A few months ago, my life was so busy that it felt like everything was spiraling out of control — my body and mind included. As most people find with a chronic illness, stress can cause symptoms to flare. Long-term stress can have even more of an impact on your health.
I used to be a heavy user of a paper-and-pen planner, and I also am a list-maker. Everything has to be on the list: “Take your medicine, do the dishes, walk the dog, schedule all of your appointments, etc.” To-do lists could carry on from the day before, the week before, and the month before. But the longer the lists go on, the more stressful they can seem.
I was really looking to be grounded and to keep track of all of the things that I needed to do, which included finding ways to keep track of my health. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever made a mental list of all the things you need to tell your doctor only to forget half of them until after your appointment, on the way home.)
Following are five of my favorite things I use to keep track of all the things happening in my life:
- Medisafe is an app for Android or iOS that can be used by both patients and providers to help keep track of when you take your medicine. You can input all your medicines and the number of pills, set reminders on when to take them and when to refill, and write notes about things like side effects. The app can also notify a friend or family member if you forget to take the medicines.
- Flaredown is an app for Android or iOS. It can be a lot of work and a bit confusing, but you can track so many different symptoms, illnesses, and treatments that I feel it’s really important. Once you add all of the different things you want to track — cerebral palsy, chronic pain, and anxiety, for example — you rate how active they were during the day. You can then log your symptoms and the treatments you used, and even things like food and activity to find patterns. Give the app enough information, and Flaredown will show you charts of the information you logged.
- Any listmakers? The Five Minute Journal (also an app if that’s more your style) has really become the occupier of time I take for myself at the beginning and end of each day. The Five Minute Journal focuses on gratitude and setting your intention for the day. At night, it asks what went well. Even if things you planned derailed that day, it’s still a great grounding exercise.
- Never overwhelm yourself again. The Productivity Planner has changed my life. Focusing on the Pomodoro Technique that I’ve talked about in this column before (work 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, and complete four of these cycles before taking a 20-minute break), the Productivity Planner asks you to list your top tasks for the day (no more than five) and how long you think it will take you to complete them. You can rate your productivity at the end of the day and make lists for each week.
- Use your calendar. One of the wisest things I started doing during this time was live by my calendar. Separate calendars and colors are a great idea. I created a separate calendar for appointments, and reminders on my iPhone are in bright orange so that I can easily see when I have to leave my house. I also started setting themes for my day. For example, on Mondays, I might make all my phone calls, send emails, and schedule my appointments. On Wednesday, I might work and write. On Thursday, I may try to schedule as many appointments as possible. On Tuesday and Friday, I might give myself time off or squeeze in something that didn’t fit in the week at another time. Saturday and Sunday are days to wrap up or plan for the week ahead. Do it in a way that works for you.
Of course, these are things that work for me and which I enjoy. Take from this what works for you and make it your own. Leave all of the things that don’t work for you aside.
Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disorder. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.