Helpful tips and shortcuts for dealing with stress, organizing, chronic illness and/or depression


Hello, readers! I wrote some of this in a previous blog, but felt I should update it and add some other tips and suggestions.

I use the ‘Ten-Ten-Ten rule. “One tool we can use was invented by Suzy Welch, a business writer. It’s called 10/10/10, and Welch describes it in a book of the same name. To use 10/10/10, we think about our decisions on three different time frames:

  • How will we feel about it 10 minutes from now?
  • How about 10 months from now?
  • How about 10 years from now?”
  • I make a list, and prioritize my tasks by weather, best time of day, urgency, etc. I also cross it out, great feeling and visual reminder that I can accomplish tasks!
  • Mail: I have a hanging file folder bin that is portable. I set it next to my chair, and get three bins, one for unopened mail, one for opened mail, and one for mail that must be answered. Also, pull up a trash bin. Immediately toss the junk mail to be recycled. Open, sort and stash mail that can wait. Mail that must be dealt with in a timely manner, put in the third bin so you can get to it when you are done. If you can, write your checks or complete your mail and put it in the envelope with the date due written on the back, and put in a place to be mailed about a week before it is due.
  • Plan your jobs so that you can rest every 15 minutes. If you cannot manage alone,
    research hiring someone, like a person or two to do physical labor, like raking your lawn! Church groups are always looking for ways to earn money for mission trips; as well as band students, College students, foreign language groups, Boy or Girl Scouts, or other such groups; and they usually take donations.
  • Microwave -Use a damp paper towel or rag, lie it across bottom of microwave, and ‘bake it’ for 40 seconds or more. I usually use Lysol before-couple of squirts.
  • I put Clorox and Windex wipes in my bathroom, wipe down counters and mirrors while brushing my teeth, clean shower while taking one with a sponge brush with cleanser in the handle. Put toilet bowl cleaner in, let it sit.
  • I purchased a chargeable, lightweight vacuum that has a handle that bends, to be used under a bed or sofa. Much easier than hauling out the big guns every time I vacuum!
  • When I clean the house, I get out 4-5 cloth recycle bags or paper grocery bags and set them up in the first room I clean. If I find something that goes in the kitchen, it goes in one bag; the bathroom, another bag, etc. That way, I am not walking all over the house and making unnecessary trips that wear me out. OR, I will make bags for the other people in the house, and drop it at their room for them to put away.
    I invested in a long handled “grabber” that has suction cups on the end, and a trigger pull handle. I like the kind that does NOT bend, they are stronger and last much longer.
  • If I am hurting, I only clean from my shoulder area to my hip area, so I don’t hurt myself further, or overextend my body.
  • I pace myself, making sure I am hydrated and take time to rest between activities. I also lie on my back with my legs elevated higher than my head for about 5-10 minutes.
  • Dishwasher-group items together by location. For example, put plates together, then bowls, etc-silverware by type in the basket=easy to put away, and faster.
  • If I will be on my feet for more than 15 minutes, I wear supportive slippers or shoes, even in the house. My feet (and arches) thank me later! I get hot easily, so I wear sandals with contoured soles for support. I do the same when I cook, it helps!
  • I use plastic grocery bags for used kitty litter, and for picking up wet paper towels or anything gross that I don’t want to touch with my hands.
  • Box of vinyl disposable gloves for extra cleaning
  • Long handled tools. I use a mop or floor scrubber on a pole for the tiles in the bathtub wall area and tub, if I cannot reach or bend. I look for tools with telescope (extending handles) and that can be stored and cared for easily.
  • I subconsciously tense my muscles, so I stop myself every so often, and think of different muscle groups, and see if I can relax them and release the tension.
  • I have to argue with myself about believing anything negative, or feel guilty for asking for help-everyone needs help, and it allows others to bless me; I love to help others, and it is important that they feel they can do the same for me, and we are both blessed! In the Greek culture, if someone offers to do something for you, like pay for your meal, you don’t argue-it is very offensive! You might as well slap them in the face! I have learned, long ago, do not argue!

