Friday, May 27, 2011

Coping with stress the list way

Stress is the bane of everyone's existence - more so for those of us whose bodies will shut down at the slightest intimation of that nasty wee beastie rearing its ugly little head.

I know when the stress is kicking in even before it starts making its presence known by stirring up the ME/CFS or Menieres disease; I feel it like a tight little presence in my head - as though it's an inflatable air bag around my brain that is always there but instead of air it inflates with stress. When I feel that warning tightness I know I need to take a step back and chill out or I'm in for a really rough ride on the illness front.

But how do you do that? How do you take a step back? How do you stop the stress from taking over?

For me distraction is the key. I'll sit down and make a to-do list for everything that may be causing the stress to kick in, then I'll turn on the karaoke and sing for an hour or so - or I'll read a book or watch a few episodes of some show I like on dvd.

Yes, that may seem counter-intuitive if what is stressing me out is work that needs doing to a set timescale, but believe me it works; it clears the decks so I can then focus on the items on my list.

It's a 2 part thing really; making the initial list while you are stressed starts the process - it feels like you are addressing the situations that are stressing you out which helps you feel in control which helps you calm down enough to take the 1-2hr breather (or even a full day if you really need it) this helps deflate that nasty tension to the stage where ist easier to focus on smaller tasks without being overwhelmed by the big picture.

That's the real trick; making things less overwhelming and more manageable.

You have forms to fill out?
  1. Do the easy stuff like photocopying evidence and filling out name, address D.o.B, and NI/SSN on all of 'em in one go first.
  2. Take a singing/ film/ book break
  3. Write out the other info you need and check it against your evidence.
  4. Take another break then check it all over again before posting/ taking in - do your best not to think about the outcome of your form filling, stay in the moment and do one task at a time.
After the task is complete and you're inevitably back to stressing about the outcome/ future, take another break - have a bath and try to guestimate how long you stay in there before you start to wrinkle; try to think about ANYTHING but the things that are worrying you.

If you can't shut things off; fire off a few tweets, phone a friend or write a blog post to rant and release the tension that way, then make another list.

Take everything a day at a time; you will still worry and stress about things you can't control - the trick is to only give into it now and again; plan for the worst and hope for the best.

The list is your plan, letting go is what will see you through it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Diet really IS important..

For the last few weeks we've strayed badly from the path of healthy eating; Stef delays shopping until we're ending up getting take-out or eating cereal because there's nothing in/ can't be bothered to cook, my birthday came and we were eating the cake and chips/ dip/ processed stuff for days and I've been indulging in a Starbucks chai latte far more often than I should.

We've been eating hotdogs, toast, pasties and the odd healthy tuna pasta salad but my body has definitely noticed the difference. As I write this it's a struggle to find the words, I'm almost falling off the keyboard tray because I've not got the energy to support myself - and I've been in bed practically all morning.

Every day for the past week I've either had to go crash for a couple of hours or just struggled to get up in the first place - and it doesn't help that Thursday I went out with the girls and I've just not bounced back from it like I should.

I know I'll be 'ok' (as ok as it gets with me/cfs) once we get the food back in line - Stef said he's going shopping today and we'll be eating healthy again from now on.. Guess it doesn't help that I'm stressing about my final year project and what it could mean for my grade as the second exam didn't go as well as i'd have hoped - also looking back on the 1st exam perhaps I was a little optimistic because now I don't feel half as confident.

I've still got to get my conference talk sorted along with the slides, I'm worried about not getting the job i've applied for and worried that I will - I just wish I could shut specific parts of my brain off so that I could function without feeling as dead as I do now.

just forcing myself out of bed to get some weetabix for lunch was enough to wipe me out again earlier - but it's better to use my energy getting fuel than to just sit and attempt to follow some rubbish on tv.

Once this damned project is out of the way I can breathe a little easier, the diet will get sorted, I'll start to physically pull through this slump - I just need to remember this next time we slide into the convenience/ lazy food trap. we've wasted double our food budget on eating rubbish and look where it's got me. Stupid stupid stupid!

..and i've not been taking my VegEPA or my supplements - just shows eh?!

From tomorrow, back to the food diary. I want to see this trend continue until the average crash per month is less than 3:

2010 2011
Amount of crashes in January88
Amount of crashes in February99
Amount of crashes in March137
Amount of crashes in April105
Amount of crashes in May1110
Average crash per month:10.27.8

The only crashes I've recorded on here are the 'full day in bed/ incapacitated, no good to anyone' days - the cognitive and half days I didn't bother with as I can still get some things done then (even if it's just doing a load of washing/ sending a few emails or making sure I eat something)

I honestly think May would have been half that figure if I hadn't been so stupid with regards looking after myself - lets face it the month isn't even over yet and I'm almost at the same number of crashes as last year which kills the positive trend I had going.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I've applied for a job - wish me luck!

