The Status Quo When It Comes To Chronic Dis-ease!
When it comes to the development of chronic dis-ease, there are many factors involved. These factors include diet, poor sleep quality, lifestyle, toxic exposures, infections, gut dysbiosis, stress, trauma, and more.
And, in terms of helping people recover from chronic disease or at least improve their health, the primary focus is most often centered around bio-chemical-based interventions.
By this, I am referring to approaches such as dietary changes, taking RX drugs, and implementing supplement protocols and other health hacks as a way to lessen inflammation, correct nutrient deficiencies, rid the body of infections, clear toxins, and more.
There Are Deeper Factors At Play!
Don't get me wrong! All of these types of interventions play an essential role in helping a person reverse or improve chronic health challenges.
I believe there are often deeper factors at play that prime a person to be vulnerable to developing chronic dis-ease in the first place.
Through my long, winding journey to recover my health and life from often disabling Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and my work with clients, I have come to know that perfectionism is one such factor -- and a BIGGIE for many.
It certainly was for me -- although it took me more than a decade to recognize it, embrace it, and be willing to take measures to shift it. Though I have come a long way in both my physical and emotional healing, perfectionism continues to be a struggle that I have to work hard to keep at bay.
First Off, What Is Perfectionism?
Some of the most common traits of perfectionism are as follows:
All or nothing thinking. This is a vicious cycle that involves perceiving the world through black and white lenses only. For example, you're trying to stick to a specific healing diet, and if you veer off for one day, you might think "I've failed so I may as well give up on this."
You never feel as if you are enough or do enough. This is a mental trap that leads to destructive habits such as obsessively checking and rechecking, workaholism, people pleasing, and the inability to relax.
Inflexibility and setting unrealistic standards. Life is a regular practice by which we learn from our mistakes. This requires a growth mindset. The perfectionist, however, views mistakes as failures and often clings to inner-dialogue that includes something along the lines of "Why bother? I can’t do this. Nothing ever works out for me?"
Inability to delegate responsibility to others. Due to lack of trust in others and thinking patterns such as "If I want something done right, I have to do it myself," the perfectionist overloads him or herself with a never-ending to-do list. The result of this is often anxiety, exhaustion, burnout, anger, and overwhelm. This negatively affects your relationship with yourself and others.
Fear of failure often leads to inaction. The perfectionist spends a great deal of time ruminating about past mistakes, over-analyzing, and fretting about everything that could go wrong when it comes to decision making and taking action. In light of this, you often get stuck in a mental gridlock and unable to move forward. The more a perfectionist remains stuck in a state of inaction, the more they spiral into an abyss of inadequacy, anxiety, and ultimately depression.
Excessive need for control. The perfectionist continually attempts to control the actions of others and the circumstances in their life as a way of maintaining "order." They struggle to realize the only thing they truly have control over is themselves and their response to the people and events in their life. In light of this, they drain their energy over-focusing on things they have no control over. And, in a drained state, their lives become embittered and unmanageable.
How Does Perfectionism Pave The Way To Chronic Dis-ease?
Perfectionism leads one to live their life on a roller coaster of anxiety. Chronic anxiety leads to a continual overproduction of stress hormones. On the short-term, stress hormones are beneficial and life-saving. They help us take action or flee from danger.
On the long-term, however, they inhibit health-promoting functions such as digestion, sleep cycles, hormone and neurotransmitter production, immune function, detoxification, and more.
In this state, cellular dysfunction and metabolic chaos® set in, which primes the body and mind for a myriad of chronic diseases.
So, How Can You Break Free From The Rut Of Perfectionism?
As somebody that has had a life-long struggle with perfectionism, I can tell you that taking control of your inner critic is not easy, but it is possible.
Your perfectionism tendencies have likely been alive and kicking your entire life. They've become deeply engrained neurological pathways within your brain. They've become the default script that your nervous system reads from often; especially during times of challenge, transition, and the need to perform or make a change.
