Adult Autism & ADHD Diagnosis: My Personal Experience

For a while now, I’ve been struggling with the feeling that I don’t know my authentic self. “Authenticity” was one of my 2021 words of the year because of this! At that time, I’d only just begun toying with the idea of autism and ADHD. After a lot of research into these conditions and the depths of myself and my memories, I decided to pursue an adult autism & ADHD diagnosis.

Paired with a growing understanding of my physical conditions, this process has been eye-opening. It’s not, by any means, a firm conclusion—I still have a long way to go towards that authentic self I’m working towards. But, even still, I’ve gained a lot of insight into who I am and why so many of my experiences have happened in the way they have.

Learning about adult autism in women

Like many recently diagnosed adult autistics, I first came across adult autism–and autism in girls/women/AFAB individuals–online. I’m not sure of the very first references that caught my eye, but, along the way, I landed on a few particular creators who’ve been absolute assets:

Before this, I really only knew about autism in stereotypes (Sheldon Cooper, anyone?). Following these creators and their journeys has been incredible, and it’s given me insight into not just the reality of the autistic experience but, in particular, how it manifests in those assigned female at birth/raised as girls.

Learning about Afab ADHD

Similarly, my initial knowledge of ADHD was limited to stereotypes. Even as I dove down the research rabbit hole that is autism, I dismissed ADHD experiences that resonated with me because there is so much overlap between the conditions. And yet, something in the back of my mind noted these.

When it became more apparent that I might have ADHD myself (more on that later), I came across the How to ADHD channel on YouTube, and everything sort of fell into place. Jessica is incredible, and her videos should be “required reading” for anyone (but especially girls/women/AFAB) thinking they might have ADHD.

My Embrace Autism Experience

Embrace Autism The Ultimate Autism Resource

Before diving into my autism diagnosis, I want to acknowledge the privilege that comes with being able to pursue a formal assessment, especially an out-of-pocket one. The only way I could make this happen was with an unaffiliated payment plan (through Affirm, to be exact), and, even then, I recognize that this has a degree of financial privilege as well.

With that in mind, I didn’t think I would have the chance to pursue an Embrace Autism assessment when I first came across the website. Of course, self-diagnosis is entirely valid, especially given the barriers that women, POC, and others deal with in this context. I have “good” insurance by US standards, but I couldn’t pursue an adult diagnosis within that coverage. For me, though, I needed that “official” diagnosis to stop doubting my understanding of myself and my experiences.

Whether pursuing a formal diagnosis or learning more about autism (and related concepts, like alexithymia), the Embrace Autism website is an incredible resource. I’ve seen plenty of other neurodivergent folks using the tests and information on the site to aid in self-diagnosis or a better understanding of autism and being autistic. If you’re unable to seek out a formal diagnosis or you are content with self-diagnosis, this is especially helpful; taking these tests and understanding the results is an incredibly informative process in and of itself.

About Embrace Autism

Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht

Embrace Autism describes itself as “THE place to find research & experience-based autism content for personal elucidation & empowerment. By autistic people, for autistic people.” The primary face behind the scenes is Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht, a psychotherapist and naturopathic doctor. She is joined by Eva Silverant (who you’ll see behind much of the EA social media presence)and others who are committed to, quite literally, embracing autism. They bring together the resources on the EA website, these autistic-led assessments, and so much more.

Most importantly, Dr. Engelbrecht and co. are nearly all (if not entirely) autistic/neurodivergent themselves. If you’re concerned about allistic healthcare providers overlooking your experience because it doesn’t align with the conventional idea of autism, this crucial element makes Embrace Autism so appealing.

EMbrace Autism Screening Questionnaire

Embrace Autism Adult Autism Screening

If you are interested in pursuing an autism diagnosis through Embrace Autism, you’ll begin with the screening questionnaire. This step doesn’t supply a formal diagnosis but, instead, offers insight into whether the “real” diagnostic process is warranted. You’ll move through the questionnaire, which allows you to reflect on your experiences in light of the DSM-5 criteria for autism and a collection of psychometric tests.

You’ll receive a 10-page report based on this data, indicating whether your responses suggest a likelihood of autism. Assuming this is the case, you’ll proceed with the diagnostic assessment.

Screening Psychometry:

  • AQ
  • RAADS–R
  • CAT-Q
  • VIA
  • RBQ-2A
  • Aspie Quiz

My experience with the screening portion of the assessment was pretty straightforward. I’d put a lot of thought into the criteria beforehand and dredged up some memories in the process, making them easier to recall in the moment. I’d also taken “practice” psychometric tests earlier, having used the various links on the EA site in developing my own initial self-diagnosis. All-in-all, I think I finished this portion in one hyperfocused evening.

When I received my screening report a few weeks later, my results were “highly indicative” of autism, and continuing the process was warranted.

Embrace Autism Diagnostic Assessment

Embrace Autism Adult Autism Diagnostic Assessment

Like the screening portion of the process, an Embrace Autism diagnosis begins with a questionnaire and psychometric tests. This is what leads to your diagnostic interview a few weeks later and an ultimate diagnosis (or lack thereof).

Diagnostic Psychometry:

  • ASRS-v1.1
  • EQ
  • SQ–R
  • ESQ
  • TEQ
  • TAS-20

Pre-Diagnostic Interview: Beyond adult autism

Embrace Autism Adult Autism Assessment

This was by far the part of this experience that I was most anxious about (perhaps tied with the cost). I don’t do well with phone/video calls, in a combination of anxiety, PTSD, and auditory processing difficulties–and, I know now, autism. With that in mind, I suppose this shows just how invested I’ve been in getting answers. I was willing to face one of my greatest triggers to get there!

In the time between my screening and eventual interview, I’d actually taken a similar step by joining PlushCare and meeting with my incredible primary care physician via video. This was plenty anxiety-inducing too but, after having such a positive experience with my doctor (she’s truly the nicest person I’ve ever met!), this interview seemed a bit less daunting. Joined by the fact that Dr. Engelbrecht herself is autistic and inevitably encounters others who struggle with this sort of communication, my anxiety became more of a nervous anticipation.

Once I was able to schedule my interview, I knew for sure what conditions would be screened for at this stage: autism, ADHD, alexithymia, PTSD, and C-PTSD. I’d ended up on a different page of the website earlier that listed relevant conditions as autism, ADHD, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), so this confirmation was much-appreciated. While I’ve suspected EDS another form of hypermobility might be behind some of my joint pain (I’m already diagnosed with fibromyalgia, as well as suspected ME/CFS & POTS and my various other conditions), the thought of verifying a long-since-assumed PTSD diagnosis was especially welcome.

Of course, this came with some questions, too: How have the traumas I’ve endured interacted with my autistic traits? Have I gone through certain experiences because of my autism? It seems painfully likely, in retrospect, that a lot of situations could have been avoided if I were more adept at recognising social cues.

Alexithymia, though, was an unfamiliar concept prior to finding EA. Scientific American defines alexithymia as “the inability to recognize emotions and their subtleties and textures.” As I learnt more, I could hardly believe it—this symptom made so much sense! I’ve always been an overly empathetic, emotional person but, despite this, I struggle to put words to my feelings. This is hardly ideal when you make a living out of putting words to things! The idea that my discomfort behind the question of “how does _____ make you feel?” could stem from a legitimate reason was such a comfort.

Embrace autism diagnostic interview

When the day of my interview came, I adjusted my work hours accordingly (thankfully, my role is really flexible so I can squeeze appointments in and simply shift my shifts to accommodate them) and tried to prepare. I put together my notes from the previous steps in the process and put on my coziest sweatshirt for a bit of extra comfort. Then, I actually sat down to draft this blog post! At this point, I could say with pretty strong confidence that the results would confirm my self-diagnosis.

The interview itself is held through Dr. Engelbrecht’s portal via Psychology Today. Mine started off on an unconventional high note—Dr. Engelbrecht was running a few minutes late and sent a message saying as much. This meant so much as the anxiety would have hit hard otherwise!

Once we were both settled in, the interview itself was pretty straightforward. She asked a few questions following up on my previous answers and experiences. A personal favourite? I mentioned having the hallmark signs of PTSD, though I couldn’t say for sure that I had…to which she replied, “Oh, you do.” This seemingly simple response had a tremendous impact on me!  After dealing with symptoms for years and struggling to come terms with an assumed but unconfirmed diagnosis, this confirmation was absolutely life-changing.

Embrace Autism Diagnostic Report

Finally, after a bit more waiting, I had my report in hand. This was by far the shortest wait time between stages of the screening/diagnostic process–to paraphrase Dr. Engelbrecht, I have a pretty textbook case so the medical review would be quick and easy (I opted for this add-on for an added layer of confirmation, just in case I should need to request accommodations in the near future).

Most importantly, this report came with the final “gold star” (I mean, that’s what it felt like!). After several years’ self-diagnosis and a lifetime of wondering why I seemed so different from my peers, I had a formal ICD-coded diagnosis for both autism and ADHD.

I did have to follow up for confirmation on my PTSD (though she’d verbally confirmed this during our interview, the formal diagnosis was initially missing from the final report) but, in yet another dose of validation, my traumas were confirmed, too. I was absolutely ecstatic!

Embrace Autism More Information

It took a while for me to get past the stereotypical view of autism I once held, much less recognise my own self-diagnosis. It’s no surprise that the route from self-diagnosis to formal diagnostic report was a lengthy one, too! Similarly, the process wasn’t a cheap one==I’ll be paying off the Affirm loan for quite a while yet–but I’m nevertheless grateful for this incredible resource Embrace Autism offers.

If it’s in your budget, whether directly or through a pay-later service like Affirm, I absolutely recommend Embrace Autism for an adult autism screening or diagnosis. If you’re interested in saving up over time, be sure to spend some time on their website in the meantime. There are so many assessments you can work through and insights you can find in their articles. In short, embrace-autism.com is an invaluable resource for anyone who suspects they may be autistic or identifies as autistic without a formal diagnosis. Even if you’re already diagnosed, I’m sure you’ll find worthwhile information from throughout the website or EA social media profiles.

Grace & Able review

Grace & Able Review: Arthritis Care Kit

If you read my recent chronic illness wish list post, you might remember me mentioning the stylish compression gloves offered by Grace & Able. The brand was so kind as to reach out and offer me one of their arthritis care kits in exchange for my honest review! I’ve used these items for a few weeks now and am excited to share my Grace & Able review.

First and foremost, some insight into the Grace & Able brand and their arthritis care kit, in particular:

About Grace & Able

Grace & Able logo

The Grace & Able philosophy really starts with its founder, Sarah. An RA patient herself, Sarah faced a problem that all too many disabled individuals encounter: having to wear braces and supports and standing out because of them—and not in a particularly positive way. This is all too relatable—orthopedics, compression wear, and joint supports are hardly the most fashionable accessories in a spoonie’s wardrobe. And, all too often, these standout pieces bring attention (and plenty of prying questions) well before anyone recognizes our stylish outfit or bubbly personality.

