Spring is not yet here, but it’s time to start my garden! Several years ago my husband gave me a special birthday gift: a two-level grow light stand so I can start my favorite plants inside our apartment and transition them outside when spring comes. The stand barely fits in our kitchen where it is set between the fridge and pantry - the pantry door only opens half way - but it’s totally worth the loss of space.
So I’ve been sitting at the table with all the jars full of tiny seeds I’ve culled over the years, a pair of tweezer to dig in the soil tray, and a plastic spoon to tuck them into their temporary beds. After the seeds are settled I mist down the soil until it is heavily moist, place the plastic domes on top to keep the humidity high, and place them under the grow lights so they can begin their growth cycle to fruition.
As I repeat the seed placement in each tray cell, I think about how nature makes it all work. The seeds have their needs; they cannot reach their full potential unless their needs are properly met. If they lack even one basic need, they will hold themselves within their shell and wait.
"It's a sign of wisdom that seeds don't squander their energy all at once, instead calmly waiting until the time is right. Seeds aren't stupid."
~ Midas Dekkers
We are no different. Human have needs that must be met, and those of us with chronic pain have additional needs if we are to function and thrive. I know when I neglect my body: I’m too busy, I’m angry at my pain, or I just plain forget and overdo... then I pay a heavy physical toll later. If we fail to provide adequately for our basic needs our bodies do not have the energy and resources to support us well through normal life, let alone to help us to cope with the additional burden chronic pain forces on us. To ‘sprout’ through our difficulties and ‘bloom’ into happiness, we absolutely must honor our basic needs and heed the lesson my seeds are teaching us.
Here are the basic needs we need to remember:
~* EAT WELL *~
Eating properly is especially essential when our bodies are struggling with illness and pain. Consuming too little or too much can be especially detrimental, and it is all too easy to slip into bad habits if we lose our focus. Talk to your doctor about what should be your healthy weight and if there are ways for you to safely reach your goal within your physical limits.
If your illness requires specific dietary restrictions (diabetes, celiac disease, taking medications like Coumadin) it is imperative that you carefully track your diet. Consulting closely with your doctor is a given. Working with a nutritionist is also an excellent option.
~* KEEP HYDRATED *~
How simple it sounds and yet so often we disregard just how important it is to drink water. When taking medication, it is vital to drink enough fluid and some meds even require you to consume one or two glasses.
Here are some helpful tips*:
1) Have a glass of water or juice on arising in the morning, since you've had no fluids for many hours.
2) Drink constantly throughout the day rather than several 'big gulps' at once—this meets your body's needs better and may prevent the problem of frequent urination.
3) If you have problems with constipation, it could be because you don't drink enough water—our bodies need water to balance the fiber intake that comes from fruits, vegetables, and grains.
4) Fluids are more easily absorbed from the body when they are somewhat cooler, about 40-60 degrees. Keep a 1 or 2 quart bottle of water in your refrigerator and make sure you drink, and refill it daily.
5) When you pass a drinking fountain, stop for a refreshing drink.
6) Use the color of your urine as a guide for how well your are hydrating. If you urinate regularly and your urine is light yellow, you're drinking enough. If it's dark yellow, increase your fluid intake.
7) Carry a water bottle with you and drink regularly between meals.
8) Allergy sufferers and persons taking any medication should try to attain the fluid goals outlined above. Our kidneys and liver need extra water to process medicines.
*These tips are from Univeristy of Washington, Hall Health. There is more information on hydration at their website.
~* GET ENOUGH SLEEP *~
How elusive sleep can be for those of us in pain! Currently I am struggling desperately with this basic need. Beyond treating the pain directly, there are many useful tips for getting a good night’s sleep. One of the most comprehensive sites I’ve found is here: How to Sleep Better
~* EXERCISE *~
How, you might ask, do my seeds teach us this? Believe it or not, they do exercise. As the tiny sprouts push up through the soil, only the sturdiest ones survive to break the surface. As they becomes seedlings, wind and rain (in this case, my misting bottle!) force the thin little stems to brace themselves and become stronger.
Exercise is not only fundamental for healthy physical functioning, it can be beneficial for those with chronic pain. The release of endorphins is a natural pain killer and can also lift your mood. Doing a workout can also help you sleep better.
The website The Chronic Pain Haven has great info on: Chronic Pain & Exercise
~* PACE YOURSELF *~
My seeds know that when they reach the limit of their resources, they must rest. At night, they naturally slow their cycle and take a break until they are able to store up more energy. Those that push too hard will be weakened or stunted.
We can certainly learn from those smart little seeds on this one! Pushing beyond the boundary of our current resources will not continue for long. The big ‘crash’ will inevitably come as our bodies reach the edge of their endurance.
Pacing means that you don’t allow yourself to get swept up in the moment, over-commit yourself, or try too hard to please others. You’ll make your life a constant rollercoaster of painful physical ups and downs. Besides, pushing yourself too hard too often could cause your pain or illness to worsen, which is certainly something we don’t want!
Here are two articles you might find helpful on pacing:
~* HAVE SOME CHOCOLATE *~
Okay okay, my seeds don’t need chocolate! However, they do grow more vigorously, and yes, seem more perky & happy when I give them their favorite fertilizer. They respond eagerly when they are rewarded.
So do we! My favorite personal reward is milk chocolate; I’m a total addict! Perhaps your reward is a visit to a spa, to buy a book by your favorite author, to get a pedicure, have a hot soak in Epsom salts, have a bit cheesecake, etc. We all have a guilty pleasure we enjoy, and in my opinion, that fulfills a basic need as well . Allowing ourselves a little indulgence is a form of emotional self-care. We all need to live a little!
* ALSO RECOMMENDED *
You may like another post I wrote about how those tiny, amazing
Seeds give us a great message about living with chronic pain/illness: