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Self-Help Goals in the New Year: Here’s the Biggest Mistake We All Make

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With an illness like chronic Lyme disease, self-help can play a big part in our well-being. When little help is available from the medical profession, we can be very motivated to do what we can to minimize our Lyme disease symptoms and to be as happy and as healthy as possible. However, there is one thing that is guaranteed to get in the way of our progress despite all our good work. And yet it’s the most natural thing in the world: wanting to see results!

We do things because we want to see a change; we take extra rests during a crash or flare because we want to get back to where we were; we change our diet hoping our gut health symptoms improve; we take supplements wanting to have more energy and vitality; we meditate and learn relaxation skills wanting to be able to sleep better; we implement self-care strategies like detox. Self-help is hard when you have little energy and chronic pain, and in order to find the motivation to keep at it, we fixate on where we want to be as a result of it. But that attachment to outcome brings a whole host of problems that ultimately spoil our efforts and impede our progress.

As a coach, I understand how belief in the results is essential for motivation and often encourages people to keep their eye on the prize. However, over the years of working with people with chronic illnesses, I’ve noticed how this can so easily turn into the kind of attachment that just gets in the way.

Self-Help and Recovery from Lyme Disease

How do attachments gets in the way?

Quite simply, when we are desperate to see a result, we feel frustrated and disappointed when we don’t see it, or at least when we don’t see it fast enough. These feelings bring tension into our body, which gets in the way of our progress. This tension may even increase Lyme disease symptoms. If your body is already perceiving itself as being under threat (by not having enough energy for functioning or because of the pain signals it’s receiving), that tension will just add to the strength of the threat perceived. It will also be using energy that could otherwise be used more effectively and could be feeding into and amplifying secondary pain signals.

In order to give all our self-help the best chance of getting results, we need to approach it from a place of being at peace, which basically means being accepting of what is in this moment, which means not being attached to the results you want to see.

How do you let go of attachments?

The first step to any change is always awareness. When you notice a sense of striving or desperation around what you’re doing, then it’s likely that you’re feeling attached to a particular result. Frustration and disappointment are other indicators of that attachment. Once you have the awareness that attachment is present, the next part of dealing with it is absolutely crucial: acceptance, understanding and compassion. It’s totally understandable that you feel this way in this situation. It’s OK that you’re feeling this sense of desperation or frustration. They are totally normal and natural responses. It’s totally understandable to want things to be different when you’re suffering. Then (and only once you’ve offered yourself this compassion) you can gently remind yourself that attachment isn’t serving you. Remind yourself that accepting the way things are and being at peace with it is going to give your body a better chance of recovery from Lyme disease – that your self-help will be more effective without that tension.

Can you get motivated without attachments?

I’m very careful not to get into wanting to see a specific outcome in a specific time frame. Instead, I do my self-help with the intention of being as happy and healthy as I can be today. I trust that whatever I do for my health in regards to Lyme disease treatment will have a positive impact on my future too, without fixating on wanting to get there. I still have an intention for where I’d like to move towards, but instead of focusing on getting to the destination, I pay attention to the fact that in this moment I am moving in the right direction, which is a healing mindset for me.

For example, when I’m in an extended crash, I let go of wanting to feel better each day, and instead focus on accepting where I am, and I peacefully distracting myself while I wait for the worst to pass. I trust that it will. I trust that I am moving forward (however imperceptibly), and I keep my focus in the present moment, knowing that this is the best thing I can do for myself right now.

When I am able to let go of wanting to see the results, life is so much more relaxing. I know that this relaxation is creating the best conditions possible for my healing. I know that I am doing the best I can do for myself to continue to move forward.

This article was first published on ProHealth.com on November 19, 2018 and was updated on December 30, 2019.

Julie Holliday, ProHealth’s Inspirational Editor, is a holistic life coach and writer committed to helping people take back control from energy-limiting chronic illness to live a more relaxed, balanced and fulfilling life. Julie loves spending time in nature, growing her own vegetables and spends as much of her day as possible in a comfortable pair of yoga pants. Writing as the ME/CFS Self-Help Guru, Julie shares tips on her weekly blog. You can also follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

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By ProHealth-Editor

Karen Lee Richards is ProHealth’s Editor-in-Chief. A fibromyalgia patient herself, she co-founded the nonprofit organization now known as the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) and served as its vice-president for eight years. She was also the executive editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE, the very first full-color, glossy magazine devoted to FM and other invisible illnesses. After leaving the NFA, Karen served as the Guide to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the New York Times website About.com, and then for eight years as the Chronic Pain Health Guide for The HealthCentral Network.To learn more about Karen, see "Meet Karen Lee Richards."

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