Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Life | How I Get to Sleep

Getting to sleep seems to be an art when you have a chronic illness. Personally, I have had issues with sleep for over decade. However, I have found an almost foolproof way to get to sleep whenever I got to bed!

I suffered from chronic insomnia as a teen, Work All Night Then Get The 6am Bus Syndrome at college, and no structure, Loud Housemate Syndrome, and Stargate Addiction at uni. My sleep pattern has been all over the place for over a decade, and obviously to address this I've had to develop good sleep hygiene. This post isn't about that, there's loads of information on that out there and I can't add anything to it. It's important though, go research it if you're having trouble sleeping. My sleep hygiene is currently shit to be honest – I work in my bed, I have a new TV in room, which I watch in my bed, my work shifts change from 12am to 6pm starts which has messed up the regular sleep pattern on I worked on for years and, as I'm sure you've guessed, I basically live in my bed. I only allowed this to happen because I have become so confident at going to sleep once it's time to.

I've had loads of counsellors in my time, only one didn't really help me at the time I saw her. I felt really bad about this 'til I tried to use the meditation techniques she taught me when I couldn't get to sleep. After some practice, it worked wonders! She may have tried to teach me meditation for like, daytime me-time and thought awareness or whatever, but employing it when I go to bed means I'm asleep in minutes. I'm not sure how exactly to explain it – I'm sure the internet is full of this, too. But as this is so foolproof for me I thought I'd do my best to pass on the knowledge!

The Sort-Of Technique

What she told me to do was to sit up straight and comfortably with my feet touching the floor, find a spot on a wall in front of me and focus on it. While focusing in this spot, stop my conscious thoughts monologue and just observe the like, background thoughts? Subconscious thoughts? Let them swim around in my head and don't turn them into actual, conscious, concentrated-on thoughts. Does this make any sense? I'm doing my best! Apparently you're meant to identify the helpful and unhelpful thoughts, the lying thoughts and whatnot and banish them or something. I dunno, I sucked.

Applying it to Sleep

What I am great at is lying in bed in the dark, in the quiet fuzz of my earplugs*, closing my eyes but focusing them straight ahead still and shutting up the main strain of conscious thought. That main voice in your head, y'know? Turn it off now and there's other little thoughts hanging around the periphery of your mind. I get visual with this sometimes, especially if there's a song in my head. I have to click the pause button or turn the music down in those cases. Here's a “diagram” to help my terrible explanation:

Basically once I've turned off my main thought lady the background thoughts get bigger and more strange and turn into the kinda dreams that you have when you're drifting off into sleep. That sweet, sweet, moment when you know that sleep is going to happen. Sleep is so good. That moment being made all the more sweet when you have anxiety about whether you'll even sleep at all. YAAAAS.

This does take a lot of practice, probably best when you're not trying to get to sleep as it'll just cause more stress. If it doesn't work – playing Sudoku on your phone in bed might. Or (this sounds daft but has genuinely helped me) Using the Super Sleep Sheep Count App. I guess these work in similar ways by taking up a bit of your concentration while the rest of your brain mushes into dreams or something. Let's ignore the fact that phones in bed is a huge no-no for sleep hygiene...

If this makes any sense and can help one of you I will be so happy! Sleep has been a problem for me for so long so if it can be less of an issue for somebody that'd be rad. Do you have any tricks for getting to sleep? I'd love to know and I'm sure others would!


*These aren't essential. I always sleep with earplugs. I basically trained myself to sleep with them when I had Loud Housemate Syndrome and spent most of my asleep time in the day, to help me get to sleep in the first place and lessen sleep disturbance from noise. This has had good and bad affects on me – I can fall asleep in silence by accident if I'm comfortable but can't sleep very easily if I forget to take earplugs anywhere with inconsistent noise. I would recommend them, though. Lifesavers!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Spoonie Food | Ambronite Drinkable Supermeal

I was really excited when Ambronite* contacted me about this meal replacement shake as it is packed full of nutrition, takes no time or effort to prepare and doesn't even need to be chewed! Perfect for spoonies? Check. Vegan? Check. 500 kcal? Nice! Of course I jumped at the chance to try it out and report to you guys.

