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Contributor: How to Maintain a Fulfilling Lifestyle When You Have Chronic Pain

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

Approximately 11 percent of the U.S. population suffers from chronic pain, a condition that’s defined when discomfort lasts more than six months. An initial injury or illness morphs into a drawn-out period of physical and mental suffering with symptoms such as decreased appetite, mood swings, fatigue, disrupted sleep, and mobility issues due to pain. It can be difficult to enjoy old activities or keep up with simple, routine-based tasks, but it’s not impossible. By making a few lifestyle changes, chronic pain sufferers can maintain a fulfilling lifestyle without feeling restricted.

Get Help for Regular Tasks

Fatigue and pain can make it difficult to keep up with chores like cooking, cleaning, and pet maintenance. While physical activity should not be avoided, make things easier on yourself from time to time—especially if you’re going through a rough patch. Hire a cleaning service to do a deep clean so home maintenance is easier to manage. Use a grocery or meal-delivery service so you don’t rely on unhealthy food delivery as a source of nourishment. Hire a dog walker and/or pet sitter to make sure your pooch doesn’t act up due to a lack of activity. These pros know how to handle dogs of all shapes, sizes, and breeds. You can even meet caretakers in advance to ensure they’re a good match for your furry friend.

Make Time for Self-Care

Don’t wait for spare time to squeeze in self-care. Make a conscious effort to schedule your favorite activities like you would a doctor appointment. This can be anything from dinner with friends, reading, or meditation—you name it. Engaging in a hobby or activity you enjoy can distract you from pain while helping you focus on something positive. Trying something completely new can boost self-confidence, too.

Eat a Nutritious Diet

Extra weight is only going to tax your joints and cause more pain, so maintain your weight with a well-balanced diet free from processed foods and filled with vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains, and lots of water. Up the ante by adopting an anti-inflammatory diet that’s void of red meat (a couple times a year is fine), is low on dairy, and has eight to nine servings of vegetables (two servings can be fruit) a day.

Do Exercises Conducive to Your Condition

Exercise can be difficult when you have chronic pain, but it shouldn’t be avoided as it can only worsen your condition. Ease into a routine and definitely don’t push yourself if you’re in severe pain. The best exercises for someone with chronic pain include: stretching to increase range of motion and loosen tight muscles, strength exercises to build lean muscle mass, and light cardio such as walking, cycling, and swimming. Make sure you talk to your doctor before starting any diet or exercise plan as there’s no one-size-fits-all plan.

Use Pain Medication with Caution

The United States is in the middle of an opioid crisis, mainly because drugs are being prescribed to mask problems rather than treat them, thus prompting dependency. This is why some health professionals are recommending an integrative approach (non-pharmacologic) such as stress-reduction therapy and meditation to avoid a potential addiction problem.

Each case of chronic pain is as unique as the individual feeling discomfort, so it’s impossible to say when symptoms will completely cease. Adopting healthy habits and asking for help can make life more manageable. Since emotional and physical pain are connected, make sure you’re managing your stress levels so that you don’t get caught in a vicious cycle.

Kimberly Hayes writes over at PublicHealthAlert.info — go check her out!

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New Report: Flipping the Script: Living with Chronic Pain amid the Opioid Crisis

The folks at Neurometrix just published a new report regarding their survey of 1,500 Americans living with a variety of chronic pain conditions. The results were startling (and hey hey, I’m quoted on pg. 7!):

As the opioid crisis continues to make headlines, the chronic pain community has found themselves in the midst of this chaos – grappling with how to manage their conditions under increased scrutiny.

We wanted to get a better understanding of how the opioid epidemic is impacting this community, so we partnered with Vanson Bourne to survey 1,500 Americans living with a wide range of chronic pain conditions about their feelings around the opioid epidemic, opioid use and their ongoing search for alternative treatments. We’ve compiled the findings in our latest report, “Flipping the Script: Living with Chronic Pain amid the Opioid Crisis.”

Below are just a few of the top findings you’ll see in the report:

  • The unfair stigma as a result of the opioid epidemic: The majority of respondents (84 percent) believe a stigma exists, and as a result, 50 percent indicated they have lied or hidden their opioid use from others.

