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A “To Don’t” List for Spoonies: 11 Things You Should Stop Doing Today

A To Don't List for Spoonies: 11 Things You Should Stop Doing Today | The Health Sessions


When you’re chronically ill, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the things you have to do with so little energy. Your to-do list features doctor’s visits, physical therapy sessions and a healthy meal plan on top of all the usual stuff like paying the bills, keeping your house relatively clean and staying in touch with loved ones.

It doesn’t help that our culture tends to define our value based on our busyness and accomplishments. You might feel guilty for taking things slow in a world that celebrates productivity, overcommitment and FOMO. Sure, crossing things off your to-do list is helpful, but it’s not the purpose of life.

But how can you free up time and energy for what is meaningful to you, while dealing with the additional obstacles of living with chronic illness?

By removing the non-important from your life. Introducing: the To Don’t List. 

A To Don’t List simply is a list of all the things you will not do, to make mental room for what is important. It might contain practical things like: “I will not iron my comfy clothes/ host elaborate dinner parties/ say yes to every request.”

But a To Don’t List can also involve more psychological-oriented items; rules for living that guide you in the right direction. From simple intentions like “I will not skip breakfast, stay up to late or check my phone during meal times” to “I won’t get sucked into pointless arguments.”

Here are 11 positive intentions that every spoonie should put on their To Don’t List.


Things not to do today:


  • Apologize extensively for your limitations. You can explain to people why you can’t do certain things, but don’t feel overly guilty about it. It’s not your fault that you’re sick. So repeat after me: “‘No’ is a complete sentence.” (Yes, I’m still working on that one myself).
  • Worry too much about things that are not within your control. Thinking things through can be helpful when you can influence the outcome of events, but replaying past problems in your mind or compulsively worrying about what the future may hold doesn’t change anything. It only adds stress to your body and mind. So if there’s nothing you can do to improve the situation, try to stop the mental chatter by distracting yourself in constructive ways or by practicing mindfulness.
  • Neglect your self-care. We spoonies spend all our energy on recovering, trying to keep our heads above water, without (over)burdening others. But your body and soul need nurturing too. And self-care is not just about eating 3 healthy meals a day and getting 8 hours of sleep; it’s also about doing things that bring you joy. So today, take a moment to read a page in that uplifting novel, play a fun game or simply sit in the sun.
  • Let other people’s opinions about your illness or recovery process get to you. You might come across people in your life – friends, family, skeptical doctors – who doubt the legitimacy of what you’re feeling. They may offer ‘solutions’ to your problems, as if you can easily fix your health “if only you’d follow that diet/exercise regimen/miracle therapy.” —– It’s hard not to get upset or frustrated when that happens, even if it’s well-meant. But it’s your body, your mind, your journey. No one can stand in your shoes, so don’t let others determine how you should feel or what you should go to get better. 
  • Take everything personal. The absence of friends or family members in your life says more about their ability to deal with tough situations than about you. Or maybe they’re simply coping with their own issues that have nothing to do with you and they don’t want to burden you with their problems.
  • Compare yourself, your life and abilities to that of healthy friends, colleagues or peers. What other people can or cannot do, doesn’t say anything about your self-worth. To blame yourself or them for your limitations is pointless and unfair to everyone. Also remember: other people’s lives aren’t all Instagram glamour; you can’t tell from the outside what everyone is struggling with.
  • Set high expectations for yourself. I believe in shooting for the moon so you’ll land among the stars, but not if that leads to constant disappointment. If you can realistically do only 1 thing a day or a week, then don’t expect more of yourself – or at least not without some serious health setbacks
  • In that spirit: Don’t try to be a domestic goddess. Don’t strive for a squeaky clean house, playing the perfect hostess and keep up with the latest trends (unless you’re a diehard fashionista) if you’re already running low on energy. There’s no need to be Superwoman, especially when you’ve got more important concerns.
  • Be afraid or ashamed to ask for help when you need it. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; sometimes it’s the wisest choice you can make. There isn’t a single person in the world who can do anything and everything by themselves, so why should you?
  • Let negative people, bad situations and toxic habits steal you energy. Make a conscious choice that you will not get sucked into arguments and unnecessary drama, that you’ll walk away from people who drain you. Start eliminating energy-sucking habits from your life, like overthinking, perfectionism and sacrificing yourself for everyone else. Chronic illness already chips away at your body and life, don’t give any more of your power away to energy vampires.
  • Wish too many days away. When you’re facing yet another day of painful symptoms and sadness, it’s easy to switch to survival mode and block out the physical pain and despair as best as you can. You try to find a way to get through the day somehow, hoping tomorrow will be better. That’s fine and completely understandable. But try not to wish away too many days. Don’t get stuck in the moment for too long. Constantly pushing bad things away doesn’t work in the long run. But more importantly, not every day is awful from the time you wake up until the moment you fall asleep again. There are good moments to be found too, and you miss out on those tiny pleasures that can make your day more bearable when you got your head buried into the sand.


