Why my flu might make you feel better

I was taken down last week. Completely floored. I staggered around my home from my bed to the couch to my baby’s bed to the couch and back to bed until I couldn’t stagger anymore. So I shuffled. A barking cough kept me up at night (as well as a blocked nose – the ability to breath is pretty important), 2am sweats and 5am chills had me reaching for hot water bottles and wet face washers. When I finally got vertical to carry my seven-month-old around every muscle in my body ached to drop her. I’d forgotten how merciless the flu was.

There’s nothing like being sick sedated to give you an instant hit of gratitude and a new perspective. A lesson, if you will. And seeing as though I tend to be a hard learner of my own capabilities, when the lessons are flowing life usually is not.

A lesson-learner for me, and hopefully, a gift-giver to you. My flu was what I needed to shed some light on a few home truths I’d been avoiding about myself. So it’s confession time. And hopefully you feel better for hearing them.

Lesson 1: I’m clearly not in that great shape: If I was, I wouldn’t have been struck down ill. I know this because the last time I caught this strain of flu (blacking out from dehydration and needing a fluid drip) I was 5 months off a break-down. Heading back to work from maternity leave and arriving in the thick of Tasmanian winter has seen my struggle with the Food and Exercise Dance taking it’s toll on my body. I might have lost weight (Perhaps one advantage of the flu?) but having your jeans hanging around your butt is not a good, nor my preferred, look. I believe in saying no to habits that are purely motivated by winning brownie points on the skinny-scale. But it has to be balanced with keeping up daily rituals that secure a clean, energised and strong body. I haven’t done this. It’s time to let-go of the toast and coffee for breakfast and get back to my blueberry oats and apple-cider vinegar teas.

Lesson 2: It takes me forever to ask for help. It wasn’t until the eighth day of my flu that I asked someone for a break. There were six days and seven nights before that which I spent saying “I’ll feel better tomorrow. I can get by for now,”. Why put myself through the pain? I’m embarrassed it took as many sleepless nights and all-day-pajama days as it did to get the picture. With a rational head on my shoulders today it’s just crazy. And not smart.

Asking for help is probably the most effective way you can use your time when you’re down and out. Whether you’re a mummy or a manager taking the long way around trying to figure shit out for yourself, just to avoid asking a question or feeling like you’re burdening someone, only looks like a better option in your head. Trust me on this.

So I’m kicking this habit. You too? Let’s ask for what we need: help around the house, a baby-sitter, someone to show us how to [insert that thing you’ve been trying to work out how to do for ages here]. Girl, if you don’t ask – you don’t get.

Lesson 3: I watch too much TV. The first few days of my flu consisted of lying on the couch, cruising through the Foxtel channels and trying to sleep with TV ads blasting at me. It wasn’t until I turned the TV off, took myself to bed and forced myself to ponder my own thoughts until I fell into the deep sleep my body needed that I started to restore my energy levels. Some might argue with me on this but it’s gotta be said: watching TV isn’t rest. We need real rest, daily, to keep that beautiful body of yours in fighting condition. My problem is the time I actually have to take that rest I’m spending in front of the tele. You know the drill: you get home from work, get dinner sorted, retire to the couch, watch a ‘little’ TV then head to bed waking the next morning only to feel tired as when you went to sleep. Hun, we’re all doing it wrong.

Sleep specialist and Author of The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone Is Not Enough, Dr Matthew Edlund, says watching television is ‘passive rest’ and leaves our brains buzzing. Instead the sleep guru says active rest is the ticket to take if we want to be more alert, effective, reduce our stress levels and generally live a healthier life.

Sign me up! What’s active rest? Apparently chatting with friends (real ones you can touch, not on Facebook), concentrated tasks, meditation and conscious breathing. In a nutshell look for social, mental, physical and spiritual ways to do this.

Or, just turn off the TV and see what happens.

