I am so excited for the year that lies ahead; something about new beginnings just really makes me happy. For me, 2019 was quite a difficult year health wise. It started off really well and then I think I overdid things in May with my very ambitious ME awareness campaigns and it totally wiped me out for the rest of the year. So I will try hard not to make the same mistake again this year.
Looking Back At December 2019
December was actually quite eventful in a very inactive kind of way. First, I got a phone call from a consultant about my application to get an LDN prescription - it was approved!
Soon after that I got the results back from my application for Settled Status in the UK. As an Italian citizen living here for almost 10 years now, I was very happy to have been granted Settled Status and even more pleased that my sister, being my full time carer, got hers too!
On the down side of things, with the heating on again, my histamine reactions were making an appearance more regularly. One would expect this to happen in spring with allergy season, but mine tends to be connected to our indoor heating systems and the food I eat. Lowering the heating has helped.
For Christmas we had extended family over for the first time in years! It was fantastic to celebrate together again. There were 6 other people in the house, but they were really considerate and quiet, which meant that I could spend the whole day out of my bedroom with them.
I then launched my 52-week art project and it has been slowly growing each week. It's an art project especially designed for people with chronic illness. If you're not familiar with it, you can find out all the details here. We would love to have you join us when you can!
Right at the end of the month, though, I caught a bug, the first I've had since onset of ME in 2015. It knocked me so hard and it's taken a few weeks to get through it and be back to a place where I can sit reclined in bed again and have the lights on and curtains open. But I finally feel like I'm coming out the other side of it now.
Envisioning A Tranquil Year Ahead
Now, for the year ahead, I envision a more creative and relaxed me. I'm not implying that I was stressed in 2019, I don't think I was for the most part. What I mean is that I will be kinder to myself and put less pressure on myself to achieve many things in a day. I'll pay more attention to my goal setting and to do lists and avoid setting targets which are unrealistic.
I don't know about you, but when I have a bunch of boxes on my to do list that aren't checked at the end of the day, it bugs me. And I'm starting to think that maybe that does cause a bit of stress. So by eliminating the likelihood of having unchecked boxes, I will be enabling a more relaxed life.
Opening Up To More Intentional Activity
By focusing less on tasks I feel I should do (because that's what's normal or simply what I've written on my list because it popped into my head) and by simply setting fewer targets on a daily basis, I can open myself up to more important activities in a more intentional way.
For example, if my to do list contains 10 items each day - that's too much for me. I'm stuck in bed most of the time due to Severe ME and I will never complete such a long list of activities. At the end of the day I will just be disappointed and feel like I have missed the target once again. Not a good way to end the day.
But if I prioritise, being more intentional about which targets I really want to focus on this year, I can select just 3 items each day which will help me reach my target for the year. Then if I organise myself better so that I can easily accomplish each task, I should be less fatigued and better equipped to complete my list each day. It's all about keeping my eye on the prize - what is my ultimate goal? Keep working towards it so that I'm less sidetracked and not wasting energy on things that won't move me towards my goal.
Purging The Unimportant Things
It's so easy to get caught up in all the million and one things you "need to do" on a daily basis. Especially when you are a blogger - there is always something that needs doing. Like the fact that I have over 200 drafts waiting to be completed. So many posts that I just never get around to, each one needing editing, graphics, and then to be shared online. You end up feeling a certain sense of urgency about everything you're not able to get done. Like you're missing deadlines constantly. And there it is again - the unnecessary stress.
So towards the end of last year, I decided that this year will be all about being creative. My focus is on art. It's something I love doing, it's achievable even while in bed, it's therapeutic, and you end up with pretty things at the end of it. What's not to love?
Of course I will continue with my blogging, online advocacy, reading and growing in faith, but art is something that I really want to put more time into than I have in the past.
Another thing I got rid of is my Bullet Journal. Now, that's not because I didn't love it or don't think it's an amazing system - I still love bullet journaling. I just had to face the fact that at the moment my health is not in a place where I can spend energy on setting up layouts every few days. I just can't cope with the added activity right now.
So, thanks to a generous friend, I now have a beautiful journal with all the pages already set up and it even has a Bible verse on each spread. I simply have to add my list of items to do on it and tick them off. I also add a note about each day. Keeping it simple.
It's so helpful though, because by having the whole year already set up, I can insert items onto the correct page/day way in advance. I've already scheduled some things 6 months in advance! Something I struggled with when using my Bullet Journal last year because I simply wasn't well enough to set up the pages I needed on the spot. And I certainly couldn't set up the whole year in advance. Being realistic here. A pre-made journal is simply the way to go in my current season.
Seizing The Opportunity To Update My Environment
Once I had my main targets for the year ahead, it was time to get organised. If I'm focusing on art, faith, reading and advocacy, then my environment should reflect that. So my room got a make-over. This happened at the end of last year, and it actually took a few weeks to do, even with help.
My parents bought me 2 new bookshelves and my mum helped me to empty my one wardrobe (it contained all my art supplies and books, everything other than clothes). All my books are now out and easy to reach. Organised by topic. And my wardrobe shelves are now organised to allow easy access to craft supplies and equipment.
