I am a stroke survivor. Two years ago I suffered a devastating stroke. My body was impacted through loss of vision, balance and the inability to walk. After three weeks in the hospital and six months of therapy, most people could no longer tell I had any physical deficiency.
While I still have residual challenges with balance, I am grateful for a remarkable recovery. The journey of healing was not always easy, but as I look back over the past two years, I see clearly five key lessons that made the transformation easier. The best part is these five lessons apply to more than just healing from a stroke. They can transform your life no matter what challenges you are dealing with.
1. Trust your body’s intuition.
Our bodies constantly give us feedback. The first lesson for me was to trust my body’s messages no matter what. This saved my life. I was in the middle of teaching a yoga class when the stroke hit. I recognized immediately that something was critically wrong. The EMT who arrived couldn’t believe a healthy 35-year-old was having a stroke. He told me I had vertigo and asked if I still wanted the ambulance. I said, “Hell, yes!” As soon as I got to the E.R., doctors recognized I was having a stroke. I got the treatment I needed to save my life and prevent further damage. It was because I took a stand and honored my body’s intuition that I made it to the hospital on time.
Where in your daily life can you trust your body’s intuition? Do you need to get up from your desk and take more breaks? Do you need to drink more water and stay hydrated? Your body is letting you know what you need right now. Be careful about other people’s opinions. Listen to your own divine intuition.
2. Move your body. Every day.
I didn’t realize I couldn’t walk until the first time I got out of the hospital bed. Two physical therapists assisted me and I barely made it a few feet down the hallway. I was beyond discouraged. It would have been easier for me to lay in bed all day. But the more I got up and physically moved, the faster my brain relearned how to DO. I never missed a therapy session. I went for walks, even though I had to use a walker. I went back to yoga class as soon as I possibly could. It was exhausting, but the more I moved, the faster I was healing. The key was consistency. Whatever your physical goals, daily movement will make the biggest difference. Start wherever you are, whether it’s walking a mile or running a marathon. Get moving every day.
3. Feed your brain "vitamin P."
We become what we think about most of the time. If we think discouraging thoughts, we become a discouraged person. Of course I experienced discouragement after the stroke, but I didn’t let negative thoughts go viral in my brain. I used affirmations to pivot my thinking into a positive spiral. My hospital mantra was, “I am absolutely capable of healing. My body and brain know perfectly how to heal.” And guess what? This affirmation came true. Positive thinking isn’t something that just comes naturally – it takes effort to cultivate. Go ahead – nourish your brain with vitamin P. Write out your positive affirmations, put them where you can see them, say them out loud often, and watch miracles happen.
4. Eat great to feel great.
You feel only as good as you fuel. After I passed the hospital swallow test, I went for comfort foods like mashed potatoes and carrot cake. What resulted was a foggy head and extra fatigue – not a good combination when I was trying to focus on healing. Even if we are focused on something smaller, like just getting through the next meeting at work, what we eat will make a big impact on our resilience and stamina. Once I started eating more greens and avoiding those empty carbs, I started to feel much better. My outlook improved, and my ability to get moving skyrocketed. Whatever our life situation, we can stack the odds in our favor by eating for maximum nutrition.
5. Stay connected!
This one is so important for any challenge. You are never alone. I attend local support group meetings and connect with other stroke survivors on social media. It reminds me that many people suffer, that many people overcome suffering, and that I have a network of love and support always. The more positive support you surround yourself with, the more successful you will become with ANY goal. Enough hiding. Be visible, and connect. Others need you as much as you need them!