My favorite cleaners are classics:

  • Original Windex
  • Lemon Pledge
  • Bar Keeper’s Friend
  • Lysol All Purpose Cleaner
  • Baking soda-sprinkle it, mist with a water spray bottle, let it set 10-15 minutes, wipe it off.
  • Clorox Lemon Wipes
  • Dreft soap instead of laundry detergent
  • Downy (original)
  • Old English Furniture Polish Lemon Oil and Walnut Stain

Products I love-a.k.a. My “lotions and potions”

  • Biofreeze- I keep a roll-on in my purse, gel at home. It helps with pain, as well as hot flashes. It also helps with growing pains and dealing with hot weather
  • Restless Legs Cream by Magnilife for Restless Legs Syndrome
  • Tiger Balm-warm, cinnamon smelling hot balm-use extremely sparingly!!!!
  • Vicks Vapor Rub-for aches and pains, and sinus issues. Also good for nausea, a dab by the nose helps.; on the feet or neck. Also helps with fungus on the nails.
  • Mints for nausea-if your mouth tastes ‘stale,’ it mimics the feel of a queasy stomach. If you use mints and breathe through your mouth, it helps with the nausea.
  • Witch Hazel-for buildup of ear wax, cleansing of skin; better than rubbing alcohol (I use it to clean my dog’s ears, as well. Gentle.
  • CeraVe products-best I have used for fragrance free, non clogging lotion and cream that my dermatologist recommended for my extremely sensitive skin. Helps with chapped lips and hands, as well.
  • Glucose tablets for blood sugar drops. Almonds, a Pay Day bar, etc in my purse.
  • Quality linens, especially soft sheets-I love sateen, doesn’t catch on my skin. Essential. The higher the thread count, the softer. Percale does not soften like sateen. Ask an associate at Bed, Bath, and Beyond or other linen stores for advice. Some fabrics ‘breathe’ much better than others; and BB & B will take items back, and you can use expired coupons and multiple in one purchase. Experiment with different fabrics.
  • Pillows are also essential. I use two body pillows, and a water pillow that I can adjust by adding liquid to suit my needs. I also have a small ‘bean bag’ pillow to tuck under my chin and upper chest for support. I also have a foam ‘egg crate’ layer and a fiber bed for softness.
  • Essential Oils- Pure, simple, and effective. Watch for diluted types. I put them on my temples, wrists, back of neck, base of spine, and under my nose. Also great for blocking foul odors, like cigarette smoke! I put some on so smells do not bother me.
  • Bath & Body Works has a lot of great items. I was a manager there for years, and I am familiar with the process of making and the ingredients for many of their products. The aromatherapy line is wonderful!
  • “Stress Relief” eucalyptus and spearmint for relaxation
  • Orange and Ginger for invigoration and energy
  • Lavender/Vanilla. They have pillow mists that can be sprayed on your sheets without staining. I swear by these! I use the lavender/vanilla every night.
  • Candles with a candle warmer instead of lighting the wicks.
  • “True Blue Spa” line that has shea butter (my favorite,) and other natural, fragrance free products for hands, feet, skin, whatever.
  • Epsom salt baths, or oatmeal baths. Wonderful way to ease stress and help my body. I have to be careful, because of my heart and blood pressure. Read the labels.
  • Thermal curtain “black out” panels-they hang behind your curtains, and help block out the sun and temperature extremes. Great for migraines! A tension rod can be used for hallways or rooms without doors.
  • Tan tinted sunglasses. Great for migraines or sensitive eyes while indoors.
  • “White noise” machine. A small machine that plays sounds like waves, rain, etc. for drowning out other sounds, to aid in sleep.
  • Music-classical music calms me, as well as soft instrumental music. My all time favorites are “Return To Pooh Corner,” by Kenny Loggins; and Dino: “All Creation Sings,” “In The Midst Of The Storm,” and “Majestic Peace.” Anthony Burger and George Winston, as well as Enya, are personal favorites of mine. I read somewhere that concentration and memory increases 10% while listening to classical music. The instrumental, rhythmic time, and non repeating melodies help.
