By Julie Holliday
Because there is no cure for chronic illness, many of us take on enormous responsibility for doing whatever we possibly can to improve our well-being. As a Self-Help Guru, taking responsibility for our own well-being is what I am all about. Unfortunately, though, it’s very easy for our efforts to become counter-productive.
We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to find the answers and do everything that we think we could possibly do to produce improvements in our health. We may spend hours worrying about what might have been the cause of the latest flare, so that we can try to avoid it in the future. Every time we have a crash, we may worry about what will that mean for our future. Am I going to recover to the same level? How far is this going to set my recovery back?
We may get excited when we hear about a new protocol or healer yet frustrated if we can’t afford it or don’t have the energy to invest in the appointments. We can torment ourselves with worries about whether ‘the thing that will make the difference’ is out there, but we haven’t found it yet – and about whether we will recognize it if we come across it. Should I have tried that treatment that I decided I couldn’t afford or didn’t quite feel right at the time? Am I doing enough?
The bottom line though is that whatever else our body needs, it will not heal without peace and relaxation. One major way we can take control over optimizing our wellbeing is to choose to take the pressure off ourselves: to make sure we approach self-help in a very relaxed and laid back manner. This takes compassion and acceptance: a recognition that there is no magic wand, but that as long as we are kind to ourselves and can prioritize peace and relaxation, there are many small steps we can take, one at a time, that can all add up to substantial improvements to our wellbeing.
Another element to finding more peace and relaxation is to care less about the outcome. Yes, we need to be able to hope, but that needs to be balanced with an attitude that enables us to make the most out of the here and now. If we can find ways to be happy in the here and now, then a better future won’t matter so much! If we are too invested in a better future, we remain in a state of tension until we get there. And let’s face it, whatever improvements we may be able to achieve are unlikely to happen quickly! Becoming less detached from what we are hoping to get out of things takes the pressure off, keeps us in a more relaxed state, and paradoxically, gives things a better chance to actually work. This detachment has to be genuine though, and the only way to make it so is to learn to be happy and content with where you are now.
Another tool I use to keep the pressure off is to choose my beliefs carefully. I choose to believe the things that will serve to help me be as relaxed and happy as I can be in the here and now. Generally, if we look hard enough, we can find evidence for whatever we choose to believe. So, I choose the beliefs that keep me most peaceful and look for the evidence that will back it up. This can be particularly useful when faced with an unidentifiable worsening of symptoms.
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For example, during one period, I had a couple of nasty setbacks which included more typical flu-like symptoms that I don’t usually experience when something is going around. I usually just get a sore throat and a major drop in my energy levels. I chose to believe that these more normal looking flu-like symptoms represented progress. Maybe they meant my immune system was acting more normally!
In reality, who knows whether I was right or not? I haven’t experienced a miraculous cure. But the beliefs I chose supported my wellbeing in that moment and I’m happy with that. It doesn’t really matter too much whether they were true or not; they served their purpose of keeping me as relaxed and peaceful as possible and optimizing the conditions for my healing!*
I choose to believe I will get better because I’m happier with that belief. I choose not to believe in a miraculous cure because I know that belief will only bring me tension and frustration. I choose to believe that I can support my body in its healing efforts and that one day the balance will tip, and it will finally win the battle again this disease.
Do your beliefs support your peace and happiness in the here and now?
How can you be more relaxed in your self-help efforts?
*Please don’t ignore or dismiss any new symptoms. New symptoms always need to be checked out with your doctor.
This article was first published on ProHealth.com on November 4, 2015 and was updated on April 23, 2021.
About the Author: Julie Holliday is a holistic life coach and writer committed to helping people overcome their challenges and live a great life despite chronic illness. Writing as the ME/CFS Self-Help Guru, Julie shares tips on her weekly blog. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.