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Radical Self-Care

On the weekend I saw the movie ‘The Butler’ after hearing rave reviews about it. While I found the story was quite predictable I thought the actors did a great job; but I left the movie theatre with a deep sense of sadness. The lives portrayed in the film seemed so hard, lacking in joy or with any love, and it’s been haunting me.

It’s taken me a few days to figure out why this sadness has been hanging around. I think the sadness actually started before I went to the movie and with the pain I’ve been experiencing. For the most part I’m very good at keeping pain at bay, I’ve had lots of practice and generally I’m disciplined about doing the right things. But my recent travel had created a flare up and it sucked – to put it mildly! The amazing thing to me is how quickly one can move into a mode of self-pity and how unconsciously it seems to happen.

The movie, while sad, probably felt that much sadder because of how I was already feeling. It was like adding layer upon layer of this feeling for me. I would liken it to those times when everything just seems to go wrong, one on top the other. Then you wonder how on earth you are going to dig your way out of it! But you do, you put one foot in front of the other and get moving. If you discover you are moving in the wrong direction you change tactics; otherwise you find yourself and your life improving. In essence you chart your course.

That was the theme of an article I read by Lissa Rankin, MD titled Who's the Boss of Your Body? In Lissa’s article she is advocating that you write your own prescription for health, in consultation with your medical team. She tried it with her own patients. She educated her patients on what tests might be useful and why; what medication they may wish to try; and what, if any, other treatment options were open to them. She also discussed the benefits of self-care such as exercise and better nutrition.

“Radical self-care” she says is what is missing for most patients though and it is needed “to counterbalance the effects of repetitive triggering of the stress response.” It means dealing with a toxic relationship, or feelings of loneliness and she says, “Radical self-care also involves things like setting boundaries, living in alignment with your truth, surrounding yourself with love and a sense of connection, and spending time doing what you love. You need radical self-care, not just in your health habits, but in the rest of your life.”

I called a friend on the phone this week and when I asked how she was doing I got a litany of woes. She had too much work, she was too tired, what she said she really needed was a break. My friend had just written her own ‘prescription’! I know, however, that she’s not going to act on it anytime soon and that will be a shame when the repetitive stress gets so bad that her body shuts down creating an even greater health crisis.

Those phrases used by Dr. Rankin, such as “living in alignment with your truth” may seem like airy-fairy notions but they affect your health. And when you are already managing chronic pain don’t you want to write the best prescription for yourself that you can? I got back on track with my healthy routines and daily exercise and the pain started to diminish. I became conscious of my thinking, realizing the pity party I was having all on my own and focused on all that was right in my world - the pain receded even further. I reviewed the movie in my mind, with a new lens, and found the strength, determination and dignity of the characters portrayed by the actors. Now I’m back to my long stretches of the day with no pain.

What is required on your prescription? Will you fill it? Share your story with me on Facebook.

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