  • CD of weather-thunderstorms, ocean waves, etc. Inspirational music is great!
  • Fan or other air machine. Humidifier, etc. Depending on your needs, make sure you are keeping your bedroom at a cool, dry temperature. If your room is too dry, the humidifier makes all the difference with dry skin in the winter. A bedroom is ideal at 65* to 68* to sleep well, but whatever works for you.
  • Footwear-believe it or not, having the proper socks makes a huge difference! If you have trouble with circulation, a longer sock that has some compression helps, diabetic socks work well. Try not to wear any socks or stockings that leave indentations or ‘marks’ on your legs. I have several different lengths and weights of socks, and I change them as needed.
  • Slippers are crucial-use whatever works for you. I also wear sandals with arch supports or slippers with arch supports in the house when I will be standing for more than 10 minutes. It makes a HUGE difference in leg cramps and pain. I cannot use the kind that have no heel, aka ‘mules.’ Flip flops don’t work for me, neither do mules and such, because I find that my feet tense up, and they fall off. Pay close attention to what your legs and feet are doing when wearing footwear. I use gel arch supports, cutting them to just fit under the ball of my feet to the heel, because I have ‘Morton’s foot,” a common Fibromyalgia attribute. If I don’t use support, my arches and bursitis flare up.
  • lip balm or gloss
  • Saline nasal spray, for when my nose gets too dry.
  • Saline eye drops, for dry eyes.
  • Gel flex toe spacers, not to be confused with the kind that are used for pedicures. They really help with cramping and bursitis, etc. If I will be on my feet for more than 15 minutes in the house, I wear sandals or slippers with arch supports.
  • Gold Bond medicated powder. Great with menthol. Just not on the ‘pink parts!’
  • Foot pain and “Charley horse” relief: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Cross one leg over the other knee, and draw ‘A to Z’ with your foot in the air. Repeat with other leg.
  • Wraps and massage: Any kind of back, foot, neck, etc. massager or something that can be warmed in the microwave, etc to help. I have a whole collection of hand, foot, back, neck, and eye packs. Sunbeam has a Reneu Tension Relieving Heat Therapy Wrap that is shaped for neck and shoulders.
  • Gel or sand filled ice packs, refrigerated cooling pads, heating pads, eye masks, etc. “The Original Bed Buddy” line from BB&B is wonderful, and Jobar International has a great cooling pad. Anything that can be heated/chilled, AND reused.
  • Fireplace scenes, nature scenes, etc. I love “Fantasia,” and I have a fireplace DVD that just shows different scenes, with or without music or sound effects. Just the visual of the fireplace with the crackling logs is calming. Mountain, water, whatever works for you. It helps me focus my pain on other things, and calms my body and mind. Our cable company has an “Ambient TV” channel that shows various scenes with music.
  • Poetry- If reading is too difficult, poetry is short and sweet, and very uplifting!
  • Crossword puzzles, games, light reading. Very good to wake up my brain, distract me from my pain, or to get my mind off of stress. Hobbies or crafts help, as well.
  • “Mood” lighting. I don’t use a night light. I prefer to use a string of tiny lights that are usually used for Christmas. I prefer that over a ‘nightlight’, and it is also useful when young children are scared of the dark. It is less glaring, and can be as bright or dim as you choose. I change them with the seasons. I also like fiber optic lights, and a few choice lights that make stars on the ceiling, etc. Make sure the path to the door is clear.
  • Color-I have floral lined paths, inspirational sayings, soft landscapes, etc as artwork, and I painted my room a soft mauve. I used to have a sea foam green room, which was so amazing when the sunset created warm light on the walls.
  • Bras-I have a shelf bra from Cacique/Lane Bryant that helps give support without any issues. I also like their cotton non underwire bras, and their back smoothing bras. Any good bra fitter can help, and I wrote a bra fitting guide that will help with sizing and style.
