Hey there, my name is Karen, a country bumpkin, living in Leicestershire after having spent a whirlwind decade in London.
I had a rather colourful career seeing a dabble in finance, before settling into fashion retail buying, working for an array of British fashion brands.
I travelled here from Cape Town wanting to work & see more of Europe, which happily became my permanent after meeting my husband! A desire for a more balanced life drew us to Leicestershire, where I now live with our two children & cocker spaniel, Rosie.
My journey with ataxia began shortly after returning from maternity leave. I noticed my balance as a bit off, after experiencing a stressful few months of work and travel. A check up with my doctor left me feeling slightly distressed after struggling through a few balance exercises, then I received a letter for an urgent neurologist consultation.
Fast forward a few months of seeing neurologists, having an MRI and blood tests, I was diagnosed with SCA2 in February 2019.
Anger, fear, trauma, and bucketful’s of tears ensued, before finally deciding to dig myself out of the ‘why me’ pit and place my energy into healing.
It has been a transformative year of exploration, learning, growing and healing, all of which I wish to share with this community, with the aspiration that my experiences shall bring you light in some way.
Another 3 weeks of remaining put is upon us. A testing time for us all, especially on a psychological level as we crave to connect with loved ones. In this rather surreal time, we have the choice to either succumb to our fears or we could take the chance to reflect.
I’d love you to take on this challenge with me. Over the past year the following acronym B.R.A.I.N has come together, not easily I might add! But I truly believe these 5 points have built back the health and happiness in my life, after a very dark time.
So grab a pen, create a dedicated book/notebook for you! I am so hopeful these questions will ignite your exploration/detective work to help bring you improved health & happiness.
A side note: this is not just for Ataxians! I urge you to bring along as many friends, and family along this journey, their support will be of incredible comfort to you.
B – for Beliefs
In darkness, we can face a victim mentality. Why me? Who to blame? Re-playing damaging thoughts that pull us even deeper into despair.
Do they serve us? A resounding NO!
So can we choose a different outlook? Absolutely YES!
For me, I choose to believe I am worthy of living my best life, I deserve happiness, love & bucketfuls of belly laughter. My future will not be defined by my past trauma. So ask yourself: What do I want to believe about my life?
R – is for Rest & Rejuvenate
Reflect on a poor nights sleep. How was your mood & function the following day?
Rather rubbish I say! Our brains are literally detoxing at night through our glymphatic system. We’ll re-charge our phones batteries & shutdown our laptops but very often we neglect the (at least) 8 hours sleep we need at night to re-boot.
Key here is to test out different things that interest you! Create your bespoke plan that you know you can stick to.
As a must I shut down screen time an hour before bed, then I enjoy either one or a blend of : a relaxing bath/shower; read; gratitude journal, guided meditation… 30 mins before bed. What bedtime routine/environment can you create to boost your sleep duration & quality?
A – for Active
Two tiers to think about, being physically active & mentally active.
If boosting your mood, focus, & energy appeals to you, then really engage in creative ways to explore these two tiers. It is honestly a no brainer!
Again both have to light you up, engage and make you feel good….so stay in tune with how you feel afterwards. Thinking about it brings no credits here folks, you actually have to do it.
Personally I love variety. So a mixup of across the week of cross crawl, yoga, running, dog walking, gardening and mentally using an APP like Luminosity or the game Banagrams & (attempting) Sudoku! So….What could you explore each day to challenge yourself both physically & mentally?
I – Irrigation
Water is life. On a cellular level, it is integral to our health & wellbeing, so let’s all make the effort to stay hydrated!
Try to drink up to 2L of water throughout the day. Ideally away from food & filtered if you can.
As a previous 8 cuppa o’cofee to get me through the day kinda, this simple switch to a morning cuppa followed by herbal teas throughout the day has transformed my brain fog & sluggish energy around.
Try for one week and check-in to ask:
How do you feel after one week of not being dehydrated?
N – Nourish
This could be a chapter in itself but let’s keep it simple as Hippocrates so insightfully said:
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Easier said than done, I know, especially in lockdown but just keeping this notion with you is so transformative. Speaking from a previous snack o‘ holic in every cake, biscuit, crisps sort of way, I never connected the dots with what I consumed vs. how I felt both physically & mentally.
After reading how Dr. Terry Wahls recovered from MS in her book ‘The Wahls Protocol’ I was astounded how nutrient poor my diet was. I now relish & love cooking/eating a rainbow of fruit & vegetables. An obstacle at first but feeling the benefits of ‘out with the beige’ I am sold!
A little footnote for you!
Be kind to yourself, stay curious, and don’t beat yourself up if your ideas don’t quite go to plan. The measure is always in dusting yourself off, and to keep trying until all the incredible hard work sticks (according to research, just 3 weeks to break habits that ill serve us)
Please don’t feel limited by your circumstances, there is always a creative solution just waiting for you to discover, keep faith.
Strength & happy vibes to you all,