"Little changes can add up to bigger changes."15 January 2021
My role at Versus Arthritis is to support and manage our online community which is a safe place for people with arthritis to share their ideas, worries, and ask questions. I work with a volunteer team and two other part time staff. They are truly amazing people who all have arthritis, as I do.
We understand what it’s like to live with this condition. And we’re truly passionate about supporting and providing information to other people with arthritis. Read more about why it's good to talk.
Taking time for wellbeing
Over the last 12 months, I’ve increasingly tried to find time to look after my wellbeing, and like many others I’ve wanted to take time to create something, especially during the lockdowns.
I love crafts and at a time when it's difficult for us to express ourselves, I’ve found being creative a useful outlet. Without putting pressure on myself, I’ve taken on little projects which have given me a sense of achievement.
Exploring creativity is a useful opportunity to journey into some self-discovery, whether it’s cooking, sewing, knitting, gardening or dancing.
During times of stress and anxiety discovering and understanding ourselves better is always a positive step.
Research shows that changing focus and looking for things to be grateful for can support mental health.
I was encouraged to start this after reading about The Mighty’s programme called ’52 small things’.
If you don’t know about The Mighty, it’s a digital health community created to empower and connect people facing health challenges and disabilities. They have over 2 million users and like our online community, it’s a space for people who live with health and disability.
This year my daily gratitude has taken a different direction. I want to share my enthusiasm for gratefulness, or you could say thankfulness. I found a lovely little introduction to saying thank you on YouTube.
I'm going to try collecting things that I’m grateful for, covering the topics of people, places and things. Then I'll pick one and say thank you to the person who made that possible.
As we have lockdown restrictions and we can't be together, I really like the idea of either sending a letter or an email to the person to say thank you.
Let's face it we all need some extra thoughtfulness and saying thank you is a lovely way to give something back.
This will not be something to beat myself up with, I might not feel up to doing it every week, but the intention is to keep my mind and body healthy, so I will fill my journal as often as I can.
Being in the moment
I am not one for New Year's resolutions and so making small changes feels much more manageable, like being more mindful.
Mindfulness is a useful practice that can be carried out anywhere anytime. It can be done as a form of sitting like meditation or it can be done on your lunchbreak.
During lockdown it might be useful to go outside for your ‘mindful’ exercise and use all your senses to fully appreciate your walk.
Listen to the sounds, smell the air, feel the wind on your face and notice the things around you. If you notice your mind wandering, gently bring your focus back to the moment.
Here’s a lovely mindful meditation and there are lots of others on YouTube.
Making space for meditation
Meditation is an intentional practice, it can be guided, where you stay focused on the breath or it can be about finding the space between thoughts with the presence of awareness.
The one real positive for me during lockdown has been the opportunity to do more meditation because I can't go out and I have more time on my hands.
There are lots of tools on the internet to help you to find a form of meditation that works for you. Take time to find something that really resonates for you and then make a commitment.
The one thing I would say is, you do have to commit to a routine as regular meditation will give you better results in terms of calmness.
There’s nothing mystical about meditation, in most instances it's about sitting in a position that you find comfortable having your eyes closed and just allowing thoughts to come and go without getting attached to them.
When you find yourself going off on a train of thought you just let it go and come back to sitting comfortably.
I’ve also invested in new exercise equipment which is best described as a bouncing chair. You will probably be familiar with a small trampoline called a rebounder, well because of my arthritis and being a wheelchair user, I can't use a rebounder. I was lucky enough to find the equivalent of a rebounder chair on the internet.
This now sits in my bedroom strategically placed so that it’s difficult for me to pass it by without making an active decision to not use it. The results have been interesting and overall, I now bounce in my chair 3 to 4 times a week. This is a great improvement, and I am enjoying it.
I don't set any targets, I don't tell myself I must do it, my only goal is to enjoy it when I do bounce. I do this deliberately as I can be quite a hard task master and myself and the key for me is to not set myself up to fail.
Caring for yourself is important
The biggest change for me - is I feel more positive, as I'm making these changes. The size is irrelevant, it’s the changes that matter.
Little changes can add up to bigger changes. I'll continue to commit to these changes, even if I miss some weeks. It just feels like a proactive way of managing my life with arthritis now and in the future.
It’s always good for us to reflect and take time for ourselves. These little tokens of caring for yourself are often the easiest to set aside for another day. But even doing a few of them will make a difference.
My advice to others to help with self-care includes...
- Start small. Five minutes meditation a day can make a remarkable difference. If you need to time your session, there’s a great video on YouTube.
- You can visit Mind's website for mindfulness tips and exercises.
- Our online community is a great place to ask questions, share ideas and for advice. There are lots of people out there who are trying new things and are willing to share their experiences.
We’re here for you
If you’re feeling isolated from family and friends during these uncertain times, we’re here for you.