Sarah recognised this frustration and joined together with Trevor Petrie, a certified hand therapist, to design functional, fashionable compression gloves and more.

The Arthritis Care Kit

The incredible inventory at Grace & Able all stems from these enthusiastic origins, including their arthritis care kits. These bundles prioritise both healthcare and self-care, supporting both your body and mind as you use it. Each kit includes a pair of their cotton compression gloves, a tube of magnesium soaking salts, and two linen flaxseed hand packs. And an added bonus? It even comes with stickers!

Grace & Able Arthritis Care Kit Thank You

You have a few choices to make when you order your kit. Compression gloves are available in three sizes (small, medium, and large) and five colours (ballet pink, classic black, heather grey, marine blue, and plum purple). Then your soaking salts can be one of four fragrance options: eucalyptus, lavender, rose, or unscented.

It’s also worth noting that this incredible kit comes in eco-friendly packaging—even their tissue paper is recyclable!

My Grace & Able Review

I was absolutely thrilled when Grace & Able first reached out about crossing this item off my wish list. I’d first come across their fashion-forward compression gloves when I began following Cheryl of Arthritis Life. At the time, my diagnosis was undifferentiated arthritis, and RA seemed the most likely form. I’ve since gone through further testing and started treatment for fibromyalgia, but I’ve still found Cheryl’s arthritis life hacks to be invaluable. The Jiffy Twist is the next item on my wish list that’s inspired by her product recommendations!

I like my standard compression gloves from Amazon well enough but Grace & Able’s commitment to making these chronic illness essentials more fashionable is just so inspiring. The ballet pink gloves, in particular, immediately caught my eye. One of my favourite childhood memories is a ballet pink polish my grandmother used on our nails—these were such a lovely callback to those memories.

I mentioned these as my top choice of compression glove (with plum purple & marine blue as my next picks…spoiler alert: I’ll definitely need to order these colours down the line) and Grace & Able sent just that. I also selected lavender for my scent since a bit of relaxation. is almost always a necessary addition to my everyday life.

When I picked up this exciting package from my PO box, I loved the packaging itself. It really is such a special delivery!

Grace & Able Special Delivery

Then, of course, I opened the package…and it became so much more exciting! The contents of the arthritis care kit were even better in person than the description on their website could relay.

grace & able Compression gloves Review

Grace & Able Compression Gloves

Firstly, these gloves are gosh-darn beautiful. I love the subtle detail of the GA logo tags! It’s a simple way to ensure you’re grabbing the right glove at a glance, and makes a great addition to the gloves themselves.

With the gloves on, though, they become even better. The ballet pink colour is just as gorgeous as I expected!

Grace and Able Compression Gloves

I can hardly wait to pair these gloves with some stylish outfits—I have a few particular pieces in mind already. So far, I’ve been wearing them around the house more casually, and even to bed a few times. Compression gloves are an absolute must at bedtime, and these quickly became my new favourites.

Grace & Able Soaking Salts Review

Grace and Able Soaking Salts

I put off trying these salts for a while, waiting for just the right moment. That special occasion came when I promised myself a home manicure/pedicure. With aching hands and ankles, the lavender salts were the perfect way to relax and relieve the discomfort.

I think my favourite part, though, was the aesthetic these salts had to offer. I’ll spare you the image of my feet soaking in the warm water, but know that the combination of the sprigs of lavender and the salt-infused water is almost as soothing to look at as it is to use. In short? I love these soaking salts and can hardly wait for the next “spa session!”

Grace and Able heat packs review

Grace & Able Salts and Heat Packs

Finally, we have the third main part of the Grace & Able arthritis care kit: a pair of heat packs. Each 4×5 pack is made of organic linen and filled with flaxseed sourced locally by the brand. Simply microwave for 20 seconds and enjoy the heat therapy! Alternatively, you can keep them in the freezer for some cooling relief.

These are intended for your hands, much like the other parts of the kit. That being said, they’re versatile—I recently used them on my eyes/temples during a particularly wicked migraine and the relief was wonderful!

 

All this being said, adore this Grace & Able arthritis care kit. I can’t thank them enough for the gifted product, or for the chance to share this lovely product with you all! They’ve been a pleasure to work with and I’m certainly planning to add more of their items to my collection over time. I mean, I need gloves in every colour, right?

If you have fibromyalgia like myself, another form of arthritis, or some other type of chronic pain, I truly cannot recommend the arthritis care kit enough. At the very least, you’re sure to find relief from one of the included products (and a smile at the included stickers, of course). More likely, though, you’ll find that the kit as a whole was exactly what your home treatment plan needed.

Staying Cool in Summertime as a Spoonie

Staying Cool In Summertime as a Spoonie

With summer on the horizon, I’m officially facing the struggle of trying to stay cool despite chronic illnesses. You might be having the same issue! Here are some of the ways I’m staying cool in summertime as a spoonie: 

What is heat intolerance?

Put simply, heat intolerance is an irregular sensitivity to heat. This is a high degree of temperature sensitivity—“a small change of temperature causes a dramatic response.”

There are a lot of different things that can cause or contribute to high temperature sensitivity or heat intolerance, including a variety of disabilities. Those with dysautonomia, including postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), neurocardiogenic syncope, and other forms, often face temperature regulation issues thanks to dysfunction in our autonomic nervous systems.

Fibromyalgia and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome come with their own high temperature sensitivities. “ Are you one of those people with fibromyalgia (FMS) and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome(ME/CFS) who is cold all the time, or hot all the time, or alternately hot or cold while out of sync with the environment?”

In my case, yes! I’m currently undergoing treatment for fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and dysautonomia, and waiting for confirmation on a few different diagnoses. Some other conditions causing temperature dysregulation include hyperthyroidism, multiple sclerosis, Graves’ disease, and more. Even certain medications can come with heat intolerance or increased temperature sensitivity. Wherever it is the temperature sensitivity is coming from, the heat intolerance is excessive!

Symptoms of Heat Intolerance

With these conditions, changing seasons can be painful. While others might feel a slight discomfort as temperatures change, many spoonies struggle with more severe reactions, or even pain.

Heat intolerance comes with a slew of symptoms within the symptom, including:

  • feeling of overheating
  • heavy sweating
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • cramping
  • nausea
  • elevated heart rate

Severe circumstances can even lead to heat exhaustion, with symptoms like confusion, loss of coordination, vomiting, muscle cramps, high body temperature, and rapid breathing. If your “normal” symptoms are anything like mine, you won’t want to deal with these too!

Staying Cool in Summertime as a Spoonie

All this is to say, my own heat intolerance/temperature sensitivity call for staying cool any way I can when summer comes around! Here are a few of the methods I’ve tried so far or will be implementing over the next few weeks:

Air Conditioner

Air Conditioner

I finally broke down and purchased an air conditioner this year, partly to keep Fitz safe and partly for my own comfort. The worse my temperature sensitivity gets, the less I’m able to deal with the increasing summer heat!

That being said, I’ve gone a long time without AC. I’ve always been one who gets too cold too quickly—now, I realise this is at least in part from the back-and-forth between AC and heat. If this isn’t an option for you right now, I can attest to everything else on this list offering some degree of relief!

Fans

Tower Fan

Like I’ve said, this is the first year I’ve had an air conditioner when summer came around. With a slew of new medications, symptoms, and diagnoses, it was worth the strain of adding a payment plan to my budget! If you’re not able to get air conditioning or you have less discomfort in heat, you can get an awful lot of relief from conventional fans.

My go-to combination of fans to keep you staying cool in summertime as a spoonie includes a tower fan and a box fan. I got my tower fan at a great deal last year and it’s held up well since. My box fan is equally impressive—I got it when I was still in college and it’s still going strong! Plus, I love anything pink 🙂

I typically put the box fan in the window, then position the tower fan to oscillate on the opposite side of the room. Together, they make all but the hottest days a lot more bearable. 

Neck fan

Neck Fan

Heat relief at home is great but what if you’re on the go? Or what if you’re moving from one room to another and can’t get enough of the cool stream of air as you do? That’s where this incredible neck fan comes in. 

This is absolutely perfect for trying to get through some chores during a heat wave, taking a walk around your block, or simply adding another layer of cooling power to your summer strategy. 

Cooling cloths

Quick Dry Towels

Is it even a post from An Ideal Life if it doesn’t include a product from Miss A? These quick dry towels double as a quick and easy method for staying cool. Whether you’re a spoonie, heading to the gym, or trying to beat the heat, these are a great addition to your summertime cooling kit. 

Cooling patches

Cooling Patches

Another Miss A must-have! These cooling patches are an integral part of my migraine kit and can just as easily work to help cool you down in a pinch. It’s easy enough to toss a packet of two into your purse! It’s important to note that they aren’t super adhesive—the cooling gel stays on the skin but won’t hold up to a ton of motion or movement. 

Wipes

Body Refresher Wipes

If you deal with the heavy sweating that’s common with heat intolerance, have a limited capacity for typical hygiene due to your symptoms, or just needed an added layer to your comfort between showers, a simple pack of wipes is essential. I love these body refresher wipes from Miss A but even standard baby wipes will work!

Native deodorant

Rose Native

Another essential! I absolutely adore my collection of Native personal care products, including the natural deodorant. Native comes in a variety of lovely scents and is made without aluminum, talc, parabens, or animal testing. They even have a special sensitive formula for those with a baking soda allergy or intolerance, an unscented option, and plastic-free packaging options! My current go-to is their seasonal Rose. Chances are, there’s a new favorite waiting for you! 

Of course, sunscreen is crucial, too. Native happens to be my go-to there, too! I have their unscented sunscreen in both face and body formulas and I frankly won’t leave the house this summer without it!

Cooling sleeves

Cooling Sleeves

These accessories are fabulous because they simultaneously help with staying cool (despite another layer) and protecting you from the sun’s harmful rays. 

I picked up my first sets of these sleeves from Miss A but they no longer carry them. You’ll find similar cooling sleeves on Amazon and elsewhere. I’ve also got my eye on this shawl-style take on cooling sleeves, which cover the shoulders, too. These could be great for pairing sleeveless tops with cooling sun protection! 

Water, water, water!

Ello Water Bottle

If you only take away one item from the list, it should be to stay hydrated! This is a critical aspect of care for conditions like POTS and a great tip for general well-being. Lately, I’ve been alternating between my Hydroflask and this Ello water bottle

Liquid IV

Watermelon LiquidIV

While you’re at it, consider adding some electrolytes to your water while staying cool this summer. I swear by Liquid IV—they have some of the best flavours, in my opinion, and genuinely seem to offer relief. For a little added incentive, you can save $5 when you try Liquid IV through our referral link!

Do you deal with heat intolerance or other symptoms that make summer heat unbearable? What do you use to find relief? Let us know in the comments! 

