For anyone suffering any type of long-term illness or chronic condition, it can be easy to surrender to it and become part of what seems like a never ending, ill-fated destiny.
Getting into the vicious cycle becomes ever harder to get out of and you then start to become a passive bystander. This can be dangerous, where you somewhat just let life pass you by and not enjoy it to its fullest extent. It can be soul destroying for others who also turn to addictive, negative habits to numb out the pain or to help them forget, such as alcoholism or drug-use for example.
Coping with an illness can be hard physically, mentally, emotionally and socially, so the easy route appears to be those realms of self-destruction.
OR at the opposite end of the spectrum, where actually, you’re not participating in anything untoward, but just simply trudging along, surviving, but not living.
I’m guilty of this too and even sometimes at present, where my health is at its best ( 6 months of no infections, coughing, wheezing or hospitalisations). And what I mean by this, is simply not taking the best care of myself the best I could, for preventative measures such as sleeping well, eating well and exercising well. The moment you also get better, sometimes you start to think, oh I can relax now with the strict regime of medications, diet, yoga, sleeping etc and then you do less of it. And yep- this is called complacency, because you take it for granted.
Of course there’s a fine line with ‘Dolce far niente’ (see my last post) with that being acceptable and the ability to keep going.
One of the best descriptions I have seen of this is ‘rustout’.
“Complacency is akin to something called rustout. Rustout is more common in America than in other developed countries and it’s actually even scarier than “burnout” because, while burnout can wear down your body, rustout can wipe out your soul and spirit.
Rustout is the slow death that follows when we stop making the choices that keep life alive. It’s the feeling of numbness that comes from taking the safe way, never accepting new challenges, continually surrendering to the day-to-day routine. Rustout means we are no longer growing, but at best, are simply maintaining. It implies that we have traded the sensation of life for the security of a paycheck … Rustout is the opposite of burnout. Burnout is overdoing … rustout is underbeing.”
After some research and required reading, with some feelings of discontent, this has jolted me back into better behaviours because this has reminded me of Eastern philosophies. And particularly with my Asian background, I’m always conscious of protecting my energies and preventing the problem- not fixing it. We climb from the trenches to reach the top, and once we get there, we’re content with our achievements—but warning! Complacency will lead to extinction.
So if things seems better, that’s great, and we can absolutely 100% embrace that, enjoy it, show gratitude to it, but can never ever take it for granted. And if the opposite is true, where you’re in a dire position, complacency and surrender is certain way to lead a very unhappy, unfulfilled life.
Of course, it’s not easy to come out of the bubble of complacency because it originates from a lack of confidence and courage to make changes in our lives. Confidence and courage are two skills that are very hard to start, grow and nurture. It stems from self-love, support from others and guidance both internally and externally. It also requires a lot of self-trust. This can be incredibly daunting for all of us. No one is born with the strength in these qualities and characteristics.
That said, it is not insurmountable to pick up and learn these skills. We’re lucky to live in a world that now embraces all personality types but will also work with those that need help to get better, healthier, more stable, achieve more, learn new skills, cope better etc. There is a lot of information, self-help books, communities, courses, social pages and platforms to help people get there. You just need to look for it, seek it out and grab the opportunity. One cannot expect things to come to them freely.
And when it comes to disease management, you must actively seek solutions to problems that arise and take on a proactive approach to life in general.
My top tips and advice include the following:
- Take responsibility and recognise you have problems to solve and tackle it day by day. Being a passive bystander will not allow you to live successfully. It takes work be it physical commitment or emotional growth to overcome certain hurdles.
- Take it slow. The journey is just as important as the destination and you will always have new things to learn. But this is the exciting part, not just being at the top. Be in awe of your own hard work to achieving this. For example, since my diagnosis, I have become ever more enlightened with my mind, body and soul. I’ve learned yoga, I’ve picked up acupressure, I’m aware of the importance of life force energies (qi), I’m 100 times more grateful than ever before, I’m more content and balanced, materialism means less to me and erm geee I can handstand and headstand like never before. But this has taken over 3 years, yet I’ve grown leaps and bounds which may have normally taken someone until their old age to realise all of these things.
- Just do it. And no, not in the Nike way ( or if you want to!). Instead of thinking about doing something, many productivity and motivational books teach you just to do it. And one of the best tricks I’ve been taught is that if you’re feeling too lazy e.g. I don’t want to exercise or I can’t be bothered, but to do 10-15 mins of it anyway. And the idea is that once you get started, you actually may start to enjoy it and once you’re in the flow of it, it’s more difficult to stop it than it was to start it, because now that you’re doing it, you just want to finish it! Doing this every day, then starts to build habit. And humans are creatures of habit. So it then becomes easier and easier.
- Perception determines your life experience. I may not have control over my diagnosis, but how I face this challenge is mine to determine. If I look only at the limitations this disease places on me then my quality of life will suffer. If instead I focus on my abilities and even the gifts this experience has given me, I am much more prepared to deal with the challenges I face.
- Be content, not complacent. And appreciate your life. One of my favourite authors, Louise Hay (who sadly passed this year) always taught the best mantra- your point of power is right now. Not the past and not next week. You can’t control those things, but you can control now so you can pry yourself out of complacency rut by admitting that your life begins right now. Not next Monday or in two years time. Now. This is where you can start changing and growing now. And always remember that small things matter just as much as that holiday you’ve booked in 6 months time. Even having a cup of tea, reading a book, having brunch with friends and spending quality time with family are the most important things. Or even spending time with yourself and getting to know yourself is a life-changing thing. And it’s respecting yourself.
- Be willing. A positive intention or internal thoughts are just as important. To avoid complacency, its important to impart the wisdom you would give a close friend, to yourself. As I said previously in this post, complacency derives from courage and confidence. So you have to trust yourself and have a self-talk to give you the boost in achieving goals. Take risks. And if you fall down- that’s okay too, because you can stand right back up again. Learn from those mistakes and grow even taller, better, and stronger.
- Prevention. The key to optimum health is prevention. Don’t wait until you have a cough, cold or chronic illness to tackle it. I learned this the hard way with a diagnosis of severe and chronic, irreversible lung disease. If I had been less complacent perhaps and was less tolerant to constant chest infections or burnout/rustout, I might have been a ‘healthier’ individual or avoided lung disease all together.
I also reminded myself that I really don’t want to undo or rewind all my years and months of hard work on the path of getting better (yes ladies and gentlemen, I am SIX months with no hospitalisations!). This is a huge feat for me, so the last thing I want to be and should be is complacent and I hope that this will inspire you and others the same thing- NEVER EVER stop trying- and that goes for health, career, relationships, family and friends and life in general!