For the last few months, It’s safe to say I’ve been operating in survival mode. First we had the summer holidays, then I found out I would be having an operation – and then I ended up having said operation as emergency surgery. Two weeks on, I’m feeling much better but I realise that for the last couple of months I’ve really just been fighting fires in my life.

As well as this – and I am aware this sounds silly now – it occurs to me that the hernia I had repaired had been there for five years. That’s five years of my body finding ways to get around something being essentially in the wrong place. Five years of inflammation, weakness and pain that just became a part of my daily life. Much as I am enjoying no longer looking pregnant (I still have a belly, but it’s a normal belly and I love it), I think my body is enjoying no longer having to deal with that added inflammation as a constant add-on to daily life. Two weeks after it was removed, I am still noticing changes in my body every day as I work to achieve a level of health I don’t think I’ve ever had before.

It’s safe to say then, that the last few months have been very stressful physically, mentally and emotionally – especially when you factor in things like worry over what would happen to S while I was in hospital; panic when the surgeon told me I might die if they didn’t operate; 6 weeks with only one day off being “mum” full time during the summer holidays; my first foray into the world of dating in four years; the anniversary of my dad’s death and of course, my mother being entirely absent from any time one may reasonably expect support from their mother. 

Now that I am on the road to recovery, it’s tempting to just jump straight back into the constant, stressful busyness – especially considering that S has two weeks for half term, meaning that she will be at home for half of October. I want to make sure I get out of “survival mode” and can approach the next few weeks from a place of calm and order rather than just constantly fighting fires. 

Here is my plan:

  • Meditation. I use the free Insight Timer app to track my meditation because it tracks how many days in a row I have meditated. At the time of writing, I have meditated for at least ten minutes, for 146 days in a row. I aim to meditate every morning on waking, and in the evening before bed. Just lately though, I have made some changes to this. First, I’ve started using the guided meditations included in the app, to help me to sleep, deal with stress or to let things go. I’ve increased my time so that when I do my usual primordial sound meditation, I meditate for a minimum of fifteen minutes rather than ten. I’ve also begun meditating at different points during the day. While mornings and evenings are still the times I meditate most, I’ve started to meditate during the day, at times where I feel stressed or overwhelmed or too attached to a certain outcome or situation. I find a regular meditation practice really helps me to stay calm and grounded, to order my thoughts and to make better decisions.
  • Writing. I don’t only write on my blog, though this is where I come to write most things. Sometimes there are thoughts whirring about my head which wouldn’t make a particularly interesting or appealing blog post – or they are pertaining to personal matters (either my own or other people’s) which can’t be shared in a public forum. I have a diary next to my bed for brain-dumping all of these things, but I also keep numerous files on my computer of notes I’ve written. Some of these may one day be used to write actual blog posts, but most are just my way of sorting through what’s going on in my head. 
  • Green juice. This sounds really silly, but I’ve recently realised that the green juice I drink every morning and night has played a massive role in my recovery. The green juice I use is from Organifi and tastes better than any other I’ve tried. It also has lots of ingredients that aren’t in most other green juices, for example coconut water, mint, turmeric, ashwaganda and monk fruit. I am sure that drinking this is what has helped my body to keep going through a period of intense stress, and to recover quickly from traumatic abdominal surgery.
  • Turmeric. As well as having turmeric daily in my green juice, I keep a jar of fermented turmeric in my fridge. Until I had my operation I was making myself tea from this on a regular basis. After the operation I was unable to lift the kettle, so I’ve had to go without it for a while – but now that I’m able to lift small things again, I can start with the fermented turmeric tea again. The benefits of turmeric are almost endless; it is anti-inflammatory (so great post surgery) and increases antioxidants in the body. I definitely feel the difference when I consume it regularly.
  • Exercise. I can’t really do much exercise lately; in fact, I’ve not hit my 13000-step daily goal on my Fitbit for several weeks now. But I am trying to increase what I do, day by day. Of course, I still have days where I feel a bit rubbish; on Friday I went to London for the day and have spent most of the weekend recovering from that exertion. But I’m looking forward to getting back into my daily routine of walking to and from S’s school twice per day, and also going for walks with her on the weekends. My mental health has really suffered over the last few weeks where I’ve not been able to take the long walks I was used to. Once my scar is fully healed I’m planning to attend physio, and hopefully begin swimming too.
  • Asking for help. I have a big problem with asking for help but the last few weeks has shown me that there are people in my life who are willing to help, and don’t see it as such a massive imposition as I had previously thought. I tend to assume that if someone is helping me out massively, it must be a massive effort for them but they keep telling me it’s no bother, and it’s about time I took them at their word. 
  • RoutineI am one of those people who thrives with a routine. It helps me to stay focused, and on the days where I’m not feeling so great a good routine helps me to continue to plod through the days. Even over the summer holidays, my alarm was still set for 5:30 each morning, and I found this helped me to keep going. It sounds silly, but it works for me. Each morning I wake up and meditate before spending half an hour or more reading and writing. This allows me to start the day with something positive, and feeling like I’m calm and in control. Of course there are days when this doesn’t go to plan; S might wake up while I’m meditating, and want to come into my bed for a cuddle. Also I have been having trouble sleeping lately, so I’ve allowed myself to switch the alarm off on those days. For the most part though, sticking to my routine is what keeps me going.
  • Me time. I am terrible for procrastinating and leaving my work until the last minute. This often means that I will sit at my desk “working” (getting distracted by shiny things and doing things that are not important) all day, then go back to work once S is in bed. I might sit on the sofa with the TV on while I finish off blog posts or respond to emails, and kid myself that I’m having an evening “off” but really I’m not. I am working on disciplining myself through my working day so that I am able to down tools when I collect S from school, and spend my evenings relaxing and perhaps reading a book.
  • Reading. I read a lot. I joke that my house is 80% books, and in actuality the “TBR” pile next to my bed is now four knee-high piles of books I don’t want to find homes on shelves (there’s no space anyway) before I’ve read them. In times of stress it can often feel like too much effort to sit and read a book, but in my experience time spent in front of a screen, whether it’s the TV or the laptop (or my phone) only makes things worse; whereas a good book (fiction or non) can really help. I tend to read more nonfiction, and have been choosing books based around self care and self development lately which have been helping.

What do you do to ensure you’re not constantly in survival mode? If there’s something you think I could add to my plan I would love to hear about it.

Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.


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