Can a Break From Routine Induce Healing?

Can a Break From Routine Induce Healing?
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This is a question I found myself pondering the other week as I locked up my little flat and escaped to somewhere sunny and beautiful for a short time.

I spontaneously decided to visit my best friend on a little island where she lives and works. I’m aware of how lucky I am to be healthy enough to even consider a trip, especially with the way the world is right now. But I felt strongly in my gut and in my heart that after six long months spent mostly alone in my apartment, I needed a break from the routine. From convention. From the four corners of my own mind.

I meant to stay only a few days, but decided to skip my flight home and stay another week. This was not just because I was admittedly having the most wonderful time with my best friend, swimming in the turquoise sea, eating delicious food, and laughing hysterically as we always do, but also because I felt the respite from my routine was, to my surprise, genuinely healing my body.

It’s a strange paradox, but stepping away from the obsessive exercise and strict health food regime, and the habitual (and constraining?) routine I had created for myself turned out to be surprisingly deeply remedial.

I’ve suffered from chronic insomnia for about two years, ever since my cancer relapsed. It got really bad about a year ago, after my transplant. Due to the amount of trauma my body had endured from all of the chemotherapy, I found I was incapable of falling asleep naturally.

My oncologist prescribed a sleeping pill, and as time progressed, I found myself becoming highly dependent on this little tablet to help my brain shut off each night. However, it also never made me feel truly rested, and I stopped having dreams completely for over a year.

Similarly, with my menstrual cycle, I accepted that it likely would not be returning due to the aggressive nature of the chemotherapy I’d been through. Hormonally, my body has been out of sync for a long time, and I surrendered to the fact that I probably would never have a period again. I tried hormone replacement therapy for a while but found it to be of little help.

Preparing for this little getaway, I packed enough sleeping aids only for a few days. When I decided to stay an extra week, I suddenly panicked at the thought of not having my crutch to help me fall asleep. Admittedly, I did have one desperate night when I lay awake with my mind racing, wishing I could escape the thoughts in my head, and feeling sad, low, and hopeless that my body had become so dependent on something external to access something as natural as sleep.

Nevertheless, after that one sleepless night, I pushed through, and the next night to my surprise I slept like a baby. Then the same thing occurred the following evening, and the evening after that. It was as if my body was reteaching itself how to sleep.

I can’t express to you how good this has felt. I’m actually dreaming again! Additionally, I wake up feeling deeply rested for the first time in a long, long time. It’s strange because I’ve taken a two-week break from any form of exercise and have been eating whatever I want. One would think this would have an adverse effect.

But perhaps there is something to be said about giving our bodies a break from all the relentless rules and restrictions, and just being; letting ourselves indulge, even for a short time, without judgment. To my surprise, remarkably, I woke up another morning to find I was menstruating for the first time in over a year and a half.

Now, to add a caveat to all of this, obviously, I’m not doctor and don’t fully understand what is going on inside my body right now. But I do feel instinctually that the combination of sea and sunshine, of indulgence and laughter, of my best friend’s companionship and delicious food, a pause from rigorous exercise, and a break from the intensity of everything that has unfolded over the past few years have given my body time to relax, to be less under pressure, and to feel more nurtured, more loved, and more nourished.

And that, admittedly, feels pretty damn good.

(Courtesy of Michelle Raphaella Fredman)

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Note: Lymphoma News Today 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 Lymphoma News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lymphoma.

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