ME/CFS: A Reminder to Actively Seek Joy

Recently I’ve realised I’ve got out of the habit of being happy. It’s been a combination of things, one piling on top of another. I’ve been feeling ‘below baseline’ for a couple of months now. I’ve made very slow progress from a viral crash, (or maybe I’ve been dealing with several infections in sequence?) I’ve had to balance my recovery with my desire to keep my part time job and earn enough money to survive. And the extended cold weather has dampened my enjoyment of my daily walks, putting me off going outside altogether at times. When I do, I tended to be huddled up in so many clothes I seem to forget to look around me and take pleasure in the changing natural world. I’ve also stopped watching the comedy program that gave me my daily fix of laughter because I’ve now seen all the episodes more than one. I’ve stopped paying attention to the little things in life. I’ve succumbed to the winter blues.  My recent blog posts bear witness to my strategies for dealing with some of that misery, but there’s still been something lacking: Fun; Joy.
Many of us find that having fun within our limited energy can be quite a challenge. I’ve realised as my energy envelope has been reduced I’ve cut back even more on the attention I pay to enjoyment and I’ve gone into a kind of survival mode. But now it’s gone on for too long. I need to make sure I pay attention to actively seeking joy. My earlier post on appreciating the little things shows that this doesn’t have to take much energy; it’s more a case of attitude. I just have to be willing to look around me and take things in. By living in the moment I don’t have to carry the weight of my illness on my shoulders, it’s only heavy when I compare things to the past or worry about the future. Right now, in this minute, I can enjoy watching the birds on the feeders if I choose to. Joy can come in very accessible little packages one moment at a time, as long as you are willing to look for it.
I’ve also realised that I’ve got into such a habit of dealing with feeling under par that I’ve been expecting myself to be tired all the time, and it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of listening to my body one moment at a time, I’ve listened to it one moment and extrapolated ‘right that’s it I’m going to be tired and miserable for the rest of the day now, best just get on with it’. Yesterday I realised that I was making that assumption. It might be that I really will feed tired and miserable for most of the rest of the afternoon, but if I’m willing and open to experience joy, I might just have a few enjoyable moments!
Winter is a time when the pressures of this illness can really get on top of us. We are often struggling to deal with the cold or repeated exposure to a variety of viruses. Lack of day light can affect our circadian rhythms exacerbating problems such as sleep disturbance. Lack of skin exposure to sunlight can lead to vitamin D deficiencies. Generally our health takes a battering. It’s hard to keep your chin up when you constantly have to cope with ‘bad’ days. It’s understandable that we might get stuck in a bit of a misery rut. Sometimes we might find we need to give our outlook a bit of a spring clean!
I think I need a few ‘new joy resolutions’: What about you?
  • Avoid making assumptions about how I’m going to feel, play it by ear one moment at a time.
  • Remember not only to be open to joy, but to actively look for it.
  • Give other comedy programs another chance and try to find a new daily laughter fix.
  • Get outside as often as I can, and remember to look around me, listen and smell the ever changing natural world.
  • Savour the moments of warmth and laughter with family and friends
  • Cultivate the attitude that life can be fun if I let it, even if I don’t have much energy.
  • Plan to expend a little energy having fun at least once a week! It shouldn’t all be spent on work and recovery!
Do you have any more suggestions?

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