I felt desperate. I felt like I stood in front of this huge gate and I kept shouting through the lattices but no one would hear me from the other side. I was repeatedly admitted to the hospital, again and again, with the erysipelas infection in my legs, caused by my lymphedema, and none of the doctors cared for my input. Even though I could actually prove that an extreme amount of mental pressure on me seemed to cause the infections. When something triggered all my fears of not being good enough at law school after had being away for a some time because of the cancer treatment, it would cause an extreme stress reaction in my body, apparently triggering the infections. But not one doctor believed me. That was until I ended up at the lymphedema specialist at Bispebjerg Hospital; they believed me – and at the same time they informed me that studies have shown that stress actually can be the trigger for a number of skin deseases, for example psoriasis. (You can read more about stress and the erysipelas infection here.)
When I – after 5 years – finally was believed in relation to the effect of stress when you have lymphedema, I realized that if that was the case, I had to do something to prevent myself from getting stressed. Besides from being able to trigger the infections, stress also results in my legs swelling in a way that cannot just be controlled by doing sports or other healthy things. I need to be in control of my mind.
That means prioritizing clearing my head, preferably on a daily basis. I am not the best at sitting down and meditation, so I try to do a lot of different things to make sure that my head gets the breaks it needs. Maybe you can use some of these things as well.
- Going for a walk. I try go for a walk a couple times a week, preferably in areas with some kind of nature. When walking I sometimes try focusing on either the sound of my footsteps in the gravel, the birds singing or the sound of the wind in the trees. To focus on these things forces my mind away from the many daily thoughts.
- Going to the woods. Going for a long walk and getting lost in the forest has the most meditative effect on me. I study the trees, the animals and everything else – and sometimes stop and look at the treetops dancing in the wind. A Danish doctor actually recently published a book where he stated that people should be prescribed “nature”; as in nature having such a great effect on our mental state, that we should be sent out on nature walks when dealing with for example stress or anxiety instead of only dealing with it by using regular medication.
- Classical meditation. When I come home from work, I sit into my favourite chair and meditate by using my favourite app (“Breethe”) for this purpose. I spend 15 minutes doing this. Did you know that studies show that after just 5 weeks of doing daily meditation, scans will show alterations in your brain? Good alterations, having an effect in relation to for example stress level. If you have a hard time meditating without guidance (like me), I would advice you to try out different apps until you find one that works for you.
- Watching old Danish movies while doing creative stuff. But that is probably just my thing; I was brought up watching all these old Danish movies from the 1940’s-1960’s and they have the most calming effect on me and I at the same time enjoy being creative with yarns, paper and other stuff.