Posted in Emotional Health, Self-Nurture, Spirituality and Health

Anger, Forgiveness and Health

One of my favorite sayings referring to anger is “It makes my blood boil”.  I was attracted to this phrase because there was some research being done on elevating blood temperature to eradicate viruses, literally burning them out of the body.  Anger can have that effect, at least figuratively.  Ever see someone who is angry turn all red in the face.  It’s like the cartoons where we see steam coming out the ears of the angry person.

Examining anger on our health came from reading Amish Grace, about the Nickel Mines school shooting in the Amish community.  There is a lot of discussion about forgiving the perpetrator and the speed at which he was forgiven.  The Amish believe that forgiveness is crucial to their existence.  They teach it, practice it and share its outcomes with the community.  They believe that it’s necessary to forgive in order to be forgiven.

This got me thinking about the anger we feel when we’ve received a life-altering diagnosis.  Many of those I’ve interviewed and sat in support groups with have expressed anger.  The anger often arises out of the shattered assumptions we experience, feeling that our bodies have betrayed us.  What impact does the lingering anger have on our immune system?

Can we really heal and be angry with our bodies?  How can we forgive our bodies and reclaim a nurturing stance toward our biology?  When we’re able to dispose of blame for our illness it’s easier to forgive.  Many studies, interviews, articles put the blame for illness on the individual.  We need to remember that the body is an extremely complex organism.  Illness can occur when one minuscule cell decides to change course.

Forgiving our bodies, removing anger from the equation gives us one more tool in our healing practice.  It provides us with fortification to take on the challenge of our illness.  Reconnecting with our bodies is crucial because it’s the only body we will ever receive so treat it kindly.  Turning our lives over to anger keeps us in a fighting stance and that’s not good for anyone’s health.  Maximizing our chances of healing is why abandoning anger, embracing forgiveness is crucial to good health.

Posted in Emotional Health, Spirituality and Health

Confronting Your Emotional Mirror

How comfortable are you with your emotions?  Are you the type of person who knows they are there but sweeps them under the carpet?  What does it take for you to pay attention to how you’re feeling?  When coping with a chronic or life-altering diagnosis your emotions are not simply reactions; they are a barometer for your life.  Ever notice how when you are confronted by one emotion it seems to peak its head out multiple times shouting “Here I am…do you see me?”

Yesterday I was working on a piece of art.  I couldn’t get the results I wanted and I tried over and over again, hoping to make progress.  Finally realizing I was frustrated I put the piece down and proceeded to go answer e-mails.  I received a group of e-mails that I found frustrating.  When I read the third crazy making e-mail I recognized that feeling of frustration.  Now what was I going to do?   I could ignore it or deal with it.  If I ignored it I felt it would haunt me like a ghost and keep showing up and that becomes a nightmare.

Once I identified the experience of frustration I was able to get myself centered and ask myself what is frustration trying to show me.  What I discovered is that I was too attached to the outcome of both the project and the situation discussed in the e-mails.  I could do something with that information; taking a step back and giving the situation the opportunity to unfold and find it’s own solution would serve me well.  I also needed to understand that I have only so much control over certain things and that trying to prove otherwise is fruitless.

Where is all this going?  If frustration hadn’t kept showing up yesterday I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to confront it in the emotional mirror.  I would have kept banging my head against the wall and that would definitely impact my health. Giving myself new coping mechanisms, healthier ones, relieves a lot of stress.  The other gift is that if I recognize the emotional impact of things earlier, maybe I don’t have to keep having the Ground Hog Day experience before creating a healing environment.

Posted in In the Know, Personal Conviction, Spirituality and Health

Change One Thing to Improve Your Health

I’ve talked about change in the past but today I’m focusing on our the fallacy related to our flexibility in the world.  I don’t mean being able to bend our bodies into contortionist poses, I’m talking about being open to a shift in perspective.  Cheri Huber has a book, “How you do anything is how you do everything”.  This is an important concept because we would like to believe that we behave one way in certain environments and we change how we act in others.  Let me tell you from personal experience, that’s not true.

An example would be how we deal with conflict.  If you’re the type who keeps things bottled up at home, I can assure you that you do the same thing at work and at the PTA meeting.  If you are a people pleaser at work the odds are good that you follow that pattern whenever you interact with others.  So I guess changing one thing is the idea, but the reality is when you truly change that one thing, other things will change as well.

If asking for help is difficult before your diagnosis, are there times when you have to step outside of your box and ask for help out of necessity?  This means that you’re able to ask for help.  I make that point because knowing it’s not about ability means that it has to be about willingness.  Start small, include others because people will help you if you give them the opportunity.

Where do we go from here?  If you begin asking for help, born out of necessity, with managing your illness then you may be able to increase the level of comfort it takes to ask for help at work.  It may mean that when you’ve volunteered to help with your kids soccer team fundraiser that you can ask for help so you’re not the Lone Ranger.  Changing one thing is infectious.  It spreads to the other areas of your life and the result is experiencing a sense of ease.  That ease will improve your health.  Why wait…start today!

