I’ve collected a wide variety of friends on Twitter and Facebook. They belong to various groups such as family, neighbors, church friends, writer friends, and business colleagues. And, then there’s my group of illness/wellness friends. The characteristics of this last group of people intrigue me.
As expected, the vast majority of my illness/wellness friends are women and most are in the peri- or post-menopausal age range. Initially, this group was comprised mainly of US residents, but I’ve witnessed a growing surge of chronic illness friends in the UK. Australian and New Zealand friends trail along somewhere after that.
While the individuals seem diverse in their careers, socio-economic status, education, etc., one universal characteristic seems to prevail – a heartfelt desire to comfort others. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I believe that people suffering from chronic illness are a compassionate bunch. One person on Facebook cries out for help and dozens (or more) heed the call. There’s an unwritten code of compassion among the chronically ill.
If we dig a little deeper, what vocations are typically filled by compassionate people? Health care workers (including nurses, aides, social workers, etc.) probably come to mind. It’s a generalization, but compassion often comes with the characteristic of being a people-pleaser. Health care workers might put their own needs last. They work odd and inconsistent hours. They work in toxic environments filled with chemicals, plastics, and germs. Their jobs are high-stress and sometimes low-paying. And then there’s the malnourishment or nutritional deficit problem. Cafeterias and break rooms of medical offices, nursing homes, and mental health centers are constantly littered with cookies and donuts: goodies brought in by pharmaceutical reps, management, and well-meaning patients. If a nurse needs a quick pick-me-up between shifts, she doesn’t have to go far.
It’s no wonder they’re sick.
Do you believe your personal characteristics play a role in your health? Maybe you’re not a healthcare professional. Perhaps you’re a teacher, childcare worker, or someone passionate about the care and concern of others. If so, you demonstrate admirable traits, but you may want to think about adjusting your priorities. Taking care of others is important and even noble, but what if it puts your health at risk?
The solution is balance. You don’t have to wait for a mid-life crisis to change careers. You don’t even have to change your career at all. Begin to implement lifestyle changes now. Decide that your body is important enough to nourish properly. Spend time at farmer’s markets, in the produce section of your store, in your garden, and ultimately in your kitchen. You deserve it.
Balance your time with activities that get you moving. Take a thirty minute walk before or after dinner instead of turning on the TV. Schedule time – and make it a priority – to exercise your body in a way that’s appropriate for your fitness level and condition.
Balance your emotions by implementing stress-relieving modalities such as prayer, meditation, journaling, guided imagery, tai chi, yoga, cognitive behavior therapy, etc. We all know that these are important activities. It takes persistence and prioritizing to work them into your daily schedule.
Balance doesn’t just happen. You won’t simply wake up one day and feel balanced. Little by little, by making small lifestyle changes, you’ll be rewarded with big results. In the meantime, be kind to yourself. We’re all works in progress. Take that compassion you so easily grant to others, and reserve some for yourself. If that’s still too hard for you, ask for the counsel of others. I’m guessing you know just where to look for compassionate people.
For more information on how to implement what I call, “The Restoration Trio” (nutrition, fitness, and emotional wellness), please refer to my book, FibroWHYalgia, available at these online retailers: