It's been quite a year. We might say epic, but I suspect that word is related to "epidemic", and as we're all well aware, this year's defining feature (thus far) is not an epidemic, but a pandemic. Does that mean we can describe the year as "pandic"?
Whatever you call it, it's been a year that's thrown off "normal" and ushered in "getting by" like never before.
And if you're anything like me, that kind of disruption to routine and regularity, while bringing some good things (for those of us who like working from home and staying in at night), has also brought a whole lot of imbalance and cascades of health issues, small and not-so-small.
I have a very strong home-body tendency when anything gets hard or anxiety rises. This works to my advantage in a lockdown situation, as I want to be nowhere else. I don't miss socialising outside my house at all.
But it also meant I was very quick to stop the routines that kept me healthy - the 4 yoga classes I did each week and the 20 minute walk each way to the class. The 20 minute walk to the grocery store, the movement I got catching public transport. I began eating a lot more because the kitchen is, like, literally right there. I bought more comfort food and supported local restaurants more by ordering in.
I had a solid morning routine of meditation and movement that went out the window because, well, why get up early when I don't have to be out of the house...ever.
These may seem like fairly funny and harmless habits to pick up in a crisis situation. And I don't feel bad about doing what I needed to, to feel ok in this crazy time. Neither should you.
But the truth is, I know when I let the healthy routines and habits go, my health suffers. And not just my physical health. The state of my body's digestive system and gut affects my thyroid condition, that changes my mood and my hormones start to get imbalanced. I haven't been depressed but I've been emotional, and stressed, and needy.
Again, nothing wrong with those things. It's just not how I want to feel or live, and I know it's all affected by my choices - how I think about myself, my life and the world at large; how I process my feelings about those things; and how I treat my body, including how I choose to spend my time.
I've found I'm experiencing flare-ups and cascades of health issues that relate to all these choices.
And I know the time has come to start seeing, and doing, things differently.
it's time for recovery.
The reason I like the idea of recovery is the sense that we tip over, and then we recover our balance; we trip and fall, then we recover and stand up; we exert energy and raise our heart rate and then we rest and recover. Recovery is the sense that we are coming back to the centre, to balance, to rightness and wholeness.
It speaks to me of alignment and deeper connection back to how we're meant to be - the state of equilibrium.
Ahhh...doesn't it feel right? Doesn't it feel beautiful?
That's what I want my life to feel like. Harmony. Symmetry, Balance.
I want to Recover.
The Hard Part of Starting to Recover
As anyone in an addiction recovery program will tell you, the hardest part of recovery is the initial part. It's the part when you're most going to miss the easy-thrill you've been using to get by. It's the part when you have to shift the direction you're sailing in.
And it's the part most people buckle at, because it's HARD. Change is hard. It's good, it's life-giving and it's definitely worth doing. But to try to change without accepting it is likely to be hard is dooming yourself to failure.
And hard, when you're in pain or not well or emotional, can simply be too hard, too much.
And that's why, without the right approach, you're not likely to succeed. As people who live with chronic conditions, we're probably very good at accepting the notion of things being hard - things are often hard. But even we sabbotage our ability to succeed in this kind of recovery by not acknowledging that hard is too hard.
The body is in pain or chronic illness because (IMHO, at least in part) we've lost touch with our ability to love it. Loving your body isn't just not hating how it looks. Its about active loving. Actively caring for it. Connecting with it. Listening to it. Letting it have what it needs.
Most chronic pain sufferers do their best to dissociate from consciously feeling their body. That's the epitome of un-love.
But Where Do I Start with Recovery?
As I've been moving through the first phases of recovery, there are certain things I know I need to do. But doing them has been too much - emotionally, physically and even spiritually.
I need to meditate, to eat more greens and less junk food, to drink more water, to review my bloods and other regular tests. I need to clean up my sleep patterns and tidy the house more, vaccuum and dust more, move more and sit less. I know I need to watch less tv, read some inspirational books, be more disciplined with my time so I'm not working all day. I need to journal and write some music, or just play my instrument. And I need to do some emotional processing - actually stopping and giving time to feeling how I feel. I need to do yoga more and walk more, to do some intermittent fasting and cut carbs out more. And sugar. And alcohol.
I could go on. But you get the picture. We all know a whole bunch of things that we "should" be doing for optimal health.
Writing a list like this, however, is pointless. It's counter productive because it's overwhelming. It'll send you to the couch with the doritos and a pinot in no time.
Instead of this "make a list and yell at yourself till you do it" approach, which is harsh and dictator-like, I prefer a slow, quiet and gentle approach that actually has a chance of being successful - the approach of love.
Recovery Starts with Love
When we start with a heavy list of "shoulds", we'll psychologically run a mile in the opposite direction, feel guilty, over burdened and probably exhausted before we start.
So forget Miss-Bossy-Pants approach and try something different.
Instead, I suggest starting with a whisper of love. A small action, I call them micro-actions, that will hardly be noticable to you, will feel good, and will turn your ship's rudder just a degree or two, but that's enough to change the destination point considerably.
It's a gentle, loving approach to yourself and to your health. If it doesn't feel loving, it's not small and gentle enough.
These micro-actions work precisely because they're so small they don't take energy or effort, they don't cost you much, they're short and easy.
For me, it started with recognising that sleeping better would help everything be easier. And so I knew, to reset my circadium rhythm would be the best starting place to improving sleep. (well, that and buying a new bed, which I have done, so maybe start there if your mattress isn't promoting sleep well).
A little research revealed the best starting point for resetting your circadiun rhythm is sunlight first thing in the morning. So, I made the choice that I'd get up (I was doing this every morning anyway) and open my curtains, and sit, staring out the window, taking in sunlight, for ten minutes, every morning).
For me, this was a micro-action that felt easy, do-able and enjoyable. I could get out of bed and sit for ten minutes, without it overwhleming me. And if I needed to sleep in more (or "needed" to sleep more - both are common), this action could take place whenever I got up.
Just sit and take in the light.
It was the second or third day when I realised just how good I was feeling doing this. This small micro-action. This easy thing. It wasn't just the light affecting my internal chemical production - which it was doing, my sleep was improving already. It was also how I felt watching trees and birds and butterflies outside my window. Just staring at the sky and the clouds. Connecting with something outside myself and my apartment was powerful - even through a window.
So next, I added deep breathing to my sitting. Another micro-action that I hardly noticed.
Breathing and sitting. Easy. And it felt good.
A week or so in, I started to add drinking a glass of water with a squeeze of lemon to the morning routine. Sit, breath, look and sip. Easy.
After about 10 days, I added a minute or so of sitting with my eyes closed, just being quite and feeling the inside of my body. Easy.
That period of going inward has expanded gradually, I do a short meditation. I set an intention for the day. I pray.
I expanded on the micro-actions only when my body seemed to want the next thing, and only when adding it felt easy and natural. And it's changed a lot more than just the first ten or so minutes of my day.
I have more focus. I have more energy for completing tasks. Since starting this morning routine, I have had an appointment with my naturopath to sort out some hormonal imbalance issues, I've seen my gp about blood tests, I've had conversations I was putting off with my partner, I have moved forward on a few projects.
I have more confidence than ever that the micro-action approach is the way forward. I'm seeing the benefits already.
Why not join me and implement some micro-actions for macro-change? Leave me a comment in the notes, below and we can walk the path together.