Before we are ready to make changes in our life, we need to have a foundational understanding of “our self”. We are more than bones and blood, although modern medicine focuses on this aspect the most – especially when it comes to diabetes management! Yet, what we see in the body is often the result of issues in other parts of us. Wellness can never come from a place of lack, so we must understand how to fill up and restore wholeness. In this three-part series, I will cover three simple and practical Nurse Coaching tools to understand this principle.
The third step you must include in your daily life to achieve higher levels of wellness is a bit different than the first two. Previously we learned we must promote flow in the body for our physical self to be well and we must cultivate significant moments of peace and safety for our minds to be well. These are things we typically try to add to our lives and create more of. It is an intention to evolve into something new and better in the future. But when it comes to spirit, it’s not something to add or strive for, but something to uncover.
Your Spirit Self
Let’s begin by defining what I mean by this third aspect of self when I say “spirit”. In its simplest form, it is the essence of who you are without considering what you have done. It is distinct from any other person, place, or thing. It’s the being you’ve been since you entered this world and will always be, apart from an ever-changing external identity and experiences. It’s the only thing that knows all of your stories. Obviously, there are many religious and other definitions, but for this situation, let’s just call it your unchanging self.
You can experience this unchanging self best in relationships. You have relationships with people, nature, your inner self, and a higher, collective power which many refer to as God or Universal consciousness. It is these relationships from which we can derive much power and energy (or not). This power and energy can also be called life. It’s the force that propels us to move onward, explore and create. It is never outside of a relationship with something.
Life is connected
Because life requires relationships it does not occur alone. You always have a relationship with God, with nature, with yourself, and with others even if you believe you don’t it. We live in a world of cause and effect, subjectivity, and objectivity. We take carbon dioxide from the air, breathe it in, and return exhaled oxygen. We take up space on the planet, thereby displacing other atoms. We are one of the people on this planet, so we have some relationship to the larger group of earthlings. By virtue of being here, we have a relationship with all of life.
Unless you have lived alone on an island your entire life, other people’s actions, words, thoughts and existence has impacted you in some way. Even if you feel you don’t have relationships with other people, you do. Thomas Edison’s harnessing of light energy allows you to consume my writing to some extent. Like it or not, you are part of a universe, solar system, planet, continent, country, city, society, and community. It is just the truth. You are connected.
But many people feel separate from all that is going on around them. They often believe they are alone, unseen, unknown, and deeply isolated. They feel apart from everyone else and separate from life; watching it pass by. Living with diabetes certainly provides experiences that many others just cannot know or understand. When you feel like no one understands you, beliefs and ideas are created that tell stories of separateness. Your mind loves to spin these tails to prepare you for the worst-case scenario. These stories reinforce the belief that “everyone and everything” is outside of you and are vastly alone.
These feelings, beliefs, and stories drain your energy, diminish your internal fortitude and inhibit your ability to flourish. It is a downward spiral of feeling low, having no energy, feeling more disconnected, more anxious, and worried which unleashes greater feelings of separateness. This is often the underlying issue with diabetes burnout, or (my least favorite term) medical non-compliance with a care plan. You feel separate from the world, your energy plummets and healthy behaviors are traded for instant gratification.
“I’ll do it later when I feel better….”
Uncovering the Truth
This third action toward more wellness and better health is to peel off the stories that tell us we are isolated. Easier said than done admittedly. But of course, there are tools to help us find our way.
Tool number one is to find safety. In steps one and two, we covered how our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is activated when we sense danger. For the human animal, disconnection is a primal danger, so if you feel isolated your SNS is ON! It will point out every worst-case scenario and make you defensive. It’s nearly impossible to connect if you feel attacked or defensive. Reflect on these tools to find safety and transition your parasympathetic nervous system. Only there can you let your guard down and explore what is really in front of you.
Tool number two uses perspective to assume your place in every group to which you belong. Once you find a place of safety through breathing, meditation, massage, journaling, or anything that soothes you, spend some time considering each of these truths and let them seep in. Give yourself permission to lay down the stories, explore alternative ways of thinking, and do things that feel nice.
- Truth #1 – You are part of the Universe – just like every star, planet, asteroid, UFO, alien, comet, black hole, galaxy, or whatever else is out there. You are here, made up of the same sort of matter and waves that everything else is. There is likely a lot we don’t know about this perspective, but you are reading this. You exist. You belong to this vast expanse. The laws of the Universe apply to you too. You have a purpose.
- Truth #2 – You are a resident on this planet – you live here in this age and time. You are made up of the same DNA as pretty much everything else around you. You occupy space. Gravity holds you to the earth as it does every other creature. You are as much a part of nature as any tree, rock, elephant, fish, volcano, cloud, drop of water, or gust of air. What you do influences all systems. The air you breathe, the food you eat, the water you drink, the waste you leave, and the steps you take – they all have an impact. You have an impact.
