Over the course of 3 years I have avoided becoming too personal in this blog, lest I become maudlin and repel readers. Today I’m choosing to share my experiences as a person with invisible disabilities (fibromylagia, chronic fatigue, multiple food and drug allergies) and how I have learned to take care of myself. Hopefully, my readers will share what they do to take care of themselves in return.
According to the “Stress in America” study from the American Psychology Association the top stresses included work and money, and I doubt the situation is much different for Canadians. We live in stressful times and stress causes a stronger physical reaction for some of us than it does for others. I am among those who are very sensitive to stress and profoundly effected by it.
While short term stress can trigger chemicals that can improve memory, increase energy, stimulating alertness and productivity, the same cannot be said of long term stress. Chronic stress can have a profoundly negative impact on the body. Are you aware of these facts?
- Two-thirds (66 percent) of adults living in the U.S. have been told by a health care provider that they have one or more chronic conditions, most commonly high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
- The vast majority of adults indicated that their health care provider recommended lifestyle and behavior changes (70 percent).
- Few adults reported that their health care provider offered support to help them make lasting changes: only 46 percent were given an explanation for the recommendation; only 35 percent were offered advice or shown techniques to help make changes; and only 5-10 percent were referred to another health care provider to support the adoption of lifestyle changes.
- Further, only 48 percent of adults reported that their health care providers followed up with them to check on their progress in making lifestyle and behavior changes — such as quitting smoking, getting more sleep, reducing stress, exercising, losing weight and choosing healthier foods.
- In general, people cited a number of barriers in their efforts to make lasting lifestyle and behavior changes — lack of willpower (33 percent); not enough time (20 percent); and lack of confidence (14 percent).
- More than one in ten people cited stress as the barrier preventing them from making lifestyle and behavior changes (14 percent of adults reported they are too stressed to make these changes).
The APA offers the following tips on how to manage your stress: Identify your sources of stress; Learn your own stress signals; Recognize how you deal with stress; Find healthy ways to manage stress; Take care of yourself; Reach out for support.
In recent years my health has been so compromised that I have been unable to work full time. I had to make a complete lifestyle change from being fit and outdoorsy person, who made a good income and was active in the community to one who leads a semi-sedentary indoor life. My inability to earn a living and a downturn in business compelled my husband and I to assess what changes we could make that resulted in spending less. We were already frugal but we learned how do well on even less.
I’m sure you have heard the phrase “the attitude of gratitude” many times as professional speakers use it frequently. Well, prior to the shift to mobilizing I made an attitude adjustment. I accepted the fact I was not going to become magically cured of my ailments. I recognized if I didn’t act to counter the self talk in my head I would become depressed so I made it a goal not to complain about my health and my life. Instead, I decided to accentuate the positive.
To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude. — Albert Schweitzer
I began to let people near and dear to me know that I appreciated them and was grateful that they were part of my life. At the same time I began distance myself from people who were I felt were sucking energy out of me.
Happiness is a choice
Being happy is a choice we make minute by minute, hour by hour, and sometimes day by day. You can choose not to let other people’s misery effect your level of joy. If you are stressed out need a few minutes of peace, let the phone ring. If you don’t want to listen to the negative talk then leave the room or if you are online log out and get some fresh air, or spend some time in solitude, or seek better company.
Clearly, you are not responsible for anyone’s choice to be happy or miserable; you are only responsible for your own choices. Empower yourself so you can ignore emotionally draining people and remain happy. Choose to be free of negativity today and decide to be happy tomorrow, no matter what may happen.
If you are are standing at a crossroads in your life then you realize deep inside that if you choose this new direction, your life will never be the same again. The most difficult thing to do is be honest with yourself but once you have done that you can begin to set goals and achieve them.
I recognized that being informed of current events and aware of how they may impact my life was sensible. I also recognized that media has a powerful impact on my mental state, so decided to limit my exposure to negative information that gave rise to worry and anxiety. I also implemented stress reduction strategies and began practicing aromatherapy.
I turned my focus inward and reexamined my core values and replaced those that were plain wrong or no longer useful with healthy ones. I learned how to love myself. My best friend and I have all the essential ingredients for enduring long term relationship and little things do mean lots.
I developed constructive approaches for conquering fear of rejection. (See also: Smash fear, Learn anything. ) I learned how to cope with fibromylagia and the other health challenges I face, and I discovered that the more gratitude I expressed the less fear I felt.
Instead of fixating on what was beyond my control I decided to use all my yoga training and my Buddhist training and focus positively on what I had and make more changes from the inside out. I practiced mindfulness and gratitude. I learned I could choose to be happy in the now moment, and I determined to habituate myself to making that choice over and over again.
Dan Millman, author of Way of the Peaceful Warrior, described a time when his mentor, named Socrates, challenged Dan to sit out on a large, flat stone until he had “something of value” to share. …
Finally, Dan had an insight that he knew was something of value. When Dan shared this insight, Socrates looked up, smiled, and welcomed Dan back inside. The “something of value” that Dan had realized was this: “There are no ordinary moments.” This is the essence of gratitude. No moment, nothing in life, should be taken for granted.
In developing gratitude for every moment — for the simple joys, and even for the challenging times in our lives — we come to truly enjoy and appreciate life. Then we are able to see the magic that surrounds us every second of every minute of every day.
Taking care of me
Without doubt the quality of my life experience is influenced by my attitude. I can choose to cope with my circumstances rather than choosing to rant about them or to sink into depression. Better still I can look for opportunities for growth and change even when times are tough and I am feeling ill and stressed out.
I choose to take care of myself by
- starting the day in silence
- eating a healthy diet (primarily organic food)
- affirmations and inspirational reading
- breathing exercises and relaxation techniques
- mindfulness practice
- meditation and positive imagery
- exercising every day (yoga and walking)
- container gardening
- listening to and singing spiritual music
- dancing and having fun
- spending time with those I love, including my dogs
- allowing more unassigned time for rest and relaxation
- shamanic journeys and spiritual workshops
- daydreaming and journaling my night time dreams
- massage - essential carrier oils for massage
- hot bubblebaths
- aromatherapy — essential oils for treating fatigue; essential oils for treating stress
- getting a good night’s sleep
What do you do to take care of yourself?