When Your Healing Routines Become Harmful

When Your Healing Routines Become Harmful
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It’s 10 a.m. on a Monday morning and I just finished a wholesome yet decadent breakfast before sitting down to start my workday.

This isn’t my usual habit. Normally, I’d be whizzing up a smoothie while listening to a health- or business-related podcast. It’s incredibly rare that I have the opportunity to take it slow, and when I do, I tend to fill that time with something “productive.”

Today was different. Lately I’ve been practicing being slower, more restful, when I can. I had a client cancellation, and normally I would use that time to tick off one of the many things on my to-do list. Instead, I’m using it to ease into my Monday.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I’ve been noticing a trend.

Many of my clients are desperate to feel well, and are therefore very motivated to create change. A client arrives burnt out after trying multiple strategies to improve their health, or they return after a session having tried to do much more than their action steps. They perceive themselves as “bad” or “naughty” if they haven’t reached the high expectations they set for themselves.

I have to check in with myself regularly, too.

My hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction was fueled by following a life coach who uses tough love. At first I resisted some of what she said, but over time, I came around to her way of thinking. This was dangerous ground with my history of obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, perfectionism, and workaholism. The life coach emphasized pushing yourself every day, and while she didn’t expect people to push themselves to burnout, I have trouble seeing where the line is. I’ve previously talked about why my anxiety is the key driver of this behavior, and how I’m unlearning many of these tendencies now.

This is a slow process for my clients — and for myself. We are used to feeling behind and living in fight-or-flight mode because life feels harder for us. Going to work feels harder. Earning a promotion feels harder. Being a good partner or parent or friend feels harder. We have to really push ourselves to even reach what others would call “normal,” let alone exceptional. As a result, we’re wired to be hard on ourselves, to strive, and we take that approach into our healing as well.

This can often manifest in rigid routines, in feeling guilty if we “deviate” from our healing plan, in agonizing over a slice of cake. But here’s the thing: Stressing ourselves out over the “perfect” healing regimen will only push us further into HPA axis dysfunction — and rob us of joy.

Recently, I’ve temporarily let go of a lot of my routines. I could do with having some of them back, like my daily meditation, but I’m equally enjoying having more fluidity in my lifestyle and leaning into what I feel like doing for my well-being each day. A lack of routine won’t always serve me in the long run, but right now, it’s taking some of the pressure off and allowing me to learn which of my routines are nourishing me, and which ones are actually stressing me out.

Part of this is not taking a “perfect” approach to my HPA axis recovery. As a health coach, I know all the steps, but the idea of doing them all right away feels stressful. I have spent the past seven or so years living within a routine that allows me to exist free of most of my endo pain, but for once, I need to slacken the reins. And it looks different every day.

Some days I feel the urge to watch a further education workshop in the mornings, and on others, an hour-long meditation. Some days I feel like reading fiction, others a book on period health. I’m spending more time on the couch, in the bath, and doing “nothing” on the weekends. A way of existing that would have previously caused me to spiral into feelings of depression.

It’s an interesting and sometimes disconcerting place to be, but I am noticing a gradual increase in strength and a loosening of the coil that had wound itself so tightly inside of me — a spring ready to erupt when the tension had become too much.

If you recognize some of what I’ve shared today, I invite you to question your approach to healing. Which routines are truly serving you, and which ones are you performing simply because you think you should?

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Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.

Jessica is the creator of This EndoLife.com, a website dedicated to supporting women with endometriosis, women’s health conditions and the associated mental health issues that accompany them. She is also host of This EndoLife Podcast, where she interviews guests managing chronic illnesses and mental health problems in their own unique ways and are helping others to do the same. Jessica has a background in the arts and charity, having spent the past six years working with organizations supporting women with endometriosis, vulnerable young people and survivors of domestic violence and trafficking.
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Jessica is the creator of This EndoLife.com, a website dedicated to supporting women with endometriosis, women’s health conditions and the associated mental health issues that accompany them. She is also host of This EndoLife Podcast, where she interviews guests managing chronic illnesses and mental health problems in their own unique ways and are helping others to do the same. Jessica has a background in the arts and charity, having spent the past six years working with organizations supporting women with endometriosis, vulnerable young people and survivors of domestic violence and trafficking.

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