life, mental health

Learning to Be

The world has stopped. The unthinkable has happened and we’re in crisis mode, trying to get our heads around this ‘new normal’.

I’ve been here before.

No, not exactly like this, obviously. But almost five years ago, my world stopped when I finally admitted I couldn’t teach anymore. I’ve been adapting to my new normal ever since. It’s been a bumpy ride, but there have been many surprising blessings as well.

Learning to be. This is a big one. We are so inundated with messages telling us we need to be doing something all the time. There’s a culture of busy-ness, where the more you’re doing is like a badge of honour. When you have a chronic illness, that’s not really an option because the fatigue, among other things, is so killer that You. Just. Can’t.

So you spend a lot of time at home, sitting around, isolated, without a whole lot of options for entertainment. Sound familiar? I’m sure it’s a new experience for most healthy people, and it can be uncomfortable just sitting in your own skin sometimes. Or maybe that’s just the MS. 🤔

But just being, instead of always doing can be a wonderful opportunity to get real with yourself and figure out what’s really important. We’ve been conditioned to believe we need to be working, be productive, be entertained, be adventurous, be travelling , be consuming, be socializing.

We’ve forgotten that sometimes it’s important to just BE.

When you stop doing and sit quietly with yourself, your mind has space to process. This is why meditation has become so popular. But you don’t even have to be that organized about it. I’m not knocking meditation in any way, I’m just suggesting that you pay attention to whether you take any time during your day to stop doing and just BE.

Staring at nature is my go-to for times when I need to stop and be for awhile, even if it’s just out the window, or the nature channel on TV. I guess that’s technically doing something but the mental health benefits outweigh any slicing of that proverbial hair.

We’ve been running on the societal treadmill for so long that doing nothing, just BEING is a difficult thing for many people right now. I get it. Like with anything though, a shift in perspective can change this strange situation we’re finding ourselves in, into an opportunity to examine our values and decide if we really want to go back to the “old normal”.

As much as I miss teaching, I am grateful every single day for my many blessings. Learning to be comfortable with just being and not doing all the time has helped me enormously in accepting my new normal. I hope it helps you too.

Just be.

Hummingbird in flight feeding
Look what you can see when you stop doing for a few minutes. Just be.
Photo credit: Amanda L. Callin

❤️ Amanda

Health, life, mental health

Love. Not Fear.

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It has been far too long since I’ve published anything but this article is important enough to share. If you allow your fear to spiral out of control, that lowers your immunity and makes you more susceptible to getting sick.

Stay informed, but focus on connection and gratitude. Turn off the screens and get outside. Wash your hands, and stay home unless it’s essential to go out. Stay safe and healthy out there!

❤️ Amanda


Infrared Sauna: Flu killer

We made it the whole winter with nary a sniffle, then the first day of spring our eldest woke up with the flu. Then our youngest succumbed. It’s a nasty one too, (what flu isn’t), fever, dizziness, headache, nausea and a deep, retching cough.

Having MS, I’m pretty paranoid about getting sick. Simply because what could be a three week ordeal for a healthy person, could drag me down for months. So, I followed my Tips for staying healthy in cold and flu season. Oh, and ate LOTS of garlic! 🤭

Still, the achy, weak fatigue descended. Although, it was difficult to tell if that was the flu because it’s pretty much how I feel all the time. It was when the cough appeared, painful as a badly scraped knee, accompanied by a killer headache that I knew it got me.

So, that’s when I followed my ultimate tip, and got myself into the infrared sauna. I stayed in for thirty minutes two days in a row, and while I have a cough and a bit of a headache, I believe the heat of the sauna staved off the worst of it. It’s like having a fever to kill off the nasties, without having to go through the nastiness of a fever.

A lot of people with MS suffer from heat intolerance, and I’m one of them depending on the day. The kind of heat produced in an infrared sauna is different though, not at all like the dry heat of a traditional sauna, or the sun. I find that if I don’t do it very often, it doesn’t affect my symptoms at all.

And if it killed off those flu bugs before they took a real hold, it’s definitely worth it. Mind you, my other theory is that my immune system is so overactive, that it might not have got me as badly even without the sauna.

Other MSers, do you find that don’t get sick as often or as badly since you had MS? Probably it’s like everything with this crazy disease, different for everyone. Well, I hope none of you have been ravaged by the flu this year, and if you feel something coming on, I strongly urge you to find an infrared sauna near you.

