Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Managing Chronic Illness: 05 - Socialisation, Time Management & Goal Setting.

The Important and Benefits of Socialisation.

Humans are highly gregarious and social isolation is cruel and damaging. What a shame then, that the most isolated people tend to be those who least deserve it. The elderly and the chronically ill.

Isolation is damaging to your mental and physical health, in contrast, people with strong, healthy community ties, live longer, are happier and are healthier. So, there is a lot of reasons to develop and maintain a healthy social community.

It is difficult when you are chronically ill, but not impossible. The internet means you can connect with others from your bedroom, from your bed. Even while you are on the toilet. I am sure most of us find face to face contact much more rewarding and stimulating. However online bonds can be just as close and deep as face to face ones.

Most of my friendships are maintained almost entirely online. One of my dearest friends, Annie, and I have been talking online for two hours, every day, for over fifteen years now. These days we usually skype—using voice chat while we play a video game together or even watch a movie together.

The Best Socialisation Tools for The Chronically Ill.

You are probably already aware of many of the tools available to the chronically ill. Twitter, facebook, skype, Instagram, tumblr, etc. These are online platforms that allow you to find a community and interact with people within that community.

However sometimes that can still be very isolating. As it seems like everyone else is out doing fantastic things and you aren't. I suggest you focus more on the connection aspects, than the feed aspects. Use these tools to have CONVERSATIONS not to look in on other people's lives.

Most days, I try and find the time to message one or two people to see how they are. Some are too busy to respond, some who are equally isolated will happily chat to me all day.

Time Management and Chronic Illness

Chronically ill people have to be time management experts. If you aren't, life becomes a complete and utter disaster. Its always a balancing act between commitments and spoons (Spoon theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoon_theory) and when you are going to have the time and energy to get things done. I don't think I have ever met a chronically ill person who can do things spontaneously. There is no such thing as: 'Hey, are you free? Let's grab coffee.' Everything is organised weeks in advance and even then, commitments can be hard to stick to, because illness is always getting in the way.

Usually, for important commitments, you not only need to plan that day, but the days leading up to it in a way that you will have the energy to go out. There are enforced rest days, or at least, days you know you need to stay home and not do anything too exciting, so you are well enough to go out the day after. Then there is the knowledge that you will be useless the following days.

I think most chronically ill people do this out of necessity. However, if you are still fighting it, take my advice and stop. Get a day planner. Schedule in rest days before and after major outings. Let your day planner remember commitments for you. Accept you can only be spontaneous once a year. Its nothing to be ashamed of. People are impressed with highly organised people too, I promise.

How I Manage My Time

There are a lot of ways you can manage your time and you will know what is best for you. I'm not going to suggest my methods are best, or even good, for most people. However, they might give you some ideas to improve the system you already have in place. There are four main elements to my system and they are outlined below:

1. Primary Project

I have one long term goal that is my primary project. This is usually a book I am working on. So, it may be in first draft or editing stage. Rarely, it will be a website or cover art. Usually a primary project will take between a week and three months to complete, so it will be with me for a while. It is always in the most prominent slot in my day planner and I try and do a little bit on it every day, even if it's just one page or 100 words.

2. Secondary Project

Secondary projects are projects that can, ideally, be done in one day and are usually a single part of a larger project, or an ongoing responsibility. For example, planning all my upcoming tweets for the month might be a secondary project. Cleaning out my inboxes. Researching something. Feedback for another writer. These would all be classed as secondary projects. Ideally, after I have done a few hours of work on my primary project, I will also complete a secondary project, so that other areas of my life keep moving forward too.

3. Day planner.

I live and die by my day planner. If something isn't in the day planner, it isn't happening. I only buy day planners with a full day for each day of the week—no shared page for Sunday and Saturday. Every day I put a word, editing and kilometre tally at the bottom, which go up throughout the month. I list my primary and secondary project, then all the things I have to do every day. These include medication, cleaning the house and feeding the pets. I also have a list of things that I contribute a small amount too, such as blogging (200-1000 words a day), reading (a chapter or more), journaling and praying.

Of course, if there are any events or appointments, they get pride of place. I also write in the birthdays of people I am very fond of, so I don't forget them.

4. Habitica

Habitica is an online habit tracking platform. My set up actually has a lot of cross tracking with my day planner. There are three columns in habitica: Habits, Dailies and To Dos.

My dailies section mimics my day planner almost word for word, and I check things off there and on my day planner when they are done each day.

Habits is for things I want to do more of, but don't do every day. Things like gardening, messaging friends to socialise, brushing Charlie, drawing or painting, etc. You can also add habits you want to stop there, and punish yourself when you do them, if you want.

To-Do is where you add one off things that need to be done. Most of my 'Secondary Projects' are listed here. So, when I am choosing what to do for the day, this is my reference list. I prioritise the most important and add that to my day planner for the day.

Habitica also has a rewards column. Since you earn 'gold' for completing tasks, you can list rewards and 'buy' them when you earn enough. I have 'buy a book' for 1000 gold on my reward, which allows me to buy a few books a month on amazon.

You can set up your own habitica account here:

Setting Realistic Goals So You Don't Make Yourself Miserable

I am planning a happiness project with will delve into this further, but comparison is the heart of all misery. You are always going to get stressed and upset if you compare what you can do to what healthy people can do. You are always going to feel poor if you compare your house to the houses of billionaires.

When it comes to goal setting when you are chronically ill, you need to be able to classify actions properly. What do you NEED to do every day? EG: Eat, feed pets, take medication, drink, etc. What SHOULD you do every day? EG: Shower, exercise, tidy, etc. What is your biggest long-term goal? How can that goal be broken down into actionable chunks that are realistic for you to do every day.

For example, if your long-term goal is writing a novel, writing most days might be your actionable task. However, if you say you need to do 1000 words, you're more likely to do zero. Because its too hard, so there is no point trying. 100 words is doable. If you make 100 words your every day goal and everything after that a bonus, you're going to get much higher word counts than if you set your goal as 1000 words.

Reward yourself, don't punish yourself.

And don't compare what you can do to what other people are doing.

Next week, we conclude this series chronic illness series with the post: 'Dealing with medical professionals without killing them or yourself.'

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