Trying out one of these strategies yourself? Be sure to tag us on social media @anideallifeblog.

Chronic Illness Products On My Wish List

Chronic Illness Products on My Wish List

If you’ve been following me over on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that the symptoms of my various chronic conditions have been increasingly unignorable. As I go through the diagnostic process (with my incredible new doctor!), I’m slowly accumulating tools that make disabled life a little easier. However, there are still quite a few chronic illness products on my wish list! 

VIM & VIGR

VIM & VIGR LEMON SOCKS

VIM & VIGR was so kind as to send me a pair of their compression socks to review! Stay tuned for a full blog post coming soon. 

I was diagnosed with neurocardiogenic syncope more than a decade ago and one of our current theories is POTS, so I’m painfully familiar with dysautonomia. Pair that with my chronic pain and you have the basis for quite a love affair with all things compression! 

When I first spotted VIM & VIGR‘s compression socks, stockings, and other essentials, I added them to my mental wish list instantly. I mean, latex-free compression options with designs as cute as lemons? Count me in! When I eventually give these a try, I’ll report back but, for now, my expectations are definitely high. 

CEFALY Migraine Device

CEFALY

Over the years, I’ve amassed quite the collection of ways to cope with my chronic intractable migraines. I’ve seen this nifty device all over TikTok and other social media platforms lately and am so intrigued! The more I learn about Cefaly, the more determined I am to give it a try ASAP. 

Allay Light Therapy Lamp

Allay Light Therapy Lamp

I first stumbled across this migraine tool through Cove and it’s been more or less on my radar ever since. I’ve had some luck with green color therapy glasses for migraines, so I’ve got pretty high hopes for the Allay light therapy lamp

Embr Wave

Embr Wave

Embr Labs has sponsored a few episodes of Morbid: A True Crime Podcast (which I can’t recommend enough for my fellow true crime aficionados—and be sure to preorder Alaina’s debut novel!) and the Embr Wave definitely caught my eye. My symptoms include heat intolerance and general temperature dysregulation so the thought of having such innovative control most definitely catches my eye. 

90-Count Liquid IV

Liquid IV 90–Count

Liquid IV is already one of my favorite things (pretty much ever) and I definitely hope to invest in one of these bulk packs! Electrolytes help so much with my dysautonomia symptoms and Liquid IV is my personal favorite source. I try to keep plenty on hand and this would make that easier than ever!

Grace & Able Compression Gloves

Grace & Able Gloves

Grace & Able was so kind as to offer me an arthritis care kit to review!

I’m pretty happy with the compression gloves I have already but I’ve heard so many good things about Grace & Able! I’d definitely like to give this brand a try, with either their standard compression gloves (can we discuss that gorgeous ballet pink?) or the arthritis care kit (or both!). 

Upright GO Posture Trainer

Upright Go Posture

Simply put, my posture is terrible. Between neurodivergence, hypermobility, and life in general, I’m sure it has some impact on the pain I’d deal with already. I have a more conventional posture corrector already but rarely use it as it irritates my skin. Something like the Upright Go strapless device seems like an ideal solution! 

Pink Stork Mist

Pink Stork mist

I’ve used and loved Pink Stork’s nausea sweets for motion sickness and nausea so I have no doubt that their topical magnesium spray will be equally wonderful! I’m planning to try this one for pain, nausea, and everything in between. I love that their brand is woman-owned, too! 

Pain Relief Eye Mask

ergoBeads eye mask

As-is, eye masks are an absolute lifesaver (I love the conventional style as well as these warming eye masks from Miss A) when it comes to migraines and other flares. The “ergoBeads” in this particular eye mask have certainly piqued my interest! 

Hug Sleep Pod

Hug Sleep Pod

My weighted blanket is one of the single best things I’ve ever owned. The Hug Sleep Pod looks like such a fantastic alternative for nights when my pain sensitivity might be too much for extra weight! 

HomeTop Hot Water Bottles

HomeTop Hot Water Bottle

Storytime! Back in Bath, I purchased a wonderful hot water bottle. In addition to the classic rubbery bottle, it came with an adorable “sweater” covered in paw prints for a cover. While the bottle itself followed me to the States, that sweater got lost along the way. I haven’t found an exact replacement but I’m loving these options from HomeTop. Their 2.25 liter model has such a unique design, and the classic 2-liter hot water bottle is a great piece to match. Plus, both covers look like they’d be such a pleasing texture—and I’m never one to turn down polka dots!

Vive Foot Rocker

Vive Foot Rocker

Plantar fasciitis is one of my least severe conditions but, when it flares up, it goes far beyond being just a nuisance.  Between that and my chronically tight hamstrings, the Vive foot rocker looks like an incredible little product! 

Medline Rollator

Medline Rollator

After a stint in the hospital last year, I ordered my grandfather a rollator much like this one to help him through recovery. As my own symptoms worsen, it’s an investment I may be making myself sooner than I would have thought! This light blue color brings a smile to my face, which is always a bonus when it comes to medical equipment. 

Vive Folding Cane

Vive Folding Cane

Full disclosure, my existing cane is quite similar to this one. But, much like the rollator mentioned above, I adore this teal color. Plus, it adds some accidental dysautonomia awareness–sounds like a great fit!

Microwave Knee Wraps

Microwave Knee Wraps

With my affinity for hot and cold therapies, I could hardly believe that these wraps were a new find when I discovered them only recently. This is such as incredible solution! My knees have been bad since childhood so I’d love to give these a try. 

Allergy Amulet

Allergy Amulet

If you have food allergies or sensitivities and haven’t heard of Allergy Amulet yet, you’re missing out! Their device is able to check your food to detect top allergens, with more on the way. A few of my personal food triggers aren’t part of the program just yet (but on their roadmap!) but I’ll definitely keep an eye on this for that update. 

Migrastil migraine stick

Migrastil Migraine Stick

Despite being an essential oil fan and seeing countless Buzzfeed recommendations for this headache relief roll-on, I’ve somehow yet to try this fan-favorite (and cruelty-free!) topical. One of these days I will, and might add it to my tool kit!

Neck Pressure Point Device

Neck Pressure Point Device

I already use and love my cervical traction device and recently added a neck massager to my arsenal. I’ve seen this cervical spine alignment tool recommended, though, and am interested in giving it a try! These solutions seem to work wonders for my migraines, headaches, and neck pain, so I’ll gladly keep another option on hand. 

Foot warmer heating pad

Foot Warmer Heating Pad

One of my various conditions comes with a particularly irksome symptom—my feet and toes get absolutely frigid! I’ve used my existing heating pad for the sole purpose of warming them many times. This foot warmer would be absolutely ideal, especially when in a full-fledged pain flare, too. 

Sacroiliac Hip Belt

Sacroiliac Hip Belt

I recently saw this style of hip belt recommended for folks with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and, while that’s not one of my diagnoses (current or suspected), I do have enough hypermobility in various joints that this looks to be helpful. Plus, it’s said to help with sciatica, too! 

Thera Cane

TheraCane

Honestly, it’s shocking that I have yet to try the Thera Cane! Without fail, this massager is recommended on every listicle featuring products for chronic pain in its many forms. It may be in one of my roundups, too, if I end up loving it as much as others seem to someday!

Hip Ice Pack Wrap

Hip Ice Pack

Between sciatica and joint pain, I’m super interested in this hip ice pack wrap. Haven’t we all dealt with trying to get a typical ice pack to sit *just right* for a particular pain? 

So, these are a few of the items on my chronic illness wish list. Have you tried any of these products for spoonies, or are there other chronic illness products you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments or across social media @anideallifeblog!

Coping with Chronic Migraine

Coping with Chronic Migraine: Tips & Tools I Use to Manage Migraine Pain & Side Effects

For as long as I can remember, I’ve dealt with debilitating migraines. They’ve always been horrible, with pain, nausea, speech difficulties, and sensory sensitivities galore. More recently, they began fighting with my eyes, too, leaving me with blurred sight (at best) for a day or two, too. Coping with chronic migraine is easier said than done, but I’ve accumulated a few tools that make life with migraines a bit more possible.

Obligatory disclaimer: Talk to your doctor before changing your treatment plan. I’m not a medical professional myself, and this post does not constitute medical advice. These tips and tools are simply examples of my own experience with chronic migraines and are not guaranteed to work for everyone. 

It’s worth noting that I try to keep my lifestyle cruelty-free/vegan, not just my diet. However, healthcare & medical needs are the one area where I’m less diligent. If nothing else, how can I make a difference if I’m not well enough to function? We’re shooting for progress here, not perfection.

Cove

Cove Migraine Relief

First and foremost, I have to give a shoutout to one of the newest tools in my migraine crisis kit. A few months back, I signed up for Cove after a short-term trial of an abortive medication through K Health. My Cove physician was able to set me up with that prescription and ondansetron for nausea accompanying both migraines & meds (if you watch shows like Chicago Med, that may be a familiar one!) and a preventive medication I take daily, too. I could even have the prescriptions transferred to my typical pharmacy, which is even cheaper than Cove’s already excellent prices through their partner, Eagle Pharmacy.

If you use our referral link to give Cove a try, you’ll even get 60% off your first month’s prescription!

Migraine Buddy

Migraine Buddy

Migraine Buddy is a lifesaver for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s essential to keep track of migraines. I feel like I have them constantly, so I’m gathering this crucial data even when I’m not logging as perfectly as I’d like to be. However, there’s even more to Migraine Buddy than tracking alone.

The Migraine Buddy app offers plenty of insights, activities, and information to help you understand your migraines. But, just as importantly, it guides you through a few specific screens as you log a migraine. My personal favourite details are two pages, in particular. Firstly, there’s a page that asks which medications (if any) you’ve taken. You can personalize this list so, even in the depths of migraine misery, you’ll know what to use or take. The same is true of the page for non-medication remedies, like resting in a dark room or drinking water. I’m sure I’m not the only migraineur who can never remember what actually helps while in the trenches!

Sign up for Migraine Buddy.

OTC Medications

Migraine OTC

Of course, prescription medications aren’t the end-all, be-all. I still depend on over-the-counter pain relievers and other OTC methods to ease my migraines. Advil is almost always my go-to, whether it’s straight ibuprofen, Advil Dual Action, or Advil Migraine. I also depend on a severe allergy pill (diphenhydramine [Benadryl] with acetaminophen [Tylenol]) for those headaches that seem to be sinus-induced—though it can be hard to distinguish between the two. In terms of supplements, I typically take Deva’s calcium-magnesium combo and recently started trying feverfew capsules, too.

Muscle RubMuscle Rub Migraine

With popular brands like Bengay, Tiger Balm, and Icy Hot, there are plenty of options for pain relief, whatever your preference. Your go-to store may even have a generic brand that’s similar or even better than your brand-name options (I’ve had luck with Walmart’s Equate equivalent to Icy Hot myself). The back of my neck, in particular, tends to be my go-to application spot, though my forehead, temples, cheekbones, and jaw have all had their fair share. If you use any of these topical products on your face, be sure to avoid getting any in your eyes!

