By Jenny Peterson
(For an audio version of this blog, listen to episode #19 of my podcast)
You have probably heard how important it is to have a daily routine.
Studies show that those that have a daily routine are more successful and healthy. When I ask those that have chronic symptoms why they don’t have a daily routine for their healing, I get 2 answers: #1, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing and #2, I can’t stay consistent.
Today I will answer both of these, so that you can start implementing this crucial piece to your healing.
A TYPICAL DAY FOR ME WITH CHRONIC ILLNESS
A typical day for me when I had chronic illness was waking up after maybe a few hours of sleep.
The first thing running through my mind was “I wonder how I’m going to feel today”, followed by some body checking to see what was “wrong in my body” today.
Then I would make my way out of bed, getting just enough energy to make myself and son breakfast. After breakfast, maybe I would take a shower if I felt good enough (most of the times not though) and then make my way to the couch.
Using my trusty phone I would start searching for answers to heal me, open up facebook and go to the groups where other people like me were hanging out, finding myself getting more and more hopeless from the things I was reading.
I would find the energy to maybe go outside and sit on the porch and get some sun or do a load of laundry or maybe take a nap.
I also mustered up all my courage every day to go out to the chicken coop and see my chickens, hoping that I wasn’t going to die from the house to the coop.
By this time it was late in the afternoon and my husband would come home from work. I would complain to him about my symptoms and my lack of hope, then attempt to make dinner.
After dinner I would take a bath and go to bed, crossing my fingers that I would fall asleep and not have panic attacks during the night.
Does this sound familiar?
If not, it's understandable, everyone on this journey has different days. But what is important to understand is that THAT daily routine that I had, didn’t get my health back.
I had to change it in order to heal. Because nothing about that daily routine was helping me, in fact it was hindering me. It wasn’t until I shifted my daily habits that things really started to shift for me and my health.
Back before I got sick, I was taking business classes and they always talked about how successful business owners had morning routines. Granted when I was sick I wasn’t trying to run a business but I used the same principles of success for business, for my healing.
Because I will be honest with you, whether its healing or business, the path to success is the same. It is all within you and your mind. You have to be a different person than you are now if you want to heal.
So I started out slowly with changing my daily routine. Because one of the biggest reasons why people don’t do big changes like this in their life is because they are trying to go too big too fast. They go from nothing to everything the next day. That simply doesn’t work for the brain. Very similar to a person saying they are going to start working out, they have never worked out daily but the next day they try to go to the gym for 2 hours. It's going to be a fail every time.
The first thing I did was change the way I woke up. As soon as I woke up I would listen to a podcast about mindset or personal development. I also created my own visualizations and listened to them.
I then started to incorporate movement after waking up. For me that was putting on some dance music and dancing in my living room or doing a chi gong or yoga youtube video. In the beginning I was just able to do 5 minutes of movement. I would feel dizzy or weak if I did more. But week by week I was able to increase that time.
After adding these few things into my day, I really started to notice a difference in my mood, I was happier and I also had more energy.
So since this was getting changes, I thought, I need to add more! I added gratitude, deep breathing and meditation.
After a few months of gradually adding new habits and tools into my day I had significant changes in my emotional, mental and physical health. My daily routine now consisted of meditation, deep breathing, visualization, gratitude, movement, reading and shifting old patterns/programs and resolving conflicts.
This may sound like it took hours for all of this but it really didn’t. It really only took me an hour to do them.
I will discuss the shifting old patterns and resolving conflicts in a bit. But before I get there, I want to talk about those familiar things that I mentioned. Meditation, deep breathing, visualization, gratitude, reading and movement.
These are all very powerful individually but together they are even more powerful for strengthening the nervous system. I want to emphasize strengthening though.
These tools and exercises can help someone who’s nervous system has been stuck move into a more calm state, which is the parasympathetic nervous system, where healing takes place. But to someone who has a lot of unresolved life experiences aka stressful events aka trauma, they can be stimulating sometimes, so it's important to move slowly with these. On another note, these exercises are strengthening to the nervous system but are not going to solve the root cause to chronic illness.
Because as I have discussed before, chronic symptoms are back to unresolved life experiences.
So, a part of your day needs to be addressing these. Outside of meditation, deep breathing, visualization, gratitude, reading and movement, I was working on shifting my old patterns and resolving conflicts on a daily basis.
Now you might ask, how do I do that?
First and foremost, I never recommend you address significant trauma by yourself. Events that have caused PTSD or significant stress in your life need to have guidance from someone that has been trained in trauma. Our old patterns and programs often cloud our ability to do that work efficiently on our own. So for my big trauma work, I worked with coaches to work through those conflicts.
During the times I wasn’t working with a coach on my big conflicts, I was using my awareness to identify triggers. It was from those triggers that I was able to retrain my nervous system to respond differently. Your triggers are your biggest healers. The things that trigger you are tracks connected to original conflicts that usually go back to childhood.
So, your job during the day is to use your awareness muscle to notice the way your body feels and how you react to situations that trigger you. Journal them out. Get your emotions out on paper rather than holding them in. Then create a plan of how you will respond in a different way the next time that trigger comes up. This is a place to start with the deep inner work but there is definitely more to do.
I want to emphasize that identifying your old patterns, programs, beliefs and even generational patterns are crucial to your healing. They are the make up of who you are. You have to change that story to fully heal.
I can’t give a short explanation of how to do that because that is very individual work. It’s what takes us 6 months to do in the MBR program with each student. So even though I am unable to expand on what that work would look like for you, it doesn’t make it any less important. In fact it is the most important.
