When we are struggling with big emotions, problems, or things in life aren’t going well or really resonating with you as a person, it is often our response to block or numb ourselves to the problem, instead of facing it.
Personally, for me, I lost my way. I fell into a job in my 20’s that wasn’t ‘me’, a series of terrible relationships the last of which was terribly toxic yet I couldn’t see it (hindsight is a beautiful thing!)… and my coping mechanism for all of this was to mindlessly shop, and spend my nights partying.
Ironically, when times are the worst we often neglect self-care practices (if they were even there to start with), when these are the times we need them most!
Needless to say, ignoring what was really going on back fired on me. My body was trying to warn me – I was constantly ill, with one chest infection or bout of tonsillitis after the other, but I kept going until I collapsed. Literally.
The Universe had to give me a big ol’ smack round the head as a wake up call!… and then I was forced to listen! I ended up with adrenal fatigue, a chronic illness, and fibromyalgia..
I had to stop dead in my tracks, my body forced me to because I didn’t have the energy for anything. and I had to completely relearn who I was.
It may not be illness for you as everyone is different.
Whatever the ‘thing’ is for you; that has brought things to a breaking point, that has forced you to re-evaluate, know it is for a reason. And it is for your own good.
Where do you go when you’ve hit bottom
I’m not going to lie, this isn’t an easy journey. It wasn’t for me. It takes time to mend, to heal yourself. Both mentally and physically… and to learn. There is a lot of learning!
So how do you reconnect?
That one word sounds so simple. But in truth it really is a journey (I’m not just saying that to sound poetic)… often a long and sometimes difficult one.
I’ve said it already, but I will say it again:
Everyone is different.
The journey will be different for everyone, what works will be different for everyone. No two people have the same body or the same reactions, so this process takes patience, and a lot of (re)learning about yourself and your body.
What I am sharing in this post is an accumulation of all of my personal research as well as all the things I have tried and worked through myself. What I have learned on my own journey over the last four years.
Steps to get reconnected
Take each element and firstly, decide if it feels right for you. If it doesn’t resonate with you, then don’t do it. Simple as that.. Once you have decided which things you DO want to try start off slowly.
I would also recommend keeping a ‘food & mood’ journal throughout this process to make things easier. This way you can track things you have done, food you have eaten, and how your body has reacted, as well as how you have felt after each of the changes you make.
First off you need to know
You are NOT a failure or ‘less than’ because you are struggling!!!
This is a mindset I struggled with for a long, long time (and sometimes still do). You see everyone else running around doing their life at 100 miles an hour when you aren’t or can’t. It sucks. And it feels crap. But stop beating yourself up about it.
There are two things you need to focus on first; mindset and acceptance.
Mindset- decide this thing doesn’t own you. It doesn’t define who you are. Make the choice to look after yourself and put YOU first. Put your health first. Make the choice to not wallow, feel defeated, or live in a state of negative feelings and emotions.
Acceptance- you need to accept that (for now at least) things have changed. You can’t do what you used to do. That hasn’t worked for you. Accept that this is the start of a different season in your life, and like all change, it won’t be easy. Know that some days you won’t feel good and be ok with that, accept the feelings, sit with them and work through them. You don’t have to be happy all the time.
Journaling. Sometimes dealing with emotions that come up as you work through something difficult and new can be hard. The worst thing you can do is bottle them up. That’s just adding more toxic cr*p for your body to deal with and it’s working through enough as it is!
These feelings can often feel very selfish or self-indulgent so if you don’t have someone you feel comfortable talking them through with starting a journal is a good idea.
Just writing things out to get them out of your head can be a cathartic process. You don’t even have to every read what you’ve written. It doesn’t have to make sense. It is just releasing whatever is pent up.
When you don’t have extra energy to spare overthinking or getting caught up in thoughts and emotions that doesn’t serve you is using up that precious energy unnecessarily and wasting it.
Mindfulness. Be aware of how you start your day. What you do each day, and where your thoughts are throughout the day.
Mindfulness is a practice of being in the present, noticing each moment and not falling into bad habits or patterns. The way you start your morning sets you up for the rest of the day, so start a routine that has you waking up happy.
I’ve written a more in depth post on mindfulness and small mindful practices you can use throughout the day, you can read it here.
Small gratitude’s. This links to no. three and being mindful and focused on your present. But I found that I could be happier and more appreciative of each day and what I had managed to achieve once I started noticing tiny little things each day that had made me smile, or laugh, or just brought a little spark of joy…. a beautiful sunrise, a pretty flower, the feel of the sunshine hot on my skin, a hug, my nephews giggle, certain scents or sounds, seeing a butterfly or a red kite in the sky.
Appreciating all the beautiful little things in each day makes you feel lighter and makes things feel a little easier.