Posted in Caregiving, Partnerships, Relationships

Optimism by Proxy

When taking on a life-altering diagnosis every article, interview, television show and family member will tell us to be optimistic.  They don’t always use that word.  They may tell us to “keep the faith” or “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” or “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, easy for them to say.  Overall I agree that optimism is important because our bodies know when we’re not on board with the mechanism for hope.

 During those times when optimism seems like an overwhelming thought, allow someone else to hold the place of optimism for you.  There are no definite rules about how this all works so let’s be creative.  Individuals who climb great mountains like Everest have a Sherpa to help them with the journey.  The Sherpa knows the route and will carry the load that may be too cumbersome for the climber.

As we climb our own Everest it’s fine to let a Sherpa of our choice carry the optimism.  It’s important that we find someone we trust with this responsibility.  It needs to be someone we trust and will tell us the “caring truth” when necessary.  It also needs to be someone who is not holding false hope, but a genuine hope that serves as a beacon for us to follow.

How will you give yourself the gift of optimism even when it seems to big a task?  Who can you recruit to be the surrogate optimist in your life?  What gifts does this person possess that let’s you know they are up to serving as your optimism surrogate?  This is a huge honor we bestow on these optimism Sherpas and hopefully when we can resume holding the optimism we acknowledge these surrogates for their support, bravery and love.

Posted in Self-Nurture

Why Do We Help Diseases Hurt Us?

There has been a dramatic increase in research linking lifestyle to health.  It’s not uncommon to see on the news most evenings some story about how our lifestyle interacts with our health.  As more and more stories rise in our consciousness, how can we ignore them?  Don’t we feel that we have some responsibility for keeping ourselves healthy?

 The research presented today looked at the connection between being overweight and cancer.  The outcome of the study showed that women who were 30 pounds or more overweight had a 59% increased risk of bladder and kidney cancer.  It’s easy to say that we’ll be in that other 41%, but there aren’t any guarantees.  What are we doing to ourselves?

It’s not that I believe we are a masochistic culture.  I don’t believe people walk around saying I’m going to play Russian roulette with my health so I’ll have another piece of pie.  I do believe it’s about being conscious.  I have an extreme case of acid reflux.  It wasn’t unusual for me to take an acid reducing pill every night, sometimes more than one because I was becoming resistant to the effects.  What I know is that over a long period of time I’m increase the chances of developing esophageal cancer.  I had a choice and I have a choice every day, change my lifestyle or play BINGO with my life.

I’m fortunate that diet was the overwhelming factor in my acid reflux.  I chose to go on Weight Watchers, not because I was overweight, but it would regulate, for me, the amount of fat in my diet and it was something I could measure.  I want to take disease by the horns and throw it out of the ring.  I want to be the victor and live with as minimal a chance of becoming ill as possible.

Here’s a couple of easy steps to begin reclaiming your life against disease and living a better quality of life:

1. Take an inventory of your life:  what causes you discomfort, are there times of the year when you fall ill more easily, how are you handling stress?

2. Consider the amount of control you currently have over these items and then with truth in your heart, ask yourself, how much control do I really have over these items?

3.  Change one thing.  Life can be one big experiment.  For me it was changing my diet, maybe for you it’s getting a massage once a week/month to reduce stress.  Increase your bodies ability to maintain its own level of balance.

4. As you see changes think about what else you can change and over time you’ll see a cumulative effect as all these life enhancing activities build upon one another.

5. Consider a spiritual practice to calm your mind, this allows you to release unwanted negative thoughts and feel hugged by the Universe.

Let me know how you’ll implement your health maintenance plan.

Posted in Self-Nurture

Shooting Ourselves with Cupid’s Arrow

It’s Valentine’s Day and the stores are filled with flowers, candy and plenty of cards to send or give to others.  Why don’t we shoot Cupid’s arrow at ourselves to promote more self-love?   Isn’t this the holiday where one’s true love is honored?  I would hope that we are our own true love and yet we let ourselves slide.  What’s common is to put out all this energy and money on others and hopefully you get something in return.

I’m declaring this Valentine’s Day the holiday of self-love.  For years I’ve been hearing Louise Hay, author or “You Can Heal Your Life” tell us to look in the mirror and say “I Love You”.  That is an accomplishment that will bring the biggest tidal wave of warm feelings, especially when facing an life-altering diagnosis.  It’s a clear step on the acceptance scale and provides you with that extra surge of energy to keep going.

It’s important to keep ourselves in the mix or emotionally and spiritually we’ll wind up lonely.  Knowing that the power of love can help repair our immune system is not news, it’s one of the foundations to healing.  Take the step toward celebrating yourself on this Valentine’s Day and experience the personal rewards and then you’ll see the outward sharing of love pour in.

Posted in after the diagnosis, art and healing, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, living with chronic illness, Spirituality and Health

Healing Hands

Our hands are very useful appendages.  Our hands have unique characteristics that differentiate us from everyone else on this planet.  It’s amazing how we don’t honor the power in our hands.  Think of commercials like Allstate Insurance “the good hands people”, doesn’t that not only provide a visual, but send a strong message about being cradled creating security?