A DAILY ROUTINE
So let's go through the daily routine again. Grab a pen and paper to write this down.
I didn’t mention this before, but I want to make sure that it's not forgotten. WATER. It's so important as soon as you wake to drink a big glass of water. From sleeping your body becomes dehydrated so you want to start your day replenishing that.
After the water, I would suggest:
10 minutes of meditation. (Here are some of my meditations.) This will help to bring calm to the nervous system
20 minutes of exercise (nothing extreme, just some time of moving like yoga or chi gong for example.) This will help you get more energy because when you don’t move, your body starts to naturally slow everything down, so your energy is greatly affected by lack of movement.
Write down 3 things you are grateful for and why. This teaches your brain to look for the good rather than always the bad. Being grateful also naturally sends happy chemicals to your brain.
Listen or go through in your mind your visualization. Visualization will help to bring calm to your nervous system by showing it that the future is safe rather than scary. It's also a way of sending a message to your brain of what you desire, which you naturally will attract.
5- 10 minutes of deep belly breathing. Breathing from your diaphragm naturally brings down the stress chemicals in your body and activates your vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system. Due to stress and fear, most likely you have been breathing through the upper chamber of your lungs which depletes oxygen and weakens muscles in the diaphragm.
15 minutes of reading/listening on personal development. You want to fill your mind with new ways of thinking. Change in your health ultimately comes from changes in your thinking. There are so many books out there, just type in personal development in amazon and you will see a great selection. There are so many podcasts on personal development and mindset as well.
Then throughout the day you want to use your awareness muscle to catch old thinking patterns and shift them. In addition noticing your triggers, journaling about them and creating new responses for next time. Again, I can’t really expand any further on this deep work because its very specific to you and your symptoms.
Before you go to bed I suggest:
5-10 minutes of deep diaphragm breathing
Listening to your visualization again
Writing down anything that is on your mind from the day that is still bothering you and shift the perception around it. You don’t want to go to bed with a conflict on your mind.
I am not saying that you should start this entire regiment tomorrow. Like I said you have to work yourself up to it.
Start with one thing and keep building after that.
Your brain will resist you big time if you try and do this all right away. You might even find some resistance to doing some of these things I mentioned. That doesn’t mean to not do them. That simply means that most likely there is what we call a secondary gain within the subconscious. Basically the subconscious is protecting you from moving forward because something on the other side of that makes it feel unsafe.
All students in the MBR program gradually work up to this routine daily as well. It's not until they are 30 days into the program that they have the entire routine. With the help of accountability and support, a person is able to move much quicker up to this daily routine than if they were to do it alone.
WHY A DAILY ROUTINE?
I recently got braces. It's uncomfortable and at times painful. I wish I only had to wear them for a few months or weeks and then get them off. But that isn’t the case. It takes time for the teeth to move and then stay in place. Everyday the braces are there to redirect the teeth.
This is no different than your brain. Your brain needs to have repetition to rewire old programs and have them stick. If you only did this work 1 day a week, there are too many days between that 1 day for you to go back to old patterns. Those old patterns are going to win in that case and that one day is really not going to move the needle.
Repetition and persistence are the key to changing old patterns in your brain.
Now you might be a person that doesn’t have any structure in your life and are more of a winging it kind of person. I will tell you from experience, winging it is only short term and doesn’t get you long lasting results. So if a daily routine scares you, I get that it might sound overwhelming to try and implement structure. But that is just your nervous system talking. It's your nervous system saying that it's comfortable in chaos and structure feels uncomfortable.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t shift that response in your brain. You can slowly create safety within your nervous system. . Day by day you can build trust within yourself.
So much of chronic illness is rooted in not feeling safe. This always goes back to childhood. That lack of safety comes from not being able to trust those around you. So when you create a daily routine for yourself, you promise yourself something and then follow through, that means you are building trust. Trust in yourself. No one is responsible for that feeling of safety now, but you.
It supports the belief that you are important. When you start your day working on you, you are sending a message to your nervous system that you are important.
A majority of our students are people that have put everyone else first in their life but them. Creating a daily routine, shifts that old pattern. Your actions are representations of what you believe about yourself.
So a daily routine is so much more than just a routine. Its self care, its knowing you are worthy, building trust with yourself and strengthening your nervous system.
I want to emphasize that this daily routine is not the answer to resolving chronic symptoms, it's a collaboration with the deep work that is required for healing. Mending past hurts and unprocessed life experiences is the ticket to healing.
So I am going to leave you with a recommendation. Pick just one thing from this daily routine that you are going to start tomorrow. Maybe its gratitude, or just simply getting up and drinking a big glass of water every morning when you wake. If you are doing none of these then just start with the basics, getting in water in the morning.
If you are doing some of these things already, what is the next thing you can add? Write down what you are going to do and make a promise to yourself that you will do it.
Remember you are building trust with yourself by doing this one thing.
If you're ready to identify and resolve the unconscious patterns connected to your symptoms so you can finally heal for good, fill out an MBR application to see if you're a good fit for MBR.
You can also Download my free healing guide, “Why Can’t I Heal” where you will learn the 5 reasons that you haven't healed despite everything you've tried. These are the missing pieces to your healing and the key to resolving your symptoms for good.
Jenny Peterson is the founder and CEO of Mind Body Rewire (MBR). She teaches those with chronic symptoms how to stop fearing their body, identify the root cause to their symptoms and how to be their own healer. Learn more about MBR here.