Healing — true healing — always involves change. Whether you are trying to recover from a cold or a long-term chronic issue, you have to do something different to support the body’s restorative mechanisms and promote healing.
Just as we must take responsibility for ourselves and change something when we want to heal, we also must acknowledge that same responsibility is in effect when we become ill. There’s something we’re doing that is weakening our body and/or mind that allows dis-ease to take root. If we’re not honest with ourselves about this fact, healing becomes difficult if not impossible.
Whether it’s poor eating habits, lack of rest, overcommitment, or a sedentary lifestyle — or one of many, many other possibilities — our habits are the foundation out of which emerges either more life and vitality or depletion of vital resources and resulting fatigue and dis-ease.
So, on this July 5th, the day after Independence Day 2014, I want to give you 3 things you can do to declare independence from habits that deplete your vitality and make you more susceptible to everything from colds and flus to mood problems to potentially serious chronic diseases.
Step One: Be Kind to Yourself
One of the most destructive habits we can engage in, and one that in my opinion is at the root of just about all chronic disease, is overindulging in self-criticism, shame, and guilt.
In my 10 years in practice, dealing with a lot of deeply emotional conditions like infertility, miscarriage, depression, anxiety, and autoimmune disease (among others), nothing has stood out to me more than how good we can become at beating ourselves up. And, I’ve witnessed firsthand not only how destructive this can be, but how liberating and healing it is when self-criticism, shame, and guilt are replaced with self-forgiveness, kindness, and unconditional love.
There’s reason this is the first step in this article — it’s absolutely fundamental to everything. Nothing really works without a serious commitment to be kind, gentle, and merciful towards yourself. You won’t be perfect at this, nobody ever is. But, begin this practice as soon as possible, i.e. RIGHT NOW.
Whenever you catch yourself being mean, disparaging, or angry (or directing any other negative emotion) towards yourself, stop right there. Take a few deep, gentle breaths, and shift that energy towards kindness and mercy. You can even repeat the words “I love myself completely, I refuse to be mean to myself…” or some other phrase that helps you break the thought stream and redirect your mind in a positive direction.
Do this, and do it often. Even if it seems like it’s not working at first, keep doing it. Eventually that part of yourself that is mean to you will start to become less dominant, and you will start to get a taste of the freedom that comes with self-directed loving-kindness.
Step Two: Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
I remember when I was starting out as a clinician. I was continually trying to assess my level of expertise and success by looking at other clinics and clinicians. I would look at websites from other clinics, read and look at their materials, and generally get myself caught up in wondering if I would ever “get there”.
This one day I had a complete shift. I’ll never forget it. It was probably the first day where I had several patients back-to-back. I became so engrossed in the process of being with my patients, and being focused on their cases, and being in my own flow, that I completely forgot about everything else, including what my “competitors” might be doing.
At the end of the day, I felt amazing. I knew I had helped a lot of people, and I had done so by being completely present, by being myself and doing MY thing.
From that day on, I resolved to spend as little time possible thinking about what other people were doing, and as much time possible focusing on the present, the here and now, and being as authentic as possible in my practice.
It was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. And, not coincidentally, my practice grew exponentially after this. Not because I was doing things that much differently, but because instead of dispersing my energy outwards, thinking about what was going on in other places or with other people, I was focusing my energy into my own domain, where I could actually make a difference.
That concentrated energy not only helped me feel better, I became an even better clinician and many of my patients started to achieve results far beyond even my expectations.
It’s easy to get caught up in thinking about what other people have or do or represent and turn that back on yourself as comparison. All this does is disperse your energy and deplete it.
Whenever you catch yourself thinking about what’s going on somewhere else, or wondering why so-and-so has X and you have Y — again — stop right there. Every second you spend in that place you are depleting your own vital resources. Redirect your mind to the present moment, and make YOUR domain the most healing, positive, loving place you possibly can.
You won’t be perfect at this. And, you’ll still have many, many moments where you find yourself wondering, ruminating, getting lost in thought. Go back to step one, and remember, be kind and gentle towards yourself, and let it go. Bring yourself back to this moment, and get to work focusing your energies on YOUR life, YOUR process… On being YOURSELF.
Step Three: Learn to Say “No”
Many of us are taught growing up to be giving, to be self-deprecating, to go out of our way to make others comfortable. In social situations, this is called “graciousness”. But in the world of healing, doing this to excess becomes destructive.
You need “YOU” time. Time to reflect, recuperate, regenerate. If you are continually taking care of the needs of others, you are like a faucet that never turns off. The water just keeps flowing and flowing out of the tank, and the tank eventually runs dry.
When the tank runs dry, you may start to resent the people you are trying to please or take care of. That’s not because they did anything to you, it’s because you haven’t given yourself enough respect to say “no” and claim some space.
That energy, continually moving outward to serve others, gets out of balance and actually creates the opposite effect. Now, you are exhausted and frustrated, and your ability to be there for others is diminished.
This is a perfect illustration of the principle of Yin and Yang. In Chinese Medicine, we say that anytime something becomes too excessively Yang, it will transform to Yin, and vice versa. If you are excessively doing, doing, doing (which is a Yang state of continualy movement and activity), you eventually wear out and — whether you like it or not — Yin takes over and you have to stop, you are exhausted. The opposite is also true. Being withdrawn and isolated all the time (a Yin state) will lead to agitation, restlessness, and even aggressiveness (a Yang state).
If you are feeling tired and depleted, by all means, claim some extra time and rest. Be alone. Say “no” to that social engagement you would usually agree to attend. Say “no” when that coworker asks a favor for you to work overtime to help them. Say “no” to the next thing that makes you feel like you might be over-committing yourself. Say “no” to staying up until 1am watching that TV show instead of going to bed early and resting.
By claiming that time and space for yourself, to rest and recuperate, you’ll be gathering your energies towards your own center, where they are then directed towards restorative, regenerative processes.
Follow these three steps, and you’ll find an ever-increasing sense of vitality, inspiration, and creativity. These are the keys to living a full, healthy, vibrant life and overcoming any situation of dis-ease.