If you’re struggling with a chronic illness, you may find yourself at times asking, “What did I do to deserve this? What am I doing wrong? Why am I not getting better?”
As someone who has struggled with Lyme disease for 20 years now, I can tell you that these questions are understandable. The uncertainty and daily discomfort of living with an illness that constantly limits you is incredibly frustrating. When these sentiments arise, the trick is to allow them and process them, but not to get stuck in them. They can lead you into a spiral of despair and guilt and stress you don’t need. Here are four simple ways to reduce your negative thoughts.

1. Stop blaming yourself.

The truth is, it is not your fault. Illness is rarely something you can fix overnight. You’re already eating healthy and trying your hardest to get well. So give yourself credit and be your own most enthusiastic cheerleader.

2. Don’t depend on empathy.

This includes your closest friends and family. It is impossible for them to know what it’s like to feel unwell for a long period of time. And mainstream medicine’s denial of our country’s most epidemic chronic illnesses leads to a culture of patient-blaming: if they can’t explain it and cure it, it must be “in your head.” Find a support group where you will be validated and encouraged by people who have been where you are. Validation and solidarity are powerful factors in recovery.

3. Keep searching for the gold.

After spending most of my life feeling sorry for myself, I finally got up enough courage to say, “this must be here for a reason. I’m going to treat it as a teacher and see what I can gain from it.” That’s when my healing took a true quantum leap. Approaching health challenges from an open, spacious place of non-judgmental curiosity tells the universe, “I’m ready to learn this lesson and move on.” Everything that hap-pens to us is to help us evolve, and illnesses contain valuable jewels for us on our path.

4. Laugh.

Laughter releases dopamine and serotonin into the blood-stream, triggering the para-sympathetic nervous system’s relaxation response. It actually helps your body heal faster! Laughing gets you to breathe, and all that oxygen is vital for cellular health. It’s also an excellent way to bond with others, and a great tool to quickly shift your vibration during times of doubt. Try laughter yoga, games or funny movies.

Article by Teresa Stickney | Teresa Stickney is a yoga teacher, artist, speaker and coach for people healing chronic illnesses. Look for her autobiography The Brink in 2018.

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