Stay healthy, lovelies!

❤️ Amanda

chronic illness, Health, life, MS

Tips for staying healthy in cold and flu season

The germs are a-coming!

As we approach colder weather and months spent mainly indoors, all the bacteria are getting ready to party, waiting for those unsuspecting souls who will help spread the news and invite those snot-making, cough-producing little buggers into your home and mine.

Having a chronic illness means that a simple cold can knock you out for weeks, if not months, instead of days. People may consider me a germaphobe now but having suffered from pseudo-exacerbations – not a real relapse but just as much fun – after getting the sniffles makes me wary of those invisible little suckers that are everywhere.

Before The End, my years working in the germ factory, aka an elementary school, honed my skills at preventing the spread of colds and viruses, beyond the obvious of washing your hands well, and frequently. So here are my top five tips for staying healthy and preventing the spread of colds and flu viruses this winter.

1) Don’t touch your face.

This may sound strange but if you start paying attention, you will notice how often you touch your nose or mouth. No matter how meticulous our own hygiene, other humans with filthy habits are everywhere, touching everything. Becoming aware of this will cut down on an enormous amount of germs that you let in without even thinking about it.

2) Change hand towels and dishcloths daily.

Excessive? I don’t think so, not when all the germs that come into the house are being wiped off hands and surfaces by those towels.

3) Don’t shake hands.

Yes, people sometimes react like I’ve offended them when I say “I’m sorry, I don’t shake hands in flu season.” That’s okay, I look at it as a public service announcement. Shaking hands is an outdated practice from a time when humans weren’t quite so crammed together. I don’t need to touch you to tell you that I’m pleased to meet you.

4) Use your sleeve or wear gloves when touching surfaces in public.

When opening doors, pushing elevator buttons, or using stair railings, wear gloves or use your sleeve. Sometimes it’s not possible to use your sleeve and you might feel strange wearing gloves inside, in which case don’t touch your face and wash your hands asap. Ultimately though, who cares really if someone thinks you’re a pretentious nut job if you wear gloves indoors – you won’t be snarfing into tissues and hacking up a lung. Seems like a better deal. Maybe we can start a new trend?

5) Wipe doorknobs and light switches weekly.

Starting in bedrooms and working your way through the public rooms, to the bathroom, the front hall and finally the front door(inside and out), give them all a good wipe every week. You don’t need to use the nasty chemical antibacterial crap either. A solution of 3/4 vinegar, 1/4 water, 20-25 drops of tea tree oil and 10-15 drops of lavender oil will do the trick nicely. There are some ‘green’ products that come in handy wipes and if that makes it easier, then go for it. I always use one to wipe down the shopping cart at the grocery store.

A few other things that help me through a potentially snotty season are:

* Oil Of Oregano – if I feel that I’m getting sick I put 5-10 drops under my tongue and wash it down with LOTS of water. It’s an acquired taste.

* Zinc – a tickle in my throat and I start downing the quick dissolve zinc tablets.

* Infrared sauna – if you haven’t tried one, I highly recommend it. I know lots of MSers can’t stand heat so it’s not an option for everyone. I only stay in for 15-20 minutes but it’s a very different, less oppressive heat than a traditional sauna and I can feel it zapping those nasty buggers while I’m in there.

I am not a health professional in any way but I have found these things have helped me avoid getting sick for the last two years. Of course, it could be that my immune system is on overdrive all the time and addicted to my myelin so other germs never have a chance. Not worth taking the chance.

One final public health announcement: If you do get sick, PLEASE STAY HOME! There is a misguided belief in our capitalistic society that it’s a badge of honour to show up at work even when you’re at death’s door. Or to send your kid to school when they’re dribbling booger snakes. Really you’re being an asshole.

Caveat: Single parents reliant on a single pay check are not assholes in this instance. This is where we need to reconnect as communities and help each other out as family, friends and neighbours. Everyone needs a support system.

Noooo! We need to get over this mentality.

I used to say to my students, there are lots of things we should share with each other, germs are not one of them.

Do you have any good tips to share for staying healthy? Let me know in the comments.

Stay healthy, my friends. Have a wonderful week!

❤️ Amanda