Getting Sick Makes You Feel Down In The Dumps – Or Is It The Other Way Around?

Negativity and sickness is kind of like figuring out the story of the chicken and the egg, which one really comes first is a mystery. Well, I have some thoughts on the subject (Obviously the egg came first, duh! Just kidding, that’s not what this article is about!). We can’t deny that developing an illness or disease or just the common cold, can be a bummer (or a huge-ass bummer in many cases!). But there’s a difference between venting your feelings and every day coming home just to talk about the worst things that happened that day! Have you ever noticed that the most negative people in your life are also the people who get hurt or get sick most often? Growing up I had peers who would break their limbs easily or were catching every cold that came around, and they were so negative all the time! Some were or are some of my good friends, but it’s hard to be around that negativity for long periods of time. Well, I’m here to tell you that, recently, I’ve been that person. I don’t want to be that person any longer and here’s some thoughts about how negativity can make you sick, regardless of how much something just sucks.

  • Body-Mind Connection – We’ve seen people manifest mental and physical illnesses in their bodies by doing things like incorrectly self-diagnosing themselves, expecting the worst outcome with their health for one reason or another, or even just from chronic stress. In my case, chronic stress has been my vice of choice.I still struggle with how I have most likely worsened my symptoms or even created symptoms showing up in my body just from chronic stress. Stress seems just mental, but your body cannot tell the difference between the stress caused by the thought of the overwhelming pile of assignments on your desk, the stress caused by a hard workout, or the stress of sugar-filled cookies you ate the other day. All of those things cause an inflammatory response on your body, especially on your gut-biome. It’s shown in a study, that stress causes a release of dopamine even during adverse stress-inducing tasks (although there are criticisms to this study, like it was relatively small, maybe this is why it can feel like we’re addicted to stress?). Luckily with exercise, you’re also getting an endorphin rush that can help raise your mood. It’s all about moderation and what your body needs. Listening to your body can help you understand your emotions as well.
  • Spiritual Blocks – Once upon a time, I used to see a reiki healer, she was also my therapist at the time and I had only had one reiki session with a different healer before having a reiki session with her. We would switch off between reiki sessions and traditional talk therapy. After one reiki session, I was still in a reiki trance that almost inhibited me from being able to be in public. I tried to go to a local coffee shop nearby my therapists office and I couldn’t get out of this trance! I almost felt like I was on drugs! A couple of hours later, when I was in the comfort of my own home, I intuitively felt the need to mediate. I sat in the middle of my living room, which would’ve seemed strange any other time, and I put a hand over my heart and my other hand over my belly. Only a minute into meditating, I just started crying, I didn’t know exactly why I was crying, but I felt that it needed to happen. When I finally stopped crying, I felt amazing, and not in just a post-crying-endorphin-rush type of great, I felt a sense of freedom I’d never felt before. When I later talked to my reiki-therapist, she told me I had possibly opened an emotional and spiritual block! After that experience I now know to let my body feel whatever it needs to heal. To this day, I don’t know what I exactly unlocked, but I’m glad I did. Sometimes the emotions we push down, experiences we didn’t let ourselves experience in the past, or maybe even something from a past life can be stuck in our bodies and unconscious minds. We can’t remember everything that happens every day of our lives, so if emotions randomly come up, trust that your body and mind have a purpose for those emotions and just observe them. Sometimes it’s these blocks that get in the way of our healing, but overall what’s worse: letting yourself cry or scream or laugh in a seemingly odd time/place, or developing a disease or illness. I also acknowledge that those two things are not always mutually exclusive. It’s possible that the negativity and/or physical symptoms manifests from a spiritual block.
  • Evolutionary pull to be negative? – Some may say that we have an evolutionary pull to be negative, that negativity keeps us from dangerous situations, or situations that have hurt you in the past. I believe that if you trust your intuition, which sometimes doesn’t seem as obvious as your rational mind, you’ll be able to stay out of these negative situations. Your negativity and intuition are two different things all-together. There’s also a difference between chronic negativity and venting. If you vent to someone in your life or in a journal, you will feel a sense of release after expressing how you feel, but if that negative feeling doesn’t go away or even increases, then you’re most likely just fueling your negativity. In my experience, when I journal a situation, it gets it off my chest, but when I vent to someone else, it just fuels my negative fire. I need to be more conscious of the difference between my intuition, my negativity, and just a desire to vent. This negativity could be shielding yourself from having amazing experiences, or maybe it’s even a call to action in your life or in the world!

“Some say you’re not allowed to have a pity-party for yourself, but I say, have your pity-party and make it a raging pity-party! But acknowledge when that party is over and that it’s time to go the fuck home!”

Regardless, negativity and illness can commonly go hand-in-hand. We must overcome learned helplessness, a learned behavior of giving up before you’ve even tried because you’ve had so many bad experiences or aversive stimuli in the past that you assume that the future and present will hold the same negative outcome, to take the actions to heal our body, mind, and spaces. Just like my belief that if you don’t ask, the answer will always be no, if you don’t put yourself out there to experience things in life, you’ll be stuck with the negative experience of never experiencing anything.