My bedside trolleys, I now have one on either side of my bed, have also been rearranged to hold the most important items at arms-length: my art supplies that I use on a regular basis, my kindle, my devotional books and my calligraphy supplies as well as my chronic illness survival kit items, laptops and phones.
My over-the-bed-desk has also been rearranged so that I can easily switch between laptop, journal and art without much effort. Everything is now in place so that I spend the least amount of energy on set up and clear up as possible and can spend the bulk of my energy on the activities which I really want to focus on this year.
Revamping My Schedule & Systems
In order to free up my mental space and open myself up to the most important tasks in a more intentional way, I need to be very organised and prioritise properly.
If you can believe it, I'm a dreamer and a perfectionist. If I'm not organised then I don't ever finish things and constantly get distracted, not a good characteristic for a perfectionist!
I realised that in order to minimise distractions and help me focus, I needed to declutter my real life and my digital life. Wherever I spend my time. So once the bedroom was sorted, I moved onto the digital side of things, putting schedules and systems in place to simplify life and keep me on track.
Internet Browser Bookmarks
I started by clearing up my browser bookmarks. I still had folders from over a decade ago which I must have imported at some point. Many websites I had bookmarked don't even exist anymore and many were for a lifestyle I no longer maintain. So now I only have the links I need to accomplish my goals in the life I live now, all organised into folders so I can find everything easily: Blog, Schedules, Tools, Links To Sites I Love, Art, Research, Faith, Fun, etc...
New Schedule On Trello
I then opened my Trello, revamped my whole schedule and set it as my browser's homepage. While previously I had masses of items for each day of the week, there's a clear workflow now and it's all laid out visually and things can easily be moved around if needed. Just drag and drop!
Things are much more streamlined and having Trello as my homepage means that whenever I open my browser, I am immediately shown my schedule and am kept on track - no more aimlessly wandering around the interwebs because I forgot why I opened my laptop in the first place and got lured away by something I saw on the screen. It's working. I have managed to tick off almost every item this week!
By spreading the most important activities out accross a week and even a whole month, so that I only have 3 activities a day on my list, I can now be less pressed to get through loads and have more energy to spend on the most important activities.
Scheduling Social Media Posts
I would not be able to accomplish all I have done online if it weren't for scheduling apps that keep things going even while I'm too ill to be online. Having multiple social media accounts means I need various apps to manage them all as they all have limitations on how many accounts you can connect to or how many posts you can schedule in a month.
I haven't quite managed to get on top of this yet, as I have so many accounts and my schedule now has this job spread out over a month where I used to try to squish it all in every week - which I never ever managed to do for all my accounts anyway.
Nevertheless, being able to schedule things in advance on days I feel well enough to create content will mean that on my down days things can still go on without me.
Email Accounts Organised
I've started organising all my email accounts too, one at a time. It's a huge job initially, but will make everything so much easier when I know where everything is and I know who I need to respond to and which emails don't need my attention. Only what is necessary remains, and everything is sorted into folders or highlighted with colour-coded labels.
As the new schedules, systems and routines roll into motion, things should start falling into place, slowly but surely. But if I still fall short and can't manage things for whatever reason, the goal this year is to let it slide. It's okay.
I'll pick up my kindle, roll over on the bed and just read until my body will let me get up again and carry on.
This plan has worked so far this month, and I really hope that I can maintain it and maybe even improve my physical health this year too.
With patience and kindness I'll get there.
This post is linked up to Sheryl Chan's A Chronic Voice Linkup. Click the image to find out how you can participate and to explore all the other linked posts. There are so many fantastic blogs to discover!
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From what I have been reading online, you and I aren’t the only ones seeking a more relaxed life. I began making changes towards the end of 2019 and so far 2020 has been delightfully relaxing.
I’m so glad you’ve managed to find a more relaxing routine. I think our modern life is so conditioned to run and keep busy – I don’t think our bodies can really maintain such a pace indefinitely without making time for rest too.
I love your room setup. You’re definitely setting the tone to prioritize your goals. I totally agree that the bullet journal is not really ME friendly if you need it as a planner. What a thoughtful gift from your friend. I look forward to catching up on the next linkup.
Thank you, Niamh! Yes, it was a very thoughtful gift and one that opened my eyes – don’t know why I was so stubborn about continuing with the bullet journal when it was clearly not working for quite some time. The biggest focus has to be the letting go and being kind to myself if I can’t keep up. Since I wrote this post I have again had a huge flare which kept me out of order for a week, unable to implement anything I mentioned here. It’s so much easier said than done, isn’t it?
I really enjoyed this post! I’m working on my goals for the new year as well as considering how to streamline so I can be more creative too. It’s always helpful to see how others approach getting organized while dealing chronic illness. Thanks for sharing this behind the scenes look and the reminder to have kindness towards ourselves whenever we set goals. Always a good reminder!
Thanks, Cassie. I’m glad you enjoyed reading my process. I also find it helpful to read hw others deal with things – always looking for better ways to do things. Cutting back and slowing down is not easy, is it?