If you are coping with an illness there are many simple but powerful things you can do to help yourself, in addition to taking advantage of medical and surgical care.
ONE: Accept some responsibility for your own health.
Research shows that taking a proactive stance, for example being involved in choices about treatment and making lifestyle changes, is associated with good medical outcomes for many disease conditions. But some aspects are not within personal control and sometimes it is best to accept this and 'go with the flow'.
TWO: Cultivate a positive outlook.
Emotions and attitudes affect hormonal and immune function, and can even change the structure of the brain and expression of the genes. Qualities such as hope, love, joy and forgiveness will directly assist physical healing, besides making it easier to cope with the illness. This does not mean denying the negative feelings such as anxiety, sadness or anger which are natural reactions to being ill, and it is important to acknowledge and process such feelings before being able to reach a genuinely positive state of mind.
THREE: Balance the various domains of your life.
Illness and its treatment can easily come to overshadow everything else, but it is better to spread your time and energy more widely, with activities and goals in other fields - especially those which are creative and fun. And according to the Law of Attraction, the vibrations radiated by our thoughts and feelings act like a magnet, so that 'you become what you think about'. Focusing too much attention on illness-related topics is therefore not a good idea.
FOUR: Take a holistic approach.
Health, sickness and healing involve the whole person - body, emotions, mind and spirit - all of which are interconnected in numerous ways. This is sometimes neglected in modern medical and surgical practice, which has inevitably become highly specialized with experts in particular fields. Having an illness can be a stimulus to evaluating all parts of your life, with the aim of eliminating anything which is not working well for you and introducing more of what you consider enjoyable and worthwhile.
FIVE: Research the causes of your illness.
The internet is an invaluable source, but different sites vary in quality and may contain conflicting information, so do not rely on just one. Most conditions are not due to a single cause, but result from a complex combination of different factors which might include genetic make-up, nutritional deficiencies or excesses, infection, toxins in the environment, mental attitudes and response to stress. If it is possible to remove a causative factor it makes sense to do so, though this alone may not be enough to produce a cure.
SIX: Improve your physical self-care.
It is well known that a good diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep are good for the health, though making long-term lifestyle changes is often easier said than done.
SEVEN: Learn one or more mind-body techniques.
Relaxation, visualization, affirmations, meditation, self-hypnosis and yoga can be learned from books or audios or from a therapist, and practiced at home. They need to be done regularly for maximum benefit.
EIGHT: Make informed choices about professional care.
Few significant health problems can be successfully managed by self-help methods alone, and there is usually a need for one or more forms of external treatment too. Both 'orthodox' and 'alternative' approaches have their advantages and their downside. It pays to research the options thoroughly; talk to other people who have experienced the treatment; seek out competent practitioners who will support you on the healing journey; and trust your own intuition about what will work best for you.
NINE: Seek meanings and messages in the illness.
Have you been working too many hours, neglecting your diet, putting other people's needs too much before your own, become stuck in an unsatisfactory life situation or developed a chronically negative mindset? Some metaphysical healers, often using the chakra system, maintain that disorders of certain body parts reflect certain types of psychological imbalance. These guidelines can be helpful but it is always the individual's own perception of meaning which counts.
TEN: Make the illness experience an opportunity for positive transformation.
It can serve to clarify your true priorities and values, providing the impetus to pursue the way of life which suits you, to surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, unleash your creative talents, enhance spiritual awareness, and learn the art of 'living in the present moment'.
Jennifer Barraclough is a graduate of Oxford University Medical School and practiced for many years as a medical doctor in England before moving to New Zealand and becoming a Bach flower therapist and life coach. She has authored or edited several previous books including 'An Outline of Modern Psychiatry' 'Cancer and 'Emotion' and 'Enhancing Cancer Care', and published a number of research papers. She lives in Auckland with her husband and cats. To learn more, please visit: http://www.jenni.co.nz