My dear friends, stress drives normal people crazy, but to a Lymie, it is like poison. If you haven’t already discovered this, you will likely soon discover that your symptoms get much worse in times of stress, even “good” stress. To me, unnecessary stress is basically sabotage. Now, I know it’s not realistic to cut stress completely out of your life, but I’ve learned that I naturally accumulate stress that I can actually let go of. Here are some prompts to get you thinking about how you can de-stress your life:
- Taking stock of major responsibilities. Every couple of months, I sit down to think about the major activities in my life — my job, positions I’ve said “yes” to, etc. I ask myself, “Is this still a good fit for what I can do?” and “Is it sabotaging my treatment?” Basically… am I under so much stress that this is cancelling out any good that my body might be trying to produce? If the answer is “This doesn’t work anymore,” then I talk with my husband or my mentor about how I can let go of my commitment or make it work better for me. It’s amazing how many things can be solved with a bit of creativity. Over the years, I’ve both let go of major responsibilities, as well as figured out how to make them work for me. Every time, I am so relieved! Making time to do this regularly will save you from beating your head against the wall trying to do something that isn’t a good fit.
- Taking stock of minor daily activities. About once a week, I stop to think about my upcoming plans. It’s so easy to view everything that I’m planning to do as a “need”. But, in all reality, there isn’t a lot that I HAVE to do. So, I separate things into what I really HAVE to do and what would be awesome if I can get up the strength to do. Some of the “wants” will be important to you – your niece’s ballet recital, a friend’s wedding, going to your church’s Christmas play… This is where I ask myself, “Am I willing to pay the price later?” (Because everything we do as Lymies comes at the price of our bodies). If the answer is “yes”, then by all means go! Go and be fully present in that moment, and then come home for an Epsom salt bath. If the answer is “no, I’m not willing to pay for this”, then I let it go. I chalk it up to, “That would’ve been great, but it’s a not a good fit this time”.
- Adjusting your expectations. I don’t know about you, but I tend to have a list of 20 things I want to get done in a day. For a long time, I was constantly disappointed with how unproductive I was. My Lymie mentor told me that her expectation is that she can do one thing daily. Sometimes, her one thing is to take a shower. Sometimes, it is to make dinner. I eventually adapted her attitude, and I’m much happier now that I have realistic expectations. Rather than “rest” being my enemy, because I HAVE to do it… “rest” is now my “norm”. It’s the thing I GET to do, and have enjoyed learning to do. I have learned to be okay with less, and excited when I get to do more. Try it!
- Being smart about your weaknesses. Part of what is difficult about Lyme is the way that the symptoms slowly come on. There’s not an exact moment when you start getting “foggy”. It happens over time… It rolls in slowly like… fog (imagine that!). That means it’s easy to live in denial about certain things, or at least it was for me! Here are some of the things I do in order to be smart about my weaknesses:
- I keep a thorough calendar and a to-do list, because I definitely won’t remember later if I don’t write it down.
- I cook in large quantities, because I don’t know if I’ll be up for cooking tomorrow. I either eat off the leftovers throughout the rest of the week or even freeze it for later.
- I RSVP to events as a “maybe”, because even though I want to be a “yes” in my heart… I know that there is a BIG chance I won’t be able to make it. It saves me from feeling like people are counting on me.
- I plan “rest” days after major events where my only goal is to rest. I literally put “Rest” on my calendar. It saves me from making commitments I can’t keep.
- Giving yourself the grace to say “no” or to cancel. It’s hard to cancel plans, especially if you’ve had to cancel more than once on a friend. The truth is that normal people cancel when they’re sick. You wouldn’t want a friend with pneumonia to feel like they have to keep your lunch date, right? You’d want them to go home and rest… Give yourself the grace to be sick too. You have to cancel more often, but it’s because you are sick always.
- Avoiding spending ALL of your energy on people who drain you. This is a fun one! You have little energy, so the time that you actually get to spend with people is precious. I suggest spending that time with people who refresh you! You know who I mean — those people in your life who leave you smiling and feeling encouraged when you leave their company. Spend time with those people! I’m not suggesting that you cut out anyone who doesn’t fit this description. I know you have people in your life that you care deeply about, and they are going through some rough times. By all means, still be there to love on them. BUT – all of your energy shouldn’t be going towards them. You need to be refreshed too!
- Asking others for help! Am I sounding like a broken record yet? I talk about “asking for help” in at least ½ of my blog posts. That’s because you need people! It’s hard to ask for help… Sometimes it’s because we don’t now what we need. Sometimes we’re fearful to be a nuisance. And other times, it’s simply that it smacks up against our pride. But, dear friends, let’s not give in to that. Your loved ones want to help you, and it could make your life a lot easier! So ask for help! I regularly stop to think of what is stressing me out most in life, and then I ask other people to deal with it for me. Why do you think I’m so cheerful? I’ve handed off a lot of things to my friends, and in the process have lost stress and gained encouragement! Kayli for the win!
- Making time for fun. You need to have fun. I mean it. Go have fun! It’s so easy in the midst of a hectic life to forget to have fun. I think that adventures, laughter, and new memories fill up our “hope tanks”. It helps us to remember that there’s more to life than the hard stuff. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Having fun is like good medicine… and the good news is, unlike your antibiotics, it’s free and is always helpful!
- Worshipping. The best way I know to de-stress is to worship Jesus. Have you seen those people who spin plates on sticks, keeping them up in air without letting the plates break? Life feels like that to me; we try to keep all of the plates in our lives spinning. I think a lot of stress stems from that. One of the best things about being a Christian is that God promises to take care of us. He promises to spin the plates, which means I don’t have to! When I take time out of my day to worship Jesus — to thank Him for who He is, for His promises, and for the way that He has and is taking care of me… I feel encouraged, because I remember that I don’t have to fend for myself. Jesus is taking care of me, and it fills me with hope by putting the focus on His provision, not on what is falling apart in my life. Here is one of my favorite passages describing what life in Jesus is like: Psalm 16: 5-11.
My dear friends, learning to let go of the way our lives used to be take time and practice. There will be many opportunities along the way to “give up” essentially — deciding to stop fighting for “being sick well”… But, if you can keep on fighting, if you can keep on learning… Your life can still be very rich. It will be hard, but it will be a satisfying and inspiring life.