By Anj Handa
When we become unwell, we experience an emotional shock which causes stress. The level of stress that we experience is differentiated between ongoing relentless stress (e.g. through long-term disease such as cancer) against commonly overlooked causes (e.g. bereavement/divorce).
In this blog, I will write generally about both mental and physical illness. I feel qualified to write this, having undergone two serious illnesses myself. The first time, in my 20s, I was hospitalised for a week with acute pancreatitis caused by stress following *five* (I don’t do anything by halves) separate, traumatic incidents.
Then, in 2014, I had vertigo for around eight months and still carry some symptoms. It’s a ‘hidden’ illness which can easily be forgotten about by others around you, especially when they can’t understand the feelings of disorientation, exhaustion and diminished confidence.
Mental and physical illness are interlinked. Dr David Hamilton, whose workshops I have attended, wrote a blog, entitled ‘The Four Components of Emotion.’ Here, he describes the relationship between the Automatic Nervous System (ANS), brain chemistry, the muscles and emotion. He states:
…Not only does emotion affect chemistry, muscles, and the ANS, but chemistry, muscles, and the ANS affect emotion…we can’t actually disentangle emotion from the brain or body…we really can think of emotion as ‘smeared’ all over and throughout the body.
Eckhart Tolle, author of ‘Power of Now’ and listed by Watkins Review as the most spiritually influential person in the world, describes this as the ‘Pain Body.’
The pain-body is my term for the accumulation of old emotional pain that almost all people carry in their energy field. I see it as a semi-autonomous psychic entity. It consists of negative emotions that were not faced, accepted, and then let go in the moment they arose.
Knowing this, what can you do for yourself?
I always advocate professional advice first (medical or psychotherapeutic), but wraparound support can be invaluable. My friends who were once cynical about incorporating complementary therapy or trying different diets are now more open to this after seeing how I manage turbulence.
As one such friend said to me (I’m paraphrasing a bit) “I’ve got all the medical help, but I need more and now I am ready to consider my spiritual needs.”
You will need to identify who can help you and how, but be aware that close friends and family aren’t always equipped. Sometimes they back off because they feel helpless, or they give unhelpful advice such as ‘pull yourself together.’ Reach out to your network to get the right support for you.
I know it’s easier said than done. The result of illness can be to withdraw into ourselves and shut people out. We may even lash out at the people closest to us, because we know deep down that they will forgive us eventually. I recommend the Change Curve to help you recognise where you are on your own journey.
Managing your relationships
Open communication and being specific about your needs can help loved ones see that supporting you isn’t necessarily a difficult or overwhelming task. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking them to go to the supermarket for you when you’re tired.
Choosing your support network is important. When we’re not well, we sometimes resent people around us for not helping us in the way that we hoped. Are your expectations relating to each individual realistic?
The process of identifying your support team will reveal who steps up to the role, as well as who falls away. Trauma can end relationships that no longer serve you and this can really, really hurt. However, it can also bring in wonderful, unexpected friendships that are right for this stage of life and maybe beyond.
Why self-care is a must
Apart from the chemicals that are released into your body, when you’re stressed your lymphatic system can also become sluggish. This system helps the body get rid of toxins, waste and other unwanted stuff. Primarily, it sends lymph around your body, which is the fluid that contains infection-fighting white blood cells.
It’s in your interest to allow it to work more efficiently by not putting it under undue strain, so rest when you can and look at what you’re putting into your body (food as well as alcohol or other substances). Exercise, even if it’s just a gentle walk or stretching.
Did you know that vocal toning (extended vocal sounds on a single vowel in order to experience the sound and its effects in other parts of the body) can help you relax, release negative emotions; reduce stress, and improve your focus and stamina?
Figure out how to express yourself in a healthy way. Yelling doesn’t help anyone, so could you go for a run, paint, or do the gardening? You know what calms you, so try whatever works for you.
Let us know how you found this blog and if there’s any additional guidance that we can give to you.