I have dealt with chronic illness almost my entire life. And by entire life I mean since I was five. You get pretty good at finding and employing coping mechanisms when you deal with a problem that’s as pervasive and persistent as chronic illness. Getting through life with coping mechanisms is sub-par at best. I eventually found myself in a place where I finally broke down and screamed, “I can’t take it anymore! I have to find a better way.”
About eight years ago I began researching natural ways of healing that could improve my life experience in the midst of chronic illness. I read about things called lifestyle adjustments or modifications. These days, lifestyle modifications are all the rage on social media and in popular reading. The gist is that what you eat, how you exercise and what you think about can have a major impact on life quality, especially when you are living with a chronic illness.
I have since spent significant amounts of time adjusting my diet, determining what supplements to take and tinkering with what sort of exercise is best. But there is this one lifestyle modification that has almost completely eluded me. You might be familiar with it. It’s called stress reduction.
For many of us, stress reduction is an impossible dream. With high pressure jobs, financial stress, kids and the fast pace of life these days, what does stress reduction even look like? I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been able to find the time or quite enough money to book that stress squashing two-week luxury beach vacation that guarantees the end of this perpetual cortisol-fest!
Thankfully, I’ve found these three things that have truly proven to reduce my stress dramatically, resulting in a reduction of symptoms due to my chronic condition. Give them a try for yourself and let me know how you go!
1. Wake up 30 minutes earlier and spend that time in the Bible, prayer and worship. Yeah, yeah, I understand that not getting enough sleep spikes cortisol production and blunts the production of other helpful hormones and neurotransmitters, but I’ve found that these thirty extra minutes hanging out with Jesus will offset pretty much all of the negative effects of 30 minutes less sleep. My head is on straighter and my mood is much more stable as I step into a hectic day. If 30 minutes seems too daunting, start with just 15.
2. Find a truth statement that “lives” for you and then declare the heck out of it all day long. Maybe it’s a Bible scripture or a quote from last week’s message at church. Or maybe it’s a snippet of literature or something out of a movie. God’s truth can be found in many different places. But once you lay ahold of something, make a decision to speak that thing regularly throughout the day, especially when you start to feel the stress rising up. Make it a goal to say it at least five to seven times a day. Take a breath and declare that baby!
3. Live in the moment. Snap into reality and begin to express gratitude for something you are thinking, feeling or experiencing right now. What I’ve found with overwhelming stress is that it is generally produced when we’re worrying about what is going to happen next. How will this work out? Will I be safe? Will something really bad happen? How will the people around me react? But all we really have in the moment is the moment. I understand that our future is determined by what we do today. But if the current moment is lived out with less stress and more gratitude, it provides us with a better atmosphere to focus in, making us more able to make good choices. We wind up sowing seeds of peace.