I’m excited to show you this guest post by Patricia Crisafulli, a New York Times bestselling author and the founder of FaithHopeandFiction.com.
It’s easy to get caught up in “being productive,” to the point that you forget to relax. But Patricia has a condition which frequently reminds her of the importance of taking breaks and taking care of herself.
Patricia has offered to give away two paperback copies of her new book to Deep Existence readers. You can easily enter the contest at the end of the article. The keyboard is yours, Patricia. Thanks for sharing your story and the valuable lessons we can all learn from it!
Written by Patricia Crisafulli
I have an annoying condition called Meniere’s Disease, which periodically flares up and runs amok in my inner ear, throwing off my equilibrium in the most unpleasant ways. Sometimes the vertigo is just uncomfortable; sometimes it leaves me on the bathroom floor. Suffice it to say, it gets my attention. Therefore, it has become my greatest teacher.
Just last week, my Meniere’s symptoms returned after a three-year hiatus. Mind you, this is nothing that imperils my health, although it has diminished my hearing in my left ear. But the vertigo can be debilitating, knocking me off balance. No matter how much I have to do, Meniere’s shuts everything down. Then my priorities get really clear, really fast.
The metaphor isn’t lost on me. Losing my balance (literally) usually means I’ve lost it elsewhere in my life. Since Meniere’s is best managed with diet and lifestyle, when I suffer an attack it isn’t hard to find the triggers in retrospect—like that cup of real coffee I convinced myself would keep me focused as I pushed through a long day (caffeine is a no-no for me). Once in a while I can get away with it, but when it becomes a habit, I’m trading self-care for productivity. Is it any wonder that I ended up on the sofa, with my eyes closed as my living room played tilt-a-whirl for a couple of hours? I cancelled a meeting, shut down the computer, and rested with the cat on my lap.
With nothing to occupy my time, I tuned into my thoughts and emotions. Beneath layers of oversized self-pity (why does this happen to me?), fear (what happens if it doesn’t get better?), and anger (I hate this stupid condition!), I tapped into a very vulnerable place that I don’t show very often—even to myself. Without my “doing” who was I? Was I still valuable—lovable?
Growing up, I lived for the gold stars that validated me, told me I was worth the seat I occupied—my tiny share of the planet. I turned that into good, old-fashioned workaholic behavior, elevating multitasking to an art form. (As a self-employed writer, I’ve been known to take conference calls while on my daily five-mile runs.) My guilty little pleasure is seeing how much I can get done, which only gets filled up the next day with more to-dos.
Enter Meniere’s Disease, which makes me slow down when I notice a few symptoms escalating, and stopping me when I fail to pay attention. You’d think after a few years of this ebb and flow, I would have learned by now. But I am a work in progress. Sometimes it takes a loss of equilibrium to restore my balance.
Now, my cup runneth over only with decaf, an even then, not so much. I take my daily run without a phone in my hand. I watch the birds at the feeder, play with the cat, and find ways to rest my eyes and mind during the day—even for a few minutes. In those moments of “doing nothing,” I am affirming to myself that I haven’t lost any of my value. My gold stars haven’t tarnished. In fact, I might even earn one for self-care. Wouldn’t that be a prize?
Four Steps to Regaining Balance
- Stop. When life spins out of control, fear propels us to do more so we can escape our feelings of helplessness. But constant activity can become frenetic. A full stop—even for a walk around the block—helps the panic subside.
- Look. My to-do list usually isn’t as tyrannical as I make it out to be. A critical look at what has to be done each day usually eliminates a lot of so-called priorities. This isn’t procrastination; it’s preservation.
- Listen. My body does a better job than my mind of alerting me to how I feel. (Sometimes, the two don’t always feel connected!) Living in my head much of the time—happily occupied by thoughts and ideas—I don’t always pay attention to my own need for rest, good nutrition, a day off.
- Love. The most powerful agent in the universe, love restores balance. Self-care becomes self-love. From that rooted source within, I can more fully and generously love those around me.
Patricia Crisafulli is a New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and founder of the e-literary web site www.FaithHopeandFiction.com. Her latest work is Inspired Every Day: Essays and Stories to Brighten Your Day, Give You Hope and Strengthen Your Faith, published by Hallmark (March 2014). She is also a featured blogger on Huffington Post.
Enter The Giveaway!
Patricia’s new book, Inspired Every Day: Essays and Stories to Brighten Your Day, Give You Hope and Strengthen Your Faith, can only be found in Hallmark stores. She is, however, giving away two copies to Deep Existence readers! You can like her facebook page or tweet about the giveaway (once per day max) for more entries. Two winners will be randomly selected on April 6th and subsequently contacted. Good luck!