Saturday, January 7, 2012
How to Maintain a Positive Outlook as a Young Woman Living with a Chronic Disease
Hi, healers! By request, I was asked to write a blog post on how I stay positive as a young woman living with a chronic illness. This topic is extremely relevant because life can be difficult enough to navigate and stay positive through when one is perfectly healthy or just experiencing an acute crisis. Add in the joys of chronic disease (day in and day out crisis), and if you’re lucky, chronic pain, and you’ve got a probable mess in the making and a “glass-half-empty” attitude just waiting to infect every area of your existence.
Let me preface this by saying that mood disorders, specifically depression and anxiety, are very common in those experiencing chronic pain and illness. I went through it, and I made it out the other side a different, more well-rounded, and more-fulfilled individual. If you think this might be you, too, please enlist the help of a licensed mental health professional. Also, low-thyroid, exhausted adrenals, and hormonal and nutritional deficiencies (like magnesium, iodine, B12, Vitamin D, and selenium) that are common in those living with chronic pain and disease have the ability to sink your mood and energy levels. Going for a full blood work-up is a great idea, and please, ask for the saliva test when testing your adrenals. You may have to go holistic to get a saliva test done. All or one of these issues, or somewhere in between, could be adding to your “stinking thinking,” so do your best to address them as ways to add energy and positivity deposits in your health bank. It will go a long way.
To me, the secrets to happiness are gratitude, good mental and emotional health, a strong support system, having a passion, being of service to others, developing a spiritual practice, practicing yoga (exercising), being vegan (having a healthy, whole foods, plant-based diet), and being your authentic self. Let me break them down for you so that you can see how I have learned to remain positive despite living with a “chronic, progressive, and incurable” neurological disease.
Count Your Blessings: By focusing on what you are grateful for and what you do have rather than what you are lacking, you not only attract more abundance into your life, you positively affect your mood instantaneously. If it is difficult for you to begin your gratitude quest, start small. Be thankful that you have hands to type in your blogs, eyes to read this post, food on your tables, clothes on your backs, clean water, heat, your educations, etc. Think of all those basic needs we have met here in America that most third world nations view as unattainable luxuries. Whenever you feel your mood begin to go south, draw on this tool to pick yourself back up.
Become the Observer of Your Thoughts: Most of us go through each day without any awareness as to what we are thinking and how it is affecting our overall health and well-being. Your mind affects your body and your body affects your mind. They are connected at the least – more like intertwined, one. Become conscious of your thoughts. Are they mostly negative? Self-limiting? Positive? Neutral? Loving? Fear-based? Try writing down your thoughts for a few days, and notice the patterns that reveal themselves. Taming the mind is one of life’s greatest challenges, but it is worth all of the effort it takes to rise above the mental monkey into pure consciousness and, ultimately, pure bliss. Emotional management is a learned skill.
Establish a Strong Support System: Humans are social creatures, and we need the support of others to get through trying times. Establishing meaningful relationships and keeping your inner circle tight with those who fully support you will allow you to feel connected, supported, loved, and safe.
Find a Passion: It is important to have a passion in life and to pursue that passion through whatever avenue is available to you. Doing what you love allows you to enter into “flow,” that divine space where time stops, energy is unlimited, creative powers surge, and bliss lives.
Be of Service: Using your God-given gifts to be of service to others not only does good for those you are helping, but it also benefits you. Helping those who need it most releases feel-good chemicals in the brain that actually create a euphoric feeling, lessening pain and sadness and increasing joy and positive energy.
Develop a Spiritual Practice: This can include yoga, meditation, traditional religious practices, solitary prayer, etc. Those who feel connected to a spiritual practice, a higher power, the whole, and themselves find greater meaning in life, especially suffering, and this can aid in them seeing the glass as half full rather than half empty.
Practice Yoga: Yoga’s benefits are endless – increased flexibility, increased strength and balance, increased detoxification, increased relaxation, etc. The goal of yoga isn’t to become more flexible or gain greater strength, although those are wonderful benefits. The goal is to take what you learn during your 30-90 minutes of practice and apply it to the rest of the 20+ hours in your day. Mindfulness, full and complete breaths, flexibility and ease throughout your day, etc. should carry over into other areas of your life and allow you to maintain balance. Balance = Health.
Go Vegan: Or at least eat a whole foods, plant-based diet. Keeping your body’s alkalinity in check and providing it with all of the essential vitamins and minerals will allow it to support all of its necessary and vital functions. HEAR THIS: Without proper nutrition and calorie consumption, body parts will start to fail. Glands like the thyroid and adrenals require adequate nutrients to function properly. Consuming nutrient dense plant foods and avoiding toxins (alcohol, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and neurotoxins) and stimulants (caffeine and sugar) will keep your energy level up, your body functioning properly, and your skin positively glowing.
Be Your Authentic Self: Don’t let society dictate where you should or shouldn’t be in your life. Challenge your belief systems about yourself and your life, and decide what YOU want and what is best for YOU. Right now, I live with my parents while I continue to heal myself with their help, guidance, and support, and I’m ok with that. At just turning 27 years old, I’m not married, and I don’t see myself having a child anytime soon (maybe not ever). Instead, I went for a Master’s Degree and am holding onto the dream of continuing on for my Ph.D. when I feel I am healthy enough to do so. For a 27 year old woman, society would not agree with some of my choices, but I am living out of authenticity, not out of other people’s expectations of me. Be your authentic self. There is only one of you, and what this society deems as “normal” can become painfully boring if everyone followed suit. It may be right for some but not for all. Shake things up! Be a trailblazer! But most importantly, do what brings you joy.
I hope this helped! Happy Healing!