  • Pajamas-I have a very large lingerie collection! I worked for Victoria’s Secret for many years. I have slowly switched from lace and satin to silk and cotton, because my skin is so sensitive. I also wear men’s pajama bottoms, because my legs are so long. Whatever works for you, just have different weights and lengths for different needs. I change my clothing at least three or four times a day, depending on my temperature and activity needs. Take the elastic out, and replace it with a ribbon or string tie, if needed. Cut out the tags, if they bother you. Cotton and silk are favorite fabrics, and sleeping in the nude may work the best.
  • Pet therapy-my ‘angel kitty’ does more for me than I can say! Helps with sleep, anxiety, blood pressure, etc. My dog and cat lick my tears away, and snuggle with me when I am hurting. They know.
  • My Arsenal-Stuffed animals and special blankets. I have “Sick Bunny,” a white and pink small stuffed rabbit that my dad gave me before one of my surgeries. When I am upset, I cry or squeeze him. I also have a soft, fuzzy blanket that my mom gave me for Christmas that her friend hand made for me. The person I lost calls it “Schmooey,” and it makes me feel better. I cried when I got it, my nephew cried when he got under it, and it has made my nephews and I feel better when sick or upset. Similar idea to “Soft Kitty,” from The Big Bang Theory.” I have a singing “Soft Kitty,” and I just bought a big teddy bear to use to prop up my arms so that they don’t go numb in the night. Whatever works! If I am upset, I squeeze it like a stress ball. I even found a tiny stuffed version of my cat. It stays in my purse, for when I am anxious.
  • When I am anxious, I try to breathe slowly and carefully, look for four things around the room that are blue, three that are green, two that are white, one black. I tell myself that panic attacks are like Charley Horse cramps-they come on out of nowhere, are painful and scary, but are not permanent. Keep calm and stretch out gently, and ease into normal pattern. Rest and ease up your muscles, it will go away.
  • Keep essential items close at hand-nightstand, a caddy by your chair, whatever.
  • Funny TV shows/movies- I watch them when I wake up, and before I go to bed. I want something light and happy to put me in a better mood. I don’t want to go to sleep with scary or upsetting images in my head. I have the full series of several comedies, and I try to laugh out loud.
  • A big, lightweight drink holder. I use a plastic Mason jar with straw and handle-refill it a dozen times a day.
  • MIO electrolytes -drink liquid additive with vitamins. Helps with muscle cramps
  • Keep a warm cardigan, pair of socks, and throw blanket handy
  • Did you know that moods follow the path of daylight? When I wake up, I am sluggish. Mid morning to mid afternoon is my best time for moods and energy. After 4, I start to lose energy. The later the day, the worse my pain and emotional state gets; and the later I stay up at night, the worse my depression. I have to logically remind myself that SAD Seasonal Affective Disorder affects me daily, as well as with the seasons. Knowledge is key. Knowing this helps me to feel more “normal.”
  • Look for adaptive clothing, items for diabetics, elderly, pregnant, and hospital.
  • Prayer. Last, but not least. Talking to God, and having faith and hope that it will get better, that I have Him to give me strength, and that He loves me and understands how much I hurt without saying a word is so crucial. Believing in His power and His angels helps me so much! Making a few cards with verses helps! A daily devotional that I love is the Duck Commander Devotional. Easy, “non preachy,” useful and positive. The Bible is my solace. I wake up every day with renewed hope and resilience; when I am in “The Dark Place,” I remind myself that my body and brain are at war, and to just hang in there and ride it out, and wait until morning.

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