7 Ways that Sacred Bathing Can Support Your Health & Wellness

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No water, no life. No blue, no green.

-Sylvia Earle

Bathing has long been said to be good for our physical health. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that diabetes patients who spent thirty minutes in a tub of warm water lowered their blood sugar almost thirteen percent. Japanese research revealed that a ten-minute soak can improve the health of men and women. Bathing is good for the immune system and it decreases stress.

There’s a long history of using bathing medicinally.  The term “balneotherapy” relates to spa treatment, hot baths and natural vapor baths.  Resorts add minerals or essential oils to naturally-occurring hot springs.  Balneotherapy is used for illnesses like arthritis, skin conditions and fibromyalgia. The term “hydrotherapy” is a part of medicine that uses water for pain relief and treatment. It uses the temperature and pressure of water therapeutically, to stimulate blood circulation and treat symptoms. Hydrotherapy often includes water jets, underwater massage and mineral baths or jacuzzis.

Four years ago I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Triple negative breast cancer and I had to go through a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation for 8 months.  This was a challenging period and it brought a few things into clear focus for me: my self-care, my need for continued relaxation and a newfound desire to connect daily to Spirit.  This was challenging as a busy psychologist and mother of two kids under 4 at the time.  At first I could not take hot baths after radiation but after I started to recover, I was able to take regular baths again.

I found that the one place that my husband and kids left me alone, was in the bathroom.  I was able to train them to give me 25 minutes of silence in there.  This became my, ‘me time’ to integrate visualization, prayer, meditation and more.  I developed this daily ritual and came to call it sacred bathing.  This was a regular healing time and dream time.

Today most of us are under chronic stress, especially those of us with chronic illness.  It is so important to take this time out for yourself.  A sacred bath is your spiritual and emotional hygiene.

To create a sacred bath, clear your bathroom of extra clutter, light a candle, put in some Epsom salts, essential oils and an appropriate crystal into your bath water.  You call in Spirit (whether that’s your Higher Self, God, the Goddess or your angels) to receive guidance while in the sacred waters.  Then you make a prayer and state your intention.  You relax in silence, do a specific meditation around your intention and listen for guidance.  Afterwards, you journal about any inspiration you receive.  This normally takes 25 minutes.

Below are 7 ways that taking a sacred bath can help you when you are experiencing chronic illness:

  1. It Connects You to Spirit So that You Feel Supported: When you feel lost or alone it can be helpful to connect to your Spirit and Higher Self. This wise part of you can see the bigger picture.  It moves you beyond your ego and limitations so that you reconnect with your essence and remember that your Spirit is stronger than your body.  This may not be true for everyone but it was very helpful to me.  If I had a difficult surgery it would help me to know that my angels were with me.  You can regularly connect to your Divine team through meditation and prayer.
  2. It Helps You to Be Present: Your sacred bath is a place to just be. In this sacred space you leave the past and future behind.  You don’t have to think about that next doctor’s appointment or procedure.  You can just relax, luxuriate in the essential oils and Epsom salt and surrender to the moment.  When you practice this regularly in your sacred baths it can carry over as a reminder to be really present in each moment, outside the bath too.
  3. It Shifts You from Fear into Love: When you have chronic illness you can spend a lot of time in fear.  When I was undergoing a lumpectomy surgery, chemo and radiation I was often concerned about getting an infection, being tired or in pain.  Each procedure had a variety of complications.  I knew that it wasn’t good for my immune system and mental health to spend a lot of time in worry.  So, taking a sacred bath can be a time to wash all that fear down the drain and focus on soaking up the unconditional love of Spirit.  You can use that time to focus on all the love in your life and what you are grateful for.  Again, this practice can later be carried over into your days as well.
  4. It Shifts You Into Your Healing Nervous System: Often we handle stressors while in our Sympathetic nervous system, which handles “fight or flight.” We prepare for defense, followed by exhaustion. In contrast, our Parasympathetic nervous system rebuilds our body, stimulates digestion and aids physical and emotional healing.  We enter this nervous system when we relax, like when we take a sacred bath.  We can practice making this shift regularly in our sacred bath and then notice which nervous system we are in during our daily lives as well.
  5. It Washes Away Limiting Beliefs, Centering You in A Positive Frame of Mind: We all have fears, limiting beliefs and moods that stop us.  In a sacred bath you picture all that negativity going down the drain, so that you’re only soaking up love around your intention.  This energetic shift often leaves you feeling peaceful and inspired.  This allows you to feel more hopeful instead of focusing on what might go wrong.
  6. It Connects You to Your Body: When we are going through chronic illness often we feel angry at our bodies for inconveniencing us and causing us pain. We may feel disconnected from our bodies and feel like doctors and people are working on them from the outside.  But, no one affects our body more than us.  Your sacred bath is your time to connect to your body and to ask it what it needs and listen for guidance.  Sometimes we don’t make this time to slow down and listen.  You can create regular time to hear and meet your body’s requests for more play, sleep, laughter, nature etcetera.  You can also picture yourself being healthy, radiant and energetic and anchor those feelings in your body.
  7. It lets You Experience Pleasure & Relaxation Instead of Pain: Again, when you are chronically ill you may have to undergo surgeries, shots and painful procedures.  Sometimes you may generalize this and feel like your whole life is about pain. Taking a sacred bath is pleasurable and sacred time for you to love yourself and your life again.  You need to put in time for self-care, for dreaming positive things about your future and to look forward to on a regular basis.

