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Dear Spoonies, It's Time to Forgive Yourself If You Can't Keep a Routine

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It seems like for a while now we’ve been hearing a lot of talk from people who praise the power of “the daily routine.” It turns out that there are a lot of people out there who have made a point to identify a list of things that they try to work into their everyday in order to be or feel like their best selves, and then make sure they do it.

Some people have a specific morning or bedtime routine that they stick to religiously, while others simply have a list of things they make sure to work into their lives throughout the day or a certain number of times every week- and these people swear by the benefits this strict regimen brings.

​But what do you when you don’t know how you’re going to feel every day, how much energy you’re going to have, or what kind of symptoms you’ll be working with?

It’s all well and good to say, “I want to eat a healthy breakfast every morning to make sure I start my day with the best nutrition possible.” However, it’s another to be able to get the groceries, and get up and make something for yourself (and possibly others) every morning when no two mornings are the same because your symptoms can vary so widely. You may be able to do this some days, but is doing it every day something you can realistically hold yourself to?

For people with chronic illness (i.e. “Spoonies”), ‘trying to do everything you possibly can to feel even just a little bit better,’ is often the short-hand version of our typical wellness plan. Everything from diet and exercise regimens, assisted therapies, frequent breaks, meditation and medication are all on the table for us — and often all at the same time.

However, when no two days are the same because of varying symptoms and intensity, it often becomes impossible to do everything we want to do — let alone the things we need to do or that would benefit us to do every day. So this means that we have to pick and choose what to accomplish, thereby leaving the rest of our list for the next day or dropping it entirely and moving on to try again another day.

This means that for a lot of us, even with the best intentions and determination, we just aren’t able to do everything on our self-care to-do list (let alone our “adult responsibilities to-do list”).

And we have to learn to be OK with that.

For example: it’s been a while since I’ve kept up with my bullet journals, which is how I usually keep track of what I’m able to do self-care wise (i.e. eat healthy, move my body, etc.) and how often. This is a tool I use so I can see what benefits these habits/goals have on my health and to keep on top my self-care routine. I fell out of the practice of keeping up with journaling a while back when I got busy and stressed at work, and as a result of that I had no energy for anything but sleep and work. While that was going on, I caught a cold, and then I had no energy for anything except moving from the bed to the couch. And I’m just now starting to have a little energy to spare, so I’m starting to get back into it.

Now that I’m starting the practice again, I’m able to see how much time I’ve missed. Now, I’ll be honest and say that I do usually miss a day here and there, but this time I missed a lot of time. (Like, just over a month “a lot” of time.)

And I’m having to remind myself that missing that time and not keeping up with tracking my self-care and putting my preventive self-care on hold is totally fine!

Because you know what I was doing during that time?

I was trying my best. I was trying to survive.

I was at maximum capacity and doing what I was able to do.

Asking for anything more than that from anyone is asking for too much. It’s just not realistic, so why am I asking for more than that from myself?

I feel like the totally human and natural (but also totally unhealthy) habit of comparing of our lives to other people’s lives is something everyone struggles with nowadays, especially with the prevalence of social media. All these social platforms can cause us to be constantly bombarded by everyone’s highlight reels. Highlight reels that conveniently don’t showing us the work that goes into making those “highlight” moments happen or the failures that happen in-between. I also feel like this life-comparison can be especially hard on Spoonies because the struggle to “do it all” is compounded by things like varying symptoms that can take our goals and best intentions out of our control.

It’s a bit cliche, but it’s also true: everyone is on their own journey, and comparison is the thief of joy.

As a person, and especially as a Spoonie, you have to forgive yourself for the difference between “what you want to accomplish” and “what you’re able to accomplish.”

Instead, lean into knowing that what you are able to do is enough, and let the rest go.

Is this an easy thing to do? No. Is it a constant lesson that you have to remind yourself of – a daily practice for the rest of your life? Absolutely. Is it possible to get there? Hell yes it is.

So let me encourage you to let go of any guilt that you aren’t doing enough.

It’s OK to take breaks every now and again when you need them, and giving yourself permission to have them is so important.

Trying your best is enough, and remember, you can always pick-up dropped habits and move forward when you’re able to pick them up again.

This story originally appeared on The Fibro Strong Collective

Originally published: July 12, 2019
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