BREAK THE CONNECTION BETWEEN STRESS AND ILLNESS
Mind, Body, and Spirit Trauma Healing
by Alexis Acker-Halbur
My diagnosis of Stage IV colon cancer was a wake-up call – not once but twice! I needed a strategy to beat the six percent chance of survival. A therapist recommended the Renewing Life™ program offered by Pathways Health Resource Center in Minneapolis, MN, an intensive program for chronically and terminally ill individuals and their caregivers, and an adjunct to medical care. This program was a lifesaver, where I not only learned how to take better care of myself, but also how to learn the importance of complete mind, body, and soul healing.
In Renewing Life, I recognized that every time I experienced a trauma in my life, I responded by developing a major health condition. For example, from my unresolved childhood abuse, I developed kidney disease and colon cancer; from my childhood physical and sexual abuse, diabetes; from my rape, a herniated disk; from my home foreclosure, clinical depression; from sexual exploitation, high blood pressure; from failed relationships, thyroid disease; from my siblings’ rejection, sleep apnea; from Mom’s death, cataracts, from my auto accident, brain injury; and from job loss, breast cancer. These major health conditions were a gift for me to see the impact of trauma on my body, the thoughts in my mind, and the emotions from my heart/spirit.
To completely heal from cancer and my other illnesses, I discovered I could not just focus on my body – I also had to focus on my mind and spirit. Healing is much like a three-legged stool – if one leg is removed the stool will collapse – if two legs are removed, again the stool collapses. For stability, all three legs are equally needed. I had to address the pain in my body from surgeries and chemotherapy, the fear in my mind that I was going to die, and the hopelessness in my spirit over the powerlessness of the cancer.
In the Renewing Life program, I learned a lot of tools I could use for my healing like breathing techniques, relationship exercises, reframing, and stress reduction tools. Breathing techniques helped me face trauma memories with calm and stillness rather than angst and anger. The technique I use the most is the breathing exercise called 4-4-8, which I do frequently at home and in the car. The basics for the 4-4-8 breathing exercise is to inhale to the count of four, hold the air to the count of four and exhale to the count of eight. The count of eight offers a full release of air in both the lungs and the abdomen. This breathing exercise focuses and clears the mind and lifts the mood.
I wanted to live a healthier life after cancer, and after 10 years of mind, body, and spirit healing, I can truthfully say I rarely get ill. I have been called a medical miracle, but I focus on a Divine Spirit and practice using healing tools that work for me.
These tools and exercises were instrumental in increasing my chances of my mind, body, and spirit survival.