Lesson 4: I’m not organised. Really, I’m not. I have many good-girlfriends that often say ‘You’re so organised Steph, I’d never think to do that,’. Well, truth is, that’s on the outside. I’m ‘seemingly-organised’ and my flu caught me out. The week previous to getting struck down I’d procrastinated on a bunch of stuff. This is a huge problem for me, procrastination. Book work, paperwork, online grocery orders, paying bills (ah-hem blog posts!) and just getting back to people were ‘on-my-list’. As Monday came around, and the the outside world got back to work, the phone calls and emails started flooding in. Voicemail full. Inbox outta control. Being chased by people is a personal bug-bare of mine. I feel suffocated and anxious when I hear people on my voicemail asking me for something I said I’d give them and haven’t. Worse is knowing they’re going to have to wait longer because you’re just too sick to get it sorted.

And to top off the chasers, no food in the house to nourish me. No food when you’re sick is not cool. There’s no gourmet meals pre-prepared in my freezer, no fresh fruit in the bowl and nothing that hasn’t gone mouldy in the vege drawer. As I dug out copious amounts of meat packs, loaves of bread and one-day-I’ll-use-that half-cups of frozen vegetable stock I was cursing myself for having nothing at-the-ready. So it’s eggs on toast for this sniffling black duck.

I can no longer kid. I’ve tried to be the super-organised, Pinterest-perfect, Martha Stewart Housewife and I’m just not. But I don’t think I have to be. Good news is the above can all be avoided and not by being super-organised.

I procrastinate. Usually because there’s something I want to get it right. Get perfect. Whatever I need to do there’s usually a sequence or a process that I’d like to be followed. Sometimes it’s a work/play thing: “Get your housework done then you can blog,”. Or sometimes it’s an idealist thing: “Before I respond to that I just want to read up on it a bit more so I know exactly what I’m asking for,”. Of course life gets in the way of all the steps I put in front of myself  that ‘must be done’ before doing the thing I actually need to do. I end up being late, being chased for something or hungry (like above).

How do we avoid this? Just do it. A job done shitty is better than a job not done at all.

Lesson 5: I need to let-go of the small stuff. Which kind of relates to the previous lesson. If I’m less focused (and more realistic) about the small things I think must be done I’d have more time for the meaty stuff. You know, that DIY project you’ve wanted to start, the garage sale you’ve been meaning to sort out or holiday research you’ve been going to do.

The flu saw no washing done in my house for 10 days. This might sound normal to some of you but anyone with a baby and a husband will get what my laundry was looking like on the tenth day (and by the way, bless my husband who was busy working full-time, cooking, looking after bub and running for cold-and-flus during this time. He did his fair share). The floors were covered in lint and crumbs, the shower was growing mould and there was just general crap everywhere. But you know what? What needed to be done got done. We ate, we showered, we had clothes to wear and most importantly we all got the rest we needed. While I won’t be making a habit of letting my house get to the state it was I’m really getting focused on letting go of this fictitious need to get all the small stuff done, it’s just not that important.

Which is all I’m sayin’ really. What’s really important? Are your daily rituals serving what’s important to you in your life? Or has the day started to run you? Has your mind started to play tricks on you about what must be done and what must command your attention? Don’t let a disabling flu get you down before you realise it. It’s a bitch of a way to learn the lesson.

Images: Justin Pumfry/Getty Images, All Posters, Shutter Stock via Pinterest, Roxalne.com via Pinterest, MelissasheartandhomeGillian Zinser, Intimateweddings.com

Strong women say no

Are you doing this? Running rampid through town, around the house and thinking about what you need to get done tomorrow – right now? Yes, I’d be happy rocking these pins too, but let’s see how far the chase actually takes you.

I’m the first to admit to an OTT work ethic. While it’s paid off many times in the past, it’s like a drug. I know it’s bad for me, I’ve tried to kick the habit but on some level the chaos feels good. See it all seems to stem from a list. On the fridge, in the diary on a pretty piece of kiki-k ‘To-Do’ stationery (I’m a sucker for those) the list of tasks looks so structured and organised, even complete, on paper. It sits as a beautiful compilation of all the things I’m going to get done that day. There’s a mindset that it it’s on a list it’ll get it done, I’ll remember to do it.