CBD

Wink CBD marble

I first tried CBD several years ago, as it was starting to become more popular. A friend of mine was working with an MLM that specialised in CBD oils and offered me a small sample to try. I loved the results (not just for migraine relief but also for easing my chronic joint pain, anxiety, and other symptoms) but avoided the hefty cost until I could make space in my budget more recently.

After a ridiculous amount of research, I came across Wink CBD and gave their cruelty-free GSC (a minty flavour reminiscent of a certain popular seasonal cookie) and Cupcake oils a try. These are some of the most valuable items in my migraine crisis kit, and I can hardly recommend them enough. In fact, I’ve recently added a few new flavours to my collection, which I can hardly wait to taste test. I’m excited to try their other products, too, eventually.

Use code ANIDEALLIFEBLOG for 10% off your first Wink order!

Water

Water Bottle marble

In a lifetime of chronic migraines, I’ve heard many times that dehydration can be a trigger, so a simple glass of water can make a big difference. At the very least, there are few instances where a glass of water will hurt!

Looking to drink more water? We’ve got a post for that! 

Electrolytes

Liquid IV water marble

Like water, I’ve long since heard that electrolytes may benefit migraine symptoms. I only started trying this trick for myself this past year or so, though—and I’m so disappointed I didn’t explore it sooner! I adore Everyday Hydration and LiquidIV for this, but there are other versions, too, of course. Electrolytes aren’t a magic cure-all for migraines, but they help pretty often!

Coca-Cola

McDonalds Coke app

In particular, McDonald’s Coke is some sort of magic—and I’m not alone in this strange migraine remedy! I’ve heard people attribute this to the particular syrup-water-ice ratio the chain uses, but I don’t need to know the details. If it makes coping with chronic migraine easier (and usually offers that relief for just $1), I’ll take it! Now, to get McD’s on board with plant-based food options….

Ginger Candies

Thrive Market Ginger Candies

If your migraines are anything like mine, they come with an awful lot of symptoms aside from pain, including plenty of nausea. I learnt long ago that ginger could take the edge off this nausea—and candied ginger is a tasty way to consume it. Ginger tea is also an excellent choice—lemon ginger is one of my personal favourites! Not a fan of ginger’s flavour? These candies crafted for morning sickness can do wonders for migraine nausea, too.

Looking for these in particular? Sign up for Thrive Market for organic candied ginger and so much more! 

Peppermint Gum

Peppermint Gum marble

In a similar vein as ginger candies, peppermint gum is a must in my migraine survival kit. The flavour and scent help ease the tension, while the chewing motion keeps me from clenching my jaw. Alternatively, Tic Tacs work, too!

Essential Oils

Peppermint Lavender Roll Ons Essential Oils

Similarly to the scent of peppermint gum, peppermint essential oil is one of my top must-haves for coping with chronic migraine. I also have a lavender roll-on that promotes relaxation—a difficult feeling to come by when dealing with a migraine attack.

WeatherX

WeatherX app earplugs

I first saw WeatherX earplugs (previously MigraineX) mentioned in a Facebook group, and I eventually invested in a pair of my own. Since, I’ve added a few to my collection, including a pair of the smaller children’s size, which fit my ears much better. Even without the earplugs themselves, though, the WeatherX app could come in handy by warning you of upcoming pressure fluctuations if you suspect that to be a migraine trigger.

YouTube

YouTube Chronic Pain Migraine Sound

YouTube might not seem like a typical tool for coping with chronic migraine, but it’s one I turn to time and again. In particular, the audio from this video seems to help tremendously! Unfortunately, it seemed to disappear from the site for a short time, and I was devastated. I have no idea just how this works, but it’s a lifesaver!

Insight Timer

Insight Timer AfterShokz marble

I dove into Insight Timer when the YouTube video linked above was unavailable for a time. Of course, this is good for all sorts of meditations, sleep audio, and other moments of self-care. But it’s excellent for coping with chronic migraines, too!

Apple Watch

Apple Watch Screen marble

I hope rather desperately that Migraine Buddy and Bearable (two of my favourite apps for iOS) release Apple Watch editions of their respective apps. For now, though, I find that the heart rate monitor built into my Apple Watch Series 6 is quite beneficial. When you’re struggling with pain like a severe migraine, your heart rate tends to increase. I deal with an abnormally high heart rate typically, so I know that when the pain raises it even higher, it’s time to take a break and implement some of my tools for coping with chronic migraine.

Mouth Guard

Mouthguard

I recently noticed I’ve had a lot of jaw pain with my migraines as of late. I’m not sure whether TMJ is triggering migraines or vice versa, but I know that a mouth guard seems to help!

Cervical Traction Device

Cervical Traction Amazon Listing

When I came across this cervical traction device, I was intrigued by the idea of reducing dowager’s hump and potentially easing migraine pain. Unfortunately, I don’t always take the time to do this daily, but the relief is noticeable when I do.

Massager

Migraine Massagers

This tool is actually in two parts! I get terrible neck and shoulder pain when dealing with a migraine flare, so a massage gun or percussion massager is ideal. As a bonus, it helps with my other forms of chronic pain, too! I also use a heated neck massager, which feels heavenly at the base of my skull, where so much of my pain tends to centralize. I’ve also got a fantastic little TENS unit that helps with migraines and other types of pain, too!

Sunglasses

Quay flatlay

Am I that jerk who wears sunglasses indoors? If I have a migraine, you betcha. Light can be absolutely debilitating mid-flare, but dark shades can take off the edge a bit. I even suffered through a few college classes with them! I have an oversized pair from Miss A (currently unavailable, but they have a wide array of other sunglasses!) that live in my bedside migraine kit (a pouch that’s also from Miss A!). On the go, I turn to my pairs from Quay Australia or Tiffany & Co.

Cool Patches

Cooling Patch

Another Miss A must-have! These cooling patches are specially made for pain, fevers, and similar sorts of discomfort, and they’re lovely additions to my migraine toolkit. They’re also excellent when the summer heat is a little too unbearable!

Warming Eye Mask

Warming Eye Mask

Cool temperatures aren’t offering relief? How about heat? These warming eye masks—yes, another Miss A find—are incredible. Right now, they’re available in rose or lavender scents. I use the lavender for migraine relief since it’s one of the few aromas that doesn’t typically worsen a flare.

Eye Pillow

Cats aromatherapy eye pillow

On a similar note, a friend sent me an aromatherapy eye pillow (covered in cats!) that’s become a staple for coping with chronic migraines. I’ve even added a few more to my collection! PeaceLoveRelaxation is my go-to resource. I may very well have to add to my stock soon, too!

Warmies

Warmies Grey Cat Closeup

I cannot explain just how much I adore these cuddly yet practical critters. While the idea of putting a stuffed animal in the microwave is somewhat disconcerting, the effects are well worth it. Warmies are perfect for comfort during a migraine flare or simply staying warm come winter!

Sleep Mask

Sleep Eye Mask

Sometimes it’s just a bit of darkness you need—more than your favourite shades have to offer. In that case, a handy dandy sleep mask is ideal! I use one most nights anyway, so I have quite the collection around already.

Eye Patch

Eye Patch

This is by far the item my family most judges me for, but it’s a valuable tool nevertheless. Because I deal with chronic migraines, I can’t always retreat into the darkness as I’d like. So when I have to keep being a semi-functional adult, I’ve found that a cheap eye patch (mine’s from Walmart) can save the stabbing pain of light or screens in my eye. I typically have just one affected so severely at a time, so this is perfect for offering a bit of relief.

Rest

iOS Sleep

When it’s possible, sleep is by far the best tool for coping with chronic migraine. However, if the pain’s too much to sleep, even just lying down and resting can make a world of difference!

Regular Breaks

Apple Watch Pomodoro

Similarly to rest, taking regular breaks is crucial to coping with chronic migraines. I work on the computer (well, iPad, LATELY) and know that too much screen time will inevitably trigger a flare. By taking regular screen-free breaks, I can usually mitigate these effects! A Pomodoro timer is perfect for this. 

Even with this lengthy list of tools and tips, coping with chronic migraine is easier said than done. Still, even a little bit of relief is better than none at all!

Do you have a fantastic migraine-fighting tool I didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments or on social media @anideallifeblog!

Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life
Mini - An Ideal Life

Working Full-Time with Chronic Illness

Working Full-Time with Chronic Illness

As our social media followers may know already, I started a full-time (albeit remote) job this summer. Before this, I worked about 60 hours per week, on average, as a freelancer in addition to blogging, writing, and running my small press. That was even less sustainable than the thought of working full-time with chronic illness! Fortunately, my role allows a lot of flexibility, rather than a strict 9 to 5 workday.

That being said, this isn’t making the process of balancing a full-time job with the unpredictability of disabilities any less of a challenge. On the contrary, it’s been nearly a full quarter since I began this role, yet I’m still struggling with the adjustment! In the past few months, though, I’ve learned a lot about working full-time with chronic pain and other conditions. In particular, I’ve been working my head around how to do so successfully, simultaneously being a successful, reliable employee while managing my health and symptoms. So, of course, this is the sort of thing I can’t help but share here, too.

Take advantage of the good days.

As a freelancer, I found myself in a never-ending cycle of burnout, leading to a severe health crisis this past spring. In particular, Arianna Huffington’s experience hits home, along with the lessons she learnt in the process: change is absolutely necessary. In my case, this means I must make more time for rest and—despite my overly ambitious instincts’ protests—recreation, as well. I’m still learning how to reach this balance, but I’ve quickly learnt that making the most of those days when symptoms are minimal is a crucial aspect.

Fewer hours doesn’t mean less effort.

This may be particular to my situation, but I’m technically working far fewer hours as a full-time employee than freelancing. Nevertheless, I’ve also been struggling over the past few months while I adjust to a 40-hour workweek (or slightly over, in most cases). Much to my surprise, working full-time with chronic illness has led to more exhaustion despite being fewer hours than my freelance efforts previously. I know that starting a full-time job can be exhausting, but I had no idea just how tiring it would be!

Having the right team is key.

Of course, you can’t always change the people you work with. But, when that is something you can control, your supervisors and colleagues must be supportive. I’ve been ridiculously lucky on this front—my supervisor and colleagues might not know the innermost details of my diagnoses, but they know that I’m disabled. They’ve been incredible in understanding the struggle and trying to make this job work for me.

Be upfront about your needs and limitations.

I’m still grappling with this point personally, but I’ve realised that it’s essential to be pretty frank about the accommodations you need and the challenges your diagnosis might present. In my case, this was part of the reason I struggled to find a remote role and even failed to get some freelance clients before this. One particular difficulty, for me, is difficulty making phone or video calls. Fortunately, there’s a lot of technology in the modern days that allow me to manage with text-based platforms, whether it’s online ordering or chat service.

