EP3 // How life tried to knock me down this week: Finding happy even when you feel like $#@!Jun 21, 2021
Life tried to knock me on my @$$ this week. How do you handle it when your chronic illness ‘flares’? Is your happiness contingent on feeling physically good, on your A-game?
I share what I did this week to find & feel joy, see & enhance the good in my life, even though I was physically feeling awful. I want happiness even on the days when I feel like crap. And I want that for you too! Here are a few key takeaways:
- If you live with chronic illness, happiness can be found even on the days when you feel like crap or are having a flare-up.
- Words have power. The words you use to talk to yourself about your flare-up have power.
- Wonder Woman's bangles balance her great power with great love (self-love that is).
- I may be powerless to stop a wave, but I am NOT helpless or hopeless. Ride the wave!
- There are two concurrently moving paths to recovery: one internal, one external.
- When you are feeling strong, set up self-care systems... so that, on days when your chronic condition flares, you have nourishing self-care at your fingertips.
- Don’t do it alone!
And… be kind to you today!
Welcome to Finally Effing Happy, a podcast and community for kick-ass, can-do women who just happen to live with chronic illness, but are getting it done. My name is Shannon Klenk, Happiness Coach and Self-Care Strategist and I am so thrilled that you are here. I share with you my journey, dare I say joy through chronic illness, bring you some amazing guests and share tons of happiness hacks and self care strategies.
Today's episode is a short Happiness Check-In & Chat, where I'm just gonna check in and see how you are doing this week based on the tidbits and gems shared in the earlier episode in the week. If you haven't listened to that episode yet, don't worry, you'll still get a lot out of this quick dose of Finally Effing Happy. So with no further ado, let's dive right in to this episode.
So I'm coming to you today from a big comfy chair. I've got my heating blanket and my favorite fuzzy Uggh socks and my tea is my most favorite mug. And all of that is because I am not feeling great today. I am not physically feeling strong. So I wanted to check in with you and see. How's it going? Are you taking a stand for your happiness this week? Because I've had to take a really big stand for my happiness this week. Does your condition, whether you have chronic migraines, or lupus or you are a COVID-19 long hauler or maybe you live with cancer or a primary immune deficiency like I do, when you have flare ups, when you have episodes, when you have setbacks, whatever you call them, what do you do? How do they impact you? I'm in the middle of one right now. I don't feel very physically strong. And so I've had to take a stand for my happiness. And I'm going to share with you some of the things that I'm doing right now to help me and everyone around me ride this wave of this episode.
But first of all, how's it going for you? If you listened to Monday's episode? We talked about what is happiness? And why is happiness important, how it helps us heal or manage our chronic condition. And there's all kinds of reasons for it. One of the things that I shared is that it's so fascinating that in our culture and in our society, it's actually set up that we never actually achieve happiness, right? We have a culture where we are bombarded from every direction, that we never have enough. We never look enough. We never whatever enough, because if we ever get truly happy and feel like enough, then we'll stop purchasing. I was reading this book this week called Endless Light by Rabbi David Aaron, it's a really tremendous book, you should go pick it up. But he was telling a story about a friend of his who was in medical school, and he was going to medical school, and he put a calendar on his wall, and he was like, I will be happy when I am done with school and I have my degree and I'm a doctor. And then the day came and he had done all the hard work. And he is walking across the stage to get his degree and he's like, I don't feel happy. What's wrong with me. And so he gets off the stage, he gets his degree and he says to his family, who is giving him congratulations. I don't want to be a doctor. I've decided I want to be a neurologist, and I can't wait to go back to school. I'll be happy once I'm a neurologist.
And it got me thinking about something that's really important for me around my chronic condition, which is, happiness cannot be for me only when I’m healthy. Or I'll be happy when I'm not having any symptoms, because then I'm sort of screwed. I'm going to experience a lot of unhappiness, if that's my definition of happiness. He goes on to talk a lot about happiness in the journey, and so on and so forth, which I could talk about, which is all great and wonderful, but for me that place really comes down to happiness cannot just be when I feel physically strong, when I feel productive, when my mind is clear, when I'm in my A-game, because, because of my chronic condition, I'm not always on my A-game. And I want to feel happiness even when I'm not feeling physically strong. Now, I'm not talking about like happy birthday crazy happiness. I'm talking about that deep contentment and satisfaction. So what am I doing right now to try and experience that?