  • How this stigma is affecting treatment of care: More than a third (34 percent) had to stop taking opioids because their doctor no longer prescribed them, and 42 percent stated the stigma of opioid use has impacted how they communicate with their doctor about their pain.

  • The strong desire for alternatives for chronic pain treatment: The most common reasons for those living with chronic pain to seek other treatments is because they don’t like the side effects of prescription medications (43 percent) and that they prefer to treat pain without prescription medication (39 percent).

  • The fracture in the doctor-patient relationship. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they don’t believe their doctor is completely informed about treatment options outside of prescription drugs. Only 15 percent said their doctor has proactively suggested looking into alternative treatments.

  • Individuals are taking treatment into their own hands: Ninety percent of those living with chronic pain are actively seeking new treatment methods. When evaluating new treatments, respondents indicated that in addition to their doctor, feedback from friends and family (87 percent), online reviews (80 percent) and news coverage (73 percent) are increasingly influential sources.

  • A “one-size-fits-all” approach to treating chronic pain isn’t working: Those with chronic pain use an average of two treatment methods regularly, and are comfortable trying new treatments, with 59 percent indicating they have tried new methods in the past year.

Check out this website if you want the full report!

A Little Late on Global Accessibility Awareness Day

I’ve been very quiet on this blog because I’m focusing on other projects, but I still receive emails from people asking to post things. One of them was from Redfin, the real estate website. They’ve written an interesting report on the most accessible cities of 2018. I was a bit late on Global Accessibility Awareness Day (which was May 17), but hey, better late than never.

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Here is the Redfin report in full:

With Global Accessibility Awareness Day this month, we took a look at the most accessible cities throughout the country. The Social Security Administration estimates that one in five Americans is living with a disability, which can pose a specific set of challenges during everyday life. Although legislation exists that requires accessibility in public housing like hotels and university dorm rooms, the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t require all community features to be accessible.

Accessibility: How Did We Get Here?

The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act – both pieces of federal legislation – mostly apply to public housing, multi-family dwellings and public spaces. The first nationally recognized standard, released in 1961, addressed “accessible and usable buildings and facilities.” More than a decade later, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibited discrimination and required some new construction of public spaces to be accessible, as well as allowed for alterations to make existing spaces accessible. In 1991, the U.S. Department of Justice adopted the ADA Standards for Accessible Design as its standard for new construction and alterations, which later formed the foundation for ADA guidelines on recreation facilities, government buildings and voting booths.

Many communities have launched efforts to become more accessible for the disabled, but others still have a long way to go. In 2017, we added a custom search filter on Redfin.com that allows you to find accessible homes for sale in your area. Using the accessible search filter and additional city data, we put together this list of the top 10 most accessible cities.

1. Metro D.C. (Alexandria, the District of Columbia, and Arlington)

Number of Accessible Listings in 2017: 10,634
Median Home Sale Price: $580,000
Percentage of People Living with a Disability: 6.7%

Metro D.C., which includes the nearby cities of Alexandria and Arlington, is the most accessible metropolitan area in the nation. The Washington, D.C. subway system also runs through Alexandria and Arlington, and each city has its own bus system; the city of Alexandria is home to GO Alex, a public transit service specifically designed for people with mobility issues. The metro area is packed with community recreational programs designed for people with disabilities, and all federal buildings are ADA-accessible. With wide sidewalks that are easy to navigate, ample access to high-quality healthcare and a number of ADA-compliant attractions, parks and businesses, this metro area has earned the #1 spot on this list.

2. Salt Lake City, UT

Number of Accessible Listings in 2017: 1,261
Median Home Sale Price: $265,500
Percentage of People Living with a Disability: 7.5%

Salt Lake City, famed for its high quality of life (thanks in part to the convenient and historic downtown area and breathtaking views of the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains), is close to Great Salt Lake and home to nationally renowned, ADA-compliant recreational areas and charming city parks. Ranking just behind the D.C. metro area on accessible, quality healthcare, The Crossroads of the West is also well-outfitted with curb ramps and offers free parking at city meters for people with disabilities who have a windshield placard or specialized license plate. Salt Lake City is also home to several accessible attractions, including the Salt Lake Temple, Hogle Zoo and Antelope Island State Park, where you can see free-roaming bison grazing in the valleys.

