Saturday, 8 April 2017

How do you find the time?

I'm currently in the middle of my final module towards my Master of Arts in Online and Distance Education (MAODE) with the Open University. This week, we have been thinking about blogs and blogging as a learning tool and we have been allocated some activity time to write a blog entry. We were given some suggestions, one of which related to how we find time for study amongst our other daily life stuff. This reminded me of a question which my line manager at work often asks: How do you find the time to do that?

Some people just thrive on being busy. Maybe I'm one of them. I work full time, though not nearly as fuller-time as I did when teaching. I have a family, though now grown-up. I have an active exercise schedule, which keeps my body functioning as well as possible and also keeps me sane. So yeah, life can be pretty busy.

In my work life and on social media, I come into contact with many disabled people or people with long term health conditions. Two of the key issues that get raised, particularly in relation to their ability (or not) to work or study, are pain and fatigue. I get that. Since my injury, I have suffered from a lot of pain and a fair bit of fatigue. The thing with both of these is that they are different for every individual. What works for me might or might not work for someone else. What makes my condition worse might make another person's condition better. So this is just what works for me...

Pain

I get a lot of lower back pain. I'm not really sure whether it's muscle or something else. It's not nerve pain. It's very specific. It feels like my two lowest vertebrae have stuck together and then sometimes pulled apart. It's entirely possible that this is exactly what it is. The consultant said that would happen. He also said that daily physio would help keep the pain under control... and it does. In fact, the more exercise I do, the better the pain is. I need to do lots of different types of exercise, involving different parts of my body.

Studying (and sometimes working) can get in the way of this. The answer is that I have to be really self-disciplined. Even though I could easily get into study and be utterly absorbed for hours, I have to take regular breaks and move around or do some exercise. It's the same at work. And funnily enough, my fitness tracker has just buzzed to tell me to get up and move. (See you soon)

I also get nerve pain in my legs. I'll be honest, nothing helps this, except screaming and wriggling around until it goes. It's rather like having needles or nails or a knife stuck in me. The only consolation is that I know (in my head) it's not real. There is nothing there. The nerves are damaged and have a mind of their own.

Fatigue

I find fatigue comes and goes. Some days are fine; others are dreadful. I haven't fully worked out what makes the difference but certainly my mental state contributes. If I feel purposeful, needed, active, as though I'm living a normal life, then my fatigue levels improve. If I feel down, bored, overwhelmed with pain or any other negative emotion, then my body switches off and I go to sleep. Sometimes the sleep helps, sometimes not.

So for me, studying actually helps my fatigue levels. It gives me a sense of purpose, achievement and self-esteem. It makes me feel good. That's what keeps me motivated to do it. After work, I'm usually too tired to study but I get up early on Saturdays and try to crack through as much as possible. Then, midweek, I just keep up with the forums as best I can.

Does something else have to give? Not really. When I go on holiday, I take my studies with me - either my tablet or laptop (occasionally both). I get up much earlier than the rest of the family, so it's a nice, quiet activity that I can get on with, without disturbing their beauty sleep. I guess that is the beauty of online study. You can do it anywhere. Even if I don't have Internet, so long as I know in advance, I can download readings and activities - enough to keep me ticking along.

My biggest study worry? I finish my MAODE this autumn but I don't feel ready to stop being a student. So what next? I might do some smaller scale study - upskill in a few specific areas... or I might consider higher level study... or I might embark on something work-related. I don't know yet.

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