Managing a chronic illness and improving your health can require some drastic lifestyle changes. Although most people report feeling and functioning better on such a protocol, some obsess over the minutiae, spend days on the internet hunting for answers that don't seem to exist, and worry constantly about their health and whether they're "following the rules." The end result? A heap of health-sabotaging stress.
For those prone to anxiety, type A behavior, eating disorders or wanting to do everything right, a change in diet and lifestyle habits can feel like an endless pop quiz you can never get an "A" on. Additionally, some people have very complex illnesses no one can figure out, so they must hunt down solutions themselves, yet they risk getting bogged down in conflicting information, their own lack of knowledge about basic physiology, or a problem that science simply has not yet solved.
Although strictness is vital in some areas — a person with gluten sensitivity or a chemical sensitivity needs to vigilantly avoid those substances — the truth is perfection is an unreasonable goal. For the vulnerable person, trying to follow a protocol perfectly can become a trap that only compounds their illness through constant stress and worry.
Recognizing this tendency, clever marketers and bloggers use fear-based writing to deliver the latest health news. It seems every week a new article is warning you that a particular food, habit, or medication is going to cause dementia or an early death, and that their new supplement or device is the cure.
Health and nutrition have become like religious wars, with gurus and zealots each proclaiming their diet is the only path to good health and anything else will kill you. It's as if people don't follow a diet so much as join a cult.
For the chronically ill person who is fatigued, vulnerable, and desperate to get well, forays onto Google in search of help are riddled with such land mines.
It's a tricky balance to educate yourself and commit to a healing protocol without letting it consume you. It's important to understand that good health extends beyond physiology to include emotions, beliefs, attitude, and support.
How to keep your health protocol from making you crazy
True, getting well may require some drastic diet and lifestyle changes. But this doesn't have to be a death sentence for your sanity. Instead, keep the following tips in mind:
- Studies show a positive attitude is a powerful facet of good health. If you constantly feel negative about your health protocol, it's time for an attitude adjustment.
- Research on the placebo effect demonstrates how powerfully our belief systems can influence our success. Put one of the positive visualization tools out there to work for you instead of fretting over every little detail.
- If you're coping with an eating disorder, constant anxiety or worry, or a need for perfection, consider one of the many techniques to help reconfigure your subconscious beliefs, such as hypnotherapy, EFT, or EMDR.
- Studies have shown that stress is toxic and pro-inflammatory. Check in with yourself and see whether you are stressing out over your health protocol. If so, take action to reduce stress and increase relaxation.
- Find the right kind of support. Research shows healthy socialization is vital to good health. Be careful not to get caught up in a non-stop pity party with other sufferers. Find those who are positive and have helpful information to share.
- Understand that modern science has its limits and there is still much about human health yet to be discovered. There simply may not yet be an answer to your question or dilemma.
Working with the guidance of someone who understands physiology, functional medicine, and health and nutrition, and who has experience of working with chronic illness can help relieve some of your burden. Ask our office for information on how we can help support you in your journey to better well-being.