3. Tampa, FL

Number of Accessible Listings in 2017: 876
Median Home Sale Price: $265,000
Percentage of People Living with a Disability: 8.9%

The shores of Tampa Bay are known for pristine beauty, and the city itself is steeped in history; those factors, plus its warm, tropical climate make it a desirable location. However, Tampa is also known for its disability-friendly atmosphere, with wide sidewalks over flat terrain, accessible public parks and attractions, and the Sunshine Line – door-to-door transportation and bus passes for the elderly and people with disabilities. The Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa at Lowry Park and Busch Gardens are all ADA-compliant, and those are only a few of the notable (and accessible) attractions in the city.

4. Portland, OR

Number of Accessible Listings in 2017: 5,500
Median Home Sale Price: $370,000
Percentage of People Living with a Disability: 9.7%

As one of the most ADA-compliant cities on the West Coast, Portland is home to Pioneer Square, the Harborwalk and so much more – and most locations are easy to navigate. TriMet service runs through Portland and its suburbs while offering reduced fares for seniors and those with disabilities under its Honored Citizen program. Beautiful public parks and green spaces dot the city, and each is accessible and easy to navigate.

5. Tucson, AZ

Number of Accessible Listings in 2017: 7,699
Median Home Sale Price: $210,000
Percentage of People Living with a Disability: 10.9%

Tucson, home to the University of Arizona, is a flat-terrain city and sits between several mountain ranges. It has an accessible bus service: Sun Tran. Tucson attracts visitors to several ADA-friendly attractions, including the famed Mt. Lemmon, the Pima Air and Space Museum and the Tucson Museum of Art.

6. San Jose, CA

Number of Accessible Listings in 2017: 659
Median Home Sale Price: $780,000
Percentage of People Living with a Disability: 5.0%

Seasonably warm and surrounded by the Diablo and Santa Cruz Mountains in the heart of the Santa Clara Valley, San Jose is one of the most accessible cities on the West Coast. Featuring a booming high-tech industry and serving as a cultural hub for central California, it’s home to several notable ADA-compliant attractions, such as the Sunol Regional Wilderness and the beautiful Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph. The Municipal Rose Garden, Happy Hollow Park and Zoo and several local businesses all over the city are also disability-friendly.

7. Vancouver, WA

Number of Accessible Listings in 2017: 3,024
Median Home Sale Price: $300,000
Percentage of People Living with a Disability: 10.5%

Vancouver is home to more than 450 acres of parks, trails and open space, most of which is ADA-compliant (the only exception is space that’s designed to preserve natural terrain). Many accessible hikes and outdoor attractions are available, including sightseeing at Captain William Clark Park Trail and the Columbia River Waterfront Renaissance Trail.

8. Atlanta, GA

Accessible Homes Listings in 2017: 3,855
Median Home Sale Price: $266,000
Percentage of People Living with a Disability: 8.6%

Atlanta, known for its grand old manor homes and several ADA-compliant attractions, such as the Georgia Aquarium, the Atlanta Zoo and the College Football Hall of Fame, is one of the most accessible cities in the nation. The city’s major transportation system, MARTA, is easily accessible.

9. San Antonio, TX

Number of Accessible Listings in 2017: 5,267
Median Home Sale Price: $231,990
Percentage of People Living with a Disability: 10.4%

With wide sidewalks and many ADA-compliant attractions, such as San Antonio’s River Walk, the Alamo and several historical attractions, San Antonio is Texas’s most accessible city. The city’s bus service, VIA, offers discounted fares and priority seating for people with disabilities, making public transit easy to navigate and use. The San Antonio Museum of Art, Botanical Garden and Missions National Historic Park are only a handful of accessible attractions in the city; there are several disability-friendly parks and recreation areas in and around town, as well.

10. Baltimore, MD

Number of Accessible Listings in 2017: 17,067
Median Home Sale Price: $171,000
Percentage of People Living with a Disability: 11.9%

Easily accessible transit options, including a subway service and buses, are available in many Baltimore locations to connect residents to the airport, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Washington, D.C. The city’s Inner Harbor area, where you’ll find restaurants and other attractions, is exceptionally well designed when it comes to accessibility.

