In a society that tells us that rest is unnecessary, allowing illnesses and injuries to slowly run their course can be powerful.
So much of the time we are injured or unwell is spent wanting to do something to improve our situation. We want to take medicine, do physiotherapy, add more supplements, and so on. We want to be proactive in our healing. And this is a good thing—those actions, along with certain medicines and interventions, can certainly make a difference in our health.
But at the end of the day, what the body needs most in order to heal is to be allowed to do so. Our bodies are amazing in their ability to heal and recover from all kinds of things. There are, however, plenty of things that can get in our way. Stress essentially signals to the nervous system that it must stay alert, and that it’s not yet time for healing, restoring, and recovering. When stress hormones move through the body, the immune system will not be able to work at its optimal level.
When the body feels safe, comfortable, and able to rest, the immune system is able to do its best work. In an ideal situation, when we are sick or injured, we get the immediate interventions we need, then take time to rest and recover. This period of time should feel calm, spacious, and supportive, and go for as long as we need to get better.
Of course, life isn’t always like that. We don’t always have the support we need, either from our medical teams or from our loved ones. If trauma is involved, the nervous system can get stuck in a scary moment, which causes a stress cycle that inhibits healing. Sometimes we get in our own way—we feel guilty about resting, so we push forward even when our bodies are desperately asking us to lie down. When we do this, we do not allow healing.
Some of the process of allowing can also include noticing the ways in which illness occasionally gives us what we need (if not what we want). Illness is often the only “good enough” reason to take some time off from work and our usual routines, to say “no” to social interactions, and to ask for help. It can give us a pause, which our spirits may be desperately needing. This might be because we need time to grieve. Or it might be because we’ve been overwhelmed. Sometimes illness shows up when we are going through a transition and need help moving from one state to the next.
Allowing may even help chronic illnesses. Chronic conditions are shockingly common and incredibly mysterious—sometimes they heal completely and go away, and other times they stick around and even worsen over time and no one really knows why. Across the board, however, chronic conditions have some relationship with the nervous system. What would it look like to allow our bodies to heal from chronic issues?
If the condition is trying to tell us that something is out of balance in our lives, perhaps it’s time to allow the illness to change us in some way: change our habits, our patterns, our relationships, or our coping mechanisms. What if we gave the illness what it wants for a while? What if we listened to the cues of the body rather than trying to force ourselves to function in society as if nothing was different?
Allowing doesn’t necessarily mean taking the easy route—not at all. It’s not the same as ignoring, giving in, or giving up. Rather, it would be a radical act of listening deeply to our bodies and honoring what they are trying to tell us. It would mean making space for rest, recovery, and change in a society that makes these processes very challenging. It would mean choosing healing over making everyone else happy.
In this way, allowing can be a warrior’s path.
Learn more about medicine for the tired spirit.