Aggressive Recovery

Aggressive Recovery

That’s an aggressive title, isn’t it?

With the world as it currently stands though, the way we recover from the daily chaos, stress, and unknowns has to be aggressive.

It has to be unstoppable.

We have to force through the circumstances of life to find time to take care of ourselves.

We desperately need it.

A common theme in therapy right now is exhaustion. Whether this is physical or more mental and emotional, everyone seems to be exhausted. Like a deep level of exhaustion that we have not known before.

The worse part is, due to how the world is currently going, we feel like we barely have any time to recover from the exhaustion. Days past, then months, then years. We look back and realize we haven’t lived. Just existed.


So how do we change this?


1. Analyze how you are currently recovering on a daily basis. Yes, I said daily. (sometimes hourly) Are there things you do with the sole intent of taking care of your spirit, soul, and body?


2. Find time. Recovery has to be important. The more we put it off and suppress the true nature of what we are going through, the more our body has to hold all of the pain and emotions. At some point, our bodies will shut down from holding too much. Waiting until that moment is not preferable, because it usually includes thousands of dollars in medical bills and a complete stop to our lives.

3. Pick something small. Expecting to drastically change your routine overnight isn’t realistic. That would also add unnecessary pressure to your life. Try just picking one thing that you can add to help with recovering at the end of the day. Below are some suggestions:

Incorporate your body: do something physical! Stretching is a great way to release tension held during the day.

Use your 5 senses: often this will also help ground you if you feel like you are flying on a tornado of life. Incorporate something you enjoy tasting, touching, smelling, hearing, or seeing to provide comfort.

Talk to someone or journal. Sometimes we have to decompress through talking about our days with a loved one or friend. This can help you gain a new perspective or release difficult emotions you may have been holding in.


4. Plan a retreat. I know Andrea and Justin both talked about this a few months ago, but planning some time away from the normal routine can be immensely helpful. This can be a time to intentionally rest, with no to-do list or expectations.


Self care can no longer be optional.

Taking care of our spirits, souls, and bodies has to be a priority. 

We have to fight for ourselves and each other.



If you read last week’s post, you know that sleep has been an “issue” for me lately.  Generally speaking, exhaustion has been my constant companion.  At first, I chalked this up to the aforementioned backsliding on sleep hygiene.  But…in my heart I knew there was more to the story.  There always is.

There is a popular metaphor about the frog in boiling water.  The story goes that if you put a frog in a pot of cold water, set it on the stove and turn on the heat…the frog will stay in the water as it continues to get hotter.  Apparently, the gradual rise in temperature is not something it notices and eventually, it will literally boil without ever jumping from the pot as it is free to do.  Now, let’s put aside the very reasonable question of who discovered this awful truth and why.  The point is, it illustrates how we can get so normed to dysfunction or negative circumstances/emotions that we remain oblivious to its dangers.

As I pondered this season of exhaustion and wondered what in the world was wrong with me, I realized that my daughter’s birthday is March 2nd.  Those who know me, realize exactly what that means.  Words cannot describe how much that little girl was the center of my world and what trauma it meant to lose her 22 years in.  How could my body not remember the process of giving life to this central figure?  How could it not mourn the absence of whom it had birthed?  You see…that’s the thing.  The body remembers.  Often, when sleep is elusive, it is absolutely connected to emotional traumas.  What that means is that sleep hygiene becomes even more important as a means of tender loving care for these wounds.  There is no healing without rest.  At the same time, there is no rest without healing so facing the emotional traumas is a must.  And so, I make space to hold.  Wednesday morning, I will head to Sholom Park in Ocala with a dear friend.  It will be a time for reflection.  A time to honor Christina’s memory and to check in with my own grieving process.  It has been five and a half years.  It would be easy to take this process for granted.  To be that frog in the ever hotter water.  To flip the auto pilot switch on which – to be honest – I do much of the time at this point.  However, grieving a child never ends and I must set aside time to reconnect with it.  In the meantime, I treat myself with grace.  I value my imperfection, my brokenness and I seek out people and environments who do the same.

Your sleep difficulties are probably not related to the loss of a child.  However, I am willing to bet money (and I am not a gambler) that you have your own unique story of pain and longing that lurks beneath the surface of insomnia.  Take the steps, yes, to develop a better bedtime routine but do not be fooled – attention must be paid to your emotional health so give some thought to how you will address that.  Keep in mind that you may not remember the relevant factors right now.  Just this morning, I remembered another crucial anniversary that is absolutely contributing to my exhaustion.  One associated with much heartache.  How the heck could I have forgotten that?  I am a therapist…I specialize in these connections!  So there you have it, none of us are immune to these dissociative habits that we develop to keep ourselves protected.  The brain is an amazingly complex and tricky son of a gun.  Venturing into its depths is not for the faint of heart and seriously not a journey to take alone!  If you’re ready to get to the root of sleep difficulties…enlist a qualified wilderness guide.  I promise it is one of the scariest, yet best decisions you’ll ever make!

Living with chronic illness

It’s like having an uninvited house guest who contributes nothing, eats everything in the kitchen, occasionally damages the furniture and won’t leave despite all attempts to kick him out.  Eventually, resignation sets in and you begin trying to figure out how you’re going to work around this vermin over the long-term.

A chronic illness diagnosis (cancer, diabetes, arthritis, to name a few examples) changes everything and what makes it a special kind of challenge is the complexity of the effects.  Everything is connected to everything else and so it seems no matter how much time goes by, you continue to discover another area that is impacted by the diagnosis.  Let’s break down the major categories:

Obviously, there are physical changes which come with the diagnosis.  Those vary according to the specific illness.  The consistent theme however, is the idea of limitation.  Physically, your body just doesn’t perform in the way you are used to.  Changes may be immediate or insidiously appear over time.  Energy level is often greatly affected and thus motivation to accomplish what was normal for you in the past, wanes significantly.  All of this leads to some form of identity crisis as our culture has so trained us to associate identity/worth with production.  If I cannot function/produce at the level to which I am accustomed, what does that say about me?  What makes me worthwhile?

