I'm sure you've undoubtedly heard the term 'placebo effect' and know that it is used to describe how positive expectations can improve an outcome. Well the same is true of negative expectations and it is termed the 'nocebo effect', the latin definition of which is "I will harm", meaning when a person is given negative expectations such as the diagnosis of a chronic illness with no hope for recovery this often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mental states such as beliefs and expectations strongly influence the progression and outcome of disease, however today we are discussing mindset!
Mind set is so important because if you don't believe anything can change than more than likely nothing will!
Quite often I chat with people and it's almost like they have become their health diagnosis, its become their identity...I'll hear people say things like "i'm a hashimotos sufferer" or "i'm a migraine sufferer" as though that is the most defining quality about them...i'm here to tell you it's not! They have so much more talent and beautiful offerings for this world and those around them then the illness. The diagnosis is simply a term given to the set of symptoms they are suffering that has occurred for a reason...the body gives us little whispers at first, grumblings when something is a little out of balance, if we continue to ignore, continue to live in the same toxic environment, continue to eat the same inflammatory foods and continue to partake in the same inflammatory lifestyle habits... the grumblings get louder and louder until eventually the body is screaming at us with symptoms of chronic and debilitating nature. While I understand and empathise with the fact that many folks are suffering with debilitating illnesses that are truly impacting the lives of not only themselves but also their families it is so important to remember that you still have control...that you can always be moving forward, small steps at a time but still moving forward. Because when you allow the nocebo effect to take control it leaves you feeling as though nothing you do has the ability to change the progression or outcome of disease.
We know there is a mind-body connection...neural pathways that directly connect the brain and body, we are also beginning to understand the complexities to the neural pathways and most importantly the
plasticity of the brain, meaning we can literally 'change our minds', we can create new neural networks, so if this is true and we can create new neural pathways and the mind and the body is connected, it stands to reason, right that the body also has the ability to change and flow and repair! Illness is not a stagnant thing, our body will either continue to be inflamed causing more damage, furthering the progression of the disease state or the inflammatory or sustaining factors to illness can be identified and removed and our body can begin to heal.
So where to begin?
1) First of all it is ok to grieve the diagnosis...allow yourself the space and time to grieve, without judgement! Journaling can be a great tool to use here as it allows you to move your thoughts and feelings onto the page and out of your mind and off your chest.
2) Even if you are in the throes of debilitating chronic illness try to spend time each day 'seeing and feeling' the new improved you. Imagine if you had your health, what would you be doing, how would you be feeling. Really focus in on how it would feel to feel well again.
3) Journaling: Focus in on gratitude. What are you thankful for already and then move onto goals- in order to move toward your health goals what are some action steps required. Write them down. Perhaps it is educating yourself on your particular diagnosis, read, read, read as much as you can...take in as much information as you can.
4) Find a great holistic practitioner to work alongside your general care practitioner. This is so important especially in chronic illness, holistic care is going to be the only way to move through...it will become apparent over time that everything must be considered from environmental exposure to toxins, dietary choices, lifestyle choices, toxic thoughts and emotions and to a degree genetics (in my opinion genetics has a much smaller part to play than we like to give credit for).
5) Set yourself up to implement changes. This may mean setting small achievable goals in the beginning, as you achieve each goal you are likely to feel more empowered to keep moving forward. Set good daily routines this may mean using to do lists, food preparation sundays, make appointments with yourself for self care, keep your appointments with your health care team and even having a close friend or family member who knows your goals and your expectations of yourself so they can gently remind you when you stray off course!
6) If you do stray off the path to your health goals momentarily...know that it is OK! Don't beat yourself up over it. Tell yourself, without judgement or anger "it's ok, you are not perfect, you will make mistakes and that is ok! But now it's time to get back up and pick up where we left off and we are going to feel amazing for it!"
I absolutely know how difficult it can be to see past the dark cloud of illness, hard to see the light shining brightly on the other side...but it is there and knowledge is power! Power and strength to move through challenging diagnoses and not allow the "terminology" given to your set of symptoms define you! Knowledge is the precursor to experience...when you know better, you will hopefully put this into action and make changes which will then create new experiences for you. You are so intelligently designed that your amazing body is always looking for homeostasis, it readily wants to come back to balance. I have seen many examples in my clinical experience, enough to know that it is possible to become symptom free! Then there are others who do still require medications, they aren't able to reverse there illness but they are on a continued journey, it's not the end of the road for them they continue to have positive expectations for the future prospects and outcomes. I can guarantee if you do this work outlined above it will help you each and every day to nourish, love and support your body to the best of your ability.
Yours always in health, Rach Xx