Today we took our first trip of the season to our local garden center (my home away from home). It’s still a little chilly for me to spend a lot of time outside, but it’s time to start getting the garden beds ready for the growing season. Planting and watching things grow is exciting, but the growing only happens if we prepare ahead of time.
Have you ever noticed that the same thing sometimes applies to making progress when we live with fibromyalgia or another chronic illness? If we don’t have some sort of plan, we may find ourselves just getting through our days rather than having a clear way forward.
Our days can be so unpredictable when we live with chronic illness that it can be hard to make a plan and stick to it. That doesn’t mean that we always need to just ‘wing it’ though.
For me, making my self-care plan is a lot like making my garden plan. What seems perfect on paper doesn’t always work out perfectly once I start planting. If that’s the case, I just make adjustments as needed.
Our life with chronic illness is the same way. We can make all the plans we want, but sometimes our bodies have other ideas. BUT it still helps to have a plan. As we talked about in Self-Care Plans, Our Roadmap, having an overarching plan in place can help us be aware of what we need to do to feel the best we can. We may not always be able to stick to our plan, but having one gives us direction.
When we’re making our self-care plans, it can be helpful to apply a couple of the same principles that I use when planning my garden.
When I’m planning the garden, one of the first considerations is what I planted in each box last year. Crop rotation is vitally important, because it keeps you from depleting the soil of all the same nutrients year after year. It also prevents pests from populating areas of your garden because they know they can expect to find their food source there.
If we apply the rotation principle to our self-care plan, we think of things like adding variety to our diets. This can keep our bodies nourished, and a well-nourished body will always serve us better than a poorly nourished one.
It also means switching up our exercise routines from time to time. This can be difficult if we’re very limited in what our bodies allow us to do, but changing things up can help us train more systems in our bodies and better prepare us for the demands of daily life.
It may also involve trying new things. Sometimes what worked for us last year just isn’t working anymore. We may need to try something we haven’t tried before in order to find something that helps us continue to make progress.
Another consideration is a principle called companion planting. There are certain plants that seem to do better together than they do separately. Planting these together will help your garden to thrive.
For our self-care plans, the companion principle might look something like complementary treatment options. For instance, in addition to any medications we may be taking, we may also try things such as massage, Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment, acupuncture, or other treatments. Used together, these things can give us a better chance of reducing the symptoms associated with our chronic illness and help us make progress.
Of course, there’s also the most obvious benefit of the companion principle – surrounding ourselves with people who can understand and support us. It’s important that we choose our companions carefully — you know that old saying about becoming like the five people we spend the most time with. Having people who have a more positive outlook in our lives can pick us up when we’re down, and give us the opportunity to do the same for them on their bad days.
The key, whether we’re planning a garden or constructing our self-care plan, is flexibility. Sometimes our best-thought-out plans just don’t work for us. Rather than becoming discouraged and giving up, we need to be willing to adjust. Being flexible and making adjustments as needed can help us move forward in our quest to thrive.
What are some of the principles you use when constructing your self-care plan? Please share!