Are you sick and tired of being Sick and Tired? The breaking point when you won’t tolerate it anymore is the point your new healthier life begins. It is the twist in your personal plot. Being ready to heal though doesn’t mean you know what to do next. Since your symptoms come from your personal experiences, healing will be a personal journey. Fortunately, many have come before you, including myself. The unique part of healing is also the story of how you got to this point of desperation. Was it an injury? A singular event that set the tone for the rest of your life. Maybe you have always had constipation, or anxiety, or insomnia. The consistent components that play into all stories of healing are the need for sleep, nourishing food, hydration, and emotional/mental well-being.
I don’t know you. I haven’t looked at your case and asked you the “10,000 questions” that characterize Oriental Medicine. I have lived through my pains and healing and helped many others. So here is what I would suggest. Have outside help while you journey to personal healing. This can be a medical or mental health practitioner, friend, spiritual advisor, friendly neighbor, acupuncturist, or family member. You probably feel alone since your pains and deprivations are a personal experience. It is always worse when you don’t have community. And as an introvert, I understand the need for community and times when there has been too much “people time”.
What should you do first? Get educated about your symptoms. Include both the Western Medicine (allopathic) view and traditional/non-traditional methods of analysis. While arthritis is a common joint problem after injury, the Eastern approach looks at how it is affected by weather change, lack of movement in the joint, too much blood stuck in one position, cold and heat accumulation, and more. These components are the basis for finding your personal pattern. As you come to understand the limits of your condition, you should also be able to find other ways to make a difference.
Next, you will need to tackle the imbalances in your sleep, diet, water intake, mood and emotions. If we were able to make all these changes at once, we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion because you would be on top of it. The reality is chronic conditions, injuries that decrease mobility, traumatic experiences, and genetic conditions/susceptibilities need long term sustainable approaches. Flipping your life overnight would make it hard to be consistent when you have no energy and day-to-day life interrupts your good intentions. Healing is a journey because we meander. Sometimes it feels all uphill, all downhill, or like you were just covered by a mudslide. So which change comes first. It’s your choice but most likely you need to decide which you are able to do and sustain and which is most needed. They don’t always overlap.
In addition, what are the changes you need to make. Since there is so much personal understanding that needs to occur, I can give you generals and you will have to experience them to figure out the specifics. Sleep. Everyone needs it. Anyone that thinks they are fine on less is not understanding what they are doing to the adrenal system. It will come back to haunt them. What do we need to consider about sleep?
- Do you go to bed early enough? It is best to be asleep by 10:30 p.m. according to Chinese Medicine, otherwise you catch a second wind
- Do you eat early enough? It is best to sleep on an emptied stomach, this means 2-3 hours before you sleep but not hungry.
- Do you stop neuro-stimulants for relaxing self-care? The light from computers, cell phones, kindles/nooks, and tablets all stimulate the brain with blue light.
- Try replacing even habits with reading, hot baths or foot soaks, night time herbal teas that soothe (lavender, chamomile lattes, honey hot milk, golden milks, tension tamer by celestial seasonings
- This is a good time to talk with family at home, take care of light chores for the next day, light preparing lunches, etc.
- Try night time yoga for sleep, qi gong, meditation or prayer to shut down the body and mind comfortably
- Write about your day. This is a good way to let go of things so you are ready to sleep
- Are you surviving on caffeine or believe it doesn’t affect you?
- Either way, no caffeine for one month is best to reset your clock.
- Try taking B vitamins if you do not have MTHFR genes. A b 50 complex should be enough. Try an a.m. dose so it doesn’t disturb sleep. If you have low adrenals a b vitamin around 3 p.m. will actually help with sleep
- Is it too bright in your room? We are wired to be aware of light, think wildfires and living in nature. Too much light will stimulate. Try a mask, or light blocking curtains.
- Do you sleep in a room that is too hot/cold/windy/quiet noisy?
- This is a self-experience. If you sleep in a cold room, trying to warm it up. Same for noise. You may need quiet which could require ear plugs (as long as you are not a sole provider for children) or a white noise machine or app. Learn your needs.
