Have you ever been in a lot of pain and totally exhausted, but pushed yourself anyway? Have you ever pushed yourself so long and so far that you finally collapse and can’t do anything, (and don’t want to do anything)?
That’s what happened to me this week when I ignored back pain, caused by a pinched sciatic nerve, as a sign to stop and rest it until it recovered; and ended up being in so much pain and exhaustion that I literally couldn’t do anything but take some strong pain relief medication (yuck!), get into bed, and apply ice and heat every few hours for a few days.
Laying there in bed, unable to push any longer, I remembered that rest is not only a salve for the body, mind and soul; it is crucial to health and well-being. By resting, I was able to find healing and a renewed lease on life by remembering the gifts in three words of wisdom I usually live by, but sometimes forget. I share these 3 principles I use to overcome adversity of any kind when I get derailed with you in today’s blog.
Stick these words of wisdom in your hip pocket for a rainy day, whenever or whatever that may be for you . . .
Getting Back to Balance
The first painful symptoms of my back pain were initially eased by visits to my chiropractor, family physician (including an x-ray showing there was no fracture), and my super-hero bodyworker, Noel, (who performs bodywork in a David Copperfield sort of way). After these treatments, I was so happy that I know how to take care of myself; and have healers that know how to help me, naturally. I also told myself, “Good enough. Now, back to work . . . I’ve got deadlines to meet, things to do, and places to go“, and continued to push through my now less intense pain and fatigue.
You’ve heard where that got me . . . flat on my back, with time to think about “why?” and “how?” did I end up like this? Aren’t I the one who knows this stuff, and actually helps others get healthy and stay well? Yes, and I’m also human, and fallible, and fall into the same traps as everyone else from time to time. The reassuring and comforting thing I realized this time is that it’s o.k. to screw up once in a while, and that I am blessed to know how to get back on track quickly when I am derailed.
I was also fortunate to have all kinds of inspirational insights as to what I needed to “course correct” so that I could get back to living the balanced, healthy life I love and teach others about. Here are the 3 words that came to me that I want to share with you:
Everything you do, eat, think, or feel either ups your energy , or depletes it. Without enough energy, you don’t function well, think sharply, or stay well. In fact, if your energy falls below a certain level, (which can be measured via light photons of your cells), you will start to have symptoms of physical, mental, or emotional illness.
In my case, I realized I was depleting my energy by letting an unusually high work/deadline schedule keep me from getting as much sleep as I usually do, doing too much, cutting my morning self-care time down to get more done (which meant less meditation/journaling/yoga), sitting too long at the computer, and stressing over deadlines. It works backwards too– I was also failing to renew my energy with ample rest, more quiet time, meditation, and yoga.
I’m 67 years old, and have enjoyed optimal health for 30 years now. I have never had anything like a pinched nerve, or serious back pain until now. That’s because I am an avid exerciser and yoga enthusiast, eat well and try to sleep 7-8 hours a night. But, I’ve had a lot of big projects demanding my time and attention for a while now and I cut back on my regular routines to “get things done”. The results have shown me how important what I live and teach is. My muscles became more lax due to less yoga (yes, sadly our bodies get out of shape in as little as two weeks) and were not supporting my spine well enough (which caused the pinched nerve), my mental stress affected my body and I had less energy to resist injury.
I also saw that too much sitting at the computer writing my book, speeches, etc. reduced the amount of energy in my body, (the body actually shuts down almost entirely after 3 hours of sitting, and you can’t repair that with even an hour of physical activity), and my posture at the computer put stress on my entire spine. (upgrading the ergonomics of my desk/computer set-up will be happening soon).
Coincidentally, (or not so coincidentally), my next book is going to be focused on energy—how you create it, how you lose it, and the impact of both. I think this experience has helped me get ready to write a better book.
Rest, as mentioned already, is salve for body, mind and spirit. Biologically, it renews and repairs all of your body’s functions, organs, etc. Renewal of energy is crucial for optimal functioning. While universal energy is infinite, animals and humans need to renew their energy through rest, nutrition, and other wellness practices.
Rest also plays an important role through the breaks you take during the day, and on your days off. You need time to chill, noodle, and putter. It is not only healing, but also allows you to be more creative, kind and loving.
Lastly, listen to your body, tune in and notice when it needs a break or when it’s telling you it needs more sleep, rather than pushing through with more caffeine, sugary foods and other props that keep you going when you’re already exhausted. Self care will always reward you in surprising ways.
A pattern of gratefulness builds happiness. I was able to feel gratitude for my back pain, and the rest and renewal that followed. I am grateful for the lessons it has taught me; and for helping me to get back on track. I am grateful that I feel so much better, and that I know my body will heal because I know what to give it to do that. And, I am grateful that I can share my experience with you so you can learn from it too.
What can you do to get more rest, stop pushing so much, and take better care of yourself? This week, be aware of the messages your body is sending you, tune in and listen carefully. You may be surprised at what you hear and feel. Let it guide you. It is a wise teacher.