Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Does the Body Ever Get Bored?

This is probably going to start off as one of the odder posts I’ve written, but sometimes I have these weird thoughts that stick in my brain.  It began after feeding the dogs this morning and wondering how a dog can eat the same thing every day for their entire life.  At least wild animals switch-up their diets, but at the hands of us humans, our domesticated friends may get a slight flavor change-up but the diet seems pretty steady…and if nothing else reliable.

This got me to begin wondering about our bodies.  If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering illness does a flare mean the body is bored with the treatment?  My wondering about this issue is twofold.  I just coming out of a flare that I couldn’t describe and I have an appointment this afternoon with the doctor so I’m in my, “let’s examine this phenomenon” stage.  I guess I’m asking the same questions that scientists and pharmaceutical R&D teams around the world are asking and that is, “Why does a treatment stop working?”

It’s an important question and given the research on mind-body medicine, the mind-body connection, and the impact of emotions on our physical lives one that must be explored in-depth.  I was speaking with a client yesterday who is experiencing acid reflux and stomach spasms.  One of the key factors in her life is an enormous amount of stress.  The body will take over making decisions for your if you don’t listen and heed its warning.

While discussing her current circumstance we developed a way to off-set the impact that stress is having on her body.  There are two key ingredients, laughter and relaxation.   The laughter is important because of the hormones it releases, and the relaxation part is a no brainer.

The main concern in the relaxation piece is not finding time to meditate or breathe, but creating a multi-sensory experience.  It’s not enough just to rest, but combine some type of relaxation/breathing with soothing sounds, in her case a warm heating pad placed on her stomach to relax the spasms, a candle that is appealing but not overpowering and other sensory stimulations that add to the experience.

We’re multi-sensory beings and our responses need to take that into consideration.  It emphasizes the fact that we’re multi-faceted and one solution often is not the cure-all, but it is often a good start.  Be inclusive when developing stress busting regimens and remember that stress has a huge negative impact on the immune system.  Give yourself every opportunity on the road to health and healing; it will also keep the body from becoming bored.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Stress Fractures

Stress isn’t good for the mind, body or soul even when you’re healthy; but when you’re facing a health challenge the results can be devastating.  Like the footage we’ve seen from bridges, we think that in the body that stress causes the cracks.   Unfortunately, following your diagnosis with a chronic or life-threatening illness, it accentuates the cracks.  That means in your day-to-day life the stress you live is your greatest nemesis.

The idea that when the body, particularly the bones, are under tremendous stress as seen by those who are athletes the stress fracture is minute, but can have a huge impact on their performance.  What we know about stress is that it can cause illness, but we think once the damage is done what more can stress do?  The fact is that when you continually put stress on something; a joint, a muscle, a bone, even your soul it will eventually give out from the pressure.  A stress fracture may be small, but it’s impact can be huge and that obstacle is not one you need when you’re hope is regain your health.

Having control over your stress level seems easy, but if stress has been your drug of choice it can be a difficult transition.  Stress in our culture is often the topic of conversation and many people use it to play, “can you top this”.  The interesting thing is that stress isn’t something to brag about and wearing it like a red badge of courage is detrimental on your journey to wellness.

Wouldn’t you rather accentuate other attributes in your life besides stress?  Aren’t there qualities you’d like to put in the spotlight that will promote health instead of detracting from it?  Can you think of one benefit stress has on your mind, body, or soul when facing a health challenge?  If you have the answer please share it because the world is waiting with baited breath for the benefits of stress.  Don’t get caught up in the illusion that stress is good.  See stress for what it is; something that robs you of the energy you need for health and healing.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?

I attended a motivational talk on achieving great things in life.  The presenter cited a study done by Johns Hopkins University that reported that following heart surgery, 90% of patients returned to their unhealthy life habits.  Could this really be the case?  I would expect some would revert to their old ways, but an overwhelming majority?  This not only frightens me but confuses me.

It’s bad enough receiving an illness diagnosis and going through treatment.  Having the tools to prevent further problems you would think would be a gift and not a burden.  Are we so entrenched in our negative behaviors that we can’t change even if it’s going to save our lives?  Could it be that once we dodge a bullet we resurface with a new sense of invincibility?

What is our responsibility to reclaiming our health?  If we’re not going to change behaviors to promote health why go through the treatment in the first place?  We’re an addictive society so maybe we’re talking about facing our addictions to food, stress and overwhelm.

This is what I’m thinking.  I believe we’re given instructions on how to change our lives but we’re so overwhelmed by the diagnosis and the treatment that reverting back to old habits is comforting.  As they say, “the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t know”.  Most of us aren’t prepared for what in the beginning seems like a huge learning curve and that stress makes us abandon the plan.  We want to believe we can do it alone but at the first moment of uncertainty we abandon the plan.  So what’s the solution?

You need to find someone or a group of someones who will support you in your lifestyle changes.  We’re more likely when starting something new to be more accountable to others than to ourselves.  It’s important that whatever changes you want to initiate, that you make public to friends and family.  We are more inclined to keep our promises when they are public then when held privately in our heads.  Since healthcare professionals are so overwhelmed with managed care and increased patient loads, until there is a problem the doctor will most likely not be the support person.  Go see a therapist, hire a coach, go to support groups.  If you want to improve your physical health hire a personal trainer, begin taking yoga classes and study with one teacher for continuity and familiarity.  If you want to change your eating habits visit a Registered Dietitian (RD), take a cooking class that emphasizes healthy cooking.  When change includes fun we are more likely to stick with the plan.

No matter what choice you make you should be your best friend and ally, not your worst enemy.  Don’t be a statistic.  If you’ve been given years to life, now is the time to add life to years.  How do you maintain your lifestyle changes that help to promote health on your journey to wellness?