- Does pain keep you from sleeping?
- The above self-care can help. Also make sure to work with a consistent pain-relieving routine.
- Massaging pain areas
- Joints get something like a liniment
- Abdomen gets circular massage (clockwise for constipation, counterclockwise for diarrhea/loose stool)
- Apply a heat pack this will often get the blood flowing and decrease pain (if you have neuropathy, or infection, talk to your health care professional to insure you understand the benefits and dangers of heat application)
- Lotion your skin and include an herbal fragrance such as lavender to calm you spirit and impact your pain
- The above self-care can help. Also make sure to work with a consistent pain-relieving routine.
Water should be the easiest change to tackle. The harder part is making sure we aren’t consuming diuretic drinks in opposition. Teas and coffee can be high in antioxidants, but they drain our fluids. If you are prescribed a diuretic for blood pressure or cardiovascular issues, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about water needs and how to maintain hydration. If it is hard to remember to drink water because you lack thirst, start each day by drinking eight to sixteen ounces. This helps your body to initial the cue to drink water. Many times, dehydration leads to a false sense of hunger. There are many methods to track water from placing a series of rubber bands on your container to count how many times your fill it, bottles that have time trackers, and more. I have two bottles I fill at the beginning of the day. I try to drink through both twice. There are apps that will track your water intake and notify you when it is time to drink.
What do we need to change for diet? Anything that gets a cultural label of junk food or trash food, should be called not food. I get it. The oreos and nutty buddys call my name. But more like the call of a taunting enemy that wants their needs met at the cost of mine. On the other hand, living in deprivation of foods we like also leads to other problems such as bingeing or giving up. If you have the energy to tackle a large dietetic change, I can recommend the following diets to use for sustainable changes:
The Metabolic Reset Diet by Alan Christianson, ND
Flat Belly Diet by Cynthia Sass, Liz Vaccariello
The Complete Mediterranean Diet: Everything You Need to Know to Lose Weight and
Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease by Micheal Ozner, MD
If you have Crohns, IBS, autoimmune issues please look at the following diets:
Ultimately, all changes need to be sustainable and within reason. If you are living on a limited budget, it may seem hard to switch to higher nutrition foods that aren’t processed because of time of cost. Without your health, you don’t have the capacity to enjoy life. I recommend studying and planning before a large diet change. Typically, we know some of the foods we shouldn’t be eating. Eliminate one or two of those and find suitable replacements. Instead of a cookie, try an apple with nut butter. If you have a sugary latte every day, start backing down the sugar content and work towards black coffee over time. Or even be bold and start embracing herbal teas!
I saved the hardest for last, yet it is the most critical. Mental and emotional well-being. This is the part that fuels the rest. If we don’t adopt a mindset for healing, it doesn’t happen. We need to understand we will need our bravery. It is a bold move in our culture to put our health first. It is bold to realize the thoughts and emotions we have listened to for years are also shared with our bodies. If we want the body to change, thoughts need to change. But not by manhandling them, not by over-riding them. Change comes from recognition they have something valuable to impart. Anger lets us know we feel powerless; even less than. Fear indicates a potentially dangerous situation. Worry is our mind spinning in circles looking for answers without trying to bring in new perspectives. These have their gifts. It is how we handle the moment that damages our relationship with ourselves. To heal, we need to embrace and feel the emotion but not indulge the thought. Our brain is pretty happy to act like a recorder that simply spits out what it has heard before. This means, we need to challenge our thoughts and beliefs for validity. In a manner it is becoming more logical about our emotions without avoiding feeling them. This part of the journey requires time for self-reflection, self-inspection, and help from others in your community. Recognize that you may have a toxic community and will need to start working to create a kind, supportive group and begin to turn away from the toxic.
I know this is a lot. I have lived it and continue to live it. We are heroes though. It takes a lot of brave actions, many moments of struggle with the old choices to make new ones, to become a more comfortable healthier you.