Remind yourself of your strengths.

One part of my new job that I’ve especially struggled with is meeting a weekly quota. On difficult days, that struggle has been enough to leave me questioning my abilities and having this job. I’ve had others tell me that I was a perfect choice for this role, but I can’t help but question it on the hard days. When this happens, I stop and try to remember why I’m here. Then, for a few moments, I’ll look through high scores or positive feedback my previous work has received.

Listen to your body.

Arguably, this is just a crucial tip for life with chronic pain or illness more generally. Flexible hours mean that, when I can’t keep my eyes open one afternoon (thanks to what’s thought to be myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome), I can sign off and take a nap, then return when I’m feeling a bit more functional. Likewise, when I’m feeling better than usual, I can push my limits a little more, leaving space for another day to be shorter when I’m struggling.

Take complete breaks.

Working through a bowl of chips between paragraphs doesn’t count as a lunch break. Ideally, I try to maintain a schedule with a full lunch break and two coffee breaks (morning and afternoon). At the very least, I make myself step away from the screen for a few minutes. This is vital to avoiding more significant flares, like a screen time-induced migraine, and staying productive when working.

Find Productivity Tools that work for you.

As spoonies, we can’t always thrive with conventional productivity methods and tools. However, I’ve found that a few productivity systems and productivity tools, in particular, help me get my work done with less stress. Of course, some days require different methods than others, and plenty of trial and error is involved. What matters most, though, is that you find what works for you and take advantage of your newfound productivity.

Keep notes and a to-do list.

If your chronic illness comes with brain fog, this is crucial. I keep an array of to-do lists between GoodNotes, my favourite task management apps, and my pen-and-paper lists. Not everything that comes to mind throughout the day is a task, though. So instead, I keep notes, too. Sticky notes are ideal, while the iOS Notes app or similar programs offer digital tools that do the same.

Create and utilise a flexible routine.

The benefits of routines are vast, especially when you’re dealing with conditions like autism or ADHD. At the same time, disabilities make that sort of consistency difficult. You never know when a pain flare or other symptoms will throw your routine aside! Tiimo is a great tool, particularly for neurodivergent schedulers, and Google Calendar is another fan favourite. I use these to outline my routine (there’s little chance I’d remember otherwise!), but allow myself to adjust it as needed. Leaving a few “free spaces” in my week ensures there’s room to accommodate those adjustments!

Embrace the unconventional.

I use this tip for productivity more broadly, too. Does having a stim toy or weighted lap pad make the workday easier for you? Never mind what others might think. Do what works for you! So long as your unconventional tool or method isn’t harming you or someone else, there’s no reason not to take advantage of it.

Find workarounds when needed.

Sometimes, your illness just won’t let you do the tasks at hand. For instance, when migraines affect my vision, I’ll struggle to type an article, much less edit and format it. In these cases, I turn to Otter.ai to dictate my assignments. I was surprised by just how accurate their transcriptions are! I’ll just have to make edits and format the text once my eyes are working properly once again. Think of where your symptoms cause a struggle and see if a similar workaround can help you thrive despite your illness.

Adjust your expectations.

Chances are, you’ve long since realised that you can’t accomplish things with the same speed and ease as someone healthy. This is especially true when working full-time with chronic illness. So remind yourself that sometimes good enough is plenty. As much as you want to be a reliable employee and impress your boss, you can’t expect every single task to be done perfectly—at least not if you expect to stay [relatively] healthy.

Know your limits.

Some people can’t work full-time with chronic illness or disability, despite their best efforts. If that’s the case, you might consider part-time or other alternative working hours to work with fewer complications. In some cases, you might not be able to work at all. This is undoubtedly a mental and economic challenge, but it’s essential to do what’s best for you and your health. If you need to decrease your work hours or step away from your career path, it’s worth considering whether these are compromises you can make for the sake of your well-being.

Do you work full-time with chronic illness? What helps make it easier?

Mini - An Ideal Life

The Best Productivity Tools for Spoonies

The Best Productivity Tools for Spoonies

A few weeks ago, I shared what I’ve learnt (and am still learning) about being productive with chronic illness. It may very well be our most popular new post on the blog to date! Writing about that topic, and while promoting the post, I got to thinking about the various products and services I’ve tried over time. With many productivity tools focusing on healthy, neurotypical users, they won’t all work for disabled folks who want to be more productive. The best productivity tools for spoonies, in my experience, are those that are customisable and either work with your symptoms or aim to relieve them. Each productivity tool listed here is one I’ve used myself or am currently using, which has worked for me despite chronic illness. 

Task Lists & Project Management Tools

Some of the most powerful productivity tools for spoonies help me manage my never-ending to-do lists and constant stream of projects.

Amazing Marvin

I discovered Amazing Marvin only recently, but I am oh-so-glad I did. This customisable task manager is quite possibly one of the best productivity tools to come into my life so far. And, of course, it helps that Marvin himself is absolutely adorable!

There’s so much to try when it comes to this program that I’m sure I haven’t even breached the surface where Marvin’s features and customisations are concerned. Some of my favourite strategies so far? I absolutely adore having both “due dates” and “do dates” for my various tasks and projects. I think the lack thereof has been a significant stumbling block for me in the past! The Task Jar and Random Task options are great for defeating decision paralysis and executive dysfunction. And the abilities to auto-schedule tasks that are due soon and roll over scheduled tasks make it so much simpler to keep up with everything on my lists!

For Spoonies: Amazing Marvin’s customisations mean you can adjust the program to meet your unique needs!

Todoist

Before discovering Marvin, Todoist was the newest task management tool I’d turned to. For me, the basic structure of the app was super intuitive, and it really did get me on track for the first time in ages. After my most recent flare of health issues (both chronic & acute), I fell to the wayside with organising my Todoist. That lack of upkeep definitely shows. 

Once I’ve sat down to reschedule my tasks and projects (and no longer have 100+ tasks overdue at a time), I may very well keep using Todoist & Amazing Marvin together. At the very least, a few projects will undoubtedly stay in Todoist’s free plan! 

For Spoonies: Todoist offers an intuitive user experience and, with a paid subscription, more than enough space to manage each section of your life. 

Trello

I wrote a full review of Trello a while back! While I’ve fallen away from using it regularly myself, I still think it’s one of the best productivity tools for spoonies. If you’re looking for a Kanban or Scrum-style tool, in particular, you’ll have luck with Trello. Or, if you’re like me and thrive on outlining your life with index cards, this one’s a definite winner.

If nothing else, Trello offers quite a few power-ups to help it fit your workflow. Add your tasks to a calendar, sync cards across platforms, or track the time you spend on a particular to-do. 

For Spoonies: For those who process information best visually, Trello’s card format is a great option. 

Reminders

If you’re looking for a task manager that keeps things short and sweet, the iOS Reminders app is pretty perfect. In fact, it’s one of my picks for the best apps for spoonies! You can colour-code your task lists, sync them across Apple devices, and set reminders based on time, location, or other factors. 

In the past, Reminders was rather lacklustre, though convenient. With recent iOS updates, though, it’s genuinely become a powerful task management system. If you’d like a relatively no-frills option with just enough features to keep you organised, Reminders is hard to beat. 

For Spoonies: For iOS users, the convenience of Apple’s built-in Reminders app is incomparable. And, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, few productivity tools for spoonies can beat being completely free!

Bonsai

This one is mainly geared towards freelancers—like me, I’m sure many other spoonies tend to stick to freelance or remote roles for the flexibility of working from home! Billed as the “#1 Freelance Product Suite,” the Bonsai dashboard will have you covered with project timelines, task lists, invoices, contracts, proposals, and more. 

For the sake of this post, Bonsai’s projects, tasks, and time-tracking features are the most geared towards productivity. But there’s so much more to gain from your Bonsai dashboard, like automated accounting (currently expenses-only, but hopefully income as well soon!), client relationship management, and lawyer-reviewed contract templates. Fellow freelancers, this one is a must!

For Spoonies: If, like me, you work from home or offer freelance services for flare-friendly flexibility, Bonsai is a must.

Task Lists and Project Managers

Digital Productivity Tools

There’s a lot to love about digital productivity tools. They’re always with you, they transfer across devices and locations almost seamlessly, and they have less environmental impact than hard-copy tools. Like the project/task managers above, these tools take advantage of the digital realm to keep your life together and let you stay on-task as much as possible. 

I use each of these on my iPad and iPhone (add a Popsocket for an extra accessibility boost!). Still, many are available for other operating systems, too. Or, if not, there’s sure to be a similar alternative!

Goodnotes

When I recently got my first iPad (a long time coming—I’ve wanted one since high school!), one of the first apps I downloaded was GoodNotes. Since starting my bullet journal journey, I stared longingly at the curated digital planners so many bujo-ers utilised. While I love my string of bullet journals (an Artist’s Loft hardcover dot journal is my budget-friendly go-to), I don’t have beautiful handwriting or ruler-straight lines. 

With a bit of a learning curve, my iPad-Apple Pencil-GoodNotes combo has given me a taste of the digital planning game, and I’m really enjoying it. Plus, with the recent addition of Elements (stickers!) in the latter, it comes close to replicating the print bullet journal experience—but with a bit neater of an outcome. 

In terms of spoonie-specific perks, two GoodNotes features stand out: the convenience of an iPad and the digitised text. I would need an entirely separate bag for my bullet journal, penshighlightersstickerswashi, and other tools with my paper bullet journal. I actually repurposed a purse organiser from AliExpress (find a similar one from Amazon here) for the sole task of organising stickers, stencils, and other small items! 

My digital combination is all-in-one (my iPad case includes a space for the Apple pencil!), so there’s no separate tote required. At most, I’ll bring my sleeve with my magic mouse and screen cleaner in a separate pouch. This means less to carry (and less to risk dropping) and less weight to manage.

And, while there’s no streamline feature available on Goodnotes as of this writing, the ability to convert handwriting to text is definitely an upgrade from script directly, at least in my case. Fingers crossed that a similar tool to Procreate’s feature will come soon! Shaky hands and impaired motor skills mean my writing is pretty universally considered to be “chicken scratch.” Even if my digital handwriting isn’t great, I can create a reasonably accurate text version of whatever I’ve written. 

For Spoonies: Digital planning options like GoodNotes allow for convenient, portable productivity with handwriting-to-text capabilities. 

Airtable

I’ve been using Airtable for quite a while now, and it’s genuinely one of my favourite tools. If you’re the sort of person who wishes every project had a spreadsheet (hi, me too!), this is one productivity tool you don’t want to miss. 

I use Airtable to create databases for my various projects, like my favourite recipes (with a low-spoon category for quick reference on bad days) or Pinterest pins for here on the blog. We even use it to manage submissions over at Nightingale & Sparrow!

