Debilitating headaches, fatigue, chills, vertigo, and joint aches seem to conspire to keep you in bed. Fear and anxiety — uninvited guests of Lyme disease may seem to visit more often these days. They hijack your thoughts and hold them captive. Anyone plagued with this complex chronic illness or any other chronic disease can relate. Learn to respond to your Lyme disease with action—not fear and anxiety.
For me, the spiral-shaped bacteria burrowed into various parts of my body, including my brain. During most of my Lyme life, I was an at-home, homeschool mom. As I look back, fielding the volley of requests from my kids and negotiating daily life seems like a blur.
Then, there was the overriding fear and anxiety that I would never regain my health. Normal life faded as each new symptom or side-effect emerged. I wondered if my pre-Lyme life would become a distant memory.
Here are the limiting beliefs we dwell on when an illness ravages our bodies.
You fear that symptoms and side effects will worsen.
For years, the medical community scoffed at the idea that a tick can wreak so much havoc on a human body. Even now, long after advancing in Lyme research, many practitioners adhere to a two-week to 21-day antibiotic treatment course that will send the disease on its way for good.
With the help of the antibiotic, the spirochete dozes into dormancy long enough to fool your body into thinking that you eradicated the disease.
Most likely, a few weeks after the antibiotic protocol, new bizarre symptoms appear—anything from Bell’s Palsy to severe arthritis or thick brain fog or disorientation. By now, the persistence and unpredictability of the symptoms and side effects manifest worry and anxiety.
You worry about reoccurrence and progression.
Those with a chronic illness or disease cope with high levels of health anxiety. It’s a normal response to an overwhelming life event. I eradicated Lyme in 2018, and on occasion, worry slithers in and threatens my mental health.
In my case, I knew that ticks carried a variety of co-infections, which increased the likelihood of extenuating illnesses. The constant threat to my health that lurked inside essential bodily systems triggered stress.
You wonder about your ability to maintain a normal life
2021 showed all of us how a global health crisis could interrupt our daily routines and rhythms. Dreams shattered, milestone celebrations canceled, jobs lost. All of which is everyday life for someone with a chronic disease like Lyme.
And when we are alone in the car or on a long walk, the solitude and silence beg the question, “Will I survive this? “What will the blood tests reveal?” “What if the disease returns with a vengeance?”
As a patient with a chronic disease, you struggle with concern about your health and its impact on those around you.
Despite your best efforts, will you ever have the energy to resume your job as a Sunday school teacher? When the disease ravaged my body, I was content to have enough energy to take care of my OWN kids.
It’s time to respond to your chronic illness with action, not fear.
Give fear and anxiety from Lyme disease or chronic illness the backseat with these action steps.
Lyme disease or any other disease does not own your body. Although it may seem like a disease-coup attempted to take over your body. But you can retaliate.
1. Exercise faith over fear
In the darkest days of my disease, I relied upon my faith to get me through my physical and mental ordeal.
When your greatest fears loom large, and you may even feel that God isn’t listening, he is present. Don’t mistake his silence for absence.
Missionary and author Elizabeth Elliot reminds us that “Fear arises when we imagine that everything depends on us.” Instead, develop the faith that keeps walking toward God even in the darkness.
In the book Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, authors Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney spoke to people who dealt with terrible experiences like medical problems, abuse, and trauma. The writers assembled the 10 things that resilient people practice.
And the #1 practice of people who overcame tragedy or a life-altering circumstance was faith.
During stressful times, it helps to meditate on a specific verse of the Bible. Whether you say the verse aloud or silently repeat it in your head, the crucial step is to focus on the promise of the passage.
It helps to meditate on these passages and write your thoughts down in a reflection journal.
2. Start a food fight
Nourishing food is by far one of the most powerful weapons to have in your arsenal. God designed our bodies to heal, and what you eat creates an ironclad immune system ready to fight for your health. Dietary changes using foods that contain healthy bacteria like fermented foods will alert your immune system into action.
3. Manage stress
It’s been particularly stressful with a global pandemic. A diagnosed chronic illness adds an additional layer to that stress.
The first way I learned to handle stress activated by my disease was to breathe. Relaxed breathing signals the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to release calming chemicals into your bloodstream, which quiets the body.
Breathing techniques and relaxing the body facilitates a greater calm and clear thinking. Depending upon how severely your body reacts to the stressor, sometimes it’s best to regulate your breathing first.
S- Stop what you are doing
T- Take a few deep breaths
O- Observe what is going on with your body.
P- Proceed with something that will alleviate the stress
My favorite is Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 or Relaxing Breath Technique:
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
4. Fight back with rest and sleep
- establish a bedtime routine
- get to bed early
- avoid electronics an hour before bed
- darken the room
- diffuse essential oils that induce relaxation and sleep
5. Declutter your schedule
You probably don’t think about decluttering your schedule but tidying your calendar will help heal your body. Pre-pandemic and maybe for you pre-disease, the blocks of your planner bulged with activities and commitments.
It could be that you aren’t physically or mentally capable of conquering a busy agenda as you did before you got sick.
Now, if you have too much to do, your body fires warning signals. It’s important to pay attention to those signals.
Decluttering your schedule will reduce stress, which helps you heal your body, which will minimize fear and anxiety about your Lyme disease. Right now, focus your energy on repairing your body and regaining your health. That way, you can serve your family and others from a place of wholeness.
6. Take your supplements
I saved supplements for the last action step for reducing fear and anxiety with Lyme disease. Too often, we rely more on supplements than we do food or lifestyle changes. The healthcare industry fools us into thinking that swallowing a pill will magically remove almost any pain or fear.
Supplements enhance not replace a nutrient-rich diet.
When dealing with stress and anxiety, some of the best supplements are adaptogens. Adaptogens, a group of herbs that help your body “adapt, “respond, and reset during times of stress, is a part of Ayurveda medicine.
Ayurveda is one of the oldest approaches to wellness. The highly prized adaptogenic herbs are ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Rhodiola, and eleuthero.
I can help
As a faith-based holistic health and wellness coach, I can support you in developing strategies for breaking cycles of fear and anxiety. Together, we can collaborate on ways to help you harness the strength to overcome fear and worry.
Click here to find out more about health and wellness coaching.