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, which is said to be the highest stress, lowest paid profession, so...good choice. All kidding aside, 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 peaceful zen lifestyle, sometimes it doesn't seem to jibe with my job, illness, and other responsibilities. Recently, I've been angry at myself for allowing stress to make me sick or at least sicker. At the end of the day, I know whatever I was worked up about wasn't worth it.
In the United States we reward hard work, not balance. The gal or guy 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 gal or guy 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. I certainly haven't mastered it and it's something I'm always working to improve. Part of the reason illness shows up in our lives is to tell us to slow down and reevaluate. Since my Lyme disease is still alive and well I know I have a lot more work to do.
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 the chronic life. 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 a very 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.
I don't do it enough, but when I do it can change my mood or pain level in as little as 5 minutes. It is truly as good as everyone says it is.
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. I'm starting with the goal of once a week and working up to 2 or 3 times a week.
There are few things that I find more cathartic than writing and that's a major reason why I started this blog. 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 writer and licensed therapist. This is a positive space focused on how to thrive in any situation and the transformative power of illness.