Like many spoonies, my memory isn’t great. By tracking essential details in various Airtable sheets, I make sure they don’t slip through the cracks just because I’m having a struggle-heavy day. 

For Spoonies: Airtable creates a database extension of your brain, making sure you don’t have to rely on your memory when you’re already struggling.

Grammarly

I’m a professional writer, editor, and publisher (and, of course, blogger!), but brain fog likes to fight against whatever skills I have on that front. Grammarly keeps me in check when my mind doesn’t want to cooperate, or a migraine, joint pain, or other symptom is a little too distracting. 

Grammarly improves your text with proofreading, line editing, and other suggestions like a sort of advanced spell check. Suppose you’re publishing a book or some other intensive project. In that case, it’s no replacement for a professional editor (might I suggest checking out my freelance services?). But, for emails and messages, blog posts, or assignments with a quick turnaround, Grammarly is the perfect tool to take your writing up a notch, no matter how poorly you’re feeling. 

For Spoonies: No matter skilled an editor you are, chances are your brain has days where it doesn’t want to cooperate. When that happens, Grammarly keeps your writing at a high quality. 

Notes

Like Apple’s built-in Reminders app, Notes offers a simple yet effective productivity tool for spoonies. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more convenient digital tool for making a quick note of anything you’ll need to refer to later. 

For Spoonies: Another built-in iOS app, Notes is a convenient, cost-free tool for taking note of whatever you have to reference later on. 

Digital Productivity Tools

Analog Productivity Tools

With smartphones and other devices constantly at hand, it’s no surprise that digital tools are prevalent nowadays. But, even so, good old pen-and-paper is hard to beat!

Bullet Journal

While I’m incorporating GoodNotes into my bullet journal system more and more, I still love my print bullet journal. If nothing else, crafting a creative bujo page is a lovely pastime! 

My must-have bullet journal tools include an Artist’s Loft dot grid journalZebra mildlinersPigma microns, and plenty of washi and stickers

For Spoonies: A print bullet journal is ideal for migraines, screen/light sensitivity, and similar concerns. 

Notebook or notepad

If a paper to-do list and note-taking are more your speed, or you have to minimise screen time to ease your condition, a simple notebook or notepad is ideal. Five Star and Mead offer various high-quality spiral notebooks and other supplies. Or, a legal pad provides even greater convenience—no need to bother opening a cover! For smaller, portable options, I love these notepads or these miniature composition books.

Of course, you’ll need something to write on that paper, right? I turn to Pentel mechanical drafting pencils or Dixon TICONDEROGA and these gorgeous rose gold pens or BIC Atlantis ballpoints. If you struggle to use a typical pen or pencil, check out adaptive writing aids or the thicker options made for kids, which offer an easier hold. 

For Spoonies: A simple notepad and pen or pencil is one of the best possible productivity tools for spoonies. There are plenty of accessible options available for every budget, and it’s easier than screens for many disabled users’ eyes.

Planner

Need an option that’s less involved than a bullet journal but offers more structure than a notepad? Finding the right planner can be a game-changer!

Currently, my personal planner is from the Day Designer for Blue Sky collection. I’m considering a switch to a classic Day Designer next year myself, but I’ve had great luck with other Blue Sky options over the years. For alternatives, AT-A-GLANCEDay-Timer, and Passion Planner all offer some beautiful planners! For a low-cost option or additions to your existing planner, check out the free downloads available through Day Designer and Passion Planner.

For Spoonies: A pre-formatted planner offers a low-spoons alternative to a bullet journal but offers more structure than a simple notebook.

Post-It Notes

No matter what other productivity tools you use, post-it notes can be a fantastic addition. Stick them on your laptop or device of choice, your bathroom mirror, or on your go-to water bottle to remind yourself of whatever you need to recall. 

Scribble out your to-do list for the day or write out an inspiring quote to brighten your morning. Mark the date in your planner or add tabs to your bullet journal. Use eye-catching colours so you can’t miss your post-it, or opt for pastels for an option that’s easier on the eyes. 

For Spoonies: Post-it notes go wherever you are, whether that’s the office or your bed. They’re a versatile option with a wide variety of colours to choose from!

Analog Productivity Tools

Focus & Motivation

Between brain fog and managing other symptoms, focus and motivation are rather hard to come by for those of us with chronic illnesses. If a tool helps you stay focused or gather the inspiration you need to get through the day, it certainly counts as a productivity tool for spoonies. 

Flora

Another item from my best apps for spoonies list, Flora is an excellent tool for avoiding the inevitable distractions of a smartphone. If you’re easily distracted and find yourself scrolling through social media or opening a game when you pick up your phone to check the time, Flora can help motivate you to break that habit. 

Distractions

This unconventional productivity tool isn’t for everyone. For many spoonies, though, a purposeful distraction can actually boost your focus and motivation.

Audio or video

Turn on a longtime favourite show on Hulu (my go-to’s are Bob’s Burgers or A Haunting) or an inspiring Spotify playlist to serve as a backdrop to your work. Invest in a pair of Aftershokz for an earbud that lets you hear anything else (a great benefit if you suffer from anxiety). Or, if you prefer a noise-cancelling option, try a pair like these rose gold Bose wireless headphones.

Fidget toys

Beyond the fidget spinner trend of 2017, stim toys or jewellery benefit those with autism, ADHD, sensory disorders, and other conditions. Stimtastic is my personal favourite source of stim toysfidget jewellery, and even chewellery! My go-to’s are my chewable bat necklaceinfinite rings fidget, and a slow-rise squishy. Of course, I’ve got quite the wish list, too! I hope to get other squishies, their new chewable cat and dog, silicone spoons and straws, a cats in space marble maze, and a mesh marble fidget. Like other productivity tools for spoonies, fidget toys, and other stim supplies will help you stay on top of your tasks despite any symptoms. 

Productivity Tools for Spoonies Focus and Distraction

Environmental Factors

While not a productivity tool in terms of a product, your environment plays a significant role in how productive you can be, especially when dealing with health issues. By making sure you’re as comfortable as possible, you’ll be setting yourself up for success!

Hydration & Nutrition

One of my favourite tools for spoonie life is this interactive self-care guide. It’s no surprise that food and drink (and any necessary medications) are the first few suggestions it makes! 

Stay hydrated by drinking more water. Keep it cold in a BrüMateTervis tumblerHydro Flask, or S’well bottle, or take advantage of some extra insulation from YETI or Camelbak products. Don’t think a water bottle is a productivity tool? Think again! 

If you struggle with drinking plain water, adding a packet of Liquid IV or using a Cirkul cartridge can add some flavour, while a SodaStream system will create custom-made sparkling options. If you’re still struggling, tea can be the next-best drink for staying hydrated

Food-wise, it’s important to fuel yourself with regular meals when possible. But, if you’re stuck in bed or can’t find the energy to cook and be productive, a nutritious snack can help! I’m currently loving Partake cookies, and shops like Thrive Market offer plenty of vegan, gluten-free, and other good-for-you snacks and food items. 

Comfort & Symptom Relief

Life with chronic illness means it’s hard to get comfortable, much less stay comfortable over time. But, as much as it’s possible, staying comfortable can become one of your go-to productivity tools for spoonies! 

If it’s the most you can manage, there’s no shame in working from your pajamas—I have a few pairs like these from Victoria’s Secret, which are both cute and comfy! If you’re more productive in actual clothes but still want to stay comfortable, try a pair of Aerie leggings (their OFFLINE OG line is my favourite cosy option), a lounge set, or a jumpsuit or romper (another personal favourite—you look put-together without the effort of putting on pants!). 

In terms of staying productive, managing your symptoms more directly can help, too. Put together a spoonie survival kit with relief options. This might include medications, an eye mask or sunglasses, muscle rub, tea, stim toys, or other items that ease your worst flares. 

Cleanliness & Organisation

In addition to being comfortable in terms of fuel, clothing, and relief, working in a clean/organised environment can make any spoonie (or, for that matter, anyone) more productive. But, when you live with disabilities or chronic illness, it’s that much harder to stay on top of chores and housework. 

Unf*ck Your Habitat is my go-to tool for making a difference in a brief spurt of time. When I have a few minutes of energy without an immediate task, I’ll turn to Ufyh’s Challenge! feature for a cleaning mission in the room of my choice, for a duration of time I can work with (or, often, randomised). 

Productivity Tools for Spoonies Environment

Simplification

When push comes to shove, all the task management, colour-coded planners, and reminders can only do so much for our productivity. Like it or not, some to-dos are just too hard to accomplish on a bad pain day or without triggering a flare. By simplifying some or all of these must-dos (or cutting out what’s not really necessary or improving your life), you can cut back on the toll they take. 

These are just a few of my favourite areas to simplify, but the options are practically limitless! 

Grocery shopping

You need to eat, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend an afternoon at the supermarket. Tools like Walmart GroceryThrive MarketAmazon Fresh, or Instacart will bring your food and other items to your door, or at least your trunk. They may not be marketed as a technical productivity tool or productivity tools for spoonies in particular, but they’ll undoubtedly increase your productivity. 

Current Events

If you want to stay on top of what’s going on globally, there’s no shortage of reputable news sources. But, whether you have limited spoons or your anxiety spirals when you see the not-so-pleasant headlines, current events can be less than ideal. Newsletters like The NewsetteMorning Brew, or Refinery29’s This AM can give you your daily dose of news without overwhelming updates. 

Automations

In various aspects of your life, automations offer increased productivity, especially for us with chronic illness. The less effort you need to keep up with your systems, the more easily you’ll be able to stay on top of them. That’s why Zapier and IFTTT are two of my favourite productivity tools for spoonies, or anyone, for that matter! Paired with your favourite Alexa skills or other home automation tools, you can slowly bring you closer to the most productivity possible. 

 

What productivity tools do you recommend for spoonies? Let us know in the comments or @anideallifeblog across social media!

 

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Productivity with Chronic Illness

Productivity with Chronic Illness

If you’ve been following me for a while, you probably know that I live with a slew of chronic conditions. With an assortment of physical and mental illnesses both formally diagnosed and suspected, a day rarely goes by without struggling with symptoms of some sort. At the same time, though, I’m chronically busy—I run this blog and all that goes with it, run Nightingale & Sparrow, a small press & literary magazine, publish my own writing, and offer a variety of freelance services to pay the bills. And that’s not counting the basic requirements of adulthood—like managing my budget, cooking, and keeping my space clean & organised—or the less-mandatory-but-not-optional to-dos, like exercising, personal development work, spiritual tasks, social connections, and the occasional bit of relaxation.

With all this on my plate—and, more literally, on my calendar—it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed more often than not. I deal with bouts of burnout far more often than is healthy, creating another nasty cycle on top of my health issues. Ass a result of all of this, I constantly feel as if I’m behind on, frankly, everything.

