Monday 30th November 2020

Mindful Art Helps To Heal Me. 91/2020.

Mindful Art Helps To Heal Me. 91/2020.

Since way before my cancer diagnosis in May 2017, I used art – my generic term for all things visually & kinaesthetically creative – as a distraction and mindful way to help me focus on ‘just one thing’ and to reduce levels of anxiety and stress. I have written quite a few posts about this and some can be found here.

What I have been doing lately.

I always have a few different sizes in art/display books to work on. I tend to use different sizes for mandalas, patterns and for drawing. However, this is no rule to this. I like a variety of choices.

Choices in books, materials and media. The following three photos are from my post-2017 recovery from surgery times.

And now here’s more: Self-Care is first.

This from a small book I carry with me right now about Kindness. I read and reflect on its words when I have my solo coffee time.

Why Art?

For me, it’s tactile and as a visually-oriented person it appeals greatly and I can get lost in it. That is my version of calming down and becoming mindful. In fact, when I may be waiting on news – health or otherwise- I will often make up something very intricate to work with, and leave it on my art desk to return to over and over. It sure does focus me on JUST ONE THING.

Some examples here of projects which have helped me focus and in doing so I have been taken away from the worries and fears and into this world that helps keep me on a greater emotional even keel.

Update of what it’s been like for the past year or so.

 

  • In recent years I have tried to emulate others’ works by using their materials such as stamps and stencils and cut out figures.
  • What I found is that this kind of trying to be like another’s work was both frustrating and limiting.
  • I found some of the physical materials: paints, stamps and more very expensive to buy and then not using them as I had hoped.
  • I admit stamping is not my forte. In some ways I can stamp but not in the complicated ways of specialists.
  • There are some creatives too who only enjoy seeing their work reflected back to them.
  • I learned I am not that kind of artist. In fact, I gave some of my items away and stopped following those pages.
  • I know I enjoy the annual Index Card a Day Challenge from the US. It’s for 61 days of June and July. Here are this year’s completed cards.

Grateful for art and creativity

 

What might I be planning now?

  • I admit that whilst I love going back to enjoy some of the more familiar art activities like mandalas and patterns, I still need a challenge or two.
  • I learned above that my skills lie in other fields.
  • I know I am far more tactile than I realised but I also do not like messes on my hands. Mmmmm.
  • This for me then means cutting out and using glue sticks. I don’t like getting paint on my hands. Maybe too it’s because of where I have my art activities and this house is not ours. Nevertheless it’s good to know my limitations.
  • In my recent clear up and clean out of my art area I found many more blank books of differing sizes and this is exciting as our budget is limited. Actually it probably was limited when I bought these. Yikes.
  • Quality of materials means I do not get frustrated with what I am working with so I have, ahem, spent a lot of money over the past 18 months and I am well-stashed!!

Working with words and more.

  • I enjoy finding quotes that appeal to me and printing them to use in a page
  • I am very fortunate that most days the Daily Calm quote from my daily morning meditation has a great quotation I believe in and learn from so am saving them as photos for future use.
  • I have a series of small books like these below. They are the idea size for me to take in my little art kit and re-read and reflect.
  • I have bought most via book depository (free postage) but they may also be in smaller bookstores.

These books are really helpful.

About the healing part.

Whilst my cancer recovery has been excellent, I have also had several surgeries both minor and major in 2020. In times of needing to be at home…much more in COVID times of course, and to remain physically rested, then to distract myself from any feelings of deprivation (coffee, driving, getting out!) I used (and use) my art space.

From what I know of my physical recoveries which have been for the main part, excellent, I know that my emotional and mental outlook play a great role too.

Coming to my space for art and play is a way of winding back from many thoughts and just focussing on what is in front of me. This strategy has helped me more than I ever might have thought.

Since 6 October I have been released from all of my treatments and surgeries..by that I mean, no more regular visits to the GP for dressing changes and wound care from the second abdominal surgery. My prosthodontist saw me briefly when I had some mouth pain recently but he doesn’t want to to come back till around May 2021 and my head and neck surgeon said ” see you in September 2021″.

THAT is an awesome feeling...and in its own way sets me a new challenge.

How to enjoy myself even more creatively!

What do you do to help you heal?

Do you have any creative outlets?

Denyse.

Joining with Leanne and friends here for Lovin Life Linky.

 

 

 

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Healthy. 39/51. #LifeThisWeek. 78/2020.

Healthy. 39/51. #LifeThisWeek. 78/2020.

When I was blogging more frequently, health and mindfulness were a category for blog posts. These days, like many, my posts are limited to twice a week.

This is good for my health in some ways as I am not feeling too much pressure to perform, aka write posts, and can enjoy the writing of the two I do more.

About Me.

  • Being healthy is a relatively new idea for me…I was raised to be healthy and was…I am talking about lifestyle & choices
  • For many years I balanced my life …in a not so good way…with eating for comfort and doing less as I was quite worn out by life
  • I knew limited ways in which to care for myself because…as many do…I was too busy caring for others: at work, and in my family life.
  • I do much much better now in the self-care and health stakes as I have learned much in my years living following head and neck cancer.

Then I Was Diagnosed With Cancer.