Ambronite shouts goodness from the rooftops; it is 500 kcal of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. It includes a vegan source of vitamin D, and a whole array of B vitamins to help with energy. You can find the whole low-down of ingredients and nutrition on the Ambronite website here. It claims to keep you full for 4-5 hours, give you energy and can be taken with you anywhere and consumed on the go.

When the box arrived and I opened it, the first thing that took me was this amazing, giant, green bottle. It's amazing! Green is the best colour ever, and it's so ridiculous, I just love it! I immediately knew that if the meal ended up as a disappointment, it wouldn't matter as I'd have a giant, green bottle. Luckily, the shake was far from a disappointment, here's what happened:

I took this bottle and my first sachet of powdered supermeal to work with me the day it arrived to try it out where I need to function my best. I'd planned to drink it while working, which was a huge appeal of this for me but my manager, being lovely, insisted I have a sit-down. I measured out the 550ml of water, added the powder and shook the bottle the best I could. My best wasn't very good. My meal was rather lumpy. My arms had no strength whatsoever and my shaking was pathetic, so I take full responsibility for the lumps. I did like the texture however, the cold water I used came through as I swallowed and was really refreshing. It tastes very grainy, a little like Ryvita with nutty edge. It really helped energise me for the rest of my shift.

Day two I began work earlier and had my Ambrontie on the way to work. I made it at home before I left my house, put the powder in first, water second, mixed it a bit with the handle of a wooden spoon, then shook it kinda sideways as it's illustrated on the packet. I then popped it into my bag upright to leave it to stand for two minutes, as recommended in the instructions. When on the bus I pulled it out of my bag and became that odd person drinking weird health shit. The texture was definitely smoother and thicker this time round and there was only one lump at the very bottom of the bottle. I like to swirl it around my mouth a bit and chew the tiny grainy bits. It reminds me of the powder at the bottom of the cereal box with added milk, but... water. It was much easier the drink this time around, took no time at all.

I didn't feel hungry at all afterwards when I normally would, and I worked really well. I was constantly running around waitressing and not making daft mistakes or even being very clumsy. I ate four hours after drinking it not because I was hungry, but I was offered watermelon. When I ate my next meal only an hour after this I still wasn't actually hungry, just flagging somewhat. The fatigue kicked back in after my 4 ½ miracle hours. I was really impressed. 

Third day in resulted in my first lump-free shake! This time I poured the powder in first and stirred with a gert big knife (the choice of utensils is irrelevant, I just grabbed what was close and clean). I shook sort-of sideways again, chucked it in my bag and ran down the hills to the bus stop. It was a pleasure to drink and kept me full for ages and functioning well for longer than usual.

I drank my 10 sachets of Ambronite over 2-3 weeks, figuring out when to use it for the most benefit. I found it to be a waste of 500 kcal on a day off work. This is because these are rest days for me and I don't need to function very highly at all. I also graze more and it's a lot of calories to have in one go when I'm munching and resting. I found that having it breakfast on my way to work was very beneficial. It's good for B vitamins so gives you a good boost to wake up properly with and actually keeps you locked up 'til lunch – unlike Shreddies. When working a longer shift I'd drink it during my break to help myself get through the last few hours without succumbing to fatigue too much. It really does help with energy and hunger like nothing else.

Including it in my life somehow managed to help me organise my meals better. I wanted to save Ambronite for when it was most beneficial so made more effort to prepare big batches of food when I could to make that possible.

When preparing it, powder first, followed by water is definitely the best way to go about it. It saves getting powder stuck in the lid, making a mess and lumpy food-shake. The website actually instructs you do it this way round, but the sachets say water first. Go with the website!

Overall I think it's a fantastic product. It saves spoons and time to prepare, it keeps you full for ages, it's packed full of nutrition and comes with a big green bottle! The only issue I have with it is that it's pretty expensive, but I am pretty poor. If I had money I'd be keeping a supply of this stuff for when I need it – I think I will definitely be purchasing more when work gets busier again. You can find out more and purchase it at http://ambronite.com/

*DISCLAIMER: This post contains a PR sample but my views are 100% honest. (I'm a rubbish liar).

