I would like to share with you a very personal experience. After my mother passed away and even during her years of battling cancer, I felt very powerless. I admit that it is very painful to watch and see someone you love in pain and deteriorate – but the worse part is feeling helpless. The only way I knew how to cope at the time was to ask for nothing; I didn’t want her to have the added burden of taking care of me. After she passed, it was the most uncertain time of my life – I had lost my compass, time froze and nothing made sense. How was I going to go on without her? In an instant, I was casted out into the ‘’real world’’ and to be honest, I was very naïve about the challenges I was going to face. However, there is something that lives inside of me that lives inside of all of us and can only grow as we face adversity: resilience. I believe that life throws at us what we can handle. Not what we want, not what we expect, not what is easy but what we need to learn that will lead us to our highest potential.
Back in those days, there weren’t many alternative care options and my mother and I had no clue about the power of mindset, nutrition or lifestyle. Though I understand the need for standard medical care, I do believe that the western model lacks in wisdom and self-empowerment. Naturopathic medicine and Ayurveda for example have a holistic approach, usually including the participation of the patient. This is where our power lies; we must become a part of the equation as we start to heal our bodies, minds and souls. It is time to take our power back.
The ‘’Go to’’ Question
My greatest heartbreak was without a doubt loosing my mother. She was a diamond in the rough; the kind of sweetness a person rarely comes across in a lifetime. But like with all tragedies, there are gifts, usually invisible but powerful. It would be a close friend of my mother’s (someone I call my guardian angel) that would teach me about the power of words. In my most frantic state, she would quickly redirect my focus to: what can I do? In other words, where does my own power lie in this moment? I was clear on what I could not do; I could not bring my mother back, I could not change the system that had failed me nor annihilate cancer. But was there any way I could pick up the pieces and regain my dignity? Was there anything I could do to honour her? Absolutely. If we take the time listen, the next step to take will usually appear. And if you start rambling about all the reasons why you can’t do something, give yourself the 5-second rule. Your first answer is usually the right one. We always have a choice; we can give up and crumble or roll up our sleeves and have the courage to take the next step, as small and insignificant as it may seem. If we sit in blame, we give our power away to someone else; whether that is a person or the government or whomever’s fault it is. It’s like we are handing over the driver’s seat to someone else. We may not get to choose our challenges but we always have the opportunity to co-write the story. One thing I have learned is that there is always something. There is something I can learn, there is something I can forgive, there is a part of me I can start healing and I can honour those who didn’t get the chance to live their full potential. In the context of this worldwide pandemic, some things are bigger than us and beyond our control, but you can decide how you will react and contribute. Will you make the problem bigger by adding blame, judgment and fear or will you look for the blessings, the lessons, and the opportunities to create change and find solutions?
Immune System is Key
Our immune system constantly interacts with our internal and external environment protecting us from viruses, bacteria, yeasts, fungi, foreign proteins and even cancer cells. At the front line of our complex defense system is the skin and our mucous membranes. The lymphatic system on the other hand is the circulatory system that removes foreign cells and proteins, dumping them into the blood so that they can be broken down and eliminated. The lympathic system relies on muscle activity and exercise for the lymph to circulate. Even the functioning of your liver is important because it detoxifies the body from substances that are taxing to the immune system. The immune system may well be one of the determining factors of our state of health. Some of us may have an overactive or underactive immune system – our genetic blueprints are unique. A common sign of an overactive immune system is allergies. On the other hand, if you are prone to recurrent colds and infections, chances are you need to strengthen your immune system. There are a number of factors that either enhance or suppress the immune system aside from genetics; this is where our power lies. Stress, intense emotional experiences, chemicals in foods and water, nutrition deficiencies, a diet high in hydrogenated fats and refined sugars, pollution, excessive iron are all lowering the immune system’s efficacy. On the other end of the spectrum, a healthy diet, specific vitamins and minerals, probiotics, an optimistic attitude, exercise, relaxation and sleep are just a few factors that support the optimal function of the immune system.
So how can we nourish this complex multi-faceted defense system made of organs, bone marrow, cells, antibodies and chemicals in order to keep it strong? I like to think of the immune system as a sports team; each player has its position and role and everyone needs to help out. Each player also needs a specific set of nutrients in order to perform optimally. So if you know your diet is not optimal at the moment, you may be missing essential nutrients like vitamin A, C, D, zinc, vitamin E and selenium. One of the best and most cost efficient ways to get the essentials is to take a basic multi vitamin and mineral supplement. Of course, nothing can replace a healthy diet that includes sufficient water, fiber, adequate protein, and essential fatty acids.
Vitamin C in particular has been shown to increase production of ‘‘interferon’’, a substance with antiviral effects. Levels of this vitamin are often decreased in the presence of stress, surgery, colds and other infections. If you choose to take a vitamin C supplement, make sure it includes bioflavonoids, which increase cellular defense against microbes. You may not be able to stop a pandemic, but you can empower yourself and your loved ones to take steps towards and stronger and healthier immune system.
Though it is important to remain informed, everyday, many of us are bombarded with news that creates more uncertainty and keeps us in a state of fear and anxiety. Interestingly enough, our bodies have the same physiological reaction to stress whether it is coming from our external environment or from our thoughts and feelings. In other words, just by thinking about what we fear, we send our bodies into fight or flight mode. This stress response increases our heart rate, blood pressure, constricts blood vessels, decreases blood flow to the digestive tract and internal organs and even raises blood sugar levels. So you can start to imagine what happens to our bodies over time if we are constantly thinking about a potential threat. Chronic stress can cause anything from headaches to backaches to increased infections; not to mention stress’ correlation to several diseases including cancer. Remember that the media’s job is to keep you hooked. There is no secret formula on how much media coverage and ‘’corona talk’’ you should let in; you need to make this conscious decision for yourself.
The opposite of activating the stress mechanisms in the body is the parasympathetic system – your rest and repair mode. There are so many wonderful ways to nurture this: meditation, affirmations, yoga and breathing. In this state, we digest food properly, we make the hormones the body needs, and we repair muscles. It is believed that the more we stay in this state, the healthier we are. So if you are stuck inside, take this wonderful opportunity to meditate, pick up a book you have been wanting to read, learn a new recipe, try a new yoga routine, listen to beautiful music or my favorite emotional release technique: dancing!
When I look back and this crisis will have passed, I hope that I can be proud of the person I was and the choices I made. I hope that I did my best to be compassionate, kind and use this time wisely.
In the meantime, stay strong in mind and spirit so that you can continue to shine your light. We will get through this.
I truly hope this helps.
All my love,