5 attitudes that helped me during chronic illness
I spent seven years and thousands of pounds recovering my health. When I began adopting these five attitudes, things began to change for the better.
"What we resist persists." - Ashok Gupta
I’ve noticed many clients (including myself) with chronic illnesses experience a state of resistance to their condition. They focus on their pasts and their futures: their ‘shoulds’, ‘coulds’ and ‘musts’.
When I talk about acceptance, they often respond with, "If I accept my condition then I’m just giving up!" But I'm not saying that. I'm saying, by accepting our current condition, we free our minds of wasted energy focusing on the past and future. We are getting rid of the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ and making the most of now.
During my journey, I was extremely resistant to my situation. I felt ‘I was better than this’, ‘I should be doing this’, ‘I could be doing that’. I lost gratitude for what I was able to do today. The moment I accepted my limitations and cultivated gratitude for the things I could do, my journey towards health began.
2. Enjoying the present
You may be thinking, ‘How can I enjoy the present, it’s horrible!’ That may be true, and I am sorry if you are going through this. I found with many clients, no matter how bad things feel, there are always things we can enjoy in the present moment.
In the words of Fatboy Slim: 'Right here, right now'.
I remember, not knowing how I was going to feel hour-to-hour let alone day-to-day. The moment I started taking each day as it came, dropping the pressure and expectations, things began to change.
Whenever you feel worried, scared or anxious, ask yourself in that moment, what can I see, hear and smell? The ability to remain calm, objective and grounded during chaos is the feeling of total presence.
An exercise I recommend to clients is to focus on their body and think about every feeling and action that they are able to perform easily, free of pain or discomfort.
Write them down:
- Can you think?
- Can you enjoy a movie?
- Can you breathe?
- Can you walk?
- Can you digest your food?
You may be surprised by how long the list becomes.
3. See this as a process or journey
I don’t always believe things happen for a reason, but suppose they did? Try asking yourself, ‘If this happened for a reason, what would the reason(s) be?’.
I developed chronic fatigue syndrome around a time when I was extremely stressed and unhappy. CFS gave me a way out to protect myself from ‘the dangers’ of life. It also inspired me to become a doctor and now a nutritional therapist, so that I can help others.
The point is, by seeing it as a process or journey, you remove resistance and stop focusing on the wrong things. It can help you focus on the big picture.
When working with clients, I always remind them that it takes time and we cannot ‘force things’. It can also help us recognise our emotional patterns and things we may need to work through to help us back to health. I always recommend working with a qualified psychotherapist for this.
Seeing things as a process or a journey removes the pressure and expectations we inflict on ourselves.
4. Allow don't strive
This may sound strange but bear with me. I’ve often found with most clients (including myself) that they are selfless perfectionists and/or overachievers by nature. They become desperate to become well and do everything in their power to find answers.
In my experience, this attitude tends not to work so well. I’ve found when we let go of resistance and pressure and recognise stressing and straining won't change anything, things begin to change for the better.
When we allow ourselves to enjoy the present and approach difficulties in a ‘happy-go-lucky way’, something changes. When I was at a low point in my journey, I decided to stop all therapies and just tried to enjoy life. I dropped all resistance and took each day as it came.
I opened my heart and mind. It was around that time that I met my health dream team.
5. Build your health dream team
Health is a team sport, and in my experience in the NHS, nobody is more important than another. You can prescribe a drug or perform surgery, but if you don’t care, monitor and rehabilitate a patient, it may have been a waste of time.
Why is it any different when dealing with chronic issues?
Often, we strive to find one person or therapy that can help. In my experience, although it certainly can, it doesn’t typically work like that. A better approach is to see ourselves as a 'wobble board' trying to stabilise the board from all angles.
Your health dream team doesn’t have to be big and it doesn’t always have to consist of professionals. I consider some of my friends and family as part of my health team. When I felt low, they helped keep things in perspective.
Here are some pointers:
- Instead of asking how you can find them, a better question is to ask ‘what do I need to do to find them?’
- Talk to people going through similar things. Try attending a health talk, an online forum or community. You will not only meet like-minded people, but they can introduce you to practitioners and therapists.
- Be patient. It’s a process.
- Trust. Trust you will find the right people. Of course, there are no guarantees and it will take time. But by following the attitudes above and trusting that somehow things will work out, you will take the pressure away and help yourself on your journey to health.
Wishing you well on your path to health.