I hope this process that has helped me will also be helpful to you.  Remember that you are the hero/heroine of your story so you need to take good care of yourself and keep moving forward.

My Best in Love,

Paulette

Clinical Psychologist and Certified Diabetes Educator

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My diagnosis

I was the original “diabetes diva” before being a diva was cool!  I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before it was called that. It was 1975 and I had all the classic symptoms: excessive thirst, excessive urination, excessive fatigue, and weight loss (without trying). My diagnosis was “juvenile diabetes.” I was insulted by that diagnosis because I was in college and didn’t appreciate being called “juvenile.” Prior to my diagnosis, I actually dated two young men (not at the same time) who had diabetes, but they never explained what was involved in diabetes management. It was like belonging to a club that was a big secret. My uncle (not blood-related) also had diabetes. He was the best example of what not to do.  Everybody told me, “Don’t be like Uncle Henry!” Like my two boyfriends, my uncle never discussed his diabetes with me or gave me any advice. Other than my family’s words of warning, I was on my own.

I accepted my diagnosis without much emotional drama. My mother, a college professor, had a student in one of her classes who was ill (not the same symptoms as me) and went for medical tests at the same time as I did. When her student’s diagnosis came back as a brain tumor, I was grateful to have a chronic illness that I could live with. My brother, who was very wise, congratulated me on my diagnosis, explaining that he knew I would always take care of myself. He was right! But, self-care in those days was bereft of all our modern technology. I was lucky to use disposable syringes (and not have to sterilize my needles).  Blood sugar meters had not yet been invented nor was carbohydrate counting. The biggest regimen advancement of the day was taking insulin twice a day. When my regimen was adjusted to “multiple daily injections” four times a day, some people felt sorry for me that my diabetes had gotten “worse” requiring the additional injections. I was not like my uncle and two previous boyfriends who kept silent. I was always explaining to people about the improvements in diabetes management. I called myself the “Johnny Appleseed” of diabetes education and saw myself as an unofficial diabetes educator.

Diabetes and psychology

I had no idea when I studied psychology as an undergraduate student, and later as a graduate student (earning two Master’s degrees: one in Applied Behavior Analysis and the other in school psychology, and then my PhD in clinical psychology) that my two worlds – diabetes and psychology – would one day collide together. After my children were old enough to be a little more independent, I went back to pursue my career goal of having a private practice. I had no idea what my focus should be. Again, my very wise brother was helpful. He asked me a simple question: “If you could choose to do anything, what would you like to do?” My answer was easy: I would like to work with people with diabetes. His reply, “Then, go for it!” was all the encouragement I needed. At first, I started working, part-time, at my local hospital’s Counseling Center. Every patient with diabetes was assigned to be seen by me. (I also saw patients without diabetes too.) As time went on, I was invited to make presentations to various Diabetes Support Groups. In 2007, I was invited to present the Keynote Address to my local JDRF’s 1st Annual Educational Seminar “Living with Diabetes.”  Also in 2007, I was the recipient of the LillyforLife Achievement Award in the category of “Professional Hero”, which included a check for $1500 to be donated to a charity of my choice.

Lions Clubs International

That charity which I supported then (as well as currently) is Lions Clubs International. Lions Clubs is an international organization whose members provide help at all levels of need from local community support to global disaster relief. Lions Clubs accepted the challenge, made by Helen Keller in 1925, to become the “Knights of the Blind in the crusade against darkness.” The Lions accepted her challenge and our work has included sight programs aimed at preventable blindness. Since people with diabetes are at risk of losing sight due to diabetic retinopathy, Lions are involved with programs for diabetes awareness, education, prevention and research. Throughout my years of involvement with Lions, I was elected to serve on the board of the Nassau County Lions Diabetes Foundation, Inc. for two two-year terms, served as co-chair for our fundraising project Lions Strides Walk, which raised money for diabetes awareness and education, and currently serve as secretary for my local club. In 2010, I was honored to be the recipient of the “Melvin Jones Fellowship Award” – a Lions award for dedication to humanitarian service.

Diabetes is a blessing in disguise

I’ve written many articles (in print and online), as well as made numerous presentations, about diabetes topics, always from the psychological perspective.  In 2011, I published my first book: “MY SWEET LIFE: Successful Women with Diabetes.”  The book is a collection of 24 life stories (including mine), each chapter written by a  highly respected and successful woman with diabetes. The diverse group of women share their heartwarming stories and insights about finding balance between their personal, professional, and spiritual lives.  One year later, I published my second book: “MY SWEET LIFE: Successful Men with Diabetes.” Again, the second book is a collection of 25 life stories written by a diverse group of successful men with diabetes.  The men’s stories are filled with honesty, humor, drive and determination that are inspiring. The theme which runs through both diabetes self-help books is that “diabetes is a blessing in disguise.” Had it not been for my diabetes, I don’t know if I would have made this the focus of my career. Had it not been for my diabetes, I don’t know if I would have chosen to live a healthy lifestyle. I believe that diabetes was my destiny’s plan. