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Are You "Sucking It Up", or Pausing to Set Boundaries?

Today I'd like to share with you a valuable post from the LinkedIn page of healer & counselor, Jennifer Schaal. Jennifer heads up Inner Peace Psychological Services and Integrative Wellness Center in Cary. In the following post, she invites us to consider something most of us do so reflexively, we may not even consider there are other options: "pushing through" all kinds of health challenges simply because we "must" get on with the day. While it is true that our busy lives often call us to "man up" or "put on our big girl panties" and get on with it, injury or illness can also call us to stop and simply pay attention to the vehicle which is getting us to all those important activities: our body. “Pushing through” calls me to pause and often times, to set a boundary so I can connect with what my body is trying to tell me.

After over 50 years in healthcare, it is very obvious that certain illnesses, such as upper respiratory viruses, are the body's big click of the pause button. COVID-19 has caused us to stop as an entire culture, to re-examine our priorities, to re-align our lives with what is most true for each of us. It is no coincidence that the cold and flu season also hits at one of the busiest times of the year with the holidays and year-end wrap up coming on. In our gotta-be-first-Horatio-Alger-American way of life, we often don't even consider the option of slowing down, smelling the roses, dialing down dreams and aspirations, questions the "have-to's" to allow ourselves to respond to what our bodies might be asking for. We often see health problems as inconveniences or thwarts to getting what we want. And yet, maybe they are simply roots and rocks on the trail which cause us to slow down enough to notice the tiny flowers beside the path. Not the destination, yet a valuable part of the journey.

We often associate "stress" with a mental-emotional sensation and forget that it has very real physical components. The stress hormone cortisol actually lowers our immune system. While this may be necessary in the short term for fight-or-flight, when on-going 24/7, it makes us more vulnerable to infections and chronic diseases. Long-term cortisol and other molecules associated with the stress response also impair memory, weaken bones and even cause ulcers. The raised blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol needed to face or flee a threat are the direct causes of heart disease and stroke. Just as a deer will freeze when it first senses danger, then react with fighting or fleeing, if I pay attention to early signs of something out of balance in my body, I can choose to switch on the parasympathetic rest-digest-repair system and restore my body before the threat becomes so severe it forces me to stop.

And so, I invite you to SCHEDULE in some down time, a place to honor all your body does for you as you rev up the engine to get through this holiday season. The wise old Ben Franklin said "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" for very good reason. Despite the many pulls to eat or drink less-healthily, get less sleep, force ourselves to keep going when overwhelmed, you have a choice to ensure you can rest-digest-repair before it is too late. One way to do this is to actually take a sabbath, a whole day to "sharpen the saw" rather than sawing away at the To-Do list. Sabbath is a time-honored way in many traditions to pause and listen to the still, small voice within that guides us to our truest selves. I’m sending you positive energy to do whatever works best for you when “pushing through” comes up in life.

Here's Jennifer's post:

"It is a powerful truth that we, as human beings, have a body-mind wisdom that is the key to our healing.

When we acknowledge our innate sense of self-awareness, we can thrive instead of suffer. Many times, we deny our thoughts, feelings, and stressful life circumstances because society teaches us from a very young age not to listen to ourselves and to push through instead. Feelings are messages that are experienced and held in the body. When we try to deny our feelings, and the messages they are communicating, or when we attempt to bypass them, we are only making our situation worse in the long run.

Have you heard the message “suck it up” or “man up”? Have you ever been asked the question at work or school, “Are you really feeling that badly? Can’t you just make it through the day?” Have you ever had a stomachache, only to realize later that you were feeling anxiety? This is real, this is a message asking you to pause and tend to your anxiety in order to release it and thrive, not to “suck it up” or try to bypass it.

The good news is that if we befriend our bodies, we allow for the body-mind wisdom that each of us has innately to help us heal and thrive. Talk therapy, in combination with EFT (Tapping) or EMDR, helps to work through, release, and re-pattern the distressing life event, feelings, or stored trauma that our bodies are so expertly trying to help us with. Your body is a gift ready and willing to hold more peace for you.

Jennifer Schaal, LCMHC, NCC"

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