Those who have followed me before and since this diagnosis know that I found out I had a head and neck cancer, specifically squamous cell carcinoma of the top gums (maxilla) and under the top lip. All about that, and many more posts outlining the years of surgeries and more are here: Head and Neck Cancer.

But Before Then.

My emotional health was at an all time low from 2013 into early 2017 for a number of reasons:

  • ageing and becoming somewhat disenchanted by some of its effects
  • retirement from all of my meaningful and paid work over this time
  • my weight was the highest it had been and with encouragement from my GP and my own determination, I lost some kilos over a year with greater awareness of why I ate, and ensuring I moved more
  • finishing up grandparent care at our house and actually being glad because I was finally tiring and becoming worn out by it
  • making a move from all I knew: Sydney, our family, friends….to the Central Coast
  • this move was one I thought I wanted (and still agree it was the right move) but my emotional health brought me down into spirals of anxiety and fear along with the dreaded Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • the health professionals I saw then all said it was reactive depression and anxiety was part of the transitioning. Not a diagnosis of either. I do take a low dose anti-depressant now to help with IBS more than anything and getting off to sleep
  • I admit I am one of what is known as the “worried well”.

SO….in some ways I was not surprised that I had cancer diagnosed in May 2017 …I can see that others may have felt stress was a cause. That it is not a direct link, but from what I know about cancer, it is random.  Some people thought my immune system was down due to the appearance of my mouth. THAT,  was actually the beginning of cancer…but no-one thought that till April 2017 when I insister my dentist remove the bridge from my upper gums.

This quote sums cancer up. From an Australian surgeon:

Head and Neck Cancer Requires Frequent Checks.

From the diagnosis on May 18 2017, to the big reconstruction surgery on July 6 2017, through to further surgeries for skin grafts and checking inside my mouth, glands in neck area and many visits to the prosthodontist, I had:

  • post-surgery checks after a few days to a few weeks to see my head and neck surgeon and his surgical assistant, nurse specialist
  • three monthly checks for the first year
  • any time where I may have seen/felt an issue, such as additional skin forming, and my surgeon saw me within weeks
  • four monthly checks for the next year
  • weekly and fortnightly visits to the prosthodontist as he continued to work on the making of the upper prosthesis
  • then monthly to two monthly visits to him, until COVID. Last time I saw him was February 2020 and I am returning in mid October as he is now doing regular checks again
  • this year, the visits to Sydney’s Chris O’Brien Lifehouse were at 6 month intervals.
  • THEN, at my recent early September visit, after clear CT scans of my head, neck and chest, and after visual examination and more, I am now on:
  • a 12 month check up..so will not be back until September 2021.

“MY” Prof…as I call him, Professor Jonathan Clark AM recently became chair of a new program at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and Sydney University where this grant will enable him and his team create software and 3D models for head and neck surgery on the spot. My surgery, over 3 years ago, meant a delay as my team here in Australia  and the software developers in Europe made the program for my surgery and the model for my  mouth which had to be flown in from Belgium. Here’s the announcement of the donation for the funding so this program goes ahead.

ALWAYS happy to have a photo….

How I Manage My Health Now.

Interestingly with greater ease, thanks to a limited ability to eat a lot and to a better attitude to moving more.

Photos tell that story too. It is a way of keeping myself accountable too.

However, I never feel that I am missing out either. I have a better understanding of my need to nourish this body and to also enjoy the treats when I can.

And Then I Had to Do These Things.

Have both of my eyes’ cataracts removed and lens replaced. This happened on the cusp of COVID restrictions and I was glad to be done. In Sydney, over 3 days. Then of course, I had recovery but my opthalmologist has rooms up here so visits for checks were OK. I was quite shocked that from one annual visit to the next, it was cataracts time. This turning 70 was not quite what I thought. Now 6 months on, I use readers of a lower strength and no glasses for driving. Love the clearer views everywhere.

Left Eye Cataract Done

After hiding FROM myself and my problems with rectal prolapse* and the ways in which it impacted my day to day life, in May 2020, I was forced to face the matter as I could no longer live in pretend land. I look at it this way though, in managing my recoveries – physical and emotional – from those years of head and neck cancer I could not face more investigations into what is wrong. But dear readers, there was a lot wrong. Google rectal prolapse and what it means. Let’s just say, I paid a small fortune for incontinence aids, and suffered a great deal from shame about this condition.

Grateful to be ‘out of’ another surgery.

Getting One of the Things* Above Fixed…and Added Complications. 

Again COVID changed a few things but from my GP’s referral to a colorectal surgeon who insisted on a colonoscopy “no cancer or polyps but def need rectal prolapse repair”…and then needed surgery I became resigned to what needed to be done. From early May to late July I waited for the  surgery called rectopexi. The surgeon did a great job, especially complicated by my inners where he also found (surprise) a hernia needing repair. This necessitated a horizontal incision AND, the best (not) news, a vertical incision. Meeting in an upside down T at the bottom of my abdomen. The surgery, has worked. He took the slack inner workings of my rectum and has stitched them to a bone low in my back. I have no prolapse and normal (for me) bowel movements for the….first time in perhaps a decade…and…

My recovery in hospital and at home was slow as expected but at my first post-op appointment he told me I was a star for recovering in exactly the way it was best. I liked that. Especially as I did not quite hit it off with him at my initial consult…I was scared.

