The meaning of NO

Written by on June 3rd, 2014 –

noIn my journey to figure out life balance with MS and in particular change how I manage life stresses my naturopath suggested I read a book by Gabor Mate: When the body says No, the costs of hidden stress. At the time we were discussing knowing one’s limits and I mentioning that I couldn’t always identify mine in certain situations (like at the gym during exercise) for which I then paid for later with negative results (MS related problems).

The book was extremely insightful to me in many ways as it discussed commonalities of people who had developed autoimmune diseases and cancers. The main commonality was taking on stresses beyond what a physical body could handle and in return not knowing one’s own limits/boundaries for managing stresses. This was my first encounter with reading material that related stress (whether is mental, physical etc) to a mind-body connection. The end outcome was that how we manage stresses impacted one’s physiology and over time could result in disease (if we weren’t managing stress well).

We all learn how to manage stress at a young age and this can profoundly impact how you continue to do so as an adult; that is, until you become self-aware and can work on new strategies to overcome. As I reflect further on the book, I too had some major life stressors right before the onset of symptoms.   I was finishing up a MSc under negative circumstances and I was moving into new unknown career opportunities. My means of dealing with stress were to internalize things and to take on as many things as possible. All of which obviously didn’t result in the best outcome – an eventual MS diagnosis.

I wasn’t saying No enough in my life to others and tended to help out friends, family and colleagues often. This left a fuzzy boundary to others cause I was always dependable to help out. At the moment, I realize how much time I need to invest in myself to learn better stress management strategies and to figure out a good balance in handling MS along with all other life challenges. I am working hard to define those limits so that my body can manage stress in a healthier manner. It’s been extremely hard saying No to people around me especially relating to my career and others haven’t reacted well to it at times. This is the interesting aspect to me as I not only have to say No but I also need others to respect this response (and they haven’t done so easily). And those who’ve reacted negatively know that I am dealing with MS. Even so, it feels good to devote time to self-care and to learn new strategies of managing stress. I do hope that those around me get on board with this eventually cause I don’t plan to revert to old ways of managing. My commitment has been to be OK while managing this disease in the present and this feels like a positive step in the journey to honouring this long term.

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