Methodology

To find out which U.S. cities are leading the way in accessibility, we analyzed data from the Multiple Listings Service, U.S. Census Bureau and Numbeo. The cities were ranked on five accessibility factors: accessible housing, public transportation, community attractions and access to healthcare. The 10 cities with the highest scores in these areas earned a spot on the list.

The number of accessible homes for each area is based on the number of active listings with accessible features in 2017. Examples of accessible features include manageable entries or routes, wide doors suitable for wheelchair access, grab bars in bathrooms and usable kitchens and other rooms.

Contributor: Using Spoon Theory to Explain Chronic Illness

When you suffer from a chronic illness like arthritis, lupus or CRPS, every day can be a real struggle. Some days will be worse than others, so it helps to devise some coping strategies to help you through the roughest days. This may mean having to turn down social invitations or skimp on preparing a ‘proper’ dinner, but only you know how your body feels, so looking out for yourself in these situations is not selfish.

Another challenging aspect of chronic illness is trying to make others appreciate the pain through which you’re living every day. There are cynics out there who routinely accuse invisible illness sufferers of being melodramatic in describing their pain, but there is no call for such ignorance. Sometimes, it takes more than words to truly get a message across.

That’s what inspired Christine Miserandino to come up with the Spoon Theory, a metaphor that is now used across the world by chronic illness patients to communicate their struggles. She devised the theory in 2003 when she was asked by a friend over lunch what it was like to have lupus. Instead of launching into a detailed depiction of her pain, Christine took 12 spoons from unused tables, handed them to her friend and took them away one by one as her friend described a normal day. The point she was trying to communicate was that chronic illness sufferers only have so many ‘spoons’ in a day and regular activities like showering, cooking and cleaning all require spoons, so there is very little energy left by evening time.

Here is an infographic from Burning Nights that goes into further detail about the Spoon Theory and lists some great pointers on how to manage chronic illness effectively.

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Contributor: Furnishings for Your Home to Help Ease Pain

 

 

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Dealing with chronic pain is a challenging battle, especially as it is an extremely individualistic one. With more than 25.3 million Americans experiencing chronic pain every day for the last three months, it is a widespread issue that leads many people to seek the best methods for handling their pain.

However, there are better solutions to managing joint pain that you can add to your home. In addition to treating chronic pain with proper nutrition and plenty of sleep, you can also adjust your furnishings and the layout of your home to ease and reduce inflammation. By adjusting your home in the following ways, you can benefit from an environment that is centered on comfort and wellness.

Creating a soothing sanctuary for rest

One of the most crucial ways to care for your body when dealing with chronic pain is to get plenty of rest. Having a relaxing space at home where you can go to kick up your feet, snuggle under a warm blanket, and listen to calming music is essential to managing both stress and pain. You can add features to the space like hot water bottles, a speaker system to play slow tunes, and some plants that give off good vibes.

Additionally, you can make the space incredibly soothing by purchasing some calming natural soy candles and buying cozy curtains to block out the sun. During the day, when you are feeling the effects of your pain, you can go to this spot, dim the lights, and practice meditation. Knowing there is a designated space to work on relieving your pain will make your days easier, as you will have an outlet and safe space when the pain is at its worst.

Make things easy on yourself

When it gets to that certain point of the day when your pain has taken over and you feel unable to continue with your usual routine, you may feel defeated. But, you can still continue on with your activities if you incorporate certain items into your home to make life a little easier. In the kitchen, there are plenty of items that are friendly to people with pain, like peelers and knives with easy-to-grip handles. In the bathroom, you can consider buying a raised toilet seat or grippers for the tub/shower to help take the pressure off of your knees or other joints. There’s plenty of creative ways to make doing regular things in the house easier on your aching joints and muscles — it’s just a matter of doing some research and finding the alternatives!

By creating a soothing sanctuary in your home and adding some easy-to-use features, you can deal with your chronic pain in a naturalistic way and feel supported by your surroundings.

Jenny Holt  is a freelance writer and mother of two. She loves nothing more than getting away from it all and taking her pet Labrador Bruce for long walks, something she can do a lot more now she’s left the corporate world behind.

Contributor: Go Holistic for Pain Management

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The best approach for pain management, especially long-term chronic pain, is holistic. Pain-killing medication is avoided — as well as their associated side effects, such as an addiction to prescription pain killers.  Holistic therapies are often more effective, too. The American Society of Addiction Medicine states that, of the 20.5 million Americans age 12 or older who had a substance use disorder in 2015, 2 million people had a substance use disorder involving prescription medicine.  The holistic way is totally natural, and the benefits are far beyond pain management.  As the population ages because of longer lifespans, chronic pain has become a bigger issue, the most common of which is lower back pain, followed closely by migraines and neck problems.

Less stress using a holistic approach

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) has advised that there is growing evidence suggesting complementary approaches are working for pain management.  Holistic therapies change the way the person perceives pain, and this can be as a direct result of reduced stress levels following the therapy.  Anxiety and depression are known to increase the perception of pain.  Often, it is a combination of holistic therapies that works best for an individual.

Practicing mindfulness and spirituality for pain relief

By including spirituality in your life — perhaps through meditation or mindfulness — a greater meaning and purpose can unfold together with a calmer sense of wellbeing. Spirituality enhances mental and physical wellness, and the subsequent effect on pain management is achieved. Spirituality does not have to be connected to religion, so it can be carried out by both religious and non-religious people.

Holistic therapies also include self-awareness, which is closely connected to mindfulness. Mindfulness is nonjudgmental and enables the surrounding situations to be identified.  Following this, self-awareness, sometimes in conjunction with meditation, identifies a space to relax and accept a particular situation. A calmer and more aware individual, with mental wellness, will find their pain is much more easily managed.

Holistic for pain-free body strength

Yoga is another popular holistic therapy that focuses on both developing physical coordination and flexibility alongside muscle strength. It can be particularly helpful in managing physical pain, as it not only works by reducing stress levels and pain perception, but also by strengthening and flexibility development, which can improve many pain-causing conditions — especially of a wear and tear nature. e.g., osteoarthritis.  Other therapies found useful are acupuncture and massage.

Find your holistic pain-free combination

For most people in pain, especially chronic pain, their unique combination of the various holistic practices available will work.  Sometimes it takes a little time to find this unique combination, but by experimentation and trying new therapies, you will usually be led to the correct mix. With your pain managed, you can enjoy a happy future.

Jenny Holt  is a freelance writer and mother of two. She loves nothing more than getting away from it all and taking her pet Labrador Bruce for long walks, something she can do a lot more now she’s left the corporate world behind.

Contributor: Managing Chronic Pain in Seniors

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via Cristian Newman @cristian_newman

More than 100 million American adults have chronic pain, which is more than the total number of people with diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer combined, according to figures provided by the American Academy of Pain Medicine. As the population ages, the issue of chronic pain in senior adults becomes more prevalent. Pain management and awareness are becoming more common. One such venture is Pain Awareness month, which is run by the American Chronic Pain Association.

Why Chronic Pain is Such a Big Issue

In 2016, there were approximately 46 million U.S. adults aged 65 and older, with this number expected to rise to 98 million by 2060. Unfortunately, research published by the National Library of Medicine confirms that 50% of adults who live alone and 75 – 85% living in elderly care homes have some form of  chronic pain.

Causes of Chronic Pain

There are many conditions that lead to chronic long term pain in seniors; however, in a survey conducted by the National Institute of Health Statistics, they noted that there are four conditions contributing to the majority of cases.

The most common causes of chronic pain are lower back pain (27%) followed by severe headaches or migraines (15%); neck pain (15%) and facial pain (4%) make up the conditions. These conditions can leave elderly relatives vulnerable to falls, or not being able to get up from a bed or chair. Families are using the latest technologies to provide an early alert that gets help for vulnerable family members.

Back Pain

Chronic low back pain affects approximately 25 million Americans. Roughly one in three adults aged between 65-74 reported chronic back pain in the last three months. As our population continues to age, this condition is likely to become more prevalent.

Headaches and Migraines

While most primary headaches are as similar for seniors as they are for younger people, there are some key differences. Late-life migraines and hypnic headache attacks (also known as “alarm clock” headaches) are often accompanied by visual or sensory phenomena. Hypnic headaches awaken patients from sleep, are short-lived, and mostly affect the elderly.

