Something shifted recently. After years of trying to heal the wounds of life’s traumas and challenges over the past 10 years, my perspective shifted. Finally! some might say.
The stressful and traumatic experiences that have happened over the past decade have found a new resting place. And phew, let me tell you... It has made the weight of these past traumas far less burdensome for me to carry around every day! The hurt inflicted by other people and difficult experiences lost most of their power. Because I saw something that was far stronger than the memories of how I had been hurt in the past. What became much more clear was all of the ways I have overcome these hurts, disappointments, and challenges. All of the times in life that I have gotten back up. The ways my body, mind, and spirit have practiced recovering and increasing my resiliency. Sometimes my process of recovering was graceful and sometimes it must have been so painful for others to watch. But each time, I learned more and more about the “basics” of the recovering.
The Effects of Trauma are Reflected in our Health The research is very clear that major stresses and trauma have an impact on our health. We may proudly boast to others and maybe even ourselves that the “stress isn’t affecting me!” While we may be able to somewhat control our thoughts and dictate our words, it is our bodies, minds, and spirits that speak the truth. Increasing evidence is coming out linking Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) to health issues later in life. ACEs include abuse (physical, sexual, and emotional), neglect (physical and mental), a parent being treated violently, substance abuse, household mental illness, and parental separation/divorce/incarceration. According to the CDC, “Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have been linked to:
risky health behaviors,
chronic health problems,
low life potential, and
And the more trauma there has been, then the more risk for physical and mental illness there will be later in life. At least this is what the evidence suggests. I mean one might argue that Chris Farley was rather prophetic in Tommy Boy when he exclaimed, “Oh! Son of a bi….. That’s gonna leave a mark.” There are some things in life that are going to rather non-negotiably leave a mark.
Some Things are Going to Leave a Mark In a landmark study in the mid-90s, researchers through Kaiser Permanente took a look at the prevalence of ACEs and their effects later in life. (These guys also did the image to the right.) The study found that nearly 40% of us have had 2 or more these life-altering experiences growing up. And the more of these adverse experiences, the more likely we will be to abuse alcohol or drugs, smoke cigarettes, develop lung/heart/liver/chronic disease, experience depression, attempt suicide, have multiple sexual partners, contract sexually transmitted diseases, be at risk for sexual violence, have poorer work performance, experience financial stress…..
If you are curious to know your ACE score, this NPR article has a link to a quiz and some more great information about ACEs.
Many people over the years have tried to convince me that it is possible to not be affected by traumatic experiences and "you're so strong, this doesn't need affect you." These words will likely sound familiar to anyone that has experienced their fair share of abuse, neglect, or other adverse experiences. The research is clear that adverse experiences will have an effect, however. If you are already planning your argument about this necessary effect of Adverse Childhood Experiences or if you are just plain curious to learn more about ACEs, please read the research. So if there is someone around you (including yourself) that is experiencing any of these health and life struggles listed above, maybe cut them some slack. Or as I have been known to say, “Cool your horses, Judgey McJudgerson. Keep your eyes on your own paper.” Being mean, judging, or criticizing other people that are in pain is just cruel and unnecessary. Plus, it is more than likely going to cause even more damage to that person. Especially if there is any chance that the pain they are experiencing has anything to do with previous life traumas. If you find yourself unable to "keep your eyes on your own paper", it is probably time to consider talking to a therapist or joining a support group like Al-anon or CODA to support your own recovery.
Creating Resiliency by Recovering Here’s the trick: it is true that recovering and increasing resiliency is something we can only do for ourselves. Like a runner training for a marathon. The runner has to do the exercises, stretches, and training to be ready for race day. Only the runner can make themselves ready for the big race. But, a truly phenomenal runner comes with a great support team of coaches, trainers, medical professionals, rehab specialists, therapists, and probably a yoga teacher or two thrown in for good measure.
Recovering and increasing resiliency in life is similar. You have to do the work-outs yourself. But, to get really good, you’ll need a team supporting you, teaching you ways of healing. The team is there for the things none of us can do for ourselves very reliably or effectively. My mentor often reminded me that “a doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient.” So, if someone who has gone thru medical school and treated hundreds or thousands of other people is a fool for trying to do it on their own, anyone know what that make the person with much less medical training or experience that tries to do it all on their own? There are some things that you can very effectively do for yourself when recovering and increasing resiliency, however. Just like a runner training, there are ways you can train yourself to recover and increase resiliency. It is just a little more difficult during challenging times. By the way, you might find getting the right coach to support you along the way will make this "training" far more effective and way more fun. Just remember though, this isn't Little League. These kind of coaches are not volunteers and you should expect to pay for their time.
Secrets Don’t Make Money Unless They are Scandalous To make it simple and easy to remember, I refer to the “6 Health Secrets,” even though they aren’t really secrets. Most of us do most of these things in some way in our daily lives. These 6 Health Secrets just aren’t talked about much in the media because people don’t generally make money off of you doing these things. At least not like they can make money off of you needing to keep taking those pills. But you can practice and master the 6 Health Secrets on your own. And you can begin to incorporate these things far easier without the guidance of a professional than you can try to pick out the best pharmaceuticals, supplements, homeopathic, or anything else they are trying to sell, at least without the support of a trained professional. Not to say that any of this is meant to replace the advice of your healthcare team, please do chat with them before diving into the 6 Health Secrets, discontinuing any of their recommendations, or beginning most anything else you read on the internet. Here is the trick with the 6 Health Secrets series though: YOU HAVE TO DO ALL 6 SECRETS IN BALANCE. Almost every time I chat with someone about the 6 Health Secrets, the first response is “Yeah, I am doing number ____.” Yeah, I know.... we are all doing some of these things already. The key to recovering is to have all 6 of these “Secrets” directing our daily lives in a conscious way.
Creating Some New Opportunities Hippocrates wrote that “Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” Keeping the 6 Health Secrets in balance in your life will encourage more of those healing opportunities in life. This practice isn’t about perfection or getting it “right.” This practice is about focusing our lifestyle around recovering and increasing resiliency.
Secret 1: Living with Purpose Secret 2: Eating Well Secret 3: Drinking Responsibly Secret 4: Keep Moving Secret 5: Resting Well Secret 6: Healthy Socializing
Over the next few weeks, I will share more about each of the 6 Health Secrets to Recovering. And share some tips, recipes, and stories to help inspire you as you begin your training in recovering and increasing resiliency through the 6 Health Secrets. This long holiday weekend is a great time to practice keeping balance in all 6 areas…. looking forward to hearing your stories!