Three weeks into post-surgery recovery I noticed a section of the upside T section of the wound was kind of not staying together. I showed my GP and he thought it would be OK. But take this anti-biotic and apply this cream…and let’s hope it resolves.

It did not.

Within 2 weeks of seeing my GP, I was ‘astonished to see and feel liquid forming over my nightie as I got up out of my chair. Eeek. Got an urgent appointment to the GP, who was ‘so sorry, Denyse’ but…It was called wound dehiscence and sometimes a wound will not stay together. My colorectal surgeon saw me the next day, and pronounced “can fix, back into hospital for wound debridement and we will put a VAC system on to help heal the wound over less time.”

Wound Debridement and the VAC. 

One month post first surgery for rectopexi I was back in the same hospital and cared for very well. Surgery was less than an hour. I stayed overnight so the surgeon and wound nurse could see I understood how to live with the VAC system. The best part of having paid for our private health insurance since the late 1960s it means either of us can get the best care, when and where we can. I know this is a two-part health system in Australia but I am very grateful.

Each week I was visited two days a week by the Wound Nurse. This was all covered under ‘Hospital at Home” care from our Teachers Health Program. A machine was supplied, each of the changes of dressings and the costs of visits from the Wound Nurse. This lasted just over 3 weeks.

Since then, our GP and his practice nurse is taking care of my wound dressing. The progress is amazing on the wound. I have so many photos, none of which I will add here but they give me and my husband (the photographer) updates. The medical and surgical teams appreciate my dated photo collages.

Is that IT?

I don’t know but I sure would like to be free of appointments for  the above. This is likely to occur in the next two weeks or so. At least I have no VAC on me and have full independence.

I am back to my prosthodontist in October but I am pretty sure my mouth care will be praised.

Emotionally I am getting there. I know I have gained a great deal of resilience through much of these past 3+ years but am looking forward to a some respite from health professionals for a while,

THANK you…if you got this far.

I hope you are healthy and well.

Stay that way!

Denyse.

Link Up 208

Life This Week. Link Up #208

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week! NOT a link-up series of posts, thank you.

* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do!

* Check out what others are up to: Leave a comment on a few posts, because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar or let others know somewhere you are linking up to this blog’s Life This Week.

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COVID-19 Test Experience For Me. 33.1/2020.

COVID-19 Test Experience For Me. 33.1/2020.

It sure is a topical “event” around the world and now I am outlining my recent experience as a potential* COVID19 patient.

*no spoiler alert: the good news before you read any further is that I tested NEGATIVE and that’s great.

Friday 24 April 2020.

Morning

I woke with a sore throat that is not unusual for me to have.

I knew I had been a bit ‘hayfever-ish’ the day before as my eyes were a bit runny and when I saw my G.P. on Wednesday before, he thought it was an allergy type of thing with my eyes and use the drops I have.

I was determined to visit the beach for a walk as the weather was (still is!) amazing and felt up for it. Despite bit of a sore throat.

Loved my walk and on way back home bought some betadine throat gargle in case it worsened. I know it is not always helpful but I felt better for having it.

Afternoon.

Later in the afternoon as I was doing some art, I noticed that I felt a bit warmer than normal and so, took my temperature. It was over what is normal for me. It was then I recalled the earlier messages from the N.S.W. Premier and N.S.W. Health about getting a COVID-19 test even with the mildest of symptoms.

So after briefly chatting with my husband about doing this, I first called our G.P. I thought there was a protocol for testing. I wanted to be sure. It turns out, I could have (and did) call the Health Hotline: 1800 022 222 where that person entering my details and symptoms said “go get the test”. There is also a National Coronavirus Health Information Hotline 1800 020 080

Before rocking up to Wyong Hospital’s COVID-19 Centre, I rang first: 4394 9200 and they said come on down now and by 4.15 p.m. there I was.

I admit to a wee bit of trepidation knowing once I had started this information sharing…and agreeing to the testing I would now be part of the system and information shared between health professionals but I also had a better feeling that I needed to find out.

The hospital is literally up the road from us and the signage made it easy to find the clinic.

Here’s what happened next:

  • Waited outside the door until it was opened by a person fully covered in what I now know is par for health and safety of personnel: gown, gloves, mask
  • I was asked to clean my hands with sanitiser
  • I was given a mask to put on
  • The nurse then took my temperature (which has reverted to normal of course) and my pulse
  • I was asked a series of questions about risks/exposure: all of which were a negative from me
  • Then I was directed to person behind a screen who completed my contact details (which did need updating as Wyong Hospital community nursing staff were those who attended me at Gorokan after my cancer surgery in 2017)
  • Following that, I was given my plastic folder and asked to walk around the side of the room – a very large one, with arrows for directions and exit
  • I was greeted kindly (again, everyone was lovely and relaxed and helpful!) by a Registered Nurse who asked me to sit in a chair.
  • There were groups of chairs, all empty, set out in rows and columns with correct distancing between them.
  • The questions I was asked now were repeats of earlier ones (verifications) and then more including current health status and the only one I answered ‘yes’ to was about having cancer.
  • We chatted a bit about their day (it had been much busier than now where I was the only one) and about ‘back to school’ as she has one HS student
  • The test would be one taken from inside my nose reaching down to my throat and I mentioned the better nostril for me, post head and neck cancer reconstructions would be the left.
  • I was then asked to go to a partitioned room where another nurse greeted me in a kind and relaxed manner, indicating her preference for that nostril too as she was left-handed. Lefties unite I said.
  • Yes, the test is a tiny bit uncomfortable and it was over in a tick. No sneezing or tears…as an auto reaction, just “glad that’s done”.
  • I’d been given two sheets of information earlier and told, when I got home, to register for text results.
  • I was also told by the nurse earlier that as of now, I was to consider I have COVID19 and to self-isolate at home.
  • I followed the exit signs, clutching my 2 pieces of paper and drove home.