You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it makes…. and if it helps, you can always write them down. Three gratitude’s each morning and each evening.
Meditation. Regardless of your health situation meditation is something I would 200% recommend you start to practice as part of your daily routine. Just 10-20 minutes daily makes a world of difference to your mental state, your emotions, and how you tackle and deal with things in your life.
Meditation not only gives you a beautiful sense of peace and calm. But I have found it also gives your mind clarity, it sets you up for the mood and intention of the rest of your day, and it means that you start each day focused and ready. Being able to focus on your breath, your physical body and ground yourself at the start of each day helps clear the clutter from your mind, keeps you focused on the present moment, and is a refreshing break from everything that is running through your mind.
You can research all of the proven benefits of a meditation practice, but for me personally it is now a practice I could not do without. It is a time to sit in my body. Be grateful for all it CAN do for me, all that is is doing, to focus on my breath and release everything else, and to contemplate.
I practice 15-20 minutes each day as part of my morning routine, but if you wanted to incorporate a meditation for both morning and evening it is a great way to release everything from your day to help you have a peaceful nights sleep too.
Yoga. For me it is yoga as I have found it a beautiful practice that connects mind, body, soul, and breath. As well as having the added benefits of increasing my strength and flexibility and reducing a lot of the stiffness and pain that comes with my condition. But any form of gentle movement or exercise will work (I also try and incorporate a walk into my daily routine too).
Despite popular belief you do not have to be flexible to start yoga. Yoga will improve and increase your flexibility as you go.
I practice for about an hour 5 to 6 days per week as part of my morning routine. Start off with just twenty minutes to half an hour, whenever it’s best for you in YOUR day. Start slowly and see how far you can go.
Intuition. Getting to grips with listening to your intuition is a skill that, once you’re learnt, you can use to better your life each and every day. Intuition is the little voice that whispers to you ‘yes, this feels good’ or ‘no. That’s not for you’ before your big loud ego speaks.
Instead of looking around at what everyone else is doing instead focus your attention inward. Listen to your inner voice. Does this make you feel good? does it serve you and feed your soul? how does it make you feel during and after?
If your answer is no to any of those questions that that’s something you need to leave behind. Part of this process is growing, evolving, and changing to a better more fulfilled version of yourself. Not to mention that when you are struggling with a chronic illness already and have a limited amount of energy, that energy is being wasted if you are still trying to do things that do not serve you or make you happy.
Give yourself the space and time to find out what make you feel good and what brings you joy. If something makes you feel drained and exhausted – let it go! Stop doing the things that you have been doing out of habit and start from the beginning again. Be curious. Be comfortable sitting with yourself and exploring your thoughts and emotions.
And most importantly, learn the subtle signals that your body gives you to tell you ‘yes’ or ‘no’. How does your intuition speak to you. Quiet out all the external noise and really tune in to what makes you tick.
This is a time when journaling, or keeping notes in your food & mood journal, to track changes and little things you are noticing is a good idea.
Listen to your body. Listen to your body and what you are able to manage physically each day, take it one day at a time. Also listen to your body when it comes to what food you eat and how that food makes you feel.
Physically – An important step in this journey is knowing and accepting your limits and knowing how much you have the energy/capacity to do. Every day is different, so this is an ongoing process. It’s also another step that is good to use your ‘food & mood’ journal for so you can look back at see what physical activities tire you out and leave you feeling exhausted and worse, and which ones you are ok with, and leave you exhilarated and energised.
Obviously the aim is to do more of what makes you feel good, and stop doing the things that drain your energy and leave you exhausted the next day(or days!).
Food – As physical activities can make you feel better or worse, food has the same effect.
I have gone into detail about intuitive eating and how changing my diet improved how I felt before, you can read the post here.
I don’t want to tell anyone how to eat. But cutting out refined sugar, processed foods and instead eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and a mostly plant based diet has been what works best for me.
It was a slow process to get to learning what doesn’t work. But your body will tell you. Check your skin and your energy levels the day after you eat something. If it makes you feel bloated after eating, or sluggish and exhausted the day after, then it’s a big indicator that you should eat less of that thing or cut it out all together.
Keeping a written account of what you are eating and how you are feeling each day will help you to connect the dots and work at removing the foods that don’t work with your body. Or at least eating less of them.
Eventually you will work out a diet that you are happy with and makes you feel good as well as nourishing your body and helping to give you sustained energy levels.
These are all the steps I have worked through myself, and I hope they help you in some way too.
There are more things I have done to help support my body and work towards being healthy again, things like natural supplements and treatments.
I will cover these in a future post, as this one is already pretty long, and I feel working from the inside out at the same time as outside in is the best way to benefit, support, and nurture your body through something difficult like this…. Look out for that in the New Year!