There's a couple of part time posts going at the uni for disability advisers and after a little push from my friends in the LTI and BLU departments I've applied for one of them.

Hopefully under the 2ticks scheme I should at least get an interview depending on how HR view my application prior to passing it on to the head of disability services but.. Meh, we'll see.

This is the personal statement I included with my scanty cv offerings (scanty because I've obviously had no job since getting me/cfs and I didn't see the relevance of adding the stuff I did over 10 years ago)

As a soon to be graduating student at the university I am fully aware of the facilities available and how to access them from the student perspective and have personally benefited from the assistance provided by the disability support team. I understand the university systems and am aware of the procedures already in place.

I feel that I could bring something to this post beyond the people facing, administrative and customer service type skills my CV demonstrates. I not only have personal experience of studying with both a young child and multiple hidden physical disabilities, but I have voluntarily participated in two projects associated with blended learning and the use of technology through the Blended Learning Unit: Dominic Bygate, the then team leader of the CABLE (Change Academy in Blended Learning Enhancement) group project said of my work “Vicky has had an enormously positive effect on the project and has made a huge contribution in terms of the technical aspects, the coordination and the direction of the project”. August 27, 2009 (via my linkedin profile:

I am also currently the student member of a Higher Education Academy (HEA) funded project ‘Developing an Inclusive Culture in Higher Education’, the aim of which is to develop an inclusive teaching strand to the University's curriculum design toolkit. The core team members, besides myself, are Helen Barefoot and Sarah Flynn of the Learning and Teaching Institute and Marcella Wright; Head of Equality. Together we are trying to assess the needs of all staff and students across the institute and develop mechanisms through which to best support them. During the recent HEA residential I ran an open space session for the other student delegates, all of whom have a disability. We discussed the levels of support within their institutions and determined specific challenges from the student perspective and considered how best to address them.

Use of technology is integral to all aspects of work and study and I am passionate about ensuring technology is used to best effect to aid learning. I would relish the opportunity to promote the more integrated use of technology within the curriculum, ensuring that all students are given the maximum opportunities to succeed.

I have provided support and guidance for fellow students with disabilities and have been able to provide guidance on accessing the Disabled Student Allowance as well as information regarding Disability Services and the appropriate contacts for students in need. I also provide online support and mentoring for sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome and I have published coping strategies based on research and my personal experiences.

I am an active member of several online support networks for parents and people with disabilities and would like to continue in that vein by offering help and support for students to create their own coping strategies where appropriate; whether it be leveraging online social media and choosing technologies to complement their learning style and physical needs or simply choosing a work flow to make the most of their strengths and creating a study needs agreement to reflect that.

Most of all, I want to be in a position to help people achieve beyond their expectations and make use of my own skills and knowledge in doing so; being able to support other students who for whatever reason may struggle with university life would be the logical extension of my time at the University of Hertfordshire; they would benefit from my personal experience and knowledge of possible tools and techniques to aid their studies as well as the core function of first contact for their basic study needs and well being.

Fingers crossed that's enough; I've been boning up on uni policy and the disability/ equality act in preparation for a possible interview.. I mean how ACE would it be to not only get my degree but to get OFF benefits before my graduation ceremony actually occurs?

Yes, I've worked out the finances and taking this job potentially leaves me £100pm worse off than I am on incapacity but tbh I don't really care - maybe I can make that up with some freelance web design or finally making jewellery to sell - the most important thing is getting out of the benefit trap and on the path to finally owning my own home, after all - wages increase more than benefits and once Bella is full time at nursery Stef can work and a combined income will remove any deficit on my part.
..I hope.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Been a long year..

..But the end is in sight!

I had my first exam yesterday and despite being worried as the day before was spent entirely stuck in bed with my worst CFS crash in a while - I think I aced it.

That is the first time I've ever come out of an exam suprememly confident in my responses - it's also the first time I've looked over an exam paper and had the pick of the optional questions because I knew the answers to 'em all!

Hopefully that's not over confidence speaking but so long as I can do as well on fridays exam then I'm guaranteed my 1st class honours no matter what grade my project gets.

The deadline for that is the 23rd of May so not long to go until my life as a student is over. Hard to believe freedom is so close!

To be honest I'm trying hard not to think about life after exams because I'm worried to death about getting a job; I know I can only do part time, it's just; who will take me on and doing what?

But that's borrowing trouble and it's normal for any graduate to feel that way so for now trying to shelve any pessimism and just concentrate on the work that will actually determine the level of job I can apply for.

..oh and if any of you infrequent readers are interested - I could use a little help with my project:

this 5-10 minute survey could really use some love, it is task based and requires that you locate and download a certain .pdf file, but I'd appreciate it EVER so much if you'd oblige a gal.. *flutters lashes* pretty please?