By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
Something that’s come up in clinic several times in the past few weeks is a remark of: “I’m tired of fighting with my body…”
Is this something you’ve said to yourself? Or maybe you have felt like it’s so much work to keep things in balance to stay well, or that you’re constantly battling with hormone imbalance and annoying symptoms. Sometimes we feel that our body is working against us.
This is a perfectly normal response. Why me? Why is it so hard? How come those other people don’t have to work so hard at it?
This has really got me thinking about how to find ease with what’s required to stay healthy and strong. Shifting your mindset around self-care is one of the most powerful thing you can do. Mindset is just as important as the things you physically for health and wellness, and is the key to making your self-care into a sustainable life-long practice.
1. Start with self-acceptance
Self acceptance, or making peace with your body is the first step to healing, regardless of how serious the illness or health issues. My good friend and colleague Dr. Teri Jaklin says: “Working with the body is much easier than working against the body. Too often we make the body the enemy and that just doesn’t work. It’s like shadowboxing – you never win. But when you make peace and show self-compassion you can connect deeply with what your body truly needs for healing.”
2. Find things to appreciate
Taking an attitude of gratitude will re-frame your health, and get you out of a victim mindset. Appreciating what is working can completely shift your perspective, optimism, attitude, and remarkably how you feel. Begin with small things you are grateful for: waking up happy in the morning, your strong body, your resilience, and the small steps forward. You may also be grateful that you have figured out what’s needed to keep your body strong and well – not everyone has deciphered the code to their chronic struggles.
3. Recognize how far you’ve come
If you’re getting frustrated with the pace of recovery or the winding path that your health is taking, take a look back and recognize how far you’ve come. Again that shift in attitude will help you to recognize the small things to be grateful for. Look back to the days where it felt out of control, when you didn’t understand why you were getting joint pains, headaches, mood swings, energy dips, and more. Notice how much you have learned since then.
4. Practice self-care with ‘flexible consistency’
Pay attention to the aspects of your self-care that are non-negotiable, and which ones are added bonuses. Are there a couple of things that really make a difference? Is moving your body and exercising several times per week absolutely key to your mental health? Is prioritizing sleep the most important factor to prevent pain flare-ups? Is avoiding dairy products the key to keeping your skin clear? Recognize which practices are essential, and which ones you can bend.
Also, try to view your self-care with an attitude of flexible consistency. For example, with a daily meditation practice your aim may be 20 minutes of meditation daily, but on days when life is packed full spending a few minutes thinking about what you are grateful for before falling asleep can still count. This prevents the on-again, off-again approach that so many of us take, and allows a long-term commitment to your self-care practices.
5. Mix it up
When we find something that works, we may become rigid with our self-care practices in an almost superstitious way. For example, eating exactly the same breakfast every day, repeating the same type of exercise, or going to the same yoga classes. Even if it is working well, there will come a time where your mind and body rebels from the same routine. Mix it up to keep life interesting, and also to give yourself the element of choice on a regular basis. This will keep your self-care from becoming boring or tedious.
6. Ride the waves
We all have bad days, weeks or months, and this is simply part of life, and also part of health and healing. If you’re having a bad stretch, continue your usual self-care, take extra time to rest, ask for help from your support networks, and ride the wave. Tap into your own experience, and resilience, remembering that these phases don’t last, and trusting that you now have the tools to move through it.
7. Stop comparing
One thing that has become enormously evident to me through my work is that everyone has their own struggle, even those who seem to have it all together. You truly are not alone. In the words of Brene Brown: “Everyone has a story or a struggle that will break your heart. And, if we’re really paying attention, most people have a story that will bring us to our knees.”
8. Talk to yourself as you would a friend
When you’re being hard on yourself, too critical, or judging where you’re at, think about how you would feel if you saw a friend doing this. Listen to your self-talk, and gently re-frame as if you were speaking with a good friend or someone you love. Your body really is on your side, and eventually the messages from symptoms that are so painful, annoying or disruptive will become clear.
I’m going to finish this article with one of my favourite quotes, and would love for you to practice this.
and i said to my body. softly.
‘i want to be your friend.’
it took a long breath. and replied
‘i have been waiting my whole life for this.
– NAYYIRAH WAHEED