Self-Isolation At Home: Friday to Sunday 26 April.

This took a bit of a think on how to do it without impacting on my husband and me too much. Here’s what worked for us in a large house.

  • We literally stayed distant from each other physically.
  • We already have separate bedrooms
  • I have a space in the house where he does not enter and that is where my computer and art spaces are
  • The shared bathroom was now his, and I moved my things to the other bathroom. We use only one normally as who wants to clean 2?
  • In terms of food preparation and kitchen use, I wiped over every surface such as door and drawer handles etc then left the kitchen so my husband coulr get his dinner.
  • When he was done, I donned my disposable gloves and prepared my simple tea.
  • We sit in different rooms for TV and by 7.30 p.m. were back in our bedrooms.

The Next Day: A.N.Z.A.C. Day. More Self-Isolation. 

  • This became a repeat of the day before.
  • I also needed to have some time to think about how to manage this mindfully
  • Because of my cancer diagnosis (and long spells at home) and the recent weeks of staying home unless needing to go out for essential reasons I was able to come around to managing it well.
  • The small shopping needs we had we sought by my husband.
  • I did some art, I completed the blog post for tomorrow, I talked to Dad on the phone but did not mention this, I loved seeing the various way sA.N.Z.A.C. Day was commemorated in COVID-19 ways, and I went outside. I looked at nature and marvelled at my phone’s camera results….

Waiting for The Results.

I admit that waiting for this result was somewhat like waiting for cancer results so I guess I have had practice. However, I was hoping I would get the results before the Monday as we are hosting a visit from our granddaughter.

At the hospital I was told it could be anywhere from 3 days to 5 days. I understand erring on the longest possibilities.

I used the system from the NSW Health Pathology to receive my results by text and enrolled in that on the Friday evening.

I started feeling better from the sore throat as Saturday evening came and some of my tiredness had dissipated.

Nevertheless, until a negative result was received, I did have to act AS IF I was positive.

The Result: Sunday 26 April 2020.

Waking just after 8.00 a.m. I noticed a message on my phone.

It was from N.S.W. Health Health Pathology COVID-19 SMS Results Service.

Once I had located my unique pin, I received this:

Because none of those conditions applied to me, I was able to cease the self-isolation precautions.

I am not being anything other than grateful. I also know this COVID-19 can be anywhere and we all need to be vigilent.

But how amazing is the time between taking my test to receiving my result (it came in much earlier than I saw it) was: 36 hours. 

This is why I blogged about it.

To share my experience and to connect with anyone who may wish to know more.

I am sending my best wishes and appreciation to all who will continue to help those of us in the community taking risks of exposure as they work to help eradicate this virus.

I also send my best to those who will be returning to the unknown of schools and teaching in Term 2 in Australia and elsewhere.

This is just my experience, for my records too.

Have you been tested? How was the experience for you?

I do hope you are well.

Stay Safe.

Stay Well

Take Care.

Denyse.

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Self-Care Stories. #1. 7/51 #LifeThisWeek. 13/2020.

Self-Care Stories. #1. 7/51 #LifeThisWeek. 13/2020.

 

Welcome to the first in the series for 2020.

This optional prompt pops up every 7 weeks or so.

Today here’s mine!

Before kicking off: I have made two changes to my daily routine which is helping me:

One is to consider what I am grateful for each day. I tend to think about something or someone through the day and by even thinking that way I notice a change within. I blogged about it here. I am doing an instagram post each day here: @denysewhelan_blogs and no longer have my account private. I still have @denysewhelan going and no longer private...look at me taking a risk

Two is I am listening to Calm meditation app twice a day. One session, the Daily Calm, before I get up from bed and last thing at night a session of whatever I need at the moment. I have just listened to 10 or so day of “relationship with self.”. Calm is free initially and then you can decided to buy. I got a lifetime price as a bargain in 2018 and am never sick of it. Sleep stories are ace too on nights when I am less than sleep-ready.

What Have I Been Doing?

  1. remembering to follow my daily routine: get up, have breakfast, get dressed and go somewhere for a coffee….come home, blog, read, relax, cook, sleep…
  2. this was, for the most part, pretty well kept.
  3. however and it may have been something that affected others too, I became more anxious than usual when we had extremes of threats:
  • Bushfires
  • More fires
  • High temperatures
  • Continued fires
  • And then it rained.
  • Rainfall was excessive in some places and caused:
  • Flooding
  • Electricity to be cut
  • And NONE of this directly affected me.
  • Mmmmmm.
  • so I was most fortunate to have an in-house counsellor (aka my husband) but also that my previous years of learning how to self-care via means at my disposal actually helped..a great deal.
  • but being an avid follower of social media there were signs that my emotional health was being impacted when I stayed on news and updates for fires/disaster sites for long periods.
  • I realised even before I was “told” by my husband to stop. That was a good self-care measure in itself.

