By Amy Stewart, LMFT
So summer has finally arrived and we are at last momentarily blessed with weather that allows Chicagoans to dig in to all that the city has to offer. However, for folks whose bodies aren’t so keen on participating, whether from chronic illness or emotional distress, the season may not always lead to sunny dispositions. What’s on the agenda when you’re out of spoons to dig into all those urban activities?
Do What You Can When You Can: Have a go-to list of the activities you’d like to add to your summer bucket list and when you find you’re having a good day, pick one. You won’t have to spend extra energy searching for things to do and can get going while your energy is highest.
Find Clarity Around Your Body’s Needs: Be clear with yourself, partners and friends around what you need to be comfortable. Whether that’s staying out of the sun, not walking long distances or working around a certain diet, name from the start the things that will allow you to better enjoy an experience.
Be Flexible: Remember that you are allowed to change your mind. Prioritize spending time with folks those that understand and validate your experience. You’re much more likely to say yes to something you know you can adjust plans at the last minute due to flare or leave an event if you’re feeling uncomfortable.
Make Staying Home An Event: For many with chronic illness, flares can be characterized by days on end of mindless binge-watching whilst icing/heating body parts and/or drifting in and out of fitful sleep. Find ways to break the pattern, if only slightly. Excellent example: A friend came up with the idea of “Hotel Bed” as an option for when his partner is flaring, but they want to be intentional about spending time together. They move the TV from the living room into the bedroom, rent a movie they’ve been wanting to watch and treat the evening like an overnight getaway, ice packs and all. He even made a sign to mark the occasion.
Have Compassion for Yourself : Recognize the difference between “I can’t go for a stroll along the lakefront” and “My body can’t go for a stroll along the lakefront.” Maybe you can walk around the block instead or maybe you need a beeline to the nearest bed. Regardless, remember that your lack of action isn’t related to anything lacking in you, you are not lazy and rest is non-negotiable.