“When you can maintain a level of inner tranquility no matter what is happening around you, you can avoid the damage that stress causes to your health.”
– Gerald S. Cohen, DHom, DC, FIHI founder of The Center for the Healing Process
When people recall what was happening in their lives before they first noticed the physical symptoms of autoimmune issues, they almost always have a story of a major life stressor or a cumulative chronic stress load that finally screams enough in the form of symptoms.
Take these true stories for example: For Donna, when she was a teenager a mentor betrayed her trust, and for Donna, that inconceivable shock sent her reeling; she was diagnosed with MS later that year.
Jacob came down with the “drop dead flu,” when a family melt-down in the midst of medical school completely wore him down. Soon after, he succumbed to debilitating symptoms of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.
In my case, a tumultuous relationship with my Dad, a former fighter pilot whose way was invariably the “right way,” created ongoing conflict at home throughout my childhood and hormonally-charged teen years. I was diagnosed with MS at 19.
Maybe you have experienced the connection between stress and illness in your own life?
No one escapes stressful events. We share common human burdens of illness and loss. Thankfully, our bodies are built to weather those events, and most of the time, we emerge whole and stronger for the experience.
But, if we continue to feel stressed day after day, or don’t address deeper traumas from childhood, it’s a good bet that autoimmune issues will continue to smoulder, and we will suffer from the vicious loop of stress-autoimmune-stress until we take control and break the vicious cycle.
Bottom line: If you want to heal from or prevent the advent or progression of autoimmune conditions, you must tend to your emotional wellbeing.
Many people, especially women with the classic autoimmune personality traits of over-giver, perfectionist, or people-pleaser, resist taking care of themselves first because they think it’s selfish. But it’s actually the opposite: Prioritizing your emotional wellbeing gives you more energy for your daily roles and responsibilities. Beyond increasing your energy capacity, studies show that the strategies we’ll explore lower inflammation, strengthen your immune system, increase happiness and build a better brain.
We all have ten minutes a day that we can give to ourselves. But deciding to prioritize that time and actually doing it require commitment to your well being above everything else. Consider the wise words of airline personnel: Put your own oxygen mask on first!
These are the foundational ways I take care of myself year-round, and particularly during stressful times. My hope is that you might find one or two things that you can adopt to move out of always-on fight-flight mode and into the rest and digest relaxation response. Good news that each is simple, pretty quick, and free.
Here are my eight essential, evidence-based stress-melters:
Have you experienced links between stress and your health? Which stress-melting practice resonates with you? The one(s) that works will be the one(s) you actually do. So what will you do for yourself today? Remember, when you prioritize self-care, for even 10 minutes a day, you will are proactively breaking the vicious cycle of stress and illness and moving towards the virtuous cycle of relaxation and health. Just thinking about it isn’t enough; you must do it.
For more science and strategies to deal with stress, check out Relax to Heal from Autoimmune Conditions.
Take good care!
Image Credit: Zach Betten on Unsplash