What can you do? When you are having a flare up, an episode, an incident, a setback, whatever you call it, in relationship to your condition, what can you do to still experience that deep contentment, and joy in your life. So I promised that this podcast was not going to be about doom and gloom and symptoms and diagnosis, but I got to give you a little background. As I've mentioned, I've a primary immunodeficiency disease, which means there are significant parts of my immune system, which basically just don't exist and or don't function properly. So I get these antibody infusions, and I get them every two weeks. And sometimes I get an infusion, and it's like, nothing's happened. 24 hours, I rebound and back to my usual self, the rhythm and routine in my life. But from time to time, I have some kind of reaction to something in the antibodies. I can't plan when I'm going to have a reaction. I don't know when I'm going to have a reaction. I don't know if that reaction is going to take me out for a day, or for a week. And so sometimes, my life, and by consequence of that, my family's life, gets super disrupted. Comes to a complete halt. My family's life gets disrupted. And I don't know whether that disruptions can be for a day, or three days or five days. And whether you suffer from chronic migraines, or lupus, or you are a COVID-19 long lauler, or whatever your condition is, if it's chronic, you have these moments. And we stand at a turning point, at some point in time when we're having those symptoms, we have a choice. We have a choice to either spiral downward, and let depression and frustration or the dreaded self pity set in. Sometimes we try and hide it and sort of soldier on. I'm just gonna muster through this.
What's your M.O.? When these conditions or side effects or symptoms flare up? Take a second. Give it some thought. And then ask yourself, is that approach really working for you? Or maybe it's just working for you some of the time? Or maybe you've even just given up and given in, because that's just how it is for people who have chronic illnesses. Those are the moments. Those are the moments when taking a stand for our happiness matters the most. It's one thing on a good day to say, of course, I want to be happy and have a fulfilling, purposeful, connected life and I'm willing to take a stand for my happiness. And it's a totally different thing when you are physically not feeling strong, like I am today, to take a stand for your happiness. That's one of the great things about being a kick-ass, can-do woman. I can figure a lot of stuff out. But it can sometimes also be my detriment. Because the truth is, although I do have some impact and influence over my symptoms, to some extent, I am not more powerful than, say, my white blood cells or my platelets or my antibodies in my particular condition.
And regardless of what your condition is, there are some elements that although you have some influence over your symptoms and your self care for sure. You don't have control over some of our bodily symptoms and functions. It would be like saying to someone who's allergic to bee stings, that when they got stung by a bee, they should be able to control the real allergic reaction and stop it. Well that's crazy. Medically we know that that generally just isn't possible. But sometimes I think that somehow I should be able to do that with my own symptoms of my own condition. And for just as long as I think that way, I spiral downward, my energy gets sucked right out of me and that negative chatter can start to take hold.
So let's talk a minute about that negative chatter. Words have power. I'm gonna say that again... words have power. The words I use, the words you use inside your head, have power. So let's just start with what we call these moments. Do you use words like a flare up, an episode, an incident, a setback, a relapse, I'll use words in my head, like, I'm gonna lose the entire week. Am I? Really? Am I really gonna lose the entire week? I'm not gonna lose the entire week. My entire week is gonna look really different than what I thought it was gonna look like, and what I had planned for it to look like, but I'm not gonna lose the entire week. And so I start with being mindful with how I even language things in my own mind. And as soon as I noticed those negative voices starting, I get into action, because that's the moment in time that I have a choice. Now, I might need to make this choice 1,000 times between now and when this particular episode passes, but here's the choice. I am going to take a stand for my happiness, even when I'm not feeling physically strong.
And so I have this little visual of me, hands on my hips. I put my Wonder Woman bulletproof golden bangles on. And I'm going to take a stand against that negativity that's taking up so much space in my head. Did you know that those bangles that Wonder Woman wore gave her superhuman strength and agility. And they were meant to represent the need to balance strength, with love. Wow, I loved that when I found that out. And in my case, I need to balance my strength. Because I am a super strong woman. And I know that if you are a kick-ass, can-do woman living with chronic illness, you have strength beyond beyond. But I need to balance that strength, with love. And in particular, self love and self gentleness. Especially in these moments, when I'm not feeling physically strong. Those bangles also represent the idea that emotions are stronger than physical power. Hmm. And in my case, my emotions play such an important role in my physical power. But I digress. I have a particular love of Wonder Woman, and so you may get sprinklings of Wonder Woman lore here and there. Back to me taking a stand for my happiness right now, hands on my hips. I've got my bulletproof gold Wonder Woman bangles on my wrist and I'm ready. I'm ready to take on the negativity that can spew in my head when I'm physically not feeling strong.