The thing is I never actually forget. Remembering isn’t the problem. The list morphs from the paper into my head and becomes tattooed onto my brain, not as a friendly reminder (the tone of these lists get nasty), but as a constant reinforcement of what I haven’t achieved that day.

My mantra this week has been ‘Get.Your.Shit.Together’. Last night I laid myself to sleep planning out the day ahead of me. How organised I would be to have vacuumed the whole house in the hour between Harper’s bottle feed and breakfast. I’d have a whole ‘nother half-hour to hang some washing, get dressed, make the bed, do the breakfast dishes, pack Harper up and drive to the gym by 9.30am. Anyone with a child will be shaking their heads at this and not be surprised when I say I got no-where near that list done. And so that’s all I thought about… what I didn’t get done.

If someone kept telling you about all the things you’d forgotten to do, had given a half-arse attempt at doing or just ran out of time to do in the midst of chaos, that is your day, wouldn’t you tell them to back off? Wouldn’t you tell them that the reason your lounge room floor looks like a creche and your car appears to have taken on a 4WD track is because you just haven’t had a spare hour to dedicate to these jobs? Or maybe you’d whip out your diary? It’s jam-packed with work meetings, doctor, accountant and school appointments, just-need-a-decent-coffee-with-an-adult appointments and let alone tackling you’re daily sort-yourself-out schedule. Wouldn’t this be your instinct?

So do it. Tell yourself to back the fuck up.

Let’s just be a little bit more realistic. The ‘list’ does not control you. You control the list. And no matter how hard or fast you work there will always be something on the list. So it needs to be managed.

A very smart and endearing CEO once said to me, “If I see you here past 5.30pm, I don’t see that as you doing a good job. I see that as you not being able to manage your work load.”

Ouch. This knocked my whole perfectionist work ethic out reception’s front door. Fear was my first instinct and I had trouble comprehending his words. In my mind working harder, doing things faster and staying up late to fit more in was a way of life, especially in a (often egotistical) corporate world.

It’s taken me many years, a breakdown, a couple of therapy sessions and much willingness to ‘let-go’ but I now understand what he was trying to instill in his team.

Your list is your workload. Managing your workload means managing the unnecessary, staying focused, prioritising and most importantly saying ‘No’. Now this isn’t another take-control-of-your-life-and-quite-your-job kinda post. It’s a simple reminder that day-to-day we run the list. We manage the workload. We say ‘Yes’ and we should also be saying, and be ok with saying, ‘No’.

And ‘no’ this very word is not weakness, a can’t-hack-it attitude or a cop-out. It’s a conscious uncoupling of you from the list (thanks Gwenyth and Chris). It’s permission, it’s empowerment and it’s ownership. Take yourself back to a time when someone said no to you. Didn’t you feel like they had the power and the say-so? Didn’t you feel like you had to check back with them if it was ok?

So here’s three ways (another list) to try to start taking back your say-so.

1. Keep making the list. But pick only three items for that day.

My lists are epic. They’re comprehensive, detail oriented and completely unachievable. Don’t do this. Set yourself up for success and choose only three that you can achieve.

2. Verbalise it.

Say it out loud to yourself, the cat, dog, the baby – whoever or whatever. The most important thing here is that you put it out there. It’s no longer just a thought, you’ve part-way actioned it.

3. What’s the worst that will happen. Really?

Is it that bad? Will it really be the end of your world (or someone elses) if you say no? Put your big-girl pants on and give yourself a reality check on the situation – there’s a likelihood you could live with the outcome.

So, with every email, phone call, load of laundry, trip to the shops or errand you run – take back your say-so. Say yes when you can and say no when you can’t. Be honest. Don’t ignore the deep inhale when you know you’re taking on too much. You are a superwoman. But even she didn’t have super powers to do it all.

 

Image 1: via Vaunte.com Image 2: simplyseleta.com Image 3:  Lilian Ricano Image 4: webjunkiesblog