3 Surprising Treatments for Chronic Illness: Stress, Aging, and Hoarding

Is your bowl of glass beads, full, empty, or shattered? (image by minkeymonkeymoo, via flickr)

Effectively treating your illness isn’t just about meds and doctors’ visits! These surprising treatments for chronic illness involve stressing more, embracing aging, and hoarding your reserves.

Today is my inaugural Tippy Tuesday on Quips and Tips! I’m kicking it off with a quip from poet Elizabeth Alexander:

“I have an image in my head: I’m holding a small bowl in my two cupped hands and in it are 12 cranberry-sized, colorful glass beads. Those beads represent the energy I have for the day, by which I mean not the strength to walk four miles but the ability to tackle whatever comes my way.”

One of the best treatments for chronic illness is to savour and even hoard your energy – which I describe below, in my last tip for treating chronic illness. To me, energy and zen go together.

If you aren’t tired of researching about treatments for chronic illness, read How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers – it’ll put the zen back in your stride.

3 Surprising Treatments for Chronic Illness

Get stressed about something

“If you never have to react to anything demanding, the mechanisms in your brain that help you deal with taxing situations will atrophy,” says Dr Luigi Ferrucci, scientific director of the National Institute on Aging.

Some pressures paralyze you and make you feel sick and tired, while others give you the boost you need to achieve and succeed. What stresses – health, kids, relationship, work – energize and inspire you? Can you add a healthy stressor to your life?

Me – I’m stressed about this blog. I’ve been making a living from my Quips and Tips blogs for five years, but they were never about building community. I wanted to help people achieve their goals…but my main motivation was making money was a blogger. Now, I really want to build a community of people that I interact with regularly – and I hope maybe you’ll be part of my Quips and Tips clatch!

What can you add to your life that motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? This is healthy stress – and it doubles as a treatment for chronic illness.

Embrace your aging body

Research shows that if you think positively about aging, you’ll be less likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Aging can brings wisdom, financial and professional freedom (sometimes), and fewer worries and anxieties.

“In addition to physiological benefits, thinking about aging in a positive way lets you take full advantage of the opportunities it presents,” says Ferrucci.

What do you like about being the age you are? I’m 43, and I love that I obsess less about my mistakes and regrets. Don’t get me wrong – I still obsess! – but only for a little while.

Be a hoarder

“A large part of the physical energy you expend is simply to survive – to keep your bodily functions going,” says Ferrucci. “But if you get sick, you need extra energy. If you have exhausted your reserves, your immunity can be compromised and you’re more prone to injury.”

What are you doing to build your reserves of strength, energy, healing, and hope? This is a treatment for chronic illness: hoarding the reserves you have and building your reserves for whatever the future brings.

Which brings us back to Elizabeth Alexander:

“Every time we do anything that expends energy, we’re giving away beads. If you use three beads to tussle with your child about what he wears to school, those beads won’t be available to you as you go through your workday, your friend day, your daughter day. Now that I’m older, I recognize what I have to give. You cannot give away beads to everyone and not keep even one for yourself.”

Which beads are you giving away, which ones are you keeping for yourself, and which ones are reserved for treating and healing from your illness?

If you’re depressed, read 8 Natural Treatments for Depression – No Drugs or Doctors.

All the quotes in this article (from Elizabeth Alexander and Dr Luigi Ferrucci) are from the May 2013 issue of O Magazine. 

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