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Immune Suppression and Winter LonelinessWe had the first proper frost here yesterday. The grass was crunchy underfoot (and wheelchair wheels), the air was bitingly cold. My yoga trousers did not provide enough protection and Linus dashed back into the house to grab my fleece lined leggings (yes, they exist, yes, they are awesome).

There are lots of wonderful things about winter but it can be very isolating.

In winter it’s easier to get lonely, especially if you have a chronic illness or need to stay at home for any reason (caring for small children/an adult, working from home, living in an isolated area, etc.).

I’ve just had a viral infection, and last winter I had chest infections and got pretty ill. So this winter, we are trying to avoid infections as much as possible. Because what makes someone else sort of ill, can make me incredibly ill. And if I can’t speak I can’t work.

However, this means I haven’t seen my grandmother for a month or my mother for a little longer. Because they are both ill and don’t want to infect me. That’s tough. And I expect it’s tough for you too.

We all struggle to move in the coldest, darkest times. Dragging yourself out in the evening can feel like so much more of a struggle when it involves putting on all the layers, and risking the kind of people who hug you and then say, ‘oh, I’ve got the most dreadful cold, so sorry.’

With that in mind, I have some tips on how to manage loneliness in winter:

1. Creative Communication

Perhaps you can’t visit people as you’d like. But that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate. What about phone calls, Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, texts about your day to day and yes, actual, physical letters?

What would cheer you up more than getting a lovely gift through the post on a cold, grey, achy morning?

Communication does take effort. I have reminders programmed to repeat in my calendar that prompt me to stay in touch. Otherwise it’s all too easy to drift into hermitage and then suddenly wonder, weeks later, why you feel so isolated. Set your systems in place and reach out today.

 2. Think Immune Safety

I know for some it’s just a cold, but for others it could be a matter of serious illness. Let’s prevent the spread of illness as much as possible and think immune safety.

If you are ill, and infectious, is it possible for you to stay away from people at risk of infection?

Is it a good idea to push through your life, because you aren’t that ill. Or is it a better idea to rest, let your body heal more swiftly?

warm, thick socks

3. Understand How Illnesses Spread

We all think we know, but if more people followed hygiene advice, I imagine we’d have less colds and flu. Generally a person with a cold becomes contagious two or three days before their symptoms begin and remain contagious until all their symptoms are gone.

Cold and flu viruses can be passed through tiny droplets of mucus that are sneezed or coughed out into the air by an infected person, and breathed in by another person. If an infected person sneezes into their hand, and then touches an object (such as a doorknob, or railing on a train) the virus can pass from the object to the next person who touches it.

By washing your hands, you will be getting rid of any viruses you’ve picked up on them. – How the cold virus spreads

Hand sanitizers are a contentious issue. I’ve used this and this and I’m happy with them.

4. Plan Your Escape

Grace in winter jacket sitting outside with snow in background

Maybe you are ill and stuck at home, bored.

Perhaps you are having chemotherapy and need to avoid catching an infection when your immune system is surprised.

It could be you have a chronic lung infection and more virus issues are the last thing you need.

Can you still leave the house, just not where there are lots of people coughing?

What about a wintery walk, well-wrapped up?

A film at a small cinema in the afternoon when it’s mostly empty?

A wander around the art gallery first thing in the morning?

Or time on the beach when it’s just you and the waves?

Getting out is essential, if you can. But all this can be lonely, and loneliness hurts. Some believe it’s bad for health. So how can you create connections when not in person?

Luckily if you have access to the internet, there’s a world of connections available online, from message boards to forums, paid clubs and free groups. Do join me here.

What are your plans to stay connected this winter? Let me know in the comments.

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Overhead view of Grace in a wheelchair: Chronic illness Q & A: 7 Steps To Your Business ComebackHow do you move forward when you’ve had to take a break from business because of illness?

Gala TweetGala Tweet

I’m so happy to answer this! Let’s break it down, shall we?

1. Listen to what’s underlying. Ask yourself questions to really dig into how you’re feeling and what your greatest fears are. Are you worried people have forgotten you? Think you are unreliable, unprofessional? Do you feel guilty about needing a break in the first place? Where is your fear coming from? Whose voice is it? When you pinpoint your underlying worries, it’s far easier to acknowledge them and then, take the actions necessary to alleviate them.

