Spring Cleaning With Migraine and Chronic Illness

cognitive behavioral techniques

It is that time of year again: Spring Cleaning!  It is time to open the closets and get rid of the old.  It is a time to reorganize and go through all the things that we have ignored all year. It is a time to make room for all the new and what is to come.  But spring cleaning is not only for cleaning out the old, it's also a time for self-reflection.

Throughout this blog we will discuss tips and tricks for cleaning out the physical things in our house but also take some time for self reflection and see where "spring cleaning" is needed on the inside as well.

A good place to start is to ask yourself these 3 simple questions:

  1. What areas of your life are you neglecting?

  2. What areas of your life do you need to declutter?

  3. What negative thoughts are consuming your thought life?

Get Rid of the Old Medication and Things That You do NOT Use Anymore

We all have that one drawer or cabinet where we keep years and years of old medication. For me, this is in my closet. I have a "sacred box" full of medication from the past, most of which is long expired. I always have this thought "What if..."

"What if I need this medication again?"

"What if the pain is so bad, I need x, y, z?"

And the list of "What if..." goes on and on.

But let me tell you, "What if you let go?"

What would happen if you shifted your mindset?

I want you to take a moment and reflect on how far you have come! You have come so far that you do not need the "safety blanket" of expired medications as a just in case. Trust in the process of healing with chronic illness and trust yourself.  I want to challenge you to celebrate yourself! Celebrate the wins.

By reflecting on your past and seeing how much progress you have made, it is such an amazing reminder of how perseverant you are when faced with adversity! You are SO STRONG!

The world may judge YOU and make you feel like just because you have a chronic illness that you are not strong, but let me tell you, people with chronic illness are the STRONGEST people that I know! Just getting out of bed and showing up, you have already faced more challenges in your day, than other people face all week!

In case you need to hear it again, YOU ARE STRONG, WORTHY, and POWERFUL! You deserve to be CELEBRATED!

Along these same lines as getting rid of old, outdated medication, I want you to get rid of all the "extra" gadgets that you have saved for a bad flare that hasn't occurred in years.

For me, I have a freezer FULL of 10+ different types of ice packs. JUST IN CASE I have such a bad migraine attack and I have to go through every single icepack. First of all, this made up scenario has never occurred. It is rooted in FEAR! Do you know what FEAR stands for? False Evidence Appearing Real. I have no proof that this "flare" would ever occur. This scenario is made up and I have believed the lie for so long. So, I take baby steps with myself, I get rid of half the ice packs I don't use (because you know I have my favorites) and then in a few weeks, I plan on getting rid of a few more. The reality is, I only need 1-2 ice packs and I will be just fine. '

What are the old gadgets that you are keeping stocked up for in case of a bad flare? It could be heating pads, pillows, ice packs, splints, and so much more. I want to challenge you to get rid of the old!


Renew Your Mind and Add in New Mindset Routines

While getting rid of the old is a great place to start, I do not want you to stop there.  As therapeutic and rejuvenating as it can be to throw things out, we also need to look internally and work on our mindset.

Each day, we think over 60,000 thoughts per day.  Of those 60,000, 95% are repeated each day and 80% of our repeated thoughts are NEGATIVE.  By doing this repetitiveness of negative thoughts, we are making it a habit.

How different would your life be if 80% of your repeated thoughts were POSITIVE?  It takes 10 days to make a habit, so let's start today!! The amazing thing about our brain is that it can be retrained and by retraining our brain, our lives can be TRANSFORMED.

3 Cognitive Behavioral Techniques to Change your Thought Life

  1. Thought Stopping 

When these fear based thoughts and doubt creep into your head when getting rid of medication, you no longer need, or items/gadgets you no longer used, I want you to say "STOP!" Literally picture a stop sign in your head.  This is called thought stopping.  By making this a habit, you will notice over time that you will think less intrusive and fear based thoughts.

2. Cognitive Reframing

Another technique you can use is cognitive reframing. There are distortions and lies in your thought life that you have told yourself so many times, that you now believe them to be true.

For example, you may believe that your worth is in the job that you do, but because of your chronic illness, you took a work at home job and make less money.  Instead, you need to change this lie that you believe and replace it with "my worth is not in my job or what society tells me. My worth is in who I say I am. I am happy and proud of the work I am doing."

Take a moment and reflect: What are the lies or distortions in my life that I choose to believe about myself that are not true?

3. Relaxed Breathing

Next up, I want to discuss a mindfulness technique called relaxed breathing.  When you feel panicked, your body begins to take rapid, shallow breaths. I want you to focus on your breathes and start to take deep breathes. By simply doing this, you will relax your body and your thoughts will begin to focus on your breathing and help you to be present.

Try it with me:

In through the nose, 1, 2, 3, 4; out through the mouth 1, 2, 3, 4.

Don't you already feel more relaxed and the tension released?

My challenge for you is to really take a look at your thought life this next week. As you are cleaning out the closets and drawers, take this time to really focus on your thoughts and renew your mind. Cleaning can be so therapeutic! Try at least one of these new exercises that you have heard and let me know how it goes.


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