To some degree, I can only blame myself—I’m ambitious to a fault and have always been one to take on more than I should. On countless occasions, I’ve made the half-joking comment that I genuinely don’t know how to relax. At the same time, though, many of these tasks are unavoidable and, if it’s technically optional, it’s likely something that’s on there because I genuinely want to do it. Without those want-to-dos, how could life be worth living? Nobody, myself included, wants to spend all of their capable hours on non-negotiable, must-do tasks.

Productivity with chronic illness

With all that in mind, I need to figure out how to be productive despite the obstacles. Recently, chronic illness is the roadblock that’s been making my life the most difficult. A few of my conditions have been flaring up on top of some acute issues, leaving me with painfully little time when I feel relatively healthy. Between the pain, fatigue, brain fog, and other concerns, it even took me quite some time to realise how much of an issue it had become!

Once I made that realisation, I quickly set to researching how to be productive with chronic illness. I’ve spent a ridiculous time searching Pinterest, Reddit, Google, and every resource I could get my hands on, seeking out the ways people thrive with conditions like depression, fibromyalgia, anxiety, lupus, PTSD, chronic fatigue, autism, ADHD, migraines, and so on. From that and my own experience, I’ve worked to create this post, a sort of guide to productivity with chronic illness. I hope it will help me better manage life while giving my fellow spoonies the support they need to do the same!

Reset your expectations.

I’d argue that this is a vital first step to being productive with chronic illness—and the one I struggle with most. If you have a disability (or, like me, several), you can’t expect yourself to have the same level of activity as someone whose most significant health issue was a cold they had three years ago. And, if you developed your condition(s) later in life, you can’t expect to accomplish the same amount of tasks in a day you once could have.

I find this especially difficult as a multi-passionate entrepreneur and single head of household (I only rent a room, but it’s still got all those unavoidable adult responsibilities!). Try as I might to purge my Todoist projects, there are some tasks that I need to get done. Plus, they typically have to be done on a deadline, or at least promptly. As a lifelong overachiever, how can I better handle the fact that sometimes it’s genuinely not possible to do everything on my list? More importantly, how do I reframe my expectations to recognise that this is simply a fact of disabled life, not some personal shortcoming?

As of yet, I don’t have a perfect answer for these. But hopefully, with time & effort, I will.

Find the right tools for you.

I love Todoist for keeping track of my never-ending list of projects & responsibilities. I’ve been a subscriber for a few months now and, while I’ve lapsed at times and my projects are terribly in need of a tidy, it’s one of the most effective tools I’ve used so far.

More recently, I signed up for a 30-day trial of Amazing Marvin. I’m still learning the ins and outs of this one, but I love it! The mascot is adorable, and the task jar is something I’ve been searching for for ages. I found Marvin while searching for a tool that would let me mark both due dates and “do” dates—another benefit.

These are just a few of the endlessly growing list of productivity tools I’ve tried, not to mention my bullet journalDay Designer planner, and other systems I’ve tested out. In short, find a tool that works for you—and it’s okay if that changes over time. If you’re looking for suggestions beyond mine, it can be helpful to search some variant of “productivity apps for [insert condition or symptom here].” Whether it’s brain fogADHD, or spoonie life in general, there’s probably a list out there with recommendations that offers a great starting point.

Experiment as much as you can.

I suggest this tip with a warning: if you aren’t careful, trying new productivity tools or chronic illness treatments can become another distraction or overwhelming project. But, if you can focus a reasonable amount, trying new things can be a great way to find the best products and services for you.

For productivity, in particular, search for a new tool when you find you can’t stick to your current system. Or, try a different option for managing the symptoms that frustrate you. Maybe CBD is the key to easing your anxiety (I’ve had luck with Wink’s CBD products!). Trello could be the project management app that finally gets you through that assignment you’re putting off. When the need arises, the more options you test out, the more likely you’ll find the right fit.

Connect with others who struggle.

In-person or online, connecting with others who struggle with productivity and chronic illness is a fantastic way to find advice. If you have friends or acquaintances who suffer from the same conditions as you do or similar symptoms and productivity problems, talk to them about ways you can help each other thrive.

If your IRL friend group is lacking in this department, the internet is ready to help. I’ve found Facebook groups to be particularly helpful (spend some time searching for your condition or symptoms, and Reddit seems to have some excellent chances to connect with others, too.

Rest, and then rest some more.

Another vital step that I overlook all too often! Whatever your condition(s), your body is constantly working to handle chronic illness symptoms. It’s hardly surprising that you face fatigue! Whenever possible, take time to rest when you need it. If you’re exhausted by 8 pm, can your remaining to-dos wait until morning? When you can’t keep your eyes open, can you let yourself take an afternoon nap? Part of why I can’t imagine doing something besides freelancing is the freedom to rest when my body needs it.

Similarly, I’ve found that I can’t sacrifice sleep and remain semi-functional, especially as I get older. Anything less than seven hours—maybe six and a half—and I need a nap by mid-morning! Here, too, I recognise the importance of rest in maintaining productivity with chronic illness.

Reconsider your workload.

Hear me out with this one, using my situation as an example. Overall, I can’t fathom paring much from my to-do list, however long it becomes. I take on a lot, but these are either projects I love or those I need to survive. But, within those projects, I’m learning where to cut back.

Right now, I’m focusing on this with my freelance work in particular. For far too long, I’ve worked ridiculous hours for painfully little income. I’ll raise my rates by Q3 to better reflect costs of living, business expenses, and market averages. From there, I’ll cut down the freelance work I have at one time and earn a survival-ready wage in the process.

If you’re a freelancer like me, be sure to check your rates and other policies regularly. Are you pushing yourself too hard for too little reward? In a more conventional job, this might be a more difficult task. But, even then, consider: how can you adjust your workload, with or without trimming your project list? Then, do the same for projects in your personal life.

Be flexible.

One of the best productivity tools in my arsenal so far is simply maintaining some flexibility. I love the concept of unflappable routines, consistent habits, and practical constraints. But my various disabilities have other ideas.

As much as possible, I try to stick to my routines, keep up my habit streaks, and stop drinking coffee by 5 pm. But, when I can’t get out of bed, a migraine makes Duolingo impossible, or I can hardly stay awake to meet a deadline? Well, as they say, rules were meant to be broken—especially when it comes to being productive with chronic illness.

Bend, Adapt, or break the rules.

The standard “rules” of productivity weren’t exactly made with disabled, neurodiverent, or otherwise chronically ill people in mind. If you can manage your symptoms to work efficiently within those existing standards, that’s great! But, if not, consider adjusting the rules to better work with you.

Know you’ll work better with a stim toy or cuddly friend at your side? Let Teddy become your assistant—Bruce the Beaver is usually sitting with me as I work! If you’re in a more public workspace and anxious about having a toy, stim jewelry offers a more subtle option.

If you can’t overcome executive dysfunction or depression to wipe the dishes before running the dishwasher, run the dishwasher twice. Can’t focus on a task long enough to utilise time blocking? Jump around if it makes you more effective! Struggling to find a tool that works for you? Use Amazing Marvin’s Christina as inspiration and create something all your own! Who says you can’t adjust some norms to better meet you where you are? More often than not, absolutely no one.

How do you stay productive with disabilities?

Despite this rather lengthy post, I’m still learning how to balance productivity with chronic illness. I’ll be sure to report back as I get better at this balancing act and hit a productive sort of stride. And, in the meantime, I’d love to hear your favourite chronic illness-friendly productivity tools and tips! Or, if you test out any of my advice for yourself, be sure to let me know in the comments or @anideallifeblog.
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My Path to Burnout Remission

My Path to Burnout Remission

For my entire adult life, I’ve been working, typically an assortment of jobs simultaneously. In college, for example, I had five jobs and internships at once (on top of my double-major, double-minor course-load). Even now, several years post-grad, I’ve kept the habit, with three online businesses (including this blog!), and my writing career, not to mention my professional/personal development efforts, household tasks, and other requirements of adulthood.

After more than a decade of over-booking my schedule, I’ve gotten pretty good at juggling all these metaphorical balls in the air. But, even still, I know it’s not sustainable. More often than not, I’m flirting with burnout, if not outright wallowing in its depths. I find myself overwhelmed and overworked, skipping meals and workouts to work more but struggling to focus on the task at hand all the more as a result.

Lately, I’ve noticed the tell-tale signs of burnout setting in. I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. I look at my work and hit a mental block. My to-do list has fallen into disarray, causing more stress than it alleviates. It feels like there’s no time to do any of the many tasks that have fallen to the wayside and when I finally convince myself to do one, it’s a grueling process. At best, I make it through one or two of my to-dos. At worst, I find myself scrolling through my phone, beating myself up for my lack of productivity.

Funnily enough, I actually missed posting last week—despite this post being scheduled—because I was feeling the effects of burnout so heavily!

This struggle on top of my existing health issues (both mental & physical) make for a particularly painful combination—and one that I just can’t keep up. So, while I’m not sure burnout can really be cured, I’m working towards burnout remission.

My path to burnout remission, or at least my plan to follow as I try to get there, is based on plenty of research (and some extra time digging through Pinterest). I’m sure it will change over time, but these are the methods I’m implementing upfront. 

Say yes to myself.

I finished Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes a few weeks back and can say without a doubt that it changed my life—and I’m confident it will continue to. The portion that stands out the most to me, in retrospect, is the idea of saying yes to play.

In terms of my path to burnout remission, I’m committing to saying yes to all things fun. One of the animals comes over to snuggle? Cuddling for a while will do us both some good. My sister wants to watch a movie? I can rearrange my schedule and make some time. The opportunity to do something spontaneous presents itself? There’s no reason not to snatch it.

Listen to my body.

Slowly, I’m getting better at the basics, like remembering to take medicine when something hurts or taking time to nap when I can’t keep my eyes open much longer. But I’m determined to tune in even further.

Desperately want a certain food? I’ll enjoy it whenever possible. Ignoring the symptoms of dehydration for far too long? It’s time to drink some water (not just another cup of coffee). Tense or just feeling the need to stretch? There’s a reason I subscribe to Down Dog.

Maintain the simplest habits.

When burnout gets bad, I’ve noticed that the simplest of habits seem to become impossible. I don’t drink water or eat fresh foods. My vitamins go back in their weekly case after a day of neglecting them. I stop meditating and fall behind on my learning efforts, like online courses and Duolingo.

This time, I’m trying to cover these basics before I dive continue down this path to burnout remission. I’ve downloaded a tracking app and inputted some of these simple habits—now I’ve just got to stick to them!

Delegate when I can.

Right now, I’m not able to hire an assistant or bring on others in most of my businesses. As I work to grow the funds I’m bringing in, I hope to hire a VA to help manage some of my tasks (and support a fellow freelancer!).