2. “Turn your setback into a comeback.” Cliché? Yep. I even saw it on Instagram. But for me, powerful too. Here’s the thing: I read it on Instagram, after 3 weeks in bed, off work, off training and completely off the internet. It’s cliché but it’s true. Remember: You were able to give yourself a much needed break, not just push blindly (and perhaps, detrimentally) through. That’s something to be proud of. Too often people press on, ignore the signals their bodies are sending them, and end up burnt out and in worse shape than when they began. You did not buy into the prevailing – and flawed – notion that if you’re getting your hustle on, only good things will follow. You had the inner strength to take a break, to survive. You are stronger now because of it. Your ability to set boundaries is something to be respected.

 

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3. Practice compassionate awareness and pace yourself. As you return to business, can you liberate yourself from pushing yourself too hard? It may be tempting to leap in, full throttle, in an attempt to get back “where you were before,” but that’s not the way to sustainable business. Take things gently. Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise. If the atmosphere online becomes overwhelming or counterproductive, go ahead and log off. Hang out in different places, and enter only with shields up and boundaries in place. Protect your healing body and mind.

4. Systems set up. Get systems in place that work to keep overwhelm at bay. Living with illness will likely limit your energy, so saving it anywhere you can is a pragmatic goal, and one where results are seen, almost immediately. For the disabled or recovering entrepreneur, there are few things that save as much time and energy as creating (and consistently implementing!) systems and processes that work for you and your business. (Read my guide to setting up systems here).

pens, paper, charts

5. The superstar mindset. Re-frame your absence. Think of yourself like a superstar after a cancelled tour. Sure, you’ve taken some down time, but now you are back and available, visible and shining. Make a plan for what you want and put your energy behind what’s most important. Begin there, move forward. Get support on your journey back (our Trail Blazer’s Facebook café and the disabled entrepreneurs group are great places to start). Reach out. You deserve it…and your fans are waiting!

6. Be ready with answers. Plan your answers to any awkward questions you might get, post-comeback. If dealing with uncomfortable, perhaps intrusive inquiries in your personal life can be difficult, they are even moreso in a professional context. Think about how you will respond when someone asks you about what’s been happening, how or where you’ve been. How much is too much to share? What details are you alright in revealing? How much do they really want to know? Really consider (and even practice!) how you will respond to these, often very well-intended questions. If you’re looking for some further guidance, you can download my e-book, Pitch Perfect: What’s Wrong With You? It’s designed to help you craft what you will say about your illness, just as you would craft talking points about your business. Download it here.

7. Announce your availability and make it a selling point. Lay it all out: YOU ARE BACK! And you are offering something AMAZING. Tell everyone that’s been waiting. Your time and energy are limited. That means folks now have the good fortune to book – or buy from – you. You and what you have to offer are exclusive and special to the people you are reaching out to after your absence. They are privy to your comeback – lucky them!

tiara & stones

Your work is needed. We’re glad you are here. Change the world. We are so excited for you.

What are your top tips for working after illness? Let me know in the comments.

Do you have a question for a Q & A posts? Share it the comments, below.

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Why I Write

Why I WriteThe fabulous Theresa Reed tagged me to share Why I Write.

Thanks, Theresa, here it is.

(And while you are here, you simply must check out Theresa’s sensational new offering Entrepreneurcast.)

What am I working on?

Right now, I’m doing some deep healing, and my writing is mostly focussed on journalling and adventures in inner exploration. But I’m also working on: The Phoenix Fire Academy

The Phoenix Flight School – for entrepreneurs and would-be-preneurs living with illness, pain and disability on how to run a successful, profitable, sustainable and world-changing business while sick.

Refining The Phoenix Fire Academy from the feedback of our lovely beta testers. Look for it to open again in 2015.

I’m honoured to be a contributor to Positively Positive and I’m working on my monthly article.

The final edits to Turning Trail Blazer e-guide – sign up to my list to get your free copy as soon as it launches.

How does my writing differ from others in its genre?

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I am simply a beginner, although I’ve been writing professionally for 14 years, I’m still only just learning its mysteries. I am incredibly blessed to be surrounded by colleagues whose writing inspires, delights, teaches and nourishes me.

However, I am not only a writer, I am a storyteller. To be a storyteller is to hold a position of great honour. In Wales, where I live, we still honour the Bards with festivals and celebrations, the Eisteddfod and the Mabinogion.

Celtic society held an exclusively oral tradition. To hold the role of Bard was to be the memory to your people. Tales and transformation; holding stories, carrying them for others, weaving the words needed to mend souls and bring understanding at the darkest hours.