 

Why Have I Needed to Do This?

  1. I know I thrive on being informed and also caring about and for others….BUT there has to be a limit placed.
  2. I do this now by asking myself “what is it I can do that will help this person/those people etc?” If there is nothing really, I do send out a message of empathy where it’s appropriate and I might even do this.
  3. The loving kindness messages are always a way for me to feel a greater connection with others.
  4. I recalled with some hyped and stressed memories of the 5 days of the 2015 East Coast Low when we first moved to the Central Coast and I needed to talk a few of those memories through.
  5. Once I had done that I also knew I am in (and still am in) a much better headspace some 5 years later thanks to all the work I have done to achieve greater emotional health.

Loving Kindness (Metta) can be said silently for yourself, for another or for many. These words above are just one group.

How Do I Integrate This Into My Life?

  1. I continue to follow my routine as much as possible allowing for days (there were a couple!) where to go out of the house meant to be on unsafe roads in flooding rains so I stayed home
  2. I managed to fill in those particular days with little and varied projects of mine.
  3. I automatically come to my art desk when I need to zone out and concentrate on ONE thing and that worked well. In fact it has been something I have done before as well.
  4. I love the variety of activities I now have at my disposal and made use of exploring more of the media too.
  5. My husband was well-occupied with his in-house hobbies and some cabinet making in the garage so with no power lost, we really did well!

 

Afterwards. Onwards.

  1. Self-care is on-going and it can change in its focus for me, depending on how I am.
  2. This week (in fact today!) I am at Westmead seeing my prosthodontist for an update on my upper mouth. I used to get quite stressed about these visits “what will he see that I cannot” and last week I said “STOP”.
  3. I had been living in fear that had no justification.
  4. It was shifting the relaxed mood in our house (and relationship) to tense because I was experiencing some mouth pain (it IS always there, it just seemed worse)
  5. I changed how I approached the pain. I stopped focussing on it by not mentioning it. I also took panadol as instructed.
  6. Self-care is pretty well an on-going matter and recently on Bev Aisbett’s Facebook page (Living with “IT” Anxiety) she posted this, with permission to share:

Recently I took this selfie looking back to  Norah Head Lighthouse in the background, the huge seas reaching the shore…to remind me of how well I am, grateful for all in my life and how far I have come. More to come too, of course!

How is your self-care going?

What do you notice if you are not keeping up your self-care practices?

I look forward to catching up with the comments after I am back from Westmead!

Denyse.

Link Up 176.

Link Up #176. Life This Week.

You can link up something old or new, just come on in.

* Please add just ONE post each week!

* Feel free to go with the prompt for the week to add your ‘take’ on the prompt. Or not.

* Please do stay to comment on my post as I always reply and it’s a bloggy thing to do!

* Check out what others are up to by leaving a comment because we all love our comments, right!

* Add a link back to this blog in your post somewhere, or on your sidebar.

*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice.

* THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 8/51 Unusual 23/2/2020

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Try This: Gratitude: 5, 10, 15. 4/2020.

Try This: Gratitude: 5, 10, 15. 4/2020.

Here’s something to complement and build on the Good News post from Monday!

I thought that there have been so many positive reactions to the Good News here that it was timely to add an idea about:

G R A T I T U D E

and how making a connection with yourself, the world and your inner being, you can indeed seek good news in your life from the use of gratitude as a marker.

Being 15 January when this post goes live, I chose to make a challenge based on:

5

  1. To see a flower bloom like this one
  2. To know that nature is an amazing re-generator
  3. To feel the wind on my face at the lake on Tuesday
  4. To watch a pair of swans glide by in front of me
  5. To have a hairdresser who gets my hair!

10

  1. To see a flower bloom like this one
  2. To know that nature is an amazing re-generator
  3. To feel the wind on my face at the lake on Tuesday
  4. To watch a pair of swans glide by in front of me
  5. To have a hairdresser who gets my hair!
  6. To be able to find food in my supermarket that is affordable
  7. To enjoy making meals and snacks that work for me
  8. To use technology that connects me with people I may never meet but are already friends
  9. To be able to breathe with ease since much of the bushfire smoke has gone
  10. To take myself out for coffee most days

 

15

  1. To see a flower bloom like this one
  2. To know that nature is an amazing re-generator
  3. To feel the wind on my face at the lake on Tuesday
  4. To watch a pair of swans glide by in front of me
  5. To have a hairdresser who gets my hair!
  6. To be able to find food in my supermarket that is affordable
  7. To enjoy making meals and snacks that work for me
  8. To use technology that connects me with people I may never meet but are already friends
  9. To be able to breathe with ease since much of the bushfire smoke has gone
  10. To take myself out for coffee most days
  11. To find that I can bring myself calm inside as I do some art
  12. To have the best head and neck professional team caring for me since May 2017
  13. To hear the bellbirds as I drive on the Pacific Highway near the small waterways
  14. To know that I am loved by my husband
  15. To find gratitude in more and more as time goes on

 

This is something for readers to consider.

