Have you ever read a crime novel or a mystery where the main character or detective gets distracted by a random clue only to discover that it had nothing to do with what actually transpired? They spend all kinds of time and energy trying to solve a clue because they can’t let it go?
As a health mysteries detective searching for the root cause of an issue, I look at all of the different angles to get to the bottom of it. Sometimes that means chasing a dead-end clue. When it comes to solving our own health mysteries, it’s easy to do this but it is possible to overthink, over-analyze, and over do it.
We may even cause more problems trying to find unnecessary answers. In other words, we get in our own way.
Common Health Scenario
Does this sound familiar? You’re feeling okay and then one day a symptom pops up. Perhaps it’s a new symptom, or it may be a flare up of a symptom that comes and goes.
When it happens, your mind turns to curiosity, worry, or even fear. What did I do wrong? What did I eat that I was not supposed to? Where is this coming from? How do I make this go away? What if it never goes away?
I’ve been there! More times than I would like to admit.
For me, those thoughts and feelings come from the fact that I always like to know (fueled by that universal human need for certainty).
For some, the need to know is more pronounced – I’m one of them. I like to know. I want to know what’s happening and what might be coming. Sometimes I can’t help it! I guess one may say I like to control stuff. And while it’s really important to try and figure out which things come from where, there is a fine line and we can all sometimes flop over to the other side.
The Dangers of Responding to Every Symptom
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should ignore these symptoms. But, realize that these first thoughts come from fear and anxiety which brings in stress. Stress and anxiety upregulates the nervous system. When the nervous system is elevated it is very hard for the body to have enough energy to do what it actually knows how to do — HEAL.
If we indulge the fear and anxiety, it breeds stress which makes it harder for the body to naturally deal with the issue. In other words, we get our own way of healing!
I’m not saying ignore these symptoms but know that there is a fine balance. I’m not saying I don’t try to figure things out but at the same time it’s important to be mindful of the thoughts that you have, where they come from, and when they elevate stress and trigger the nervous system into a response.
Mindful Response to Troubling Symptoms
If you do start to not feel well or experience symptoms, pay attention to your thoughts in that exact moment. If your first thought is, ‘oh no, what’s happening?’take a breath and just acknowledge where you are in that moment. See if you can feel your body. Rather than question things that you may not have an answer to in that exact moment, acknowledge what is happening in the body. Feeling the body can mean different things for different people. You might get in touch through breathing, feeling energy, or just feeling the feeling of not being well without judging.
Doing this simple exercise will calm the nervous system. Once you’re calm, the body is going to have more energy and resources to start to do what it needs to do. By practicing mindfulness, YOU will be able to use your mind and brain to think more clearly and gain answers from a place of calm rather than anxiety.
After you feel your body and breathe (preferably through your nose) park the thoughts about where things came from and shift to solution-based questions. What can I do in this moment? What can I be grateful for in this moment?
Make Choices that Reduce Stress
If you’ve listened to the show, you know how often stress plays a role in resolving a health mystery. Stress affects everything in the body. We often forget that our thoughts and the questions we ask ourselves can trigger a stress response. Sometimes these thoughts are fleeting and we don’t even have time to catch them before they create stress.
So, when I talk about getting out of your way in healing, what I mean is, be aware of the questions you ask and catch them in that moment so they don’t create more stress and stop your healing.
Shifting Worries to Positive Thoughts
I just actually experienced this personally the other week. It is three weeks postpartum and I started to feel feverish. I didn’t have many other symptoms and I’m not used to feeling feverish for no apparent reason – which caused me to question why I was feeling this way. I caught my train of thought – almost right away (I’ll admit to a few alarmist worries!). Once I caught those thoughts, I was able to reverse them and ask myself questions that create more power rather than fear. If you ask yourself questions, your brain will find answers to them (even if they are not true – we’re just wired to find an answer). By changing the questions I was asking (and having them come from experience instead of fear or anxiety), I was able to find positive answers and avoid creating a stress response.
Next time you find yourself in a situation where you are spiraling and asking yourself these worry-based questions, notice it, stop, and see if you can reframe the questions so that the answers are more positive. For example, ask yourself what you could do right now or if you have experienced this feeling before and had a positive outcome. Once you do that, you can restart from a calmer and better place.
Practicing What I Preach
I love being home with my newborn and 4 year-old but it is a lot on top of continuing to run my practice in some capacity and publishing this podcast. I found myself experiencing stress. I do have an autoimmune condition and postpartum is a time where anyone with autoimmunity is more vulnerable. So, I took a moment to acknowledge these feelings and instead of asking how I was going to deal with it all (which would have induced more stress), I asked, ‘what can I do to reduce my stress?’ So, I decided to change my podcast schedule to every other week for the next little while.
I wanted to let you know so that you don’t worry when you don’t see an episode from me next week. I’m not going anywhere! But, by going to every other week, I can provide you with the same quality content while being true to myself, take some necessary time for myself and my family, and keep my nervous system calm.
Eliminating Health Mysteries
Could checking your mental and emotional response to symptoms be a part of the solution for you or someone in your life? Share this episode with them!
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