I credit my engagement in practices and (occasional) situations that cause discomfort, such as climbing Long’s Peak pictured here, with accelerating my recovery from Lyme disease. You don’t need to climb a mountain to heal, but, in my opinion, the idea that leaning into discomfort can improve our health still holds true across situations, whether you’re facing a new treatment for Lyme disease or a dietary change.
I recently read a book that deeply resonated with me, The Comfort Crisis. This book made me think more about the factors that have been imperative in my recovery process from Lyme disease and other EAI (environmentally acquired illnesses). This article will be short but hopefully impactful!
The thesis of The Comfort Crisis is that our modern-day lives have become too cushioned in comfort; We live in temperature-controlled homes, most of us have food available at all times, and we barely need to move our bodies to survive (hence, the epidemic of sedentarism). As a result, most of us rarely face any challenges, either inadvertent or intentional. The author, Michael Easter, argues that by challenging ourselves and facing up to discomfort (through things such as spending time deep in nature, facing up to occasional hunger, and learning to be comfortable with silence and solitude), we can tap into evolutionarily wired processes in our brains and bodies that ultimately up-level our health and happiness. As I was reading the book, it dawned on me that the most impactful things I have done to heal myself from Lyme and EAI were, in many ways, deeply uncomfortable. However, my willingness to lean into that discomfort ultimately allowed me to break through my barriers to healing and not only recover my physical health but also rise beyond what I had previously thought was possible for my body and my life.
I think many people want their healing process to be easy, simple, and utterly free of occasional discomfort. However, while healing shouldn’t feel like a brutal battle, I think we need to realize that sometimes the most significant changes we can make to up-level our health can feel a bit uncomfortable. Good examples of diet and lifestyle shifts that produce temporary discomfort, but are ultimately highly impactful, that I frequently address with my nutrition clients include:
Supporting clients in transitioning from a vegan diet to a Paleo diet, once a client realizes that they need animal foods to support nutritional status for healing
Getting into the rhythm of intermittent fasting; feeling hunger isn’t comfortable at first, but intermittent fasting has many benefits to offer once we work through the initial discomfort
Working on increasing physical activity to build an aerobic base and mitochondrial function. After years of inactivity due to exercise intolerance, I was reminded that increasing physical activity does not feel often feel good initially!
Here are a few examples of the uncomfortable shifts I made in my life that I believe were instrumental in my healing process:
Switching from a vegan diet to a Paleo diet, upon realizing that a vegan diet was impairing my body’s ability to heal; I had previously been vegan for two years, so this felt like a monumental change.
Moving by myself to a new home in a different state, where I knew nobody so that I could pursue a lifestyle (more outdoors time!) that fed my soul
Pursuing health interventions that didn’t always feel great (hello dental treatments and mold detox!) but that ultimately allowed me to come out on the other side stronger, healthier, and more resilient.
Learning how to stand up for myself in the face of medical professionals who either did not believe that I was ill or tried to tell me what was best for my health (when my intuition told me otherwise)
Taking a career path that often felt uncertain but that I was truly passionate about
Opening up early on to the individual I was dating (now my partner of nearly four years) about my health challenges
Facing cold, hunger, fatigue, and occasional fear in the wilderness on various backpacking and skiing trips with my partner.
Most recently, pursuing physical challenges, such as climbing Mt. Baker and doing a trail half-marathon, with success!
Most of us are just too darn used to being comfortable all of the time! However, a health crisis is, in and of itself, uncomfortable. If you’ve dealt with Lyme disease or other complex, chronic illnesses, I’m sure you know exactly what this discomfort feels like. It is not easy. Likewise, the path out of a health crisis may also be uncomfortable at times because it forces us to face uncomfortable truths about our diet, lifestyle, relationships, career, and mindset (among other factors) that impact our healing trajectory. In my opinion and personal experience, when we embrace discomfort, we can turn our healing journeys into vast opportunities for growth. The human brain is wired to seek comfort and, in our modern world, where discomfort is optional, we sometimes need to lean into discomfort so that we can come out the other side healthier and happier than we were before.
I hope this short blog has provided you with some food for thought. I highly encourage you to check out the book The Comfort Crisis if you’re interested in exploring this topic further.
Lindsay Christensen, MS, CNS, CKNS
Learn the specific foods to eat (and 3 to avoid) to support your recovery from Lyme Disease.
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