So here's the core of my philosophy, both in my coaching my self care program. And all of my support for women with chronic illness is that there are two parts of the path toward happiness. Imagine an ice skater, they have one skate on their right foot and one skate on their left foot. Both feet are moving independently of each other. But they are moving in the same direction and propelling all of me in that same direction. So the first path is an internal process. The second path is an external process and the idea that both need to be moving in motion together independent of each other, but together so that all of me can propel toward healing, and health, and self gentleness and self love. So what does that mean? In practicality?
I'm going to start with the internal process. And the imagery that I use a lot for me personally, and I use a lot in my coaching is that of a wave. And so imagine trying to stop a wave. I can't stop a wave. I mean, if I physically tried to stop a wave, it would take me under. But I can ride the wave. If I have a surfboard, or a boogie board, or even know how to body surf, I can ride the wave. I can go with the energy and flow with it until it dissipates itself. And then it's over. And so I can ride this episode, I can ride this symptom, I don't have the power to stop it. Now, let me be clear, that does not mean that I'm helpless or hopeless. No, no, no, I have great choice and influence. But I actually don't have the power to stop it. I am not more powerful than my histamine reaction to my infusion on Tuesday. Again, it's like asking someone who's allergic to bees who got stung by a bee to stop their allergic reaction just by thinking about it. I don't have that kind of power. And so I do a visualization with myself.
I imagine myself standing on a big, beautiful tropical beach with clear blue water. And I can feel the warm air on my skin and the sunshine in the sky and the smell of the salt water and the coolness of the water and the sand between my toes. And maybe I'm knee deep or waist deep in the ocean. And I see that wave coming. And I have a choice, in that moment. And I can either put my arms out and start screaming at the wave to try and get it to stop. Which you know what happens in that case, I take big gulps of water and get tossed about by the wave until I come back up gasping for air. Or I can see that wave coming and in that split second that I have a choice, decide to hop on my imaginary surfboard and start going with the energy in the flow of the water and I kick into it and I stand on that surfboard or I body surf into the wave and I can feel the rush, and the joy and the moment of that movement until the wave just naturally dissipates all on its own. And I get to the end of the wave and I'm in very shallow water and I stand back up and I walk out of the ocean. And I turn back around. And I thank the wave that is now gone. And I just walk casually and calmly down the beach back to my normal life.
That may sound a little crazy. But that visualization reminds me that I just have to ride this one out. I actually have greater strength and greater power when I ride the wave and go with the flow of the energy rather than fighting it and resisting it. But that's only the first part of the internal work. Because once I realize I can't find it, and I can't resist it, there is sometimes some acceptance work that I might need to do or some grief work that I might need to do, or some radical self empathy that I might need to do, whatever comes up for you when that reality dawns, that you don't have a magic power to stop the wave, or you don't have a magic power to stop this symptom. And each one of those I'm going to talk about in depth in a future session. So that second layer of internal work I often need to do to really rest into some acceptance of, I'm gonna just ride this wave, and let's see if we can find some beauty in it. But even without that second layer of internal work, that wave imagery can be very, very helpful.
So what's the external process? Because I said earlier, and this is really important, even in regards to the internal work, even though I don't have the power to stop it, I am not helpless, and I am not hopeless, and neither are you. And here's where we have so much influence over the outcome of how I get through this particular flare up. And I go into a mode of what I call radical self-care. And this is where you know you the best You know what you physically can, and cannot, do. What you do and don't have the bandwidth for when you're experiencing an episode or a flare up or an incident or whatever you call it for your particular condition. And this is where in my one on one coaching, I go into great depth with people to set up individualized systems around your self-care, to make it easy and sustainable to engage in those self care practices, even when you're physically feeling like crap. But for right now, I'm just gonna use me as an example. But remember, all the way along, you know you. And I know me, and I know the things that I've got to do to physically take care of me.
The first one is water. Now you're going to come to know this about me if you continue to listen to this podcast, I hate drinking water. I really do. I just do. I would rather drink a Coke Zero, a coffee, anything. But I need to get 60 to 80 ounces of water in me almost every day in order for me to feel optimal. And when I'm feeling crappy, one of the last things I want to do is drink water. And so what are the things for me. I have my favorite decaf cinnamon tea. I have my little hacks and tricks that make it possible for me to get enough water in me for me to help engage in consistent self care.