This destructive mental pattern recently reared its ugly head in my life as a result of facing the stress of my aging mother, dealing with dysfunctional dynamics between my siblings and I, and navigating the many challenges that come with being a business owner and wanting to take my business to the next level.
Amidst this, my inner critic stepped right up and had me engaging with thoughts such as:
"I'm a shitty daughter. My siblings are right. I don't do enough for my mother, and I need to do more. And, as far as my business is concerned, I don't have what it takes to the next level. I may as well throw in the towel and go back to teaching even though it sucked the life out of me. It's what I know, and I may as well accept that is all I can ever do. Blah, blah, blah.."
And, the more I engaged with these thoughts, the deeper into the pit of anxiety, dread, despair, and lack of action I fell. And the more this happened, the more my physical and mental health suffered.
Fortunately, I now have a vast toolbox of intervention strategies to pull from when I find myself in this state of mind.
Here are some strategies that have worked and continue to work for me:
#1: Cultivate awareness, call it out it, and look for evidence to the contrary!
The first step in shifting any pattern is to be aware of how and when it shows up, recognize the distress it triggers, and challenge it.
For example, when I caught myself engaging in the thoughts above, I made an intentional effort to say to myself:
"Jen. This is an old pattern surfacing that you need to challenge. You know where it takes you. Also, are these thoughts true? Are you a crappy daughter, and do you truly not have what it takes to take your business to the next level? What are you making the recent events mean? Where in your life can you find evidence to support the untruthfulness of these thoughts?"
By doing this, I was able to calm my emotional response, which then allowed me to think more clearly and rationally about my situation.
#2: Remember the formula E + R = O!
This is a tool that I learned as part of my Jack Canfield Success Principles training where "E" equals event, "R" equals response, and "O" equals outcome.
What this means is that while we most often have little to no control of the events in our lives, we still have 100% control over how we choose to respond to those events. And, how we respond determines the outcomes we experience.
For example, when I was in the thick of horrific Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and nothing I did to heal seemed to make a dent, I would often respond with, "Why bother trying anything anymore? I'm flawed and doomed to be sick forever."
All this served to do was perpetuate a vicious stress-pain-illness cycle and prevent anything I was doing to heal from being remotely helpful. It also prevented me from seeing any hope and being able to view my health challenges through a new lens. When I finally decided to work on shifting this pattern, which was very challenging to do btw, is when I finally started to make strides forward in my health.
#3: Gain clarity through taking action!
As mentioned earlier, perfectionism tends to gridlock us in continual over-analyzation and fear of failure. As a result, we become prone to inaction. Inaction then fuels feelings of inadequacy and around and around we go; stuck in the muck of second-guessing, self-doubt, and fret.
I have found the best and often only way out of this zone is to push through resistance and take action; no matter how small.
For instance, perfectionism often surfaces for me with every step I take in my business. I will use blogging as an example here.
Writing regular blogs is not without challenge. There are times where the notion of transforming my thoughts into a cohesive, well-written article that provides value is very overwhelming. I often find myself engaging with ideas such as "Ugg. I can't do this! This is a bad topic for a blog article. Nobody will want to read it. Etc."
And, when this happens, I sit there staring at a blank computer screen, painfully trying to force myself to type a single sentence. The reason for this is because I am trying to tackle the entire project in one swoop versus breaking it up into incremental steps.
When I take a step back and focus on writing just the title and the first sentence or two, I then start to see more clarity. And, with each sentence I write, the overwhelm lessons and the easier it is to write the next sentence and so on.
This concept applies to everything in life. Attempting to "see up the entire staircase before taking the first step" is overwhelming and most often leads to confusion, fear, panic, and ultimately inaction.
When you find yourself in this state, regardless of what you are trying to accomplish, ask yourself, "What is the very first step I can take?" And if that step seems too overwhelming then ask yourself, "How can I break this step into even smaller steps?” or perhaps “How can I make tomorrow 1% better than today?”
With each step forward you take, the clouds of confusion will begin to part, and you will start to see more and more glimmers of hope and clarity.
So, that’s a wrap for this week’s article. I hope it provided useful insight and actionable strategies for you to implement in your own life.