“Sometimes it’s okay if the only thing you did today was breathe.”
It saddens me how hard we all are on ourselves. We are a society that is not only rushed, feel inadequate if not keeping up with the “norm, and feel guilty for resting. What are we trying to prove? Who are we trying to prove our self-worth to? If any of you thought of someone, I truly hope you thought of yourself because you should never feel the need to prove your worth to someone else. I learned a lot during my stay at the Pain Rehab Center in Minnesota. Many parts were ‘easy’ and fun and filled me with excitement, while others I found very challenging and near impossible. What came easy vs. what came difficult may surprise many of you.
I had never exercised before I entered the rehab center over ten years ago. I fell in love with it for many reasons (healthy reasons.) However, I also fell in love with it because I felt as if I was accomplishing something which I was in actuality but life is about balance especially when it comes to chronic pain. I loved learning how to exercise. I loved physical therapy. I loved our group sessions where I was able to hear for the first time ever another person who was suffering from this invisible illness as I was: I wasn’t crazy! I loved taking walks with the group. I loved learning about self-love, anger, guilt, work, isolation, and more things than I can even write out. I loved learning about nutrition and how it impacts our health and truly affects our pain wherever our chronic pain lies. I loved yoga class. I basically loved anything/everything that involved moving, learning, writing, and talking for the first time with people who felt just as I did. Now, here is what I truly did not like in the least: meditation, the notion of taking breaks frequently, occupational therapy, and stillness. Literally all they were asking of me was to breathe and let go. I learned deep belly breathing, which now I find fascinating. Notice how you are breathing right now: are you breathing with your chest or your belly. Don’t answer, I already know for the majority of you. We are born breathing with our bellies. Watch a baby or toddler breathe. Their stomach rises up and down, much as ours do as we sleep (if we sleep.) As we get older, we begin breathing with our chests. This is beyond common and has to do with many factors the biggest one being stressed and rushed. We receive eighty percent more Oxygen when we breathe with our bellies: EIGHTY PERCENT! it is vital we begin practicing or at least noticing how we are breathing. I still struggle with this logic as life gets in the way of a good breath. My suggestion: The Five for Five. Five times a day I want you to practice this and I will do the same. Five times a day, five breaths each time: we all have time to breathe. Breathe in (with your belly) for five seconds, hold five seconds, release for five seconds. Do this five times in a row, five times a day. As the quote above states: sometimes it is okay if all you did today was breathe so here is our homework: the five for five.
Over the course of a month, my stay at the Mayo Clinic I fought tooth and nail regarding meditation and we were asked to do it once a day for twenty minutes. I think I did it once during the thirty plus days I was there. My mind wanders especially to pain. I thought it was impossible until a friend gave me a CD that was a meditation that took you to space. All I had to do was get comfortable, listen to the soothing voice of the meditation speaker, and breathe with my belly. I am not going to lie. it took me about ten or fifteen times before I truly fell in love with meditation. I now have countless CD’s that take me to various places such as the moon, the beach, or to a cloud in the sky. It is twenty minutes!!!! Why did/do I feel guilty for taking care of my body. I do not feel guilty for exercising and I sure as hell should not feel guilty for practicing one of the best tools for stress and chronic pain. Not to mention it is a lot cheaper, less time-consuming, and frankly more helpful than seeing pain management doctors. I need to remember: Sometimes it is okay if all you did today was breathe.
I still struggle with taking breaks as I get wrapped up in the speed and madness of life, especially life in New Jersey. This is a state of GO, GO, GO. However, I need to take breaks: we all should chronic pain or no chronic pain but especially those of us with an invisible illness. Every hour or so check in with yourself, scan your body, stretch and do something for ten minutes that calms your body and mind. That may be art, reading, taking a nice walk, or watching a television show. This is good for your health and if anyone gives you grief for not working hard enough, listen to your inner wisdom or my voice. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking care of your health and you and I both know nothing is more important. Yes, we all want our loved ones to be proud of us but what is better than those we love being proud of us? Being proud of ourselves: that is the greatest feeling in the world.