Sanya Richards was in a Behcet’s “flare” — covered in lesions and experiencing fatigue — when she won the Women’s 400m at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009!
She did what with what?
Richards thinks that running races while living with this disease is “almost more of a mental hurdle than a physical one”. “Before, it used to totally freak me out and be an additional burden on my mind,” said Richards, who treats the disease through medication. Diagnosed in 2007, she believes that stress makes the disease worse.
Huh? An Olympic racer commenting on stress? Aren’t they taught early to override their body’s pain and their emotional fears? But Richards makes a key distinction between stress and “pressure”. She explains that she tries to remain “pressure free”. “I”m trying not to make it ( racing) pressure but something that’s fun.”
“If I stay relaxed and not make it a big issue, I don’t get as many (lesions) or it doesn’t affect me as bad,” Richards said. She says that this racing season she feels less pressured — and the results prove it.
So what lessons can we mine from this extraordinary story? This is what I get:
- Stress is external and unavoidable. That means you can’t control whether it’s there or not. But you can take charge of how we internalize or respond to it. When you react to stress by putting more pressure on yourself, you can make yourself feel worse -or worsen the disease symptoms.
- Figuring out how to feel relaxed and stay relaxed can be a powerful tool in managing your illness. It won’t cure it but it might help keep the symptoms less debilitating and it will certainly help you take your mind off your fears and difficulties.
I’ve seen clients do better when they have tools that allow them to restore balance, focus on their energy and not absorb the anxiety of others. For that reason, I’ve developed several activities that helps you learn to observe your body and harness your energy. If you own my Keep Working With Chronic Illness Workbook, use The Pulse and Focus Your Energy activities for this. Don’t own it? You should. All of the exercises in this workbook are designed specifically for people living with the stress of chronic illness.
Can you imagine being able to do this for yourself? What works to help you relax from the pressures that exist? (share your thoughts — click for the comments online at the website!)
P.S. Thanks to Ricky at http://fourwallsnolimits.net/ for suggesting this title!