Maybe 5 is doable.

Maybe 10 is…

or you could s   t   r   e   t  c   h   to 15.

Whatever is what you can decide to do, will, I can guarantee bring a shift to your inner self.

Trust me! I was late to this but now I cannot NOT find gratitude around me.

Come on, give it a go.

Share the word on gratitude too.

Tell me in the comments, what are you grateful for right now!

Denyse.

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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How Am I Grateful? 2/2020.

How Am I Grateful? 2/2020.

It’s an interesting question!

One I find hard to answer in summary except that I will do what I can here now!

In the first blog post of 2020 I wrote this:

It was a long read…which I did intersperse with photos to illustrate my message – teacher-me!

However, I know that for some gratitude seems ‘oh so on trend’ and what might be next.

Well, I am going to say whilst I do not mind being up with the trends, gratitude has been around for far longer than I have…and any other influencer..(joke).

And gratitude, just like any mindful practice does need to be practised and noticed and felt. Every Day.

 

But what about this? 

As I write this post, it’s Saturday 4 January 2020 when it seems more than I can imagine of Australia is burning. Fires are consuming towns, rainforests, fields, mountains, grassy slopes and all in its path. That path has included a number of people (some not yet accounted for), hundreds of dwellings, millions of animals and more. It is 43 degrees outside here and around 3 streets away the power is out. So far our house is not affected and the air-con is running.

I do not find this a comfortable place to be in my mind and in my body. I made this meme ages ago to remind me that this is what I have to do. If I cannot, then I am fighting an unwinnable fight.

How on earth do I ‘sit with this?’

  • I noticed that my mind was starting to go down the path of ‘what ifs’ and ‘o. m. g.’ and my body started to tighten.
  • I felt teary and a little out of control of my emotions.
  • I knew that I could cry, tell my husband, seek answers to the unanswerable….but what then?

So, I took notice of my mind and body’s signals and did a few things I know that can help.

  • I am better when I am just painting some lines or strokes…on a page…it seems that in itself for me that is calming
  • I did just that on a large page
  • I came here, to share some of my words. The blog is good for that!
  • I told myself that it is OK to feel scared as these times are frightening
  • However, I also told myself that the evidence is here that I am safe, well and cool.

Strategies which work(ed). For me.

I have just told my husband – the one who would have had to help me through in the past – and of course he is pleased I can see life and its challenges better these days. I am grateful that he was patient enough in the past years to help me see/feel/be grateful even when I had no real idea.

Now, I feel better physically.

I will do some more art.

In fact, I used some of that energy I needed to dissipate and cooked some meals for me, my husband and dad.

And I will realised that I can send out loving kindness messages to people who really are doing it tough today, no matter where they are.

I am grateful that I know this practice and it works for me too.

For you! And you too….sending loving kindness.

I now know, it is not about ‘the actual words’ but the intent. The sharing of our messages of well-being, hope and love for each other.

The human connections.

What are you grateful for today…and every day?

Denyse.

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Word of Year: Gratitude. 1/51 #LifeThisWeek 1/2020.

Word of Year: Gratitude 1/51 #LifeThisWeek1/2020.

This Link Up Has Been Part of Each Monday Since September 2016….almost every Monday: summer holidays & my cancer surgery July 2017 excepted.

This is #LifeThisWeek 170. I appreciate each and every blogger who links up. Thank you. Onward in 2020! 

Welcome to 2020 and Life This Week! I hope you are doing well. The past months in Australia have been very challenging with excessive heat and many fires which have caused enormous damage and loss. I send my commiserations to those affected.

In the last post for 2019, I did give a hint in the form of the beginning letter of each of the ten new optional prompts for 2020.

    R    A    T     I    T     U    D     E

I admit I have been somewhat late to the understanding of the purpose of gratitude….and then I saw this quote:

In daily life, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.

Br. David Steindl-Rast. Network for Grateful Living.

That made sense to me even more as I have learned much about gratitude and me since doing the 30 days of gratitude in the lead up to my 70th Birthday.

Over the past few years my husband’s words to me often included “what have you been grateful for today?” or “what went well for you today?”. Yes, I could answer him mostly in a positive way but until I had a shift in the form of my own revelations I guess I was paying lip service to gratitude. From time to time, I would think about what I was grateful for and write things down then I would leave it.

I need to add these words that are for me, similar to gratitude and will see me using them:

  • thankful
  • blessed (yes, not a joke)
  • content
  • grateful
  • fortunate

As someone who needs evidence I did my research and continue to read more on gratitude. This article, mentions many of those I have come to know from my reading and listening which is why I am including much of the article. It is from a US source.

 

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. In fact over the years I’ve come to realize that gratitude is perhaps our most powerful and profound emotion. And that’s the only problem with Thanksgiving — by giving gratitude its one big day a year, do we run the risk of not giving it enough of our time and attention the other 364 days?

That would be a shame, because gratitude isn’t just a courtesy, or amatter of good manners. It’s our gateway to grace. It’s no coincidence that gratitude shares the same Latin root — gratus — as the word grace. So in addition to a day of gratitude, we can choose to live in a state of gratitude — and thus in a state of grace.