Perhaps it’s the years I spent in bed reading, reading, reading; devouring books, ideas and soaring across worlds, as I lay between antique linen sheets. Maybe poetry is interwoven in my very being now, but it comes out in nearly everything I write.

I carry stories, think in poetry. I speak, and write lyrically. (Click to Tweet!)

Why do I write? 486014_408154315933079_1278442581_n

I write because if I don’t the words wake me up at night.

I write to find my way home.

I write because I need these words too.

I was wishing someone would write them for me, looking for a role model, for someone to show this was possible, and when I couldn’t find one, I had to become my own.

I write because I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil. I have journals from when I was 5 years old onwards. I wrote before the Internet, before an audience, before I knew what I was saying. I write to discover what my soul is saying.

I write because it’s what I know how to do, and do well.

I write because it seems people need to hear what I have to say. Because I’ve been through things many people never come close to, and it’s my path to share how to navigate that.

I write because I am a story teller, and the tales whisper to be shared.

How I write. 1390749_529829773765532_1122479718_n

I generally write first thing in the morning.

Or in the car before an appointment.

Or at the kitchen table with my niece and nephew running around shouting about Thomas the Tank Engine.

I write anywhere and everywhere, on anything and about whatever is ready to come forth. However if you are interested in specifics, I do love:

  • Scrivener
  • Using an old school, actual, real life notebook. I keep one next to my bed for ideas-in-the-night and one with me all day for snatches of words that appear on the run.
  • I am also exploring the Note Card System, introduced to me by Esme Wang.
  • I really rely on my editor. Editing is an incredibly important part of writing, harder for me than the writing itself. There’s also the awareness that it could always be better; it will never be done. But perfectionism can kill you, kill your writing, make other humans suffer. Because someone out there might be waiting for your words, and your doubt is holding them back – they need you, why are you making them wait any longer?

Think of the perfectionism of Arachne, who thought the work she wove could be perfect and surpass that of the Gods. Refusing to acknowledge that her skill itself came, at least in part from the Goddess Athena, and without humility or respect, she challenged Athena. Arachne was turned into a spider by Athena, to weave for all time without loom or spindle. Many traditional weavers leave a flaw in everything they make as a sign that only the Gods can create perfection. Perhaps the flaws in the words I weave are a reminder of my humanity and constant learning?

  • I’m training myself not to believe in ‘writers block’. Because as Minisinoo says, ‘plumber’s don’t get plumber’s block’. When writing’s your job – you write!

Writing is a learned skill. Only about 10% is talent, another 20% is sheer cussed persistence, and the rest is practice, practice, practice.

Let me tell you a secret.

There is no muse. No, really. There isn’t.

Now, that isn’t to say there’s no such thing as inspiration. Any artist has thrilled to it with a bursting heart, delirious mind, and fire in the veins that forces us to create.

But the Myth of the Muse can be an artist’s worst nightmare and eventual downfall. Far, FAR too often I’ve heard writers moan that the muse has left them and they just can’t create!

The plain truth is that writing is not just art, but also discipline. It’s a JOB. Or really, a vocation and craft, and that craft is LEARNED — a skill. And like any skill, it takes discipline to perfect.

Writers write. Even when we don’t feel like it. Even when we’re ‘blocked.’ We just sit down and write. At first, 90% of it will be utter c***. But pretty soon, only 60% will be, then only 30% . . . and finally, we can sit down to turn out moderately readable prose on demand. It may not be our best writing or especially inspired … but it’s readable. That’s when you know you’re a writer…

So how to get past writer’s block?

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WRITE past it. Just write. In my experiences, so, so many writers have psyched themselves out and the only way to get back on the horse is to climb up there. There’s nothing magical about it.

(Addendum: there are occasional real-life crises that are so devastating depression sets in and the ability to do much of anything is knocked right out of you. It happened to a friend of mine when she lost a child, and I’ve known several writers unable to write while going through a divorce, including me — although others find escape in writing. But this sort of life-altering crisis is not usually the problem, and all these people were professional authors who could normally meet their deadlines.)

It’s amazing how clever our editors and beta readers can make us look! So writers are nobody without good editors, good research help, and good beta readers. “And any writer worth her salt knows it.” – Minisinoo 

So who do I pass the baton to?  I want to know why these amazing women write:

Christina Rasmussen

Amy Scott

Gala Darling

*Featured image courtesy of Livia Cristina L.C.

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