- Truth #3 – You are a member of the human race – you belong to the same genus and species as all other humans. Because you belong to this group, you matter. You contribute. You couldn’t be here were it not for the generations who came before your creating a perfect mix of DNA that created you. Pretty magical if you think about it.
- Truth #4 – You are a member of a community – at minimum, you are a member of my community because you are reading this. You live in a town or a place. If you have diabetes, you are part of a group that many cannot understand. You came from a family or family-like group. Even if you don’t interact, you still have a relationship.
Finding Wellness in Connecting
As these truths get closer and closer to your personal story, they often become harder to believe. Part of the universe? – sure. On the planet? duh! Human? Last time I checked. But when we get to #4 it gets harder. It takes courage to remember or believe the connection, especially in human relationships. Those often are painful and part of the problem.
So don’t start there. Start with #1. Start with star gazing. Marvel at the balls of fire billions of miles away from which a photon was admitted millions of years ago, that is just now hitting your eyeball and being turned into an electrical impulse, which your brain processes and decides it is a star. Spend some time and see if you can’t cultivate a sense of awe. Let yourself be amazed. It softens you. It guides you back to your state of peace. This is the realm of God and consciousness. You belong to this. Connect to this truth. Believe it.
Then look at the planet and nature – #2. Do this one a LOT – every day. Watch a sunrise or sunset. Notice a bird or bug doing its thing. Contemplate how the clouds got their shape. Offer gratitude that the sun rose again today. Ponder how each new season has a purpose and changes the world. Stop and smell the roses. Notice if it makes you feel a bit lighter, a bit more expansive. Peel off the story that the world is bad. Turn off the TV and screens and go be in nature. It is the best anti-depressant you can find. More peace. More hope. More energy. Remember, you are part of this. You belong. You are connected. Believe it.
Truth #3 – Remember your humanness. Research other cultures to see how they do things similar to you. Every culture has bread. It is a basic food element, yet based on region, religion, resources, and tradition each bread is a bit different. How cool is that? Evoke some curiosity to notice what is the same AND how variations occur. We are so much more similar than different. As a nurse, I can tell you, we all look identical inside. Peel off stories that notice the difference. Find common ground. Learn something. Doors will open in your mind and your heart. You belong. You are connected. Believe it.
Finding a tribe – truth #4 – Admittedly, this is what we crave the most, yet can be the most difficult to believe that you really belong to a group. If you feel isolated, be sure you have developed skills to engage your PNS (feelings of safety) and have found a connection with larger truths to bolster your confidence and energy. You may need additional support. Instead of wanting the community to give you something, shift your perspective to create your own connection with a person or a group.
When you choose to give to someone, anyone, you have control of the situation. You decide how to show up and what you feel comfortable doing. Get creative on how you want to engage. Start very small, it makes it easier. Here are some ideas.
- Pay it forward – buy someone coffee, leave a “have a good day” note on a co-worker’s desk, or donate to a charity. No one even has to know! But it will change how you feel inside! You impacted someone and that makes a connection even if it is anonymous.
- Volunteer – every non-profit needs helpers. It could be as simple as sorting papers, answering a phone or doing some errands. It is interaction with a purpose that boosts your feelings of worthiness and wellness. When you are helping others, it is a lovely distraction from the stories you tell yourself.
- Surprise someone – call someone you haven’t talked to in a while, visit someone who doesn’t get out much, or send a card to an old friend. Be mindful of who you choose. Confronting an old enemy may not be the place to start, but an elderly relative, high school buddy or similar person could be a welcome recipient of something unexpected! Remember, most of us feel a bit disconnected at one time or another.
Each of these actions calls forth the energy of your spirit and reminds us that we really are connected. It is this intentional connection that helps us remember its already there. You belong. You are connected. Believe it.
A Three Legged Stool
In this series, I shared three very simple strategies for wellness: Create flow in your body. Cultivate Peace in your mind. Find a connection with your spirit. One impacts the other in a beautiful, synergist dance of life. It’s a recipe that is easy to follow: Each day MOVE! Walk, stretch, or do any hobby. Each day spend moments in prayer, reflection, or meditation. And each day find a connection in the world around you. Marvel at the stars, enjoy the beauty of nature, or do service for others. Quite simple, yet highly impactful. Yet you must do all three.
It is a three-legged stool. If you leave out one part, the entire structure shifts and becomes unstable. We require a balance of all three to truly be well. That is often the root of our disease and discomfort. We live in a world that constantly urges us to do more, rest less, feel disconnected, and deny our spiritual selves, which throws us out of balance and zaps our energy.
When you strive for wholeness and balance, I promise your diabetes management will become much easier.
Be well friends,