The other issue for seniors is that certain rescue medications often used to treat younger migraine sufferers or severe headache conditions are often not suitable for seniors because of the risks linked to coronary artery disease.

Pain Management for Seniors

Pain management in seniors is often complicated by the fact that they can have several conditions that require a wider treatment plan. This can often lead to the under-treatment of pain in certain groups because of misdiagnoses.

Individual treatment plans comprised of medication and/or physical therapy will be put together by your medical professional. It is always recommended that seniors lead an active lifestyle and try to get light to moderate physical exercise.

Advancements in science and medicine means that we are living longer and generally in better health. It is inevitable that certain conditions will continue to be a health concern, and chronic pain is one of these. A healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet will always help to improve our overall good health well into our senior years.

Jenny Holt  is a freelance writer and mother of two. She loves nothing more than getting away from it all and taking her pet Labrador Bruce for long walks, something she can do a lot more now she’s left the corporate world behind.

How to Succeed on Your Terms When Life Interferes

Success is only what you put into it. The harder you work for something, the better the success will be. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.

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Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

I Googled “stupid quotes about hard work and motivation.” How pithy are these quotes? How out of touch with reality are they?

My reality, anyway. I think about quotes like this often, especially now, because I thought I was done with this blog. I thought it had taught me all I needed to know.

Except…

I had another MRI that shows degeneration above and below my two fusions, which explains the pain down my arms and up into my head that grows with intensity every day. Breakdown isn’t supposed to happen after a fusion for at least 10 years. My surgeon said that, unfortunately, I have “bad connective tissue.” Yay. This could lead to what is called the “ladder effect,” which is when you have fusion after fusion, laddering up and down the spine until there is, presumably, a pole of metal inside your body that holds you up.

Pair this fact with my tendency to work as hard as I physically can, and it’s a recipe for guilt-ridden disaster. Each day I try to work, and my pain or brain fog or a migraine interferes. No more eight-hour workdays, that’s for sure.

I refuse to give in to lethargy and despair. So how can I balance my physical problems with my desire to work? And, you know, help pay the mortgage?

I’ve distilled my approach down to two bullet points:

  • Be realistic about what you can achieve.
  • Work in spurts, whenever you can. 

Nothing other than this works for me. No To-Do Lists, no calendaring, no time blocking, no Kanban-ing, no bullet journaling. I’ve tried them all, and I keep coming back to this. I’m not happy about it, but I also can’t sit for a full day anymore, much less half a day.

Be realistic about what you can achieve

I can’t work eight hours straight anymore. Hell, I can barely work four hours. That is the limit I decided to try upon my therapist’s suggestion. She said I was still putting too much pressure on myself. I calculated exactly how many hours per month it would take to pay my bills and then divided that by week. I weighed that number against my physical capabilities and landed on four hours per day. That seems like nothing. I feel awkward and like I’m leaving work early each afternoon.

We are so hardwired in this culture to work, work, work, all the time, as much as we can. I realized that other cultures, like Sweden, had it right when they limited workdays. (Though I know that in the end, the experiment proved too expensive.) But if it’s just about the work, not the cost, then the argument still applies. The work still got done. You just prioritize your time better. Instead of filling my day with trips to Facebook or Instagram, I hunker down and get things done. Then I can set it aside for the afternoon and focus on yoga, stretching, podcasting, whatever. “Fun things.” Things for me, the ones that don’t require as much brainpower.

Work in spurts, whenever you can

This is why I work seven days a week and don’t have a weekend anymore. I’ll take days off whenever I need them, as many days as are necessary. But then I’ll work every day if I can, knowing that those off-days are likely coming. And it doesn’t mean I’ll work for a full day (ha, “full day”) on Saturday and Sunday. It means finishing an article before spending time with my husband or editing a few pieces before seeing my friends.

I have come to understand that my lifestyle no longer reflects the traditional workweek in any way, shape, or form. I can’t let that guilt weigh me down. Guilt comes from within, and I have no reason to feel guilty when I am meeting all of my current obligations. There’s just this overarching feeling of “I shouldn’t be doing this.”

Why not? Why not, when it’s literally all I can do?