Let's talk about food for a minute. I'll go into food in greater depth in future episodes. But really, when I feel like crap, I want to eat like crap… and then I feel crappier, which is really like a horrible twist of the universe that it makes that reality true. But I know for so many of us, people have expressed the same experience to me. So when I'm feeling good, not in this moment, but when I'm feeling good, when I'm feeling strong, I've brainstormed and set up things so that I can eat comfort foods that are still good for me and that are delicious and maybe even a little bit indulgent, but that don't further inflame my symptoms of the moment. So what are those foods for you? How can you set those things up for you? For me, I have a few favorite homemade soups that I try and have in my freezer or I always try and have a russet potato because a baked potato is a favorite go-to gluten free, warm, indulgent food that doesn't make things worse for me. I always make sure to have some of my homemade sugar free granola in the house, and so if I'm wanting something sweet, I can have that with a little bit of fruit or one of my coconut based yogurts. And I'm not saying that those are the perfect foods for you. But what are your perfect foods? What are those things that are a little bit indulgent, definitely delicious, make you feel nurtured and nourishing, but that don't actually inflame whatever symptoms you have going on. Now let me be clear, I'm not perfect. Sometimes I don't have something in my freezer or I just cave, I get the eff-its and go straight for the white rice. So here's a little side note, I'm not really a big sugar person, but I can down a delicious loaf of French bread or an Italian loaf with a stick of butter with some fresh crack salts or give me a bag of potato chips. That is totally my kryptonite. But what I'm saying is that I'm not perfect. And that's not even our goal. But if I've thought through some of my favorites and my needs when I'm feeling good, and I've put those systems into place, when I'm feeling good, I've at least got a shot, when I'm feeling like crap, to eat in a way that emotionally feels good, but physically also supports my body. And the better I eat, the better I feel physically. And the quicker I heal and can turn the corner and get back to the life and the love and the connections that I want to be living on a daily basis.
Alright, let's talk about one other self care item really quickly, when we're feeling so awful, and it's rest. Now, in some cases, depending on what your condition is, you don't actually need rest, you actually need movement. But whatever it is, whether it's movement, or rest, the step by step here is applicable in either case, so stick with me. But what's most important in this is that, you know you. You know what you need. I know, you know, I and you are a kick-ass, can-do woman. When you are on your A-game, watch out world, there's so much that you get done. And I want to be able to get up in the morning, bright and early start my day with some reflection and intention, and be productive throughout my entire day until I put my head on my pillow at night, showing up for me, showing up for my business, showing up for my husband and my children and my family, nourishing and nurturing us all. But the reality is that I have a condition that on some days makes that literally physically impossible. So what am I supposed to do about that.
And this is where I do my own most frequent ‘shoulding’, s,h,o,u,l,d. I ‘should’ on myself. And I also find it's where other people ‘should’ on me the most as well. I should go take a nap. I should just sit down. I should muster the energy and go for a walk. Like it can be either direction. But there's all this ‘shoulding’ that goes on. And even when I do lay down to try and refuel my gas tank, I don't know about you, my head starts going. You can call it guilt, call it monkey mind. You can call it the dreaded fear of missing out or being high strung. I don't care what you call it. But here are the two things that I do when my head gets going. Because when I'm trying to refuel my gas tank, whether it's by laying down and or getting into movement, and my head is spinning, I can't really refuel my gas tank as effectively as I'd like to.
And so the first thing that I do, underneath every feeling we have there is an underlying need. And in this case for me, on the days when I'm feeling crappy like today, the underlying need is, I want to contribute in this world. I want to do work that is purposeful. I want to have purpose, and I want to connect. And those needs, there's something divine, there's something beautiful in those needs. And regardless of what your religious affiliations or beliefs are, you can call it God, you can call it divinity, you can call it just a power greater than ourselves. Whatever is your spiritual bent, when I can connect to the part of me that just wants to contribute in my life and have purpose and be connected and hold those needs with a gentleness and a sweetness and an appreciation, somehow it takes the rough edges of my spinning mind and just smooths them out a little bit. And then from that place, you can take a prayer, a mantra, a saying, an intention, whatever it is for you and start to engage in that mindfully and purposefully. I am a big fan of tapping. Also known as Emotional Freedom Technique. I've been doing it for over 20 years, it has been really pivotal in helping me to shift energy, feelings, times and places when I have felt really stuck, and times and places that I really want to celebrate and enhance. So when I lay down to rest, or go on that walk, to refuel my gas tank, whatever it is, here's the suggestion... before you lay down to rest or go on that walk, that's going to refuel your fuel tank just a little, decide which mindfulness technique, which mantra, which prayer, affirmation or positive thinking, are you going to use during that time, before the hamster wheel of your head starts getting going, because I've got a better shot at turning the corner, and healing faster if I start these practices before my monkey mind gets into action. It's the same with the food. So at a time when I am feeling physically healthy, strong, a little more on my A-game, I've put some systems in place that help put these resources at my fingertips. So, not on a day like today when I'm feeling super crappy, like, oh, what do I feel like doing today? Because if I sit and wait for the inspiration of what I feel like doing today, the negativity has already started in my head. And so I have favorite books at my fingertips or favorite apps at my fingertips, I have a particular playlist of songs that just quiet my soul.