For the time being, I’ll try to delegate what I can. At Nightingale & Sparrow, I have an incredible team of volunteers working on the literary magazine, and we’ll be adding a few new birds to the nest soon. At home, I’ll work with family to let others tackle tasks I can’t find time to manage. And, when the opportunity arises, I’ll bring on additional help to keep things going and growing.

Create & implement systems.

I’ve been wanting to create & implement systems for various parts of my life for a while. With suspected autism/ADHD and other issues, I think an outlined process for my recurring tasks would save so much time and energy, not to mention mental fatigue!

So far, I’ve struggled to determine the best methods for documenting these systems, much less creating them. But, with some more brainstorming and potential research, I’ll figure it out eventually. Feel free to comment with suggestions if you’ve got them!

Set categorised short-term goals.

I have a detailed five-year plan outlinging my goals in various subsets of my life, similarly to my 101 in 1,001 list. In the past, I broke those down into yearly, quarterly, weekly, and daily mini goals. Lately, though, that breakdown has fallen to the wayside, too.

As I plan ahead, I’m trying out a sort of opposite method this time. I’ll be setting short-term goals outright, with the backdrop of my ultimate milestones. Best of all, I’m starting today, with the start of a fresh, new quarter! Few things motivate me as much as a blank slate, however unimportant that might be in the grand scheme of things.

Raise my rates.

This one is very specific to my businesses (particularly my freelance business), but I’m determined to start charging what I’m worth for products and services. Because I’ve struggled with money so much myself, I tend to undercharge in the hopes of being more accessible to people like me. But, in the process, I’m maintaining my own financial struggle and forcing myself into a perpetual cycle of overworking for underearning.

So, I’ll be raising my rates, researching industry standards and factoring in my skills and experience. If someone approaches me with financial need, and I’m in the position to take on the work at a discounted rate, I’ll work with them. But, if I don’t set myself up for success and self-worth upfront, I’ll just return to burnout with painful regularity.

Learn new tools to beat burnout.

I love personal development work, so I have plenty of background in various tips and methods that could help me combat symptoms of burnout. But, even still, there’s no shortage of new tools to be learned!

Recently, I invested in a massive haul of professional/personal development books (perhaps a future post or series?). As I work through them, I’m determined to take action and implement what I learn to be a happier, healthier version of me.

What’s your best method for reaching burnout remission?

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Healthy Lifestyle Apps

The Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps I Use Every Day

For a while now, I’ve been trying to be healthier. From working out regularly and monitoring what I eat to staying on top of vitamins and medications, I’ve found that my smartphone is an invaluable tool, thanks to some of the best healthy lifestyle apps I’ve used so far.

If you have a history of disordered eating or other conditions, some of these apps might not be a good fit. Be sure to consult your doctor with any concerns and remember: these recommendations are solely based on my own experience—I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, or other professional, just someone trying to be more healthy in her own life.

See our disclaimer for more information.

I use an iPhone, so these are all apps that are available in the Apple app store. If you use an Android or other OS, check your app store of choice for these apps or something similar!

Nutrition apps

MyFitnessPal

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - My Fitness Pal

MyFitnessPal is one of the healthy lifestyle apps I use every day. My top use for this app is tracking my nutrition. Pre-packaged items are super simple—just scan the barcode and double-check that the provided nutritional information is correct. But fresh, barcode-free foods are easy to log, too. You can manually enter individual items or use the meal and recipe functions to make logging your go-tos a little simpler.

I’ve connected my MyFitnessPal account to Fitbit to sync my MFP food logs to Fitbit’s tracker and set my daily calorie goals based on the basal metabolic rate (BMR) provided by my Fitdays measurements. Prefer to log your food from your laptop? Try their desktop website rather than the app. I’ve found that’s a lot easier when it comes to inputting recipes, especially!

Chefling

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - Chefling

Chefling is a recent addition to my list of go-to healthy lifestyle apps but it’s quickly proving to be a favorite. Billed as “your smart kitchen assistant,” Chefling offers meal planning tools, recipes, pantry management, and more.

Special dietary needs? You’re in luck. Chefling features a setting for diet preferences, with lifestyle options like vegan, paleo, or keto, health diets like no-oil, low-sodium, or high-fiber, allergen-free options, and even disliked ingredients. Avoid anaphylaxis or just stay away from mushrooms because you think they’re yucky. Either way, Chefling offers recipes and more for you to take control of your meal planning and overall diet.

Plan your meals for the week ahead and even set a reminder to schedule your recipes each week. Keep track of what you have on hand and create a shared shopping list to make sure you have everything you’ll need. Chefling can do all of that and more!

Zero/Fastic

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - Zero

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - Fastic

I’ve been using Zero and Fastic pretty interchangeably. I started just trying to compare the two, after having them both recommended to me. But, so far, I haven’t picked one as my favourite, so I return to both of them!

Unlike typical intermittent fasting, I don’t aim to hit ketosis or the other stages of fasting when I use these apps. Instead, I have a simple goal. I’ve long since noticed that I tend to eat more not-so-healthy foods at night, be it a sudden craving for chips or a late-night deadline urging me to stress eat the nearest cookie. By fasting from 8 or 9 pm on, I have a built-in constraint that keeps me from needlessly snacking—and lets my diet be a bit healthier.

Plant Nanny

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - Plant Nanny

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably already know my love for Plant Nanny. I’ve never been very good at staying hydrated, but this app makes all the difference. But watering an adorable plant (with a face!)? That’s something I’m better at. From saving up seeds to grow new plants to keeping my current plant happy, I love how Plant Nanny motivates me to drink more water. I’ve connected the app to my Apple Health profile and log my daily total in MyFitness Pal, too, which then adds it to Fitbit as well.

Between Plant Nanny, my favourite BrüMates, and some easy strategies for drinking more water, I’m able to drink about a gallon a day more often than not!

Exercise apps

Down Dog Yoga

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - Down Dog Yoga

In addition to my physical chronic illnesses, I live with an assortment of mental health issues. Yoga helps me ease all of the above! From stretching out my notoriously tight hamstrings to calming my mind in savasana, yoga helps me feel better and be healthier.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Down Dog offered a free short-term subscription to their yoga app and I fell in love. Once that trial period ended, they were kind enough to offer me a few more complementary months, as I’d lost most of my freelance work thanks to the coronavirus. Once I had the funds later in the year, I was quick to invest in a subscription! With calming background music, helpful boosts, and customisable sessions, Down Dog Yoga is one of my all-time favourite healthy lifestyle apps.

Charity Miles

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - Charity Miles

I’m not sure I’d call myself a runner in the traditional sense. With chronic pain, migraine, and other issues popping up regularly, it’s hard to commit to a running routine. But, when I do set out to walk a bit more than needed (admittedly, this is pacing through the kitchen more often than not!) or spend some time on the treadmill, I love being able to not just help myself but give back in the process. Charity Miles is a great tool for doing just that! As always, be sure to research the charity you choose. For example, Autism Speaks (which many autistic people have deemed problematic) is listed as a possible charity to donate miles to. Choose a charity that you genuinely want to support—I’m currently donating to World Wildlife Fund!

Charity Miles’ founder and CEO, Gene Gurkoff, has recently started a Sleep For Charity beta program, too. I’ve struggled with committing this one, thanks to some late nights of work, but I’m determined to get on board with some of these better sleep habits. In fact, getting more sleep is an item on my 101 in 1,001 list!

C25k

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - C25k

While I’m not exactly a runner, I’m determined to get a little closer to that status. The first step? Working through the Couch to 5k programme! Last year, I’d started C25k but had an accident that left me pretty badly banged up. I’m only just working up the courage to get back on the treadmill but I’m excited to make my way through!

Fitbit

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - Fitbit

With my Fitbit Versa 2 hooked to my wrist almost 24/7, the Fitbit app is a must! I track my workouts and daily steps with my Fitbit, have MyFitnessPal attached for tracking water and food, and wear it to bed to track my sleep. I also keep an eye on my heart rate with my Fitbit smartwatch and app. With tachycardia and some other heart concerns, so it’s all the more important to have at least an idea of where my heart health stands.

General Healthy lifestyle apps

K Health

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - K Health

The K Health app is a bit buggy still, but it’s already one of my favourites as-is. Between COVID-19, my unrelated health concerns, and my non-stop work schedule (why do I write like it’s going out of style?), I’ve never managed to find a local GP. With K Health, I’m able to get the medical treatments I need from home! Whether it’s primary care or mental health treatment, K Health’s telemedicine is here for me, and you. You can even try out their symptom checker without chatting with a doctor!

Medisafe

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - Medisafe

Between prescriptions, vitamins, and other medicines, I take some sort of pill or other medication about eight times a day. Medisafe helps me stay on track! I’m still far from perfect when it comes to keeping up with my meds. But the reminders, and the creative pill bottle notification sound that comes with them, help. I even include Fitz’s wet food and occasional medicines as a dependent so I keep his health in tip-top shape!

FitDays

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - Fitdays

Hooked up to our smart scale, Fitdays provides some amazing measurements. I step onto the scale about once a week and keep track of not just my weight, but my BMI, BMR, and other measurements. The graphs and other data in this app are impressive—it’s like a tiny digital bullet journal all about my health!

MyID

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - MyID

I haven’t ordered a MyID bracelet or sleeve of my own yet, but it’s on my wishlist. And, in the meantime? The app itself is amazing! With so many existing health concerns, allergies, and medications, I worry about what would happen in an emergency. MyID lets me save medical conditions, insurance information, emergency contacts, and more to stay safe in a worst-case scenario.

Apple health

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - Apple Health

Apple Health comes pre-installed on an iPhone and provides plenty of tracking options and other tools to keep on track with my healthy lifestyle. In addition to keeping track of items I track in other apps all in one place, Apple Health offers additional information, like headphone audio levels. And, with additional articles and resources to learn more, there are plenty of chances to become more healthy in the process.

Achievement

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - Achievement

Need a little extra motivation to be healthier? Achievement will compensate you for your efforts! With this app, you’ll earn points for tasks like tracking your sleep, steps, food, and heart rate, tweeting about health-related topics, or meditating. Once you’ve reached 10,000 points, you can redeem your points for a PayPal transfer—real, actual money! Sign up through my referral link and we’ll both earn bonus points, bringing us both closer to that payout.

Pinterest

Best Healthy Lifestyle Apps - Pinterest

Pinterest isn’t your typical healthy lifestyle app, but it’s an important tool in my digital health arsenal. From finding new fitness routines to reading through health tips, Pinterest has all the inspiration I could need!

Looking for a bit of healthy lifestyle inspiration of your own? Check out our health, fitness, or chronic illness boards, or give us a follow on Pinterest for all of the above and more!

Looking for healthy lifestyle apps targeted to spoonies? We’ve got you covered!

With so many apps available to track and manage a healthy lifestyle from your phone, there’s a tool for just about every health and fitness need. Do you have a favourite app that isn’t listed here? Let us know in the comments so I can check it out, too!