We live in a stress-filled, sleep-deprived, burned out world. In fact, for many, Thanksgiving itself is one of the most stressful days of the year. And that’s ironic, because the answer to Thanksgiving stress is right there in the word itself. Whenever we find ourselves in that stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off mindset — including this week — gratitude is the brake lever. It gives us perspective and allows us to reset and recharge.

Though they didn’t have Thanksgiving, the ancients certainly knew the value of giving thanks. Cicero wrote that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others.” It took a few thousand years, but this wisdom has since been validated by a mountain of science. And we still haven’t reached the end of the list of what gratitude can do.

Robert Emmons, of the University of California, Davis, and Michael McCullough, of the University of Miami, are two of the foremost gratitude researchers. In one study, for several weeks, one group of participants wrote down things they were thankful for. A second group noted things that had annoyed them. The first group ended up feeling more optimistic and happy about their lives. And they even exercised more and slept better. But it wasn’t because the first group had more things to be thankful for — it was the act of thinking about what they were grateful forthat gave them such a tangible boost in well-being. We’re grateful not for the things we expect, but just the opposite.

“At the cornerstone of gratitude is the notion of undeserved merit,” Emmons and McCullough write in their book, The Psychology of Gratitude. “The grateful person recognizes that he or she did nothing to deserve the gift or benefit; it was freely bestowed.” It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger and resignation — a small miracle that produces a lingering moment of grace. And as they conclude in their study, when we choose to continue creating these moments, the consequences are powerful. “A life oriented around gratefulness is the panacea for insatiable yearnings and life’s ills,” they write.

Martin Seligman, of the University of Pennsylvania — and one of the founders of the field of positive psychology — has shown that the benefits of a single gratitude exercise — in one study, writing and delivering a thank you letter — can last for an entire month. Gratitude has also been found to lower levels of stress and depression, and improve sleep. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that gratitude exercises can lower levels of inflammation, which improves heart health. In adolescents, gratitude has been found to reduce materialism and increase generosity, and lead to healthier eating. At the other end of life, gratitude has been found to reduce loneliness in the elderly.

And before I go to sleep, I’ll quickly write down a few things I’m grateful for. It focuses my mind on all the many blessings in my life, big and small — and shrinks the list of unresolved problems. Of course, we all have a mix of both in our lives, but it’s up to us to choose which frames our outlook and our daily lives. As Charles Dickens wrote, “reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

And it’s not just our present blessings. The power of gratitude can also extend to what hasn’t happened — all those close shaves with “disaster” of some kind or another, all the bad things that could happen to us and just… don’t. That distance between them happening and not happening is grace. It’s summed up in one of my favorite quotes (attributed to the eighth-century Muslim jurist Imam Al-Shafi’i): “My heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me.”

And then there are the disasters that do happen, that leave us broken and in pain. For me, such a moment was losing my first baby when I was 36. Losing a baby brings up so many unspoken fears and worst-case scenarios: Will I ever be able to carry a baby to term? Will I ever be able to become a mother? Everything felt broken inside. My mother had once shown me a quote from Aeschylus that spoke to me in those hours: “And even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.” And there it is again: grace. Gratus. Gratitude. It wasn’t a magic bullet. It didn’t erase my grief. I wouldn’t have wanted it to. But it told me I could get through it, and that I was strong enough to take this, carry it with me and keep going.

There are, of course, countless ways to bring the power of gratitude into your life. Mark Williams, of the University of Oxford, suggests a daily “10-finger gratitude exercise,” in which you list 10 things you’re grateful for and count them out on your fingers. Coming up with 10 won’t always be easy. But that’s the point — it’s about, as he puts it in his book Mindfulness, “intentionally bringing into awareness the tiny, previously unnoticed elements of the day.”

Laurie Santos taught Yale’s most popular class, “Psychology and the Good Life,” also known as the “happiness course.” To get the full effect of gratitude, “you have to take time to feel it,” she says. “It’s a moment to really reflect on, ‘What would my life be like without this thing?’”

That’s why gratitude has been at the core of every tradition that focuses on what it means to live a good life. “Our minds are terrible at accurately predicting what will make us happy,” she says. “I think that’s why humans have historically needed religion and faith. Those traditions push us in the direction of doing acts of charity, having gratitude, being in communities where we connect with people — all things that give us a boost. Luckily, nonbelievers can get a boost from those habits, too.”

You can even work gratitude into your life through habit stacking, creating a healthy new habit by “stacking” it onto an existing habit.

For instance: Think of three things you’re grateful for while brushing your teeth or during some other part of your morning or nighttime routine. It doesn’t have to be about something big or life-changing. It can be gratitude for your morning coffee, or a random interaction with someone who made us smile that day, or a piece of nature on the way to work. Or it can be simply gratitude for being alive.

Subscribe here for my Weekly Thoughts Newsletter, where you’ll find my take on the week’s news, my favourite pieces on how we can thrive even in our stressful world, and some fun and inspiring extras.

This word, and those like it, along with more will be the subject of further explanation in my post on Wednesday.

I hope, that you may find some reasons to be grateful in your life today….

Thank you for being part of Life This Week 2020.

Denyse.

 

Link Up #170. Life This Week.

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* Please add just ONE post each week!

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*Posts deemed by me, the owner of the blog and the link-up, to be unsuitable for my audience will be deleted without notice.

