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Stress

Paying it forward = Stress relief

I was stuck. Attempting to turn left into a traffic jam, confronted with cars backed up as far as I could see. Several vehicles had fresh-cut Christmas trees roped to the roof like hostages. The setting sun was blinding all the westbound drivers. I started to settle in for what looked like a long wait for a break.

Suddenly, a driver stopped to wave me in. Hallelujah! I couldn’t believe it. I watched as everybody in the long line of cars behind her was forced to stop and wait while I made my turn. With a wave and a smile and a tap on the brakes, she had flooded my heart with hope and love for my fellow humans. If she hadn’t voluntarily stopped like that, I might still be sitting there.

An hour later, stuck in a checkout line held up by a woman buying 4,000 rolls of ribbon, I overheard the couple behind me. They were griping quietly at each other. I encouraged them to go ahead of me, and they suddenly smiled and said thanks, both wishing me a Merry Christmas. It felt so nice to pay back the generosity that had been extended to me that I actually wished there were more shoppers standing in line to wave ahead.

In times of stress, whether from traffic, sickness, or other events, it seems we have a choice. We can’t control the events themselves, but we can choose how we react. The glee and gratitude I felt for that driver infected my mood instantaneously. In every crowded lane and line for hours afterward, I enjoyed interacting with clerks and shoppers and felt genuinely uplifted with every sincere smile and upbeat thank you. It got me thinking about generosity and vulnerability.

We’re more vulnerable when we’re ill and suffering.
Pain breaks down the normal barriers that healthy people take for granted, the psychic boundaries we put up in a grocery store or a crowded elevator. When we’re spending most of our energy trying to feel normal or attempting to breathe through the pain in our muscles, our skin, or the fog in our mind, I think we’re more naturally vulnerable and open to other people’s moods and actions.

This open attitude of heart or viewpoint can make us feel weak. After all, it is only the strong ego that can construct barriers and know exactly who it is and what it wants. But these days, having returned from the trip to the underworld of Lyme disease, I feel, at times, much less attached to the picture of who-I-think-I-am. I feel more porous, less fixed. That fluidity has its own sort of strength.

I wish I could thank that anonymous driver for her small gesture of kindness, which felt to me like a light of consciousness in a murky sea. It could have worked the other way. We’ve all been the recipient of an angry gesture by an impatient driver (or we ourselves have been that angry driver), and we know how that affects us and others too. But as the recipient of her generous action, I went on my merry way with an attitude of gratitude. Like a fairy godmother, she’d waved her wand and changed the landscape from black-and-white to technicolor. In the crowded store, I passed her kindness along like an unexpected gift, and I bet it’s still working its way around town.

Serious illness not only brings suffering, it has another side which is filled with gifts if we are open to receiving them. When I take a genuine, hard inner look, I know I have Lyme to thank for the tremendous blessings in my life now. Riches beyond measure. Among them, more patience, resilience and humility, and an extraordinary awakening of consciousness which is largely unexpected but certainly profound.

Here’s to the spirit of gratitude and vulnerability. What are you grateful for?


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Reduce Lyme Symptoms by Nurturing Yourself

Along the streets in my neighborhood, colorful leaves lie jumbled in piles, trees are half empty or illuminated by unexpected shafts of sunlight to reveal tones of red, yellow and amber. The wind has a wicked bite, and suddenly the holidays are right around the corner.

Making plans to gather with family can be a source of joy or nervousness, or a raw combination of all sorts of emotions. Stress is a part of everyday life, but add in a spate of bad weather or a run of obligatory social events and it can be a recipe for real exhaustion, especially if you’re struggling with
Lyme symptoms.

Naturally, during the fall & winter we tend to spend more time indoors, where we’re less likely to exercise or be exposed to natural light, and more likely to eat a little more. Most Lyme patients are familiar with symptoms of mild to moderate depression, and heading into the cooler seasons can trigger feelings of sadness or loss.

What are some simple ways to be good to yourself during this time?

One way to be proactive is to pay closer attention to what you eat.
Dr. Andrew Weil’s food pyramid is a helpful visual chart. At the bottom are foods to eat more of. Start with a solid foundation of a variety of vegetables, which are rich in flavonoids and caratenoids that can help keep inflammation in check. Fruits and veggies both contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. 

When the wind whips around our house and the nights are long, I gravitate to the kitchen for comfort and creativity. Chopping vegetables for a pot of savory soup creates a rhythm and gives me a sense of order, which is something I seem to have developed a stronger need for throughout the process of healing from Lyme. Hot soup always tastes good and fills the house with delicious smells. I always try to buy organic when possible, and I’m blessed with a sister who lives nearby, grows amazing greens and keeps us freshly supplied.

Here is a list of ingredients that went into the pot last night:

1 yellow onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 carrots
6 large leaves of fresh chard
3 potatoes
baked, leftover salmon pieces
3 cups of vegetable broth
Italian herbs to taste
3 drops of cayenne-based hot sauce
salt & pepper

Chop onions & garlic and quick-fry in a generous puddle of olive oil. Meantime, bring the broth to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Drop in chopped veggies, seasonings, hot sauce, and put the fish in last, since it’s already cooked and just needs to heat up.

Serve with a thickly sliced piece of bread, gluten free. Enjoy!
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What's stressing you?

Stress is believed by many to be a huge contributor of illness. Struggling with Lyme disease symptoms is stressful not only on your physical and mental bodies, but also on your emotions. And to top it off, even your own awareness of the stresses in your life can be a source of anxiety.

I remember when I was told that my Lyme-induced skin rash was nothing but a bad case of eczema. The nurse practitioner I'd gone to for help asked me in-depth questions about my rash, my diet, and my health history. She seemed puzzled that I was not the type who might suffer from eczema. I had never overused antibiotics, my Mediterranean-type diet included fresh greens and did not include sugar or alcohol. I was very much in love with my life-partner and running a small business that satisfied my financial needs, and which gave me time to spend with family and friends.

As I stood to leave, she peered pensively over her glasses at me and tapped her pen against her chin for a second. "You really must do something about whatever is stressing you out so badly," she said.

When I returned a blank look, she threw me a doctorly look and added, "think about it."

On the drive home, I soul-searched, but still couldn't locate a source of stress along the magnitude she was referring to. It wasn't as if I was living in a bubble, I had certainly had my challenges and bumps on the road of life. But at the time, things were going well. As a naturally self-reflective person, I felt a little embarrassed. Out of touch with myself. Was I making myself sick? By the time I pulled into my driveway, I had concluded that there must be something really wrong with me -- mentally and emotionally, not physically.

Months later, when a different doctor had my blood tested at IGeneX and I received a positive diagnosis for the Lyme infection, I felt that odd sense of relief familiar to many people with this disease. The illness, the mysterious symptoms, the long journey to a positive diagnosis, and the diagnosis itself is so hard-fought and hard-won. And finally, the physical and mental stress of treatment itself. It was a little like that old joke about the tombstone engraved with "I TOLD you I was sick!"

If you think stress might be a contributing factor to your illness (or like me, even if you don't), here are 7 things to do to eliminate or reduce tension and anxiety every day.

1. Set strong boundaries.

2. Take time for yourself.

3. Find areas of your life to maintain control.

4. Learn when to say "no, thanks."

5. Surround yourself with supportive and proactive people.

6. Ask for help when you need it.

7. Love yourself.

How do you deal best with the everyday stresses in your life, as you heal from Lyme? Please let me know in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!



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