5 Ways to Heal When Sick
As I write this, I am home for the second consecutive day with a painful strep infection in my throat. So, instead of sitting around kvetching, I decided to make the most of the experience and share 5 ways that I am using this painful experience to heal, physically and spiritually. I want to premise this post by saying that I am writing specifically about conditions that are short-term and curable, such as the common cold or recovery from an operation, rather than chronic or long-term illness. It’s possible that these principles could be applied to the latter as well, but I personally have not experienced such a situation, thank God, so it would be insensitive for me to direct this article toward that circumstance. Additionally, it’s important to recognize that we are holistic beings—body and soul intertwined. Therefore, while getting proper rest, taking medicine/supplements, and enjoying a delicious bowl of chicken soup all may be helpful in recovering from illness, equally important is the treatment and healing of the soul.
#1: Accept the situation
Often, we spend the first few days of our illness telling ourselves that we’re not really sick and will manage to push through. This is a big mistake and can spiral into an even worse illness. Why do we do this? Illness causes us to feel a lack of control, and we become vulnerable. Personally, I thrive on being busy and crossing tasks off my list of things to do. So when I’m sick, that means I can’t go to work, take care of my family, or accomplish the myriad other things that I do each day.
When we accept that we are sick and take time to slow down and surrender, then the healing process can begin.
#2: Have perspective
Recognize that this circumstance is temporary. Earlier this week a friend contacted me regarding an upcoming Cesarean section and her anxiety about the pain that would follow. Having experienced a C-section when delivering my twins, I quickly flashed back to those memories of an excruciating three months of recovery from a procedure that involved slicing into my abdomen and shifting other vital organs around. At the time, I remember calling another friend who had experienced a C-section, and I complained to her about how much pain I was enduring.
“You WILL heal. I know it hurts now, but hold onto the thought that this is short-lived. Your body WILL recover and life will go on.”
Her words brought me tremendous comfort. In the midst of a painful experience it is hard for us to have perspective and see outside of that moment. In order to bring this into my consciousness, I turn it into a prayer. If you’re experiencing an illness or recovery that you know is temporary, try reciting this affirmation and prayer:
“God, I know this pain is temporary. In Your unlimited kindness, please give me the strength that I need in this moment and help me heal quickly and completely.”
Method #3: Expand consciousness
We know the story—God sent Moshe to deliver His message to the Jewish people, who were enslaved in Egypt. And how did they respond?
The verse says,
“V’lo shamu el Moshe m’kotzer ruach u’m’avodah kasha”
The Jews did not listen to Moshe because of kotzer ruach and hard work.
So what exactly does the term “kotzer ruach” mean?
Some commentaries explain that it alludes to emotional difficulties or stress. Rabbi Doniel Katz adds that the term kotzer ruach means “constricted consciousness created by overstimulation of desire which knocks me out of myself.” In other words, when we experience constricted consciousness, we aren’t in touch with our higher selves and our ability to think and behave rationally. Rather, we are driven by our emotions.
The word for Egypt in Hebrew is “Mitzrayim,” which at its root derives from the concept of narrowness or constriction.
When we are sick, we are forced to slow down. We now have the precious OPPORTUNITY to reflect through meditation and visualization as a means to widen our constricted reality and experience truth and clarity.
Take some deep breaths in and out, and close your eyes.
Reflect on the days leading up to the illness.
Ask yourself the following:
🤔 Have I been “checked out” recently?
🤔 Where have I been placing my attention and energy?
🤔 Have I felt stressed?
🤔 Have I been focused on spiritual pursuits, or physical pleasures?
🤔 Have I been mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram?
🤔 Have I been consciously present when spending time with my loved ones or during times of prayer?
I know that before I came down with strep, I was feeling very overwhelmed by all of my responsibilities and lists. As a result, I was trying to escape the stress by shopping for a new set of planters online. Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with shopping, but if it’s done as a means of escaping reality then we need to be honest with ourselves and assess whether the action is healthy for us.
Rabbi Katz explains, based on the mystical Jewish sources, that many troubles that we experience derive from Kotzer Ruach—constricted consciousness. God wants to give us all the goodness in the world, but we put up blinders. We check out. When we’re sick, we have the opportunity to direct our attention toward the flow of goodness from Above and expand our consciousness, while welcoming God’s healing.
Method #4: Pray for others and yourself
It is noted in the Talmud that God answers the prayers of those who pray for others. Just as a parent derives the greatest joy from seeing her children show affection toward one another, so too, God wants to see us show one another love. Rashi, the famous Jewish commentary, explains that the Jewish people are like one man with one heart. It’s hard to truly empathize with someone else’s pain, but when we are sick we have a glimpse into what pain really feels like. So use your discomfort as a means to tap into the pain that other’s feel, and pray on their behalf.
Prayer can take many forms. It may involve traditional Hebrew text and the recitation of Psalms. Another powerful form of prayer is called hisbodedus, speaking to God aloud in your own words. When we speak with God, we create a relationship with Him.
Method #5 Focus on gratitude
You mean I’m suppose to thank God for my illness?! Yes! He creates challenges in our lives to trigger our hearts to draw us closer to Him. Along with sickness brings us a heightened awareness of what is feels like when our bodies malfunction. How many times a day do I normally swallow? I can’t possibly count. And when was the last time I thanked God for giving me the ability to swallow?! Now that I have a horrific pain in my throat every time that I swallow, I definitely recognize the gift of the ability to swallow!
So today, I have mustered up the strength to say aloud,