It all started with compassion:
Last week I shared a personal story about a very low point in my life; possibly the lowest. Today I want to share with you how my recovery started.
If you read my story from last week you know what it looked like. After months of increasing pain I found myself laying in bed and feeling miserable. I reached a bottom that was frightening and uncomfortable and it pushed me to do something very unusual: I gave myself permission to rest. For the longest time I had been on autopilot. It was my desire to be the “perfect” mom: an accomplished business woman, a good wife, the picture of health, and a competitive athlete.
Maybe you too can relate. Have you been ignoring what you need to do for yourself while trying to please others or live up to unrealistic standards? Are you pushing through pain every single day just to get everything done and feel good enough? If you can relate to any of these feelings then please read on. Everyone’s journey is different, but I hope that what I have to share will help you.
We are a society of doers. Many of us base our success and even our perceived value by how much we’ve accomplished. We try to fit so many things in our day, putting self care at the end of the list. You can do this for a while, but experience tells me you will eventually have to stop and listen to what your body is trying to tell you. If you don’t listen when the messages are subtle, they will grow louder and larger until one day you can no longer ignore them.
“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”
― Tony Robbins
On the day I hit my “bottom” I vacillated between the desire to stay in my bed forever, and the old, re-run message to suck it up and get on with my day. As I lay there crying, something I often tell my children came to mind. You can do the same thing over and over, but you’ll keep getting the same results. In order for things to change you MUST do something different.
So I decided to do something radically different. Instead of pushing through my day, I chose to treat myself the way I would treat someone else if they were suffering. I started by making a list of all the things that I suggest my clients do when they are suffering from back pain. And then I began trying them all. Taking care of myself that day felt oddly uncomfortable. It was a struggle to not feel weak and ashamed, but even with that challenge, the more I did for myself that day, the better I felt.
If you are someone looking for action items, (something specific to do for yourself today) here is what I did:
Took a long, hot shower
Massaged my low back with my favorite muscle cream (a blend of Biofreeze and Arnicare)
Stretched my hips and low back
Rotated ice and heat, 20 minutes on / 20 minutes off
Slept off and on when I could get comfortable
Although all of those things helped, it really was the acceptance of my situation and the surrender to self-compassion that made the biggest difference. It was as if a weight I had been dragging around was suddenly gone, and even though the pain was still present, I felt a distinct change in my mood. After some research on this topic I discovered this feeling wasn’t all in my head; it was however, in my hormones! Kristin Neff, associate professor of human development at the University of Texas, is a pioneer in the research of self-compassion. Although research is still pending, Neff hypothesizes a simple model: Harsh self-criticism activates the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight response”) and elevates stress hormones such as cortisol in our bloodstream. High levels of cortisol can slow healing and normal cell regeneration. Self-compassion, on the other hand, may trigger hormones affiliated with connection and love, such as oxytocin. Also known as the “cuddle hormone,” oxytocin is associated with feelings of content and can induce a general sense of well-being.
If you are just beginning the journey of recovery from the effects of chronic pain, I encourage you to start with self compassion. Stop believing you have to do it all; ask for and accept help, and love yourself enough to say no sometimes. It does not make you weak or less than. In fact, through my eyes, it makes you courageous.
If you’re struggling with pain I encourage you to start practicing daily self care. Do at least one thing every day that helps you feel better. If you’re not sure where to start try something from my list above.
In my next blog post I’ll provide more detailed inform on some of the other things that helped me heal. If you’d like to learn more sign up for our newsletter or like us on Facebook.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. Massage has been one of the most beneficial healing modalities I use. Perhaps it’s time for you to give it a try. Call for a FREE consultation to see if massage may work for you. If we aren’t confident we can make a difference we will be sure to refer you to someone we believe can. You’ve got to start somewhere. You matter – and you’re worth it!