjoy the event.
Pride is probably your biggest obstacle, but when it comes right down to it, would you rather be remembered as "never having used a wheelchair?" - or - "never having missed a grandchild's ball game?" Don't allow pride to shrink your world!
NUTRITION & EXERCISE
We all know that eating right, drinking plenty of water and exercising is good for us. That, however, does not necessarily mean we always do that, right?
Nutrition is a vital component in optimizing well-being and energy. Obstacles to good nutrition include diminished appetite, diminished ability to smell and taste food, dental issues, lack of physical energy to prepare food, and loneliness. An important point I want to make is that when your body is being challenged by fatigue, injury, or illness, you will have less energy to digest food. Your body naturally budgets limited energy to where the energy is most needed. In the hierarchy of importance, your digestive tract is low on the totem pole. Thus, with limited energy to digest and absorb food, small amounts of high-powered foods will serve you best.
Every choice you make has consequences. Maintaining flexibility, mobility, and strength will enable you to do more of the things you enjoy doing. It will also reduce the aches and pains that result from remaining in one position for a long time. Immobility breeds immobility.
Whether it s nutrition or exercise, the key is to find something that you enjoy and therefore will be willing to do on a regular basis. Keep it simple, a minor, long term shift is better than an ambitious undertaking that gets overwhelming to maintain. The choice is yours!
FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Family and social expectations and obligations can wear you out - if you allow it! It is not easy to change habits formed over years and steeped in tradition. Ask yourself the following questions: "Why am I still doing this?" and "What would happen if I stopped?" You may need to change your self-image of being the the "go to" , the "fix-it", or the "always there for others" person. Maybe it is about time for you to be there for yourself.
People who truly love you will continue to do so and will applaud you taking care of yourself. It is not your job to live up to the expectations others place upon you.; Letting go of or lowering your expectations of yourself might well be the key to a greater sense of freedom and joy.
In budgeting money, an old adage tells us to give 10%, save 10% and spend the remaining 80% with joy. Apply this principle to budgeting you personal energy and limit the time you give to people who leave you drained after a visit or phone call. Taking care of yourself is not an act of selfishness, it is a MUST.
When a young child is fearful of monsters in the closet, what do you do? You open the closet door wide and turn on the light. Magic! The monsters are gone! Now do the same for your own monsters.
As mentioned earlier, the remedies for worries and anxieties are information and decision making. Ask all the "what ifs” out loud. Make a list! Write them down! Now they are no longer faceless monsters. Next you explore all available options based on accurate information. You may not like everything you learn, but now you know exactly where you stand. Now you are in a position to make your decisions, put them in writing and communicate them to the people who need the information.
You will be amazed at the peace of mind.