Signs you might be dealing with negativity in your life:

  • Every day, the moment you walk in the door, all you do is talk about the frustrating/annoying/boring things that happened to you that day to your roommate, boyfriend, or family.
  • You say things to yourself that you would never say to a friend or you hear someone in your life constantly say things to their self that they would never say to you.
  • Conversely, someone says mean things to you that you know aren’t true just because they feel those things themselves and want you to join them in their negativity.
  • You do things to your body or you see someone do things to their body that you or they know will hurt their body. (For example, eating things you know you’re allergic or intolerance to, not going to bed when you know you need rest, getting in relationships with someone you know is toxic)
  • Instead of intentionally looking at the bright side of situations, you or another person actively search for the bad or imperfect parts of those situations, projects, or adventures. (For example, only looking at the negative possibilities of going on a vacation, like that it will be expensive or you won’t have enough time, and barely looking at how fun and all the things you could learn about yourself and the world during your vacation)
  • You or someone you know catches every cold that comes around.

If you will indulge me with this one exercise, I’d like to invite you to take these small steps to ending hidden negativity and stop attracting negativity into your life. Feel free to practice this exercise when you’re feeling down on yourself or when you’re in a space with someone you feel is being negative. Sometimes we don’t have the privilege to leave a space that’s filled with negativity or we don’t know how to relinquish the negativity in ourselves, doing an exercise like this can support you to getting to a non-negative place and sometimes even create loving, empowered feelings in the space instead.

  1. Plant both of your feet softly on the floor in front of you.
  2. Comfortably sit up straight without hyperextending your back.
  3. Lower your shoulders, so they are no longer up by your ears.
  4. Relax all the muscles in your face.
  5. Close your eyes if you feel inclined to and are in a space that would allow you to close your eyes (aka don’t do this while you’re driving or in a meeting).
  6. We’re going to take a few deep breaths and when you inhale imagine love, compassion, and forgiveness, in form of pink light (or whichever color most resonates with you) filling your lungs and lower abdomen.
  7. Hold the light in you for a second, filling your heart, grounding you wherever you are located.
  8. When you exhale, breathe out all the negativity and thoughts that no longer serve you. Make sure to exhale completely, almost making your belly concave, to breathe out all the negativity you’re holding.
  9. Repeat these previous steps a few more times
  10. To protect our energy and selves after these empowering breaths, imagine a white light growing inside you. Start small, like in your heart or from the point between your eyes, then slowly grow this light as big as you’d like and feel comfortable to.
  11. Open your eyes and bring yourself back the space with a new vigor and energy, with love and compassion for your self and the others around you.
  12. [Optional: Ask yourself if this negativity is a call to action. For example, a call to action could be to remember how great it feels to relinquish negativity and make more steps to ending the effect of negativity in your life]

Illness and disease suck, but don’t let it suck the life out of you. You are in control, even when it feels like you aren’t. Sometimes life isn’t the best, where we want it to be, or aligned with our values and goals in the moment, but that doesn’t mean we should dwell on it. If you’re the cause of the negativity in your life, that’s okay, but acknowledge it and take responsibility for what it’s doing to your body and those around you in your community. Negativity is contagious so be mindful of the negative people in your life or how your negativity affects others. Feel what you’re feeling, acknowledge if what you’re feeling is your own or if you’re just absorbing the feelings of those around you, and take the time to process these emotions. Some say you’re not allowed to have a pity-party for yourself, but I say, have your pity-party and make it a raging pity-party! But acknowledge when that party is over and when it’s time to go the fuck home! Now I’m not giving you an excuse to be hard on your self about being hard on yourself, I’m giving you a reason to stop that cycle altogether.

But I also must mention on being careful about pointing out others negativity. The only thing you have control over is yourself and your own thoughts, you have no business attempting to control someone else! Most of the time your positivity will have an effect on others in a more profound way than saying something like “Hey you’re being really negative right now!”. Maybe that person was just venting or really needed to talk aloud about something that’s been troubling them. It’s up to you, and no one else, to protect yourself from others negative energy and your own negative energy! How you see the world is just a projection of how you see your own life!

This article is 110% me projecting, but I needed to write something to myself to end the negative energy in my life. It’s not helping me get better and it’s definitely not enhancing the lives of the people I love in my community. So we can work on this together! How have you stopped the negativity in your life from manifesting into an illness? How have you had negativity affect your life? Have you ever had positivity heal you from an illness or a cold faster than being negative? I’d love to hear about others experience with this.

The Privilege Involved in Campaign Work – What?

Well, I’m still unemployed, not even taking summer classes, and yet I feel like I still have a million things I need to accomplish. How does that even work? I guess this is what semi-adulting feels like. My parents believe otherwise that I am an adult (I am so grateful for them and their support hehe). When I look at what I’m doing with this time, I guess I have taken this time to heal. I am healing from many things, as we all are to an extent. But right now I’m healing from my recent stint in social and environmental justice work. I just came back from working with the student portion of a large environmental organization as a trainer for young activists where I shared my knowledge about social and environmental campaign organizing and anti-oppression work. It was a weeklong intensive in Colorado where a wonderful-inspring-radical-passionate team of trainers and directors, that I have lots of love for, and I facilitated trainings and workshops to an equally wonderful-inspiring-radical-passionate group of participants of all ages. It was truly a learned experience for me and you’re probably wondering why I need to heal from the experience. Well, let me show you a list of just a few of the things I learned from my experience.