What will you put on your To DON’T List today?


If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also like:

4 Inspiring Health Documentaries You Need to Watch

4 Inspiring Health Documentaries You Need to Watch | The Health Sessions


This is a guest post by Cassie from Culture Coverage


With all the vitriol clogging our daily newsfeeds, it’s refreshing to know that some parties are genuinely putting forth an effort to make the world a better place to live in — and to make it easier to stay here longer, for that matter.

And while documentaries certainly are no replacement for scientific journals, peer-reviewed articles and double-blind studies, they still serve a purpose: to give us a brief but interesting view into the world of progress. They help us take one more step forward when it seems so easy to give up.

A number of health films have proved both intriguing and inspiring to me. They’re stories you need to hear in a world that sometimes unnecessarily focuses on the negative.

Now, the first and most recent film you’ll want to check out is called…


The Game Changer

4 Inspiring Health Documentaries You Need to Watch: The Game Changer | The Health Sessions


Few events are more life changing than being diagnosed with cancer. Some (and not wrongfully so) view it as a death sentence. There is no outright cure for cancer, only a variety of treatments that at times can be highly invasive, leading to baldness, weakness and general malaise.

“The Game Changer” is significant because it outlines a new form of treatment following the use of low doses of naltrexone (commonly referred to as LDN; low dose naltrexone). While most evidence is currently anecdotal or restricted to case studies, preliminary research outlined in the documentary demonstrate effectiveness in helping patients beat cancer.

Note that the documentary isn’t claiming to have a cure for cancer, but rather a treatment that dramatically improves the effectiveness of other modalities in addition to the patient’s quality of life. That includes patients with autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. The full hour-long documentary is free to watch on YouTube; I highly recommend it.

If you experience problems viewing “The Game Changer” because the video isn’t available in your country, you can navigate around the issue using a Virtual Private Network to reroute your connection to a secured server.

Basically, you can change your IP address so that websites think you’re in a different location (so you can watch anything regardless of what restrictions might be in place). Sometimes valuable health information is blocked, but it doesn’t have to be with the right tools!


Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead

4 Inspiring Health Documentaries You Need to Watch: Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead | The Health Sessions


On the more entertaining end, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” follows Joe Cross as he transforms from a morbidly obese couch potato into a juicing health nut. That’s the short of it—but there’s a lot more to it than that. Like so many others, Joe starts out in what seems a relatively hopeless situation; the difference is his decision to take control.

While I’m not someone who finds it easy to jump on board a two-month juice fast, it worked out well for Joe. The amount of perseverance required to make the journey is a testament to just how strong we can be even in our weakest hour. Not only that, it’s an intriguing look into the lives of everyday people.


The Beautiful Truth: Gerson Therapy


4 Inspiring Health Documentaries You Need to Watch: Beautiful Truth | The Health Sessions


I would paint myself a skeptic regarding anything that claims to be a miracle cure—especially when it calls for coffee enemas. In spite of that, the Gerson Therapy has claims that are certainly worth investigating. Many of its principles, including moving away from modern food and back to raw, living foods are mirrored by some other popular diets, including the Paleo diet.

According to the documentary, Dr. Max Gerson invented the protocol behind the therapy just shy of a century ago with the goal of curing patients’ chronic illnesses and alleviating pesky symptoms associated with said illnesses. The documentary explains the history behind the Gerson family and what has become of the controversial therapy.