There are plenty of examples of industries using the hands to give us a message.  These messages are used to convey power, security, gentleness and a whole range of other experiences.  It’s not until we’re in need of healing to we begin to look at our hands in a different light.  We make the shift from our hands as a tool to our hands as a source of healing.

One of the greatest things about our hands is the fact that we create with our hands.  Our hands are instrumental in bringing forth our ideas.  They are the way many of us express ourselves through activities like our hobbies.  I’ve been intrigued at the increased interest in the craft industry.  Many people engage in crafts because they’re fun.  Others carry it one step further and utilize the craft as a means of self-expression.  Some carry this one step further and incorporate their craft into their spirituality allowing it to be a source of renewal in their healing process.

When we create we are building.  A prominent part of healing is building up resistance to what causes us harm.  It gives us a place and a time of the day to sit, be still and ask our hands what will they bring forth today to move our healing forward.  You’ll be surprised at how your hands will interpret this request. Sit back and watch the creative process take hold and experience the healing power in your hands.

Posted in Having a Voice, In the Know, Spirituality and Health

New Breed of Doctors

Advances in technology have had a huge impact on the medical field.  Technology has provided new treatments and pharmaceuticals that have lowered mortality and increased many patients quality of life.  It has given us access to up-t0-the minute consults 24 hours a day because we can send images across the world to a doctor in a different time zone.  A few years ago I was in an auto accident and one of the other passengers had a CT scan.  The hospital in Texas sent the scan to Australia to be read by a radiologist on duty…magic!

Every time we look at the advantages in medicine due to technology we have to consider the trade-off in our care.  I was reading the Journal of the American Medical Association and there was a story about the evolution of an attending physician.  The doctor explained that due to technology, med students, interns and residents have access to data with the push of a button on a palm held device.  This physician was concerned about what he had to offer the up and coming class of doctors and then he realized that the people part of medicine couldn’t be taught by technology.

No matter how technological medicine becomes the doctor-patient relationship can’t be superseded by a machine.  The attending physician was able to lead by example how to interact with a patient.  As a patient, I’m excited that this doctor was mindful of the gifts he had to offer.  I’m ecstatic that the art of medicine involves the connection between two people with a common goal. 

 As a pilgrim on the path to healing, it’s crucial that we put our foot down if we feel technology is getting in the way of the healing relationship.  We may be required to teach our medical providers how to help us heal.  They may have the corner on the market when it comes to conventional treatments, but without the mind-body-spirit connection it’s incomplete.  Having the capacity to allow holistic health be the foundation for medicine is as much an advance as any technology.

Posted in History, Spirituality and Health

Seeing with New Eyes

Is it possible to enter every exchange and activity as if you were doing for the first time?  Obviously there are times when the first time experience is real, but what about times when situations are similar, or the theme resonates through your life.  How do we face a life-altering diagnosis with new eyes?  Is it possible?

The Buddhists speak about beginner’s mind.  When I first heard the idea I was puzzled because I didn’t understand how you could wipe the slate clean as if you have no history.  Over time I realized part of the process is abandoning your expectations about the outcome.  Relieving yourself of the a definitive outcome before the experience has happened.  This seems like an easy thing to accomplish, but in reality it’s probably one of the more cumbersome practices of your spiritual life.

When facing an illness, beginner’s mind can focus on the idea that your experience is only your experience.  That means that anything others have told you about their experience is anecdotal and doesn’t predispose you to the exact same experience.  Whenever we are facing new experiences as humans there are too many variables to take into account.  Think about friends who have been pregnant, some have morning sickness from the moment of conception and others are still waiting for the experience.

Allow yourself the opportunity to take your treatment, your support system, your spiritual practice as individual as you.  Give yourself the opportunity to be surprised at the outcome instead of imprisoned by it?  Find new ways of making the experience your own and leave it at that, your experience.  We can share our experience, but only as a place of empathy, not the final say i the outcome.

Posted in Emotional Health, Having a Voice

Scaling New Heights

I read lots of articles and listen to hundreds of interviews with people facing a life-altering illness.  Every so often I hear someone make a comment like this is an opportunity to “scale new heights”.  I’ve read about women with breast cancer making the trek to the top of a mountain.  I’ve seen the stories of people walking across the country bringing recognition to their challenge.  Does every new height have to be huge?

What’s the difference between scaling new heights and making an internal shift toward healing?  Why do these monumental demonstrative actions equate to creating a new you?  I know I’m asking a lot of questions but I’m struggling as to why even the smallest changes aren’t considered scaling new heights.

Isn’t the person who never had time for anything who following the diagnosis creates a daily ritual of meditating scaling new heights?  Isn’t the person with heart disease who changes their eating habits scaling new heights?  I believe the smallest of changes is a new height.  I believe that when we’re motivated to make changes that improve our physical, emotional and spiritual health we are scaling new heights.

If the day comes that the well has run dry and taking these monumental changes is all I have left then maybe that’s the route I’ll take.  For today, I scale new heights by creating a spiritual practice, keeping to my medical regimen and finding news ways to feed my body and soul.