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A swarm of bees may seem an unlikely place to seek inspiration for coping with ill-health, but read on for Germaine Hypher’s "ten tips from a healthy hive".

Regard Your Body As A Whole

Bees work for the good of the hive. A swarm is a super-organism, which means the individual bees function more like different cells within one overall body. It is easy to want to satisfy particular goals with individual outcomes, or to ignore the pain in one part of your body to pursue a different activity, but regard your body as a whole. What you do with one part affects the rest. If you take painkillers to quash a headache so you can continue studying, or go out, the energy expenditure will have a knock on effect in the rest of your body, precipitating an exacerbation of symptoms. At times you may consider this a worthwhile pay-off, but do it enough and your health will suffer. If bees went rogue and functioned for individual purposes, the hive’s colony would fail. Take care to make your decisions based on what your whole body requires.

Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help

As we’ve noted, bees work together for the end result. Don’t be afraid of asking for help, delegating chores, and accepting assistance. It can be hard to admit that we can’t do what we used to manage, or what we imagine everyone else doing for themselves. However, employing a carer/personal assistant/cleaner could be the very thing that changes your life for the better, and once your financial and health needs have been assessed by social services, it may be that you don’t have to pay much, if anything, at all.

Plan And Store For Hard Times

Plan and store for hard times. Bees spend the summer gathering enough nectar for the honey that will sustain them throughout the winter and early spring. Plan ahead, and conserve energy for events or stressful times that you may have in the near future. Stock your cupboards with essentials so that you don’t waste energy stressing about shopping when not well enough to think about it, and fill your freezer with portions of homemade "ready meals" so you never find yourself depleted, starving, and unable to provide yourself with a simple meal.

Don't Try To Exert Yourself With Low Blood Sugar Levels

Don’t try to exert yourself with low blood sugar levels. Bees that have been out foraging and not taken enough fill of nectar, can find they don’t have enough energy to get home to their hive before literally crashing. A crashed out bee on the ground can be helped by lifting it onto a pollen rich flower, or placing it next to some sugar water. In a similar vein, keep your own blood sugars at a constant level, with slow release, healthy foods so you don’t "crash". Dizziness, confusion, nausea and shaking are all signs of low blood sugar levels.

Sugar Is Not Your Friend

Speaking of blood sugar levels, sugar is not your friend! Surprisingly, bees cannot tolerate neat honey and have to dilute it before consuming it. Likewise, refined sugar will cause your body to boom and bust, giving you a false high and a lower depletion after you’ve used up energy during the sugar rush. Sugar also feeds candida (which can be a big problem for M.E. sufferers), lowers your immune system making you noticeably more susceptible to infections, and fosters fatigue and weight gain. Eat foods that release their sugars slowly, such as fruit, wholegrains, oats and vegetables, and avoid sugary drinks.

Adjust With Your Body's Needs

Be adaptable. Bees take on different roles within the hive over their lifetime, from nursemaid, to forager, to temperature controller, and more. Adjust with your body’s needs rather than clinging to one identity that no longer works for you, or the people around you.

Let People Know What You Need

Communicate your needs. Bees are brilliant communicators, from the complexity of their waggle dance (providing detailed directions to nectar, including the exact angle and time of travel), to the pitch of their buzz that lets you know when they’re getting annoyed and are liable to sting. This is important as bees die when they sting, so they can’t be wasting their temper or defences unnecessarily. Similarly, our bodies are depleted by stress and confrontation. Try to let people know when you’re struggling, and what you require of them before you reach crisis point.

Notice What Your Body Is Being Exposed To

Spiders eat bees. Beware. Ok, don’t panic – it’s unlikely you’ll be eaten alive by a spider, but do become aware of the threats to your body’s energy levels. It may not be something you’d realised could be harmful to you. Bees are also very susceptible to pesticides and infections. Consider what your body is being exposed to, and how this may be putting an extra strain on it.

Seek Out Small Pleasures

Extract as much sweetness as you can from life. Bees know that even the tiniest of flowers can be laden with sweet nectar. Their ultraviolet vision leads them to this sweetness for the benefit of themselves, the colony, the plants themselves (who are seeking pollination), and the human population (where would we be without fruit, vegetables and grains). Learn to seek out small pleasures, sweet moments, and daily gifts amidst your trials. It can be hard work, but it’s rewarding, and not only for you but also those with whom you share this outlook.

Every Achievement Counts

The whole of one bee’s working life results in the production of just quarter of a teaspoon of honey. This is an almost negligible amount when you’re dolloping it onto your toast or porridge, but each bee’s contribution is valuable and worthwhile. Don’t feel disheartened that your energetic output can seem to yield such small results. Your contribution may feel tiny, but every bee and every little achievement counts!

© Germaine Hypher. Please do not reproduce or share publicly without permission from the author. To request permission, email membership@friendswithme.org.uk