Slow Living for Chronic Illness (Part 2/2)

In a previous post I looked at the philosophy of the slow living movement and what I think it can offer the chronic illness world…or more specifically what chronic illness warriors could offer the slow living movement.

As far as I am concerned, many of us are slow living champions, and the rest of the world needs to catch up, or more specifically slow down to our pace! Of course there is always room for improvement, so in this post, I am going to write more about how I am trying to implement a slow lifestyle on a daily basis through the following:

  • being more conscious about what is meaningful to me;
  • slow exercise;
  • decluttering;
  • taking regular breaks and pacing.

Being More Conscious About What is Meaningful to Me

A key component of slow living is trying to do less activities, but ones that are meaningful to you, so you can be present in the moment. I have been trying to do this for a number of years, especially after I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis. A chronic illness diagnosis tends to bring life into focus and gets you to really stop and think about how to spend your precious time and energy.


While I have often focused on the bigger picture of my life, I am trying to be more conscious of what is meaningful to me on a daily basis. For example, since the COVID-19 lock down, my morning routine has changed. Before, I used to get up, grab a coffee and snack and rush down to the gym for a session, before rushing home to get ready for work. As you can see, the main verb there was rush.


Since lock down, I have been working out at home and working from home, which has completely removed a lot of the rushing I used to experience (and how that was impacting my mindset). Additionally, I bought a proper home espresso machine, because I was no longer going out to cafes on a regular basis.


Now my mornings are far more relaxed, as I enjoy my first cup of coffee and then walk a few steps to my lounge room to do my workout. After I shower and start breakfast, I often put on some dance music to get ready for the day and to stop me from starting work too soon.


Slowing down this way helps me to enjoy my breakfast, get on top of a few little chores and then start work at a reasonable time, as opposed to being tempted to just start work and keep going, and going and going.


Slow exercise

The slow living movement encourages us to challenge the cult of busyness in our society. One area that has not been challenged enough for me is the fitness/exercise world.


A lot of trainers espouse how you can fit a quick workout into your busy life, which I think only fuels that kind of lifestyle. There is also too much emphasis on having to do lots of quick exercises to get your heart pumping.


For me, exercise is a very meaningful part of my day and is something that I do not want to rush or fit into a busy lifestyle. I prefer to structure my life so that I can slow down and dedicate the time I want for exercise.


With this in mind, I have learned that slowing down, especially in weight/strength training, Pilates and Yoga is essential and incredibly effective. I am very grateful that I have discovered the importance of slow movement in my exercise regime, because I enjoy working out more.


Decluttering

Decluttering is something that is covered across all kinds of lifestyle philosophies, and it certainly has a good place in the slow living movement.


This is an area of my life I have had to work on more consciously in recent months. I bought my first home a few years ago, and I absolutely adored shopping for furniture and household items that suit my personal style. Having a home that is aesthetically pleasing for me is deeply meaningful, but I realised recently that I have been stuck in a cycle of buying for the sake of buying.


The same thing happened when I lost a lot of weight, I finally enjoyed shopping for clothes and did so with great relish. However, those activities no longer fill me with great meaning, because I have everything I need.


Wherever possible I have been scaling back what I own, and I have been directing my attention and time to more meaningful experiences, such as this blog, or outdoor activities. For example, I go for walks and I have a bike that I can use around town to explore some really lovely areas.


Something that has also been helpful for decluttering, is re-examining my relationship with money. Again, COVID-19 has helped me to realise that financial independence is really important to me, and so saving and building wealth needs to be a priority. This has helped me to make changes to my habits and foster a more frugal attitude.

When you are chronically ill, money really matters!

Taking Regular Breaks and Pacing

Taking regular breaks and pacing activities is particularly important for people with chronic illness. It is something that is often covered in fact sheets and education programs. For spoonies like me, our conditions often teach us the limits of our energy levels. However, this is a lesson I have not learned quite yet and really need to work on.


I am so used to running from one activity to the next, or planning my next to-do-list, and then feeling guilty if I stop. I realise I need to learn when to say, “enough is enough” (especially at work) and not feel guilty, because let’s face it, most managers are not going to tell us to slow down.


Rushing to the next activity does not work for me (or most people I wager) and feeds into that boom and bust cycle that is often mentioned in the chronic illness world, where you have a day of energy (boom), so you do as much as possible, but then you pay for it later (bust).


So, I have been trying to plan my daily activities more consciously, first by focusing on what is really meaningful to me, as I mentioned above, and then thinking what I can realistically achieve, so I can prioritise breaks and pace myself.


In concluding this post, I now realise I have always yearned for a quieter and slower lifestyle, even when I was much younger. It not only suits my chronic condition, but me in general. I think I have struggled to admit this because I have been butting up against the cultural expectations of busyness all my life. I am feeling increasingly confident to challenge that culture and do what is best for me.


If you have any advice on how to learn to say “enough, it is okay to stop”, please get in touch and share your thoughts with me, or any other bits of advice you have for slow living.

Stay Fabulous, Jo

Published by Chronically Fabulous

I am Jo, an Aussie blogger with ankylosing spondylitis, doing everything I can to live a slow and healthy life that is not defined by chronic illness and autoimmune disease.

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