* THANK you for linking up today!

Next Week’s weekly optional prompt is: 2/51 Good News 13.1.2020.

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Click here to enter


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Update: Two Years Since My ‘Weight’ Post.122/2019.

Update:Two Years Since My ‘Weight’ Post.122/2019.

Looking back to the last post I wrote here for 2017 I decided it was time for an update.

Firstly, two years!!

Secondly: Am I brave enough to do this?

Y. E. S.

Some background information. I would urge you to read the post I wrote back in December 2017 as it was the most honest I have been publically about the challenges of being overweight, obese and all the years I did not speak of it.

Two years ago, I was the lightest I had been since…early my  20s (we are talking over 48 years ago).

I was that weight for a few reasons…the major one being oral cancer in my upper mouth requiring everything to be removed and a reconstruction process begun. My ability to eat was severely challenged.

At my ‘weightiest’ 2013, and ‘lowest’ November 2017.

But…from the image of me at my heaviest in 2013 I did start to lose some weight (not by dieting) but by a couple of years of anxiety and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (diarrheoa) from 2014 onwards.

In fact, without trying, as they say, it did come off. I admit, I could not eat much (without having to find a toilet very fast afterwards)….but, in 2015 into 2016 the weight loss whilst gradual did worry me but I was assured by my GP that it was OK. It was my body and the fact I could not eat much.

Interestingly, and I have only recently formed this view, I was on a long-term anti-depressant for at least 10 years before coming off it slowly probably in 2012 -2013 so I may never know if that too played a part in my body holding onto fat.

I also come from a family line of overweight people from both Mum’s and Dad’s relatives.

Why Am I Writing About This Now?

Well. The woman who always saw herself as F A T (and tried to L I K E herself too) is having to come to terms with:

  • how I am,
  • how I may proceed knowing weight has been an issue in my life for a L O N G time…
  • and to see if sharing my update helps not only me but others.

I am pretty sure THIS is a topic that is often OFF-LIMITS.

What’s Happened In The Two Years Since The Last Story?

  • I continue to be a work-in-progress as far as my relationship with my appearance is concerned.
  • I admit it is getting better as I compare the ‘health’ of me now, to the ‘ill-health’ of me as I was recovering from surgeries July 2017 until I got my upper prosthesis in August 2018.
  • I went up a size in some clothes in the past year. I also added around 6 kg in 12-15 months.
  • I refuse to get worn down by the weight I am story again so I am doing my best to look well and feel good too.
  • Since May 2019, the Apple Watch helps keep me honest with myself, via the daily steps and movements records. I do around 6000 most days, sometimes around 5, 500 and other days well into the 7000.
  • The thing is, even with the upper prosthesis, it is still a challenge to find foods that work for me outside the home. 
  • In this collage you will see a plate of baked vegetables. That was all I could see that was suitable on the menu at a local club at a Christmas lunch.
  • This time, when I attend, I am having cake and coffee…because I know I can eat that in public and I will not fill up and I can eat a better meal at home.
  • It really is trial and error. Sometimes the size of a meal stops me. This is OK at home as I can have the other half the next day. Many restaurants do not allow take home bags. I learned that I cannot rely on take-away or restaurant food when I had my first overnight stay in Sydney in June. It surprised me.
  • I want to remain well, comfortable and confident in myself which is why I continue some photos every few days/weeks.
  • These help me SEE that perhaps what I FEEL is wrong…as I often am surprised by my image.
  • I do admit now, that the photos I see of me post-cancer surgeries are not those of a healthy woman (albeit thinner than I had been for decades) so to want to be her again is not to be well.

More musings….

As I said above, I remain a work-in-progress. I was/can still be a comfort eater but this is what has changed.

  • I know about my cravings.
  • I know that cravings can go, given the chance, just like feelings change too.
  • I understand myself so much better now when I start thinking about food I might want because I ask myself “what is it that is troubling me?”

In the past, I would not have even gone that far. I would have scoffed the chips, bitten into the crunchy foods and allowed the smooth chocolate to melt in my mouth. I do not eat much at all like this any more. I do still eat something for texture or taste but my full limits have changed as has my mouth so far less is consumed.

Dealing with what is troubling me is the big shift.

  • I can speak to my husband about it,
  • write in my journal,
  • go outside,
  • blog,
  • do some art…
  • anything to change the situation and thoughts…and guess what happens most often..the craving has moved on.

This knowledge for me has been life-changing.

Here is where I learned about it and still continue to learn. Of course, my self-talk is probably one of my better teachers…as long as I remember the newer approaches..and yes, I mostly do. In fact, I even ask myself questions to check.

  • Is this what I really want now?
  • Am I actually needing to…(insert what I might do other than soothe with food.

I am glad I decided to write this up. I wasn’t sure. However honest me could not let the story of what’s happened just sit from where it was 2 years ago. An update was the way to go as so much has changed for me in terms of understanding my insides (brain) and the outsides (body) and the connections.

How about you?

How are you at understanding yourself in terms of appearance?

It’s a tricky thing. I get that too.

Denyse.

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

This is the ‘last post’ on a Wednesday in 2019…and will be returning on 8 January 2020.. See you then. Happy Festive Season everyone:

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

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