Our recent trip to Mexico reminded me of the importance of taking time for rest and relaxation. To regroup and destress. Unwind and do a lot of nothing.
I realize this is another integral piece of my healing puzzle.
Cancer thrives on stress. Most diseases do. When we are overworked, overextended, and pushed to the limit our bodies react. We go into “flight or fight” mode. Cortisol levels spike. Adrenaline zips through our bodies. If stress continues unchecked our bodies begin to break down. Immune systems falter. Skin reactions like breakouts and rashes occur. Organs become taxed and begin to shutdown. Aches and pains are magnified. Tissues and cells are damaged.
I recently learned through the testing my naturopath did that my own cortisol levels were in a reverse curve as a result of the chronic stress I was under for the last four years. Now we are trying to rewire it back to normal with supplements and diet & lifestyle changes.
Despite knowing how important this piece of the puzzle is, I still struggle with making rest and relaxation a priority. A lot of people do.
A big reason for this is the society we live in… With its messages about working hard and being productive… The admonishments about being lazy… It is built into the fabric of the United States. The country that gives workers a mere 2 weeks vacation (while places like Brazil and Sweden get 4-6 weeks)… The country that offers no paid maternity or paternity leave – making us the ONLY first world nation on Earth to deny parents this right. We are clearly delivering the message that working hard and being “productive” is the most important thing in life… And then we wonder why our kids are so messed up!?!?? Don’t get me started…
Even as a stay-at-home-mom I feel judged. I feel the need to detail just how busy my days are. To dispel the false perception that being a SAHM means I sit on my ass all day and watch TV. In truth, it is the hardest job I’ve ever had.
Most of my life I’ve bought into these false notions. Believing somehow that my worth was based on how much I accomplished. I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I’ve worked steadily since the age of 15 – Sometime working 3 different jobs at once… Often times juggling work with school to pay my way through college… Burning the candle at both ends.
But our bodies can only live like this for so long.
When cancer came knocking on my door in 2011 I knew things had to change.
At the beginning of my cancer journey I read an amazing book – Lynn’s Legacy by Christa Johnson, MD. One part in particular stuck with me… Her acknowledgment that, “It is not unusual for a person to develop [illness]…. as the only way he or she can justify taking time out to get needed rest.” Shit. That was me.
After years of being stressed to the max and caring for everyone else but myself, I finally had a way to justify taking care of me. How sad that the reason was metastatic breast cancer. A part of me believes the Universe brought metastatic disease into my life so I would always have the perfect “excuse” to take care of myself. But now my goal is to embrace self care, rest, and relaxation for its own sake. For my sake. Because it is necessary. Because I deserve it. And not cling to cancer for justification.
So what do I do to rest, relax, and take care of myself? I blog… I read… I continue go for reiki sessions… I exercise… I meditate… I go for walks in the woods or head to the beach… I take vacations… I watch the sunset… I chat with my girlfriends… I spend time with those I love… I make regular trips to NYC (which I’m doing again this week! Yay!)… And I’m trying to be ok with just sitting around and doing nothing every once and a while.
Most people assume the changes to my diet predicated my healing. Although I know that is a major piece of the puzzle, I also know in my heart that it is the deeper work, the psychological work, the soul work that has truly made a difference.
Listen to your soul. Take care of yourself. And find some time for a little R&R.
Peace. - T