If you have followed me for any length of time, you have no doubt seen me post or hashtag about how Mindset Matters. I am willing to bet you have also seen this quote from Buddha, "The mind is everything. What you think you become." I want to unpack this a bit today as it has been on my mind while working with more clients that are suffering post-cov*d.
Some of the very things many long-cov*d patients are struggling with are the same things I live with on a daily basis (and I've never had cov*d). The first is Dysautonomia - a dysfunction of the nerves that regulate the involuntary body functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and sweating. I have always had low blood pressure but in my late teens, I developed vasovagal syncope (a type of Dysautonomia where the blood pressure and heart rate drop, leads to fainting). The second is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) (I was diagnosed in 2011) - mast cells are in everyone's body, throughout all organ systems. It's normal for mast cells to release mediators when you have an infection, have been exposed to an allergen, get a bug bite... but for those of us with MCAS, our mast cells release their mediators without exposure to an allergen, to unknown triggers - not allergies, the allergy tests tend to come back normal. Chemicals, scents, stress, extreme cold or extreme heat, foods high in histamine, loss of sleep, trauma of any kind all can cause a host of symptoms including itching, flushing, hives, sweating, swelling, rash, itchy/watery eyes, runny/itchy nose, itching, swelling of throat, tongue, lips, wheezing, low blood pressure and rapid heart rate, cramping, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headaches, confusion, chronic fatigue, and in severe cases anaphylactic shock. I have suffered from EVERY. SINGLE. SYMPTOM above, including anaphylaxis. At my absolute worst, I suffered from anaphylaxis 3 times per week and a full blown cytokine storm - a severe immune reaction when the body releases too many cytokines into the blood too quickly (left untreated, these inflammatory proteins can kill tissue and damage organs). These are also things we have heard many cov*d patients have experienced. Unfortunately, many cov*d patients are suffering from these symptoms long after the virus has cleared. (https://www.mdpi.com/2308-3425/8/11/156/htm) - Post-Acute Sequelae of Covid-19 and Cardiovascular Autonomic Dysfunction: What Do We Know?
Let's circle back to mindset... Whether you have a chronic condition, an acute issue, or you are dealing with something new and confusing, like long-cov*d, it's important to remember this one thing: YOU ARE NOT YOUR DIAGNOSIS! At my worst, I had to get help from my husband to do the simplest things (things we take for granted), things like getting out of bed! I was determined to not give in to the suffering. I had been on a downward spiral for 10 years and finally had answers when diagnosed with MCAS. I was told it was a life-long condition and I would have to learn to live with it. THAT WAS IT! "learn to live with it" - Those words set into my mind and took root. I had to understand that I had a diagnosis, but I was not my diagnosis. My health issues did not make up who I am... My health issues were something I had to learn to live with. I had to figure out how to best support my body and that work... THAT WORK STARTED IN MY MIND.
I have a new client that has come to me with MCAS and she is really struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel. She has asked me if she will have to live like this (uncontrolled reactions, unknown triggers) for the rest of her life. She wants to "live a normal life again". I get this. I understand where she's coming from. I have been where she is. The first thing I told her was "YOU ARE NOT YOUR DIAGNOSIS" so you have to figure out how to coexist in your body with a condition that has a tendency to go rogue. You have to make peace with your body. You need to accept your body with all it's got going on and remember your stress feeds into your symptoms. EVERY CELL IN YOUR BODY IS LISTENING TO WHAT YOU SAY IN YOUR MIND. Speak gently to yourself. As Buddha says, "What you think, you become." So if you believe you are a victim, if you believe you will never be well, if you believe things will never get better, if you believe you cannot love your body again because you believe your body hates you... then you will feed the condition with elevated stress hormones that will excite the mast cells and cause a cascade of more symptoms.
So here's the good news! You get to decide what you will become. We are all in a state of becoming... if we so choose to be. Every day we make choices. Every day, good or bad, we can choose to learn from a situation or event, or become a victim of it. It's your mindset that matters. It's your mindset that sets you free from misery. It's your mindset that helps keep you from camping out at rock bottom. That being said, not everyone has the capacity to alter their mindset on their own. That's okay. Knowing what you want to achieve and actually achieving it takes work and dedication. That's part of what I do as a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC)... I guide clients to their goals, hold sacred space for them, help them make discoveries, and hold them accountable and celebrate their victories. If they fail, and we all do, I help them learn and move on through reflection and discussions. We are all a work in progress. Having support from someone can make all the difference, especially if they have been where we are!
I would be remiss if I did not mention that as an NBC-HWC, I abide by my oath and I certainly have exercised my right to refer clients out to a mental health professional should their issues run too deep for my support. It's important to stay in our respective lane, it's an injustice (and dangerous) if we don't. If you need support reaching health and wellness goals, please reach out to me at Karen@HealthCoachForYou.com or book a Discovery Call with me. If you are struggling mentally or feeling overwhelmed, please reach out to a mental health professional in your area. If you are feeling suicidal or in emotional distress, please call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HELLO to 741741 for 24 hour, confidential support.
Finally, please know that you were made to do BIG things and you deserve to live your best life! No matter how difficult things may seem, you will get through this. I see you and I believe in you. You've got this!
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