And this is where you know you. What are those things that quiet you, that calm you, that help to smooth those edges around your mind when the hamster wheel gets going. And when you are feeling strong, make sure you have those at your fingertips or take whatever actions you need to get those at your fingertips. And when I don't do this, what happens is, I have a 20 minute break between work and kids and cooking dinner or whatever. And I go to rest for just a few minutes. And my head gets going and I get to the end of those 20 or 30 minutes, and I feel less rested or more exhausted than I did when I started. And that time that I spent feels totally counterproductive even though I wasn't moving around. And so I try and make sure to have these things at my fingertips, that speak to my heart, that speak to my body, and my nourishment, so that I can quiet my thoughts enough to rest genuinely. But again, I'm so not perfect at this because let's be honest, when you're feeling crappy, it takes a certain amount of emotional and spiritual energy to do this when you're having a weaker physical day. But I have many years now of demonstratable evidence that when I can muster that energy and exert it, to engage in whatever emotional practice, meditation, affirmation, peaceful music, whatever it is for you. And for me, I rest more deeply and thoroughly, which also means that I generally don't have to rest as long, and I heal quicker. And I get back to my life faster.
So here I am. There you are. Today, I'm having a flare up, an episode, an incident, a setback, a reaction, whatever you want to call it. And I can either like muscle through which is what I used to do fifteen years ago. I just put that hat on, and I'm just gonna get through the day, and what happened was I just made myself actually sicker. The other side of that is some days I would just cave in defeat, crawl into bed, depressed, feeling worthless and want to pull the covers over my head. But I promise, promise, promise there is something healthier and more healing in between. And although from time to time, I may engage in one of those two extremes, I'm here to advocate for that somewhere in the middle. It's so totally not easy. It's so much easier said than done. Not feeling strong. The negativity starts my head, started in on me. Why do you even try Shan, what's the purpose, you're just going to get sick anyways, your story doesn't really matter, you should just have this really small life because it's all super pointless because you're going to get sick anyways, you're going to lose the entire week, you're not going to be able to show up consistently, on and on and on and on, my head gets going.
But after years of practice, and the systems I have tweaked and put in place, I can turn that around, put my hands on my hips, put my Wonder Woman bangles on and go, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, I'm going to take a stand for my happiness today!’ And I am going to muster the emotional and spiritual energy I need to put all these systems into action so that I can turn this corner faster, healthier, stronger. So that I can get back to that life that I love so much. And what happens, I'll move through the moment, the episode, the flare up, the reaction, whatever you want to call it quicker, more lighthearted. I have the capacity to see good and to feel good. And then the goodness grows even through the hard days. I’m more self-accepting with a genuine self-love and self-gentleness as I connect those deeper needs that I have.
And I want that deep self-acceptance and love and self-gentleness for you to0. I don't want to make it sound like it's easy. It's not. But it is possible, especially when you aren't trying to do it all alone. So here I am today, itching was some kind of histamine reaction, tired, disappointed that my next few days are not going to be as full as I had planned. But I am full and hopeful. And despite not physically feeling very strong, I feel super woman strong. And I'm just riding the wave, got my surfboard out, feel the sun, the rush of the water, and I'm going with the energy.
What do you do when you're having an episode? When you get knocked on your ass, especially unexpectedly? Do you take a stand and fight for your happiness even as you go through it? I'm here to help you, stand behind you, cheer you on. And so I'm going to go crawl back into bed right now. I'm going to do all the things that I just shared with you. But, I so appreciate that we got to spend some time together today. So that I didn't have to do this alone so that we don't have to do this alone. And until we get to connect again next time, as I will do for me too, please remember, be kind to you today. And until we get to connect next, be well!
Hey there, it's Shannon and I've got a favor to ask you. If you have enjoyed this podcast and found some practical tips for your own life, please subscribe on Apple podcast or Spotify, or wherever you're listening to this and write a review so that other kick-ass, can-do women can find this podcast in our community. If you want to hang out some more come join me in my free and private Facebook group. You can find us at bit.ly/FinallyEffingHappyGroup. And if Facebook isn't your jam, but you want to keep on top of what's happening at Finally Effing Happy join my email list at bit.ly/FinallyEffingHappyList. Super simple, but hopefully I'll see you soon and until then be kind to you!
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