Doing nothing is doing something
I have a newfound appreciation for a healing technique that is certainly nothing new, but the concept is something I've brushed off for a long time. The idea of using rest as my primary healing strategy was something that I could intellectualize as being important, but my idea of rest was not as robust as perhaps it needed to be. This year, I got the message. Loud. And. Clear.
But damn was it painful. There are lots of reasons why I haven't posted much of anything over the past few months since launching the website. The long and the short of it is that I was thrown a host of curveballs in terms of my health that I had mostly ignored for a long time. I thought I had done all that I needed to do already over the last decade to turn the ship around. I was sorely mistaken. And all at once my insomnia and digestive issues were flaring up in protest. At one particularly low point in late March of this year, I was only able to eat vegetable mush and smoothies for fear of setting off a host of terrible reactions in my body. I thought long and hard about taking a leave of absence from my clinic job. I thought about postponing my own wedding even after the invitations had gone out. My digestion and insomnia were interfering so much with my daily life that I really only had one direction to go, which technically isn't even a direction to move at all. It involved staying put. On the couch, in bed, in my house. It also involved releasing any expectations I had of myself of making any forward movement on anything nonessential. My body was demanding that I take a rest. It was as if there was a force of nature inside me that was insisting that I stop everything or else I would be doomed to swim in a sea of mashed sweet potatoes and carrots forever.
Despite all that I know about what I can do to heal myself and heal others, the hardest thing to do was to not do much at all. Don't get me wrong. I still tried a lot of things, some of which worked. Here's a list of my top five things that got me through:
1- Rest. And I don't just mean sleep, though that's great too. This means canceling your plans if they aren’t fitting with what your body is needing. This means deferring things on your to-do list for as long as possible, if possible farming out as many tasks as you can to family and friends. It also means rearranging your plans to do things you enjoy while taking into account your current state of health. One example: You have dinner plans with friends booked for this weekend. You’re feeling low energy but still want to see your friends. Instead of going out to eat, you could ask them to come over with some takeout or their own dish that could make up most of the meal you eat together. Your community wants to support you. You just need to ask for it.
2- Boundaries. Do what you can to make things easier for yourself. In many cases, you don't have to respond to emails, phone calls, or texts as quickly as you think you do. Ask your co-workers to respect the limits you set around how you spend your time at work. Find ways to limit interruptions in order to create as peaceful of an environment as you can. You might need to practice a few key boundary phrases in front of the mirror: “No, Barb, I cannot help you navigate your email inbox right now. I would call tech support. “ Unless you are tech support, then you’re kind of stuck. Sorry.
Boundaries also apply at home with your family/partner/roommates. This can be tricky to navigate as our close personal relationship dynamics are often much more complex than our professional relationships. However, if you live with folks who really care about your health and well-being, they will understand that you cannot take on as much as you usually do and will likely pick up some of your slack while you take a step back.
3- Love and hugs. Having a bad day? Ask for a hug. In a lot of pain? Ask for a hug. Just want a hug? Ask for a hug. The bonding hormone oxytocin releases every time you get a good hug from someone you love. It deepens love and trust between you and your hugging partner without having to explain what you’re going through.
4- Quiet time. The emotional-spiritual piece of your health picture is often so subtle that you can cruise right by it if you're not careful. This is a big one for me. Journaling, talking with a trusted friend or therapist, taking walks, and allowing for quiet time all are great strategies. They all create space for the emotional-spiritual reasons for your struggles to make themselves clear. Some of these roots run very deep even if on the surface they might seem simple. While having a therapist is certainly not mandatory, it is extremely important that you have someone to talk to who won't judge you for feeling a certain way. Find who these people are for you and keep them close. You need someone to keep you going while you are wading through the muck.
5- Herbs. For my digestion, hormonal balance, and nervous system recalibration I relied super heavily on this tea that I steeped overnight in a quart sized mason jar. I also added ½ teaspoon of dried comfrey leaf to the tea and steeped it for an additional 10-30 minutes in the morning while I had symptoms suggestive of a stomach ulcer. I never officially confirmed this is what my issue was, but I think it must have been that since the comfrey improved my painful symptoms so dramatically. I played with the ratios a lot over time, but this was more or less the formula:
½ teaspoon licorice root - nervous system support, digestive aid, mild laxative.
½ teaspoon chamomile - nervous system support, digestive aid.
½ teaspooon motherwort - nervous system support. Good for painful gas and a litany of other things. I love this plant so much.
1 teaspoon red clover leaf - women’s hormonal balance especially for low estrogen states (PMS, menopause)
1 teaspoon dried lemon balm - nervous system support
Should you need help with any of these types of wellness issues, send me a message and we can schedule a time for a free consult about what you want to achieve and how I can help.
Lauren is a registered nurse and herbal consultant specializing in depression and anxiety during and after pregnancy. She supports people with pre or postpartum depression and anxiety through one on one coaching, classes, and online resources to create a support system through the use of herbs, trauma release work, and other body based techniques.