Monday, 11 January 2016

What One Could Call New Year Resolutions If One So Wishes

I never thought I'd do one of these - but here I am! I am always working on the project that is Lisa, finding bits to improve and work on for the good of everything. I have never seen the point in waiting for a New Year to try something new or any of that crap, but I have found that once everyone else has had their time off to take stock of the past year, I have time to do the same! It's nice to actually sit down and assess your progress, see what is or isn't working, and plan for more good things. If this happens to be the same time that everyone else does it - then so be it. It seems to be the only time of the year we get to stop and breathe in this society, So, here goes!

Spend Less Money

If you've been reading this for a while, you may remember that I am trying to save money to learn to drive. In this post I planned little rewards for myself for money-saving milestones. Five months later I haven't really saved a thing. Turns out I'm not actually very good at this saving money malarkey. This is partly because I had a few unforeseen expenses that rinsed my bank account, partly because my hours have been cut so much I did some cries, and mostly because I have a habit of buying things I just don't need. I want them, sure. There is always a way to justify purchasing the random crap I buy - but need it I do not. Before writing this paragraph I was been lying in bed thinking about how much I want to go and get some white bread and cheap maize snacks to nurse my mix of hangover and horrendous fatigue, but as I have all sorts of tummy nurses in the kitchen I stopped myself. I have no impulse control in shops, and often find myself procrastinating before going to bed in some strange eBay K-hole buying clothes to make me feel a bit better about god knows what. I've had enough of myself behaving like this so shall be attempting to spend my money more mindfully. Bam! Starts now!

Use Things Up

This is a simple one. I have loads of make-up and skin care products, so I will not buy anything that I already have, and using up what is already there.

Lose Weight

Last year I spent a few months really focused on losing weight and lost a stone and a half... then I got too busy and tired to focus any energy on losing weight. The time between Christmas and summer seems to be when work is quietest and I have a few more spoons in my non-work life, so I shall put more effort into this mission again. I am not setting a specific goal, as living with a chronic illness is unpredictable. Lord knows I do not need more disappointment to my life! If I weigh less at the end of the year than I do now, that's super. 

Bring the Joy

I like to think i'm a positive person, but fuck me, do I moan about my illness. It's usually on Facebook or Twitter and that just spreads negativity. I don't want people to look at my social media profiles and see a whiny, negative brat. It's not who I believe I truly am. I used to be known as a joy bringer, I need to find that me again. After all, I can't join #GIRLGANG 'til I start spreading good vibes, and upholding the Girl Gang message!

Waste less time

When I butterflied out of the cocoon of misery that was my teenage years, I spent almost all my time constructively. I knew that life was short and I wanted to live without dead time. Now I spend around two hours a day procrastinating – usually before bed. I call it getting stuck. I will do my day, be getting ready for bed and get stuck when I only have my teeth to brush and bladder to empty. I will lose myself on Facebook, scrolling through the profiles of people who have wronged me, or who I miss. Sometimes I find myself on eBay trawling through second hand dresses, or learning about roller coaster accidents. None of this amounts to anything constructive. I find it really hard to pull myself out of these states and lose out on so much sleep because of them. I also find myself wishing for what could have been and pining over what was too much. It needs to stop. 

Start a Journal

I think this will help with the previous goal. If I end each day scrawling down all the shit in my head I won't find myself unwisely spending money or bitterly judging the people who hurt me. I will be dealing with the issues that cause me to do that. I hate living in the past, there are obviously things I need to process more and move on from. Writing about feelings not only sorts things out in my head but always makes me feel better. Hopefully this will give me the boost I need to physically get up, brush my teeth and actually get into bed. It can also be where I complain about my illness, yay! I bought myself a gorgeous The Hobbit Moleskine to make sure I do this. It's to drool for. I drew the illustration for this post in said journal. Let me know if it's okay, I think it's hideous - quick sketches need to be less detailed! Detailed pictures need to be done right, imo.

If I make any progress on these goals, then I've succeeded. I hope you achieve any of the things you wish to in 2016! What are you planning for this year?

Big love!