  1. Having conversations where you question the underlying, core beliefs of your society can have you question yourself at your core. When you have been taught certain beliefs since your birth and then all of a sudden start to break down certain dominant paradigms, this process can bring up extremely confusing emotions and you might not know where they stem exactly from, which can make it even more difficult to heal. These emotions can be especially difficult if these beliefs involve identity. For example, when you have been taught your entire life that gender is a binary between man and woman then realizing that there’s more to gender than just women being feminine and men being masculine, your own identity can come into question. Questions like “Who am I anymore?” or “Well, if that’s not how I should see the world, then how should I see the world?” come up and, frankly, no one can fully answer those questions. You can read books, watch documentaries, ask your peers to find answers, but those answers your looking for are always evolving. When you’re someone like me, who always needs to always have the answers, who needs to know the facts, this can be extremely difficult to comprehend.
  2. People do not like to acknowledge their privilege or that they experience oppression in their everyday life, and have an extremely hard time understanding that it’s not black and white or a binary. No one wants to talk about that an identity they were born into perpetuates systems of oppression. No one wants to talk about that an identity they were born into disproportionately experiences more oppression than another identity. There are connotations behind privilege and experiencing oppression that I think need to be broken down, so that we can have more constructive conversations on the topic. There are connotations around experiencing oppression that is means that if you experience oppression you are sad, live a miserable life, you are weak, not as worthy or deserve pity just like there are connotations around people who hold privilege that they are happy, live fulfilling lives, are stronger, or don’t experience hardship. I think we need to break down these stereotypes so that we can stop thinking our selfworths, how we think of ourselves, and our happiness depends on if we experience privilege or oppression (Also, side note, don’t tell someone that they should feel personally oppressed because they hold a certain identity, like that’s just messed up y’all. Internalized oppression is a whole conversation that I just don’t feel like talking about right now). That’s why talking about intersectionality of identities is so important! I kind of wish I could just scream INTERSECTIONALITY to the heavens right now, but I’m sitting in a coffee shop and I don’t want to disrupt everyone’s nice cups of coffee. The lovely consumer monopoly and our friend, Google, gave me a wonderful definition for intersectionality that says, “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”. For example, a form of intersectionality that shows up in my life is that I have experienced oppression as a woman in this society, but I also hold immense privilege for being a white individual in the United States.
  3. The campaigning and social/environmental justice work world can be extremely manipulating. It can manipulate you by telling you to feel a certain way, manipulate you into working for free when you can’t afford it, and manipulate you into working to the point where you burnout. The number of people I know who work in non-profits, social and/or environmental activism, and on campaigns who have ended up feeling burnout, broke, or with health ailments caused by stress is rather ridiculous at this point. Because of how many people in this kind of work end up badly, they will preach selfcare at you. I imagine how much people say the word “selfcare” in the social/environmental justice world to be similar to the scene in the animated movie Finding Nemo, where all the seagulls start saying “Mine! Mine! Mine!”. In my experience, the same individuals who are preaching at you to take selfcare tend to be the same individuals who are trying to push your boundaries and ask more of you than you can give, which can be extremely confusing. When I experienced this, it was frustrating because the organization I was working with at the time was trying to break down hierarchical systems within the organization and use consensus decision making. But there were still certain individuals who held most of the knowledge and experience in the group, who were self-declared “mentor” figures, but really they actually held authoritative positions. So, they would delegate tasks to me and I felt like I couldn’t refuse because they would tell me that “this will be a great learning opportunity for you” and “I’m confident that you can complete this task” without actually supporting me when I needed it. Now this is my own experience with just one of the organizations I’ve worked with, so I’m definitely not saying this is the case for all social and/or environmental justice organizations or non-profits. But another experience where I observed this work being manipulating, that may have occurred at this week long intensive as well, was during anti-oppression trainings, in workshops, and in one-on-ones asking participants and trainers to open up and be vulnerable more than they are ready or willing to. How asking people to open up more than they are willing to can be manipulative and problematic, is that most of us are not therapists or psychiatrists. We are not trained in how to support others in how to deal with the strong emotions that can come up when people open themselves up and are vulnerable with us. So when people metaphorically spill their guts and vital organs to us, we are not metaphorical surgeons who know how to sew that person back up. I’ve definitely made the mistake of asking people to share more than they are willing to and I regret it because now I realize how manipulative that can be. Because we rarely address these issues in the moment, many people, including myself, have had to leave certain organizations or this work in general and that’s really a bummer.

So, I think I’m going to take a very long break from the social and environmental justice world. I’m mean, frankly, I’m never actually leaving the social and environmental justice world behind because I will be forever having these conversations, but I’m specifically leaving the campaign organizing world indefinitely. I’d rather make radical change through small conversations with the people in my life and through the small decisions I make in my daily life. Anyways, this weeklong intensive has made me think about a lot of things in my life.