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Things of stress and wood: How illness can be your body’s greatest gift

I love how our bodies are always looking out for our best interests.

After all, like anything, our body is all about self-preservation despite our pushing its boundaries to the limits.

I also love how it sends subtle message after subtle message, in the hope we’ll adjust our behaviour to bring us back into balance with least disruption to our lives.

But I especially love how it ups-the-ante if we refuse to listen.

As an earthy Capricorn, I’m quite a stubborn soul and my own body has oftentimes been required to present me with a proverbial large plank of wood to my head before I heed its clear and constant warnings. And so it was this week when my “I’m right, I’ll be fine, I just need to push through this/get through this/finish this” attitude saw me crash in a heap with an excruciating bout of shingles.

Shingles, for anyone who hasn’t had the joy, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (the one that causes chickenpox). If you’ve ever had chickenpox, the varicella virus remains in your body for life, lying dormant in the dorsal root ganglia in your spinal cord. And if you look after yourself, there it silently lies.

But for 10-20% of those who have had chickenpox, the virus can reactivate later in life along particular dermatomes (or nerve pathways) causing mild to severe nerve pain and a blistering rash, typically in a one-sided band around the torso, or, like me, over the eye/forehead/scalp. There’s really only 2 ways shingles is reactivated: lowered immune function from things like chemotherapy, or

chronic stress.

Now, we’re all well versed in the causes of stress. Most of us live with stress on daily basis and because it’s a constant part of our lives, we can become lax about addressing our stress levels.

  • Looking after ourselves
  • Saying no to others
  • Taking a 10 minute walk every few hours
  • Switching off the computer
  • Taking a lunch break
  • Consciously breathing and slowing down as we eat
  • Making that yoga class

…all become less important than the need to:

  • Finish that job
  • Complete that report
  • Get that final load of washing on
  • Race to make that appointment.

And because we do it on a regular basis, we can ignore the common signs of building stress.

  • We’re inconvenienced by that headache, but we can take a tablet and push on.
  • We’re annoyed at that cold that’s come back again, but we “Soldier On” with a pill–who’s got time to be sick, right?
  • We habitually wake at 2am and can’t get back to sleep. We lie awake for hours stressing about not falling asleep and worrying about how tired we’ll be tomorrow so we take a sleeping tablet to knock ourselves our, or take to drinking a glass or two each night to help us “relax.”

But all of these quick fixes are simply band aid solutions covering a very real, message:

Ignore your body’s messages to your own detriment.

Because when the inability to recognise and address our stress is ignored, the body, in its utter wisdom, has no choice but to make you listen.

It has an in built self-preservation mechanism and does an incredible job at consistently changing its internal homeostasis to reflect how its owner is living.

Our bodies are amazingly adaptive and it astounds me how far we can push them before they push back. And this is the reason so many of us keep pushing these niggling signs away. But when push comes to shove, push back it will.

Forcefully.

Because in the end, all it’s trying to do is protect us from deeper, more chronic illness, malfunction and disease.

So the next time you hear a whisper to take a break, prioritise that yoga class, seek a counsellor, take the dog for a walk, get a massage or go to bed early…

Listen.

And if, like me, you can be a little slow on the uptake, be grateful for that plank. It’s a fabulous message stick.

It’s a wise body we inhabit and once we heed its wisdom, we can awaken to an entirely new level of consciousness and personal healing power.


Kate is a qualified naturopath who is passionate about helping women heal from hormonal havoc and inspiring women to know their own power, worth and wisdom.

Kate offers one-on-one Skype consults for irregular cycles, PMS and period pain, endometriosis, PCOS, peri-menopause, mood swings, fatigue and mental and emotional stress.

Simply drop me an email to see how I can help you!

 

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