What’s really energizing about this film are the people within it and their testimonies. Much like the patients seen in parts of “The Game Changer,” we’re shown people that were, for all intents and purposes, on death’s door. But their tenacity and willingness to endure change for the better helped them reach new heights of health.


‘Supersize Me’ & ‘Fat Head’            

4 Inspiring Health Documentaries You Need to Watch: Supersize Me | The Health Sessions     

Beyond the previously mentioned documentaries, I’ve also found “Supersize Me” and the response documentary, “Fat Head”, to be a good combination. They offer differing viewpoints on a similar topic, and both are fairly entertaining to boot. They’re best watched together, as they inspire intellectual thought in two separate directions. I would recommend watching the first three first, but these might prove to be an excellent complement once you’re finished.


Have you seen any of the selections listed above? What are your thoughts? If you have a favorite health documentary, be sure to share it in the comments section below.


About the Author: Cassie is a pop culture and technology blogger who takes her health to be a very important topic. She hopes that you find both joy and useful information when watching these documentaries.


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What Pavlov’s Dogs Can Teach Us About Creating Healthy Habits

What Pavlov's Dogs Can Teach Us About Creating Healthy Habits | The Health Sessions


Have you ever noticed how the smell of sunscreen immediately brings back that holiday feeling of excitement mixed with heavenly relaxation?

Or do you crave popcorn the moment you step into the movie theatre, even though you never eat it at home?

Does your heart still sink when a ‘break-up song’ from years ago plays on the radio?


These are classic signs of classical conditioning, a learning process in which two previously unrelated stimuli are paired together to produce a new response. Knowing how we learn new habits gives us important insights into why and how we behave the way we do, and it all started with an accidental discovery in 1927 by Ivan Pavlov and his drooling dogs…

Read more

The 12 Tastiest Ways to Enjoy Your Favourite Fall Produce

The 13 Tastiest Ways to Enjoy Your Favourite Fall Produce | The Health Sessions


After a beautiful Indian Summer, the weather is slowly changing. The days are getting shorter and the air becomes crispy.

Time for slow cooking, cozy flavours and golden-coloured produce that mimics the leaves falling from the trees: apples, pears, butternut squash, pumpkins, chestnuts and mushrooms. And what better way to combine these autumnal foods than with warming spices, sage, maple syrup and crunchy hazelnuts and pecans?

Some of the recipes below are a little more rich than I usually share (I’m looking at you onion soup and butter chicken!), but hey, it’s fitting for the colder season and after all, a healthy diet is all about variation and balance.

So have a look at these 12 tasty ways to enjoy your favourite fall produce!

Read more

Getting Things Done with Chronic Illness: Housekeeping Hacks 101

Getting Things Done with Chronic Illness: Housekeeping Hacks 101 | The Health Sessions


It’s probably one of the most common dilemmas of the 21st century: “How do I get everything – work, family, household, social life – done with the limited amount of time and energy that I have?”

This problem only becomes more pressing when you suffer from health problems. Because how do you juggle making a living and taking care of your loved ones when your inner battery only charges up to 50% every day and runs out of energy much quicker than everyone else’s?

Basically, there are two broad strategies to tackle a mile-long to-do list when you’re worn out:

  1. Find ways to recharge your battery better – e.g. improve the quality of your sleep, eat nutrient-rich meals or gradually increase your fitness levels.
  2. Experiment with life hacks that help you do everyday things more efficiently.


Now there’s lots of advice on this website (and in my upcoming ebook!) on getting healthier and more energetic, but let’s face it, some days you just have to make do with the tiny bit of power that you have left. That’s why I want to share a series of tips on how you can do more with less energy in all areas of your life, starting with the inescapable job of running a household.

Read more

About me

I’m a psychologist living with chronic illness. I want to help you feel as energetic, symptom-free and happy as possible, by showing you how to create lasting health habits and by giving you advice on how to cope with (chronic) health problems.


All lifestyle and health advice is provided for information only. The Health Sessions is not intended to replace a consultation with an appropriately qualified health professional. Always seek the advice of your doctor with any personal medical questions that you may have!