Note; This article was originally published on ProHealth.com.
If you’re like me when I was really sick with Lyme disease, mornings are your worst enemy. Healthy people awaken with energy, but when you have chronic Lyme, you tend to awaken somewhere between 9 AM and 3 PM (3 PM being your “morning”) feeling as though you hadn’t slept at all. Or maybe you awaken at 5 AM because you can’t get more than a few hours of shut-eye. Regardless, your body no longer remembers what a circadian rhythm is and you feel worse than before you went to bed the night before.
Your limbs are like lead; your body is heavy with the weight of exhaustion, and pain courses your back and neck as every movement is met with a cracking of joints and aching of limbs. Negative thoughts plow through your mind like wild horses as low blood sugar and inflammation contribute to the depression of feeling horrible before the day has even begun. And yet, you can’t just lie in bed all day, even though much of you would like to. Somehow, you have to get up and find purpose and meaning in the day. It’s no easy task.
I used to deal with the morning malaise by internally arguing with my body while still in bed. Had I been able to put it into words, the conversation might have gone something like this:
Mind: “Okay, body, it’s 10:30 AM. We should have been up two hours ago.”
Body: “Just a few more minutes in the fetal position. I’m wiped out. All that shish-kabobing during the night left me exhausted.”
Mind: “I have a lot to do today...come on.”
Body: “Sorry, the adrenals wouldn’t be cool with that. Push them and I’ll rebel even further. Ahhh, the pillow feels so grand against the belly, doesn’t it?”
Mind: “Can’t you just put me into a deep night’s sleep, for once?”
Body: “It’s not my fault. If you’d quit worrying so much about your life maybe we’d sleep better.”
Mind: “We’ve been lying here awake for an hour now.”
Body: “What’s wrong with that?”
Mind: “You’re wasting my life!”
Body: “As far as I’m concerned, lying beneath this comforter is the best thing we could do all day.”
Mind: “Dear God, what am I going to do? My body won’t cooperate with me, but I’ve got to get to work.”
Body: “I could lie here all day; all day and all night. How about we watch a movie instead?”
Mind: “No, we can’t. I can’t. I have to make a living. I have to work to pay for those treatments that will get us well.”
Body: “Yeah, but if you push me, I’ll need even more rest. Do you want that?”
So went my internal quandary, and for years, I ended up mostly pushing my body, rather than honoring its need for rest. And let’s face it; many of us who have dealt with chronic health conditions do have to push ourselves, because there’s nobody else who will provide for us or help us to get well. On the other hand, it’s a good idea for us, whenever possible, to find a healthy balance between work and rest, as our recovery can be compromised by a lack of rest.
Today, I still push myself, but I am learning how to respect my body’s need for rest. If I need to sleep late some days, or spend an hour or two in the morning in meditative prayer, then I do it, because I know I’ll be more productive if I do. And I don’t want to have a setback in my healing. It’s hard, because sometimes the pressure of work and other responsibilities pull at me, but I am realizing that rest is one of the most crucial and powerful healing tools there is, especially for us “type As” who have endured severe health challenges.
By learning to rest, I have found that I am now awakening more refreshed and energetic, and am spending less time battling my body in the morning. What’s more, I have learned to forgive my body for not functioning optimally, and instead thanking it for what it has been able to do. Both of these strategies have become powerful tools in my healing arsenal, and perhaps you will find them useful, too.