By Brittany –
We live in a society that is constantly go, go, go. All too often, success is measured in the grandiose accomplishments like getting a promotion, taking the next step in a relationship, starting a family, buying a house, or accomplishing the goal of being able to afford your dream vacation. While all of these things are amazing and should absolutely be celebrated, we often forget about the little things that should also be celebrated.
I often compare my success and accomplishments to where I thought I would be at almost 30, and to where my sisters, friends and colleagues are at, but also to where society generally says I should be as I begin to approach a new decade. I’m aware that a lot of the time, it’s the pressure I put on myself, not necessarily what others put me, that picks away at my self-worthiness and ability to recognize the wins I have on a daily basis.
I’ve needed to make some drastic life changes since my concussion nearly 4 years ago that has left me with a flurry of chronic conditions, the main one being chronic migraine. You would think the longer I deal with this, the easier it would be to accept it and continue to modify my lifestyle to support my physical and mental health. Don’t get me wrong, some days it’s easier than others, but this article is just as much for me as it is for you.
I grapple with the idea of slowing down and resting, because once I do, it feels like anything but. My symptoms come rushing to the forefront and it becomes unbearably uncomfortable physically and mentally to be still. I often set tasks and goals I want to accomplish in a day/week/month, but all too often fall short of accomplishing them, or if I do, feel anything but relief and accomplishment because it means I’ve pushed myself past my breaking point yet again.
I don’t often recognize the little things I do that are actually big wins for someone living with chronic, invisible illness. So in case you need a reminder as well, here’s to you.
1. Sleeping Through the Night:
Painsomnia is a real thing, and it’s a beast. It becomes a vicious cycle of not being able to sleep because pain and subsequent symptoms are so intense, which makes them flare up even more and inhibits your functionality for the next day, which causes more painsomnia the next night. If you struggle with this on a regular basis, or even once in a while, celebrate the nights you’re actually able to sleep through the night, even if you don’t wake up feeling rested.
2. A few hours of symptom & pain reduction:
If you live with a chronic condition, you know how heavenly these few hours are. To people on the outside, it doesn’t seem like much. Honestly, it doesn’t seem like much to me sometimes either, until symptoms and pain start to flare up again. I often struggle with feelings of defeat when that happens, but I’m consciously working on choosing gratitude during these times instead, because that slight break felt like a 4 star vacation!
3. Washing Hair & Showering:
This task is more often than not completely draining. The amount of energy it takes to wet, shampoo and condition hair leaves little energy left for the rest of showering tasks, nevermind blow-drying, styling, make-up or other “getting ready” tasks. If I can push through enough to get ALL of these things done in a two hour window, I’m on Cloud 9–but really, it’s because Cloud 9 looks like a soft place to lay down and recover. Please remember, even if I accomplish these things and look “fine” or “good” on the outside, 9 out of 10 times I feel anything but on the inside.
4. Nourishing Our Body Through Food:
Preparing a meal from start to finish, not including clean up, is like the task above. Luckily for me, I thoroughly enjoy cooking as it provides a creative outlet for me. However, some days I can barely muster the energy to make coffee and a piece of toast, let alone a normal meal that will provide sustenance to me. But when I do, holy moly am I proud of that accomplishment!
5. A Moment of Love & Laughter:
Do you ever notice the brief moments in between or after these moments that make you feel like everything is ok in the world? The joy and nourishment surging through you body during a hug, a laugh (whether it’s a little snort giggle or a full belly laugh), when someone says or does something that reminds you how beautiful and wholehearted love truly is? Take a moment to pause in these moments, soak it all in, and draw on it in those moments of pain, sadness, grief and despair when they come back to the forefront.
6. A Warm Hug in a Mug:
Before you take a sip of your favorite hot beverage, especially in the cold months upon us, hold it in your hands. Close your eyes and feel the warmth on your hands, smell the abundant aroma, take it all in. Feel it warm your insides before you even take a sip. Then recognize how much more you appreciate it with every sip.
7. An “I’m thinking of you” Text:
Whether you send it or receive it, it’s sure to bring a smile to your face. There doesn’t need to be any other intention to the message. Sometimes it’s all I need to get through the day, to know someone is thinking of me.
8. A Breath of Fresh Air:
Whether this is literal or metaphorical, notice the sense of peace, calm and rejuvenation that comes with this. It may only last for a brief moment, and when it’s gone you may grieve its presence, but hold onto how amazing that moment felt.
9. A Moment in Stillness:
That brief moment before the symptoms come rushing back, where it’s calm, quiet and peaceful. Tune into the subtle sounds around you, the feeling of fabric on your skin, breath moving naturally through the body.
Take a deep breath and softly sigh out your mouth. You might not have accomplished all you wanted to in a day, and you may feel like there was nothing good that happened. That’s ok to feel like that. When you’re ready, come back to this list, or compile your own. There’s beauty in the little things, which might be big accomplishments for you. Celebrate all wins, one breath at a time.