It was nearly 30 years ago that I decided to try alternative medicine for the first time. I was feeling desperate. Why? Because I was pregnant, suffering chronic sickness and unwilling to risk harming my baby by taking conventional drugs. This experience was to be a revelation for me and my introduction to a totally new way of viewing my own health and wellbeing, as well as that of my child.
Priorities and values
Suddenly, with the prospect of being responsible for someone else’s life, my priorities had changed. No longer did my health come second to my availability to work and earn money. Some would say that my behaviour was a natural reaction to surging hormones – nature taking over and asserting itself. Either way, it was a life event that precipitated the start of a shift in my priorities and values.
For many who choose to de-stress and simplify, improving health and wellbeing take a driving seat, often where it has previously been denied or ignored. And for those who are forced to stop work and take stock through ill health, this change in circumstances can be very challenging indeed. For those who take the route of voluntary simplicity and decide of their own accord to slow down their pace of life and reduce their stress levels, miraculously, it seems, health issues can quickly become less of a problem. How does this happen?
Trading stress for time.
Choosing to focus energy and time on our wellbeing often starts with a nutrition review. Real food, home cooked, is higher in nutrients, lower in harmful additives and costs less than convenience food in money terms. Growing and preparing food can also be an enjoyable, fulfilling experience for many, rather than just a means to an end. Thus, the process of looking after ourselves in itself becomes a stress-relieving activity.
By reducing our stress levels, we strengthen our immune systems and are therefore less likely to succumb to infection or contract stress-induced chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, depression, chronic fatigue states or diabetes.
When we spend more time on self-care, we are more likely to allow ourselves to find a form of exercise that suits us and that we find enjoyable, rather than forcing ourselves into a regime out of guilt or convenience.
When we are ill, time can give us the opportunity to explore the options with respect to treating the illness. We can choose to take a more holistic approach through diet, exercise and rest, alternative or conventional therapy or lifestyle changes.
Self- awareness: Reclaiming the responsibility.
During the pregnancy that I mentioned above, one thing I came to realise was how incompetent I was as a patient! I was so lacking in self-awareness that I didn’t have the first idea how to answer my therapist’s questions. Ok, to be fair to me, they did seem to be rather odd questions, like “How do you feel in a thunderstorm?” What on earth did that have to do with how long I could keep a meal down? I was afraid that I would not cope with the situation and that my baby would not survive. I got impatient with the therapist and wanted a quick fix, when really what was needed was my cooperation and thoughtfulness. My anger soon dissipated when I realised the treatment was working and I was starting to benefit from giving myself time to be more self-aware rather than fighting my affliction or denying it existed.
Connecting with the Sanctity of Wellbeing.
There was an additional level of self-awareness that I began to access too. As a new human was growing inside me, my sensitivitiy to our interconnection with other beings heightened. Whatever I was choosing to embrace as nourishment for my entire being, not just physical but emotional and spiritual, started to take on renewed significance. It became difficult to ignore what I was choosing to use as the raw materials for this process – what I was feeding my mind, body and spirit. Not only foods, but reading materials, music, films and TV programmes were passed through a new set of personal filters. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to pay deep attention to these everyday processes when we’re embroiled in a fast-paced, high stress, conditioned lifestyle.
Inherent in slowing down and simplifying our lives is an opportunity. During the process of changing a lifestyle there’s the opening to feeling more able to accept responsibility for health and wellbeing. It can then become easier to face up to the challenges of making self-care a priority – to take the time to reassess values, self-awareness and self-responsibility.