Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Self-empowerment is a body, mind and spirit mission—a total and comprehensive effort to take control of all aspects of your life that influence your decisions and your happiness. I consider taking control of your body a very important endeavor! When you feel good on the inside, it helps you feel good in other areas and to make better decisions. Consciously cultivating good health is a lovely act of self-love. When you have an injury or illness, it’s harder to be happy.

I’m delighted that my guest today is Julie Silver, MD, author of Super Healing (Rodale, 2007), which offers a step-by-step plan for physical recovery from any illness and injury. Dr. Silver, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, is a renowned expert in physical medicine and rehabilitation and on the medical staff at Bingham and Women’s, Massachusetts General, and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospitals in Boston, Massachusetts. She’s also an award- winning writer and the author/editor of more than a dozen books, including After Cancer Treatment: Heal Faster, Better, Stronger.

I believe that nurturing yourself is a strong act of self-love, which can greatly strengthen your healing. When I was a DoorMat, I didn’t focus on doing nice things for myself and often felt lousy. Even when I had a health problem, I still worried about others more. Super Healing, is a comprehensive, easy to follow, guide to MANY things you can do to heal faster. Reading it can make you feel in control of your recovery. I enjoyed this book and the simple but effective suggestions. Here’s an excerpt from it:

Pamper, Please

By Julie Silver, MD

While you are in the Healing Zone, you’ll have to focus on yourself in a loving and nurturing manner. At times, this will mean putting yourself first; what you need must take precedence over what others need. This isn’t easy to do if you’ve been taught, as many of us have, that we should be more concerned with others than with ourselves.

Sometimes it’s easier to embrace self-nurturing if you consider the opposite option: self-denial. Drs. Heller and Heller define self-denial as “the surrendering of your needs, preferences, and desires in order to fulfill the needs, preferences, or desires of another person.” Though chronic self-denial is unhealthy, it is particularly problematic if you are recovering from a serious illness or injury. This is truly a time when your focus should first and foremost be on helping yourself to heal.

If you find it difficult to take the time to nurture yourself, you are in good company. Many wonderful people are not good self-nurturers. Nevertheless, it’s important to try to change this as you mend. Begin with small steps. Reading this book is a terrific start. Next, find the time to make a plan to heal, as I outlined in the previous chapter. There is no doubt that illness provides opportunities, and one of them is a chance to reflect on how to take better care of ourselves.

If you haven’t spent much time nurturing yourself in the past, psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, MD, believes that you can change. He suggests, “If you never taught yourself how to tend to yourself–if, indeed, you were taught to ignore your needs and feelings as if they were selfish and impure–it is still possible to learn how to make a healthy connection to yourself.”

It’s easy to avoid self-nurture. As relationship expert Susan Page explains:

The insidious thing about not taking care of yourself is that if you don’t do it, no one else in the world may ever notice. If you don’t feed your children and buy them clothes and support them when they need your help, they’ll notice. If you don’t keep your agreements with your partner, your partner will be unhappy and will let you know. But you can fail to take care of yourself and your own needs for years, and no one will care. . . .

Of course, great excuses are plentiful: I don’t have time. I keep forgetting. I’ll do it later. I am going to do it–but not yet. The best excuse of all is, taking care of myself is not as important as all the other things I have to do–for other people.

During your time in the Healing Zone, self-nurture is something to strive for. Here are examples of ways in which you can nurture yourself.

• Listen to music, talk radio, audiobooks, or a relaxation tape.
• Meditate or pray.
• Watch television.
• Read a book or magazine.
• Sit down and talk with someone in person or on the phone.
• Perform deep breathing and relaxation exercises.
• Play a game on the computer or with a friend.
• Play a musical instrument.
• Crochet, macramé, knit, needlepoint, or sew.
• Make a craft or jewelry.
• Carve wood.
• Scrapbook.
• Do a jigsaw or crossword puzzle.
• Draw or paint a picture.
• Write a letter, e-mail, journal entry, or poem or short story.
• Sit in a comfortable place with a warm drink (decaffeinated and non-alcoholic is best).
• Lie down and take time to reflect.
• Go for a scenic drive.
• Sit outside or take a walk someplace where you can enjoy nature.
• Go for a manicure, pedicure, massage, or another spa treatment.
• Exercise.

I can’t tell you how to balance your responsibilities in the time zones of real life and recovery, but I can encourage you to simply do the best that you can. Try to stay focused on healing, but also recognize that it’s okay to take some breaks and do what you need to do in the real world. Keep in mind that the better you heal and the more strength and energy you have, the easier it will be for you to resume your former responsibilities and care for those who depend on you. As William Shakespeare observed, “Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.”

Awareness is definitely the first step. Just like the first step for an addict is to acknowledge what she or he does, YOU must acknowledge that you want to heal. Then you can follow Dr. Silver’s program. If you or someone you love have a physical illness or injury, check out Super Healing to get tools and suggestions for taking control of healing.

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