Let’s get personal. And if I’m gonna be real, then you know it’s gonna get metaphysical. If you’re perfectly healthy, you may still score an idea or two for calmer days. And I wonder…have you noticed how “self-care” is annoyingly over-saturated in the market? I’m going to attempt to use the term less here. But however you label it, directing kindness to yourself in fresh, brave, even counter-cultural ways matters. It matters to your health, relationships, and community. There are seasons on my journey living with chronic illness I am compelled to shift into radical self-kindness mode. (Flares of Crohn’s disease, pancreatitis, Raynaud’s phenomenon, and BRCA2+ genetic mutation issues.) Finding calm is an ongoing journey.
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Chronic Illness & Ideas for a Calmer Journey
With chronic illness flares, there are bad days when I struggle to articulate where my pain originates and which symptoms are most problematic. Frequently, I just don’t feel like myself. Irritability is a doozy to address. Sometimes language fails due to ocular migraine which for me causes partial blindness, dizziness, brain fog, and speech disturbance. Whether my thoughts are fuzzy or not, on a a bad day, anxiety can surface.
Do I draw strength from the Divine Mystery? Yes. Ask for help from family? Sometimes (I’m fiercely independent so I’m a work in progress). TLC for myself involves becoming a witness to my needs. Like the loving gaze of a devoted parent for a weary child. I become the calm loving mama who fills with mercy.
These ideas for calm spring from such a loving gaze…a gaze of grace from which to draw strength and healing.
1. Slow & Tender Mornings
Since I work from home, I count it a supreme blessing to be able to structure my day according to my needs.
I wonder what calm awaits if you were to awaken 20 minutes earlier to journal, sketch, meditate, stretch, or walk in nature? Contemplative prayer is my thing, but your thing may be yoga or relaxing with a book.
For me, morning rituals and a slower pace set me up for calm, no matter what symptoms may emerge. Who knows what the afternoon, work-related stress, or evening ahead hold? A fresh start where I align with God and open my heart is a chance to get centered and where a capacity to cope expands.
2. Notice the Breath
In my 40s, more often than not, I held my breath. Challenged by raising teens, work demands, and illness, I deprived myself of slow living and noticing the breath. Unfortunately, things had to fall apart before I could begin to breathe again.
We can tackle problems, face difficulty, and interact while breathing deep.
You, your immune system, and the cells in your body deserve the calmness and blessing of oxygen as it enters you, as your nervous system regulates.
3. Stop Mistrusting the Body
Ever struggle with trying to make sense of why your energy is low? It happens quite often for me, and I have learned to notice when I am overthinking. I have to ignore cultural messages that reinforce hustling, pushing through, endurance, and surpassing limits. To deeply respect my body’s wisdom is more important. Sometimes sluggishness is a clue I need to move my body or get sunshine, but if I HAVE been moving and my eyes want to close, I close them. I don’t need to ever feel shame for requiring periods of recovery.
An important aspect of listening with love is foregoing judgment, and this applies to listening to the body as well.
4. Opening Heart Space
This mind of mine can become a flurry of lists, insecurities, confusion, and worry. Some of us seem intent on appeasing the worry gods with our worry.
For me, letting go of thoughts and opening my heart is a daily practice. This heart simply closes every time I become annoyed, feel resentful, judge, get triggered or am wounded.
My illness can be an aid to keep my heart open and vulnerable. In a weakened physical state, my compassion for others who struggle grows. But self-pity can also accompany suffering and blind me from blessings.
Daily spiritual practice helps because it doesn’t matter how much of a mess I am when I offer myself to it. Emptying happens. A calm emerges when I don’t have to perform. When the challenge is simply to allow each fleeting thought to drift away. If a thousand worries drift into my consciousness, a thousand opportunities emerge to free them, to return to God or Love or Mystery a thousand times.
Daily contemplative practice is not an ephemeral escape from life or reality. As thoughts fly free and my heart is in a surrendered posture, there’s an entry into a sacred spaciousness where I begin to see more clearly how all is sacred.
Relax & Let Go Even If You Only Doodle
I sit at the piano to play, sing, and write every single day. Maybe it’s watercolor painting for you. Journaling is another way to let go of what needs to go and bring expression to what needs expressing.
5. Boundary Setting & Saying NO Without Guilt
Have trouble saying no because of FOMO or people-pleasing or reasons mysterious even to you? Self-kindness helps keep you balanced, healthy, and joyful so you may enter relationships and life fully.
Since you cannot possibly do ALL the things, saying no is inevitable. If you are not disappointing other people now and then because of your healthy boundaries, are you even living freely? (I am ever disappointing others – it isn’t pleasant, but it gets easier as you realize your health depend on it.)
Setting boundaries and saying no are not selfish. I heard Joanna Blakely say she cares for herself “for the good of the realm.” Yes! It’s true!
Loving yourself well is a gorgeous gift to the realm!
3. Slow the Pace
We already know this. Body, mind, and spirit are depending on us to slow down. Messages are everywhere to do the opposite, but we aren’t machines.
Think about how much attention spans, impatience, and tolerance have shrunk in the last decade. Why have we become so eerily afraid of slow living, slow driving, slow cooking, and slow savoring of life’s sweetness?
I suppose chronic illness could cause one to strive to be extra productive on good days. But I tend to live slow on good days. Slowing the pace is a way to return to ourselves, to RE-member.
Let’s be so well-practiced in slowness to anger that people wonder if we’ve been bodysnatched. 🙂
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I hope you found something helpful in these reflections.
Tour a Uniquely Serene Peaceful Home
I wish you great wellth and increased compassion for all of those in your midst also working toward greater wellth.
Peace to you right where you are.
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