I'm not exactly sure when I became infected with Lyme disease, but what I do know is chronic stress brought it out of remission. My chosen profession is social work. I thrive on helping people find the best in themselves and sitting with them in their darkest moments, but it doesn't come without a cost. That cost is frequent flares and strange manifestations of Lyme and co-infections.
As much as I desire a mindful lifestyle, sometimes it doesn't always seem to jibe with my job and other responsibilities. At the end of the day, I know whatever I was stressed out about wasn't worth it compromising my health.
In the United States we reward hard work, not balance. The person who stays at work until 7 o'clock at night and then sits behind a laptop until they go to sleep gets the raise or promotion, not the person who leaves work at work to spend time with family or to hit up an evening yoga class. The latter is actually harder and better work. The reward is long-term health and sanity. Part of the reason illness shows up in our lives is to tell us to slow down and reevaluate.
Let's be more aware of the stress we are allowing into our bodies and do some good old fashioned self-care. And, most importantly, don't get stressed about being stressed. It's a part of life, especially when you have a chronic illness. That's where forgiveness and self-compassion come in. We're all in this together.
My Top 5 Stress Relievers:
1. Positive Self-Talk and Mindfulness
I have an active imagination, and have to talk myself down multiple times a day, but I'm getting better at putting things in perspective and practicing gratitude. When it's all said and done, there are very few things that truly matter. That Don't Sweat The Small Stuff guy had a point.
When I meditate, it can change my mood or pain level in as little as 5 minutes. It is truly as good as everyone says it is. I started with one minute and worked my way up to 5.
Taking an hour to stretch, strengthen, and be present is essential, but it's not always easy to fit into a busy schedule, especially when you add on debilitating fatigue, but once or twice a week is enough to make a difference.
There are few things that I find more cathartic than writing. Writing can take many forms—a lighthearted Twitter feed, a private journal, songwriting, etc. The point is to get what is in your head down on paper, or screen, or whatever.
5. Travel or Travel Planning
The farther I get from the stress of daily living, the more I am able to be in the present moment and enjoy all that life has to offer. But it's not always possible or affordable. That's why I love travel planning. I plan trips I may never take. I create Pinterest boards of travel photos and far off places I want to visit one day. Travel planning makes me feel calm and excited at the same time. Is there a better feeling than that?
What are your stress relievers? How can you practice more self-care in your life?
"You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy." - C. Joybell C.
I'm Kerry and I am a licensed therapist, writer & speaker. This is a positive space focused on how to thrive in any situation and the transformative power of suffering.