Mentally – most chronic illnesses do impact brain functioning.  At best, we may experience some mental ‘fogginess’.  At worst, there may be physiological changes to the brain that result in difficulties with long and/or short-term memory or even personality change.  Processing speed often declines and things like executive functioning may be challenged.  It is difficult to determine which of these changes result from the illness itself and which are side effects of long-term medications.

Emotionally – the self-worth battle is a significant issue.  As we lose major aspects of how we defined ourselves, we struggle to redefine and focus on what now makes us who we are.  If we have always struggled with self-care, the idea of prioritizing self and doing what it takes to pursue health is a foreign concept.  We may face spiritual crisis as we wrestle with the idea of a higher power that would  allow this to happen.  This current battle filters through the lens of all we have experienced.  The meanings we have made of our childhood then, determine how we integrate this latest development.  If those meanings are dysfunctional – managing a chronic illness becomes nearly impossible.  One of my areas of special interest is the reciprocal nature of this domain.  So many chronic illnesses have a correlation with unresolved emotional challenges.  It is becoming clear from medical research that emotional trauma increases the rates of chronic illness.  Thus, it makes sense that addressing emotional trauma would be a key component of preventing/treating chronic illness and that is one of my passions!

Socially – our loved ones struggle to adjust to the implications of our diagnosis.  As we sort out the lifestyle changes needed to care for our condition, the aforementioned limitations; as we deal with our own changing self concept, we relate to everyone differently.  If we are not aware of this, then we are not even able to help others figure out what is happening and thus, we collectively exist in a state of confusion and frustration.  In the end, everyone is experiencing their own grieving process of the way things used to be and the envisioned future that now will not manifest as planned.  Grieving is complicated (denial, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance).  Imagine a system of individuals all working through that process at their own unique speeds in the context of their own functional and dysfunctional coping skills and core meanings.  Is it any wonder that it gets messy?!  Suffice it to say, relationships are absolutely impacted, yet very little attention is given to this area.

Unfortunately, most medical teams do not take the time to inform, much less address these complex issues.  Too many patients muddle through their diagnosis, unaware of the developmental impact and what are very normal implications.  Our default is to always seek status quo (remember learning about homeostasis in biology class?) and so the aftermath of a diagnosis often looks like a constant battle to return to our “normal” with increasing frustration at the inability to do so.  The scary part is that all of this then exacerbates our illness, making our physical condition worse and creating a vicious cycle of decline.

My hope is that this information helps someone realize that they are not the problem.  That the struggles they have been having are perfectly normal in the reality of a chronic illness and that there is hope!  Knowledge is power and once we understand what we are dealing with, we can create and execute a plan of attack.  Just as the doctor delivers information, prompts options in need of research, creates the physical treatment plan and monitors progress – so too can the counselor educate on the developmental impact of chronic illness, highlight areas for exploration, as well as create the emotional, mental and social treatment plan.  Carefully working on self-worth and relationships within the context of physical limitations is key.  Constantly monitoring self-care: sleep, nutrition and movement is a requirement.  Completing the tasks of grieving is necessary for transitioning into a new normal: taking inventory and accepting the reality of your losses, working through the pain of loss, adjusting to the new environment created by the current reality and integrating the old self with the new self.  The best part is that this work improves physical outcomes so despite the difficulty of the process, it is definitely worth it!

Heart, Mind, Body and Soul

In late 2013, my body staged a full mutiny against me.  After a lifetime of significant emotional stress, capped off by the loss of my daughter, my body had enough and decided it was no longer going to be “business as usual”.  Cognitively, I understood the connection between emotional and physical health.  Over the years, I had done my fair share of self-care in terms of addressing nutrition, exercise, connecting with others and even seeking counseling.  However, it had never been at the level commensurate with what I was actually dealing with.  I tend to focus on the good and what I have to get done so much of my methodology involved “keeping it moving”.  Maybe you can relate?  Especially when you’re a parent, it’s easy to convince yourself that there is no time to live life at the depth that holistic health requires.

By January of 2014, I had to make some drastic decisions and I declared the new year – one of recovery.  I made those doctor’s appointments, scheduled procedures, exited a whole lot of commitments, re-entered therapy and pursued a more consistently healthy lifestyle.  Who I am today is so very different and I am grateful!  Don’t get me wrong…it is scary to upend your life, to attend to those things under the surface.  It is a painful process to face the things which need to be grieved, and new insight causes us to re-evaluate all that has come before….not always with the kindest vision.  Oh, but how it has all been worth it!  In the process, I’ve explored this mind/body connection even more and solidified my understanding of just how much the body cannot be fooled.  It will assert itself no matter what.

It is this experience which drives my work – both in the classroom and in the therapist chair.  My area of expertise is the emotional, social and mental worlds.  I am not a doctor or a pastor but I can ask the questions that help us look at all the connections.  I can dive in to the deep waters of trauma, relational damage and the mind tricks we all play while monitoring their effect on our physical and spiritual health.  It’s a complicated journey and one I’ve become convinced we cannot do alone.  I have found my guides and I love giving back the same.  If this topic interests you…contact us to express your interest in a workshop – we plan our events based on what the public requests.

I would love to hear what others have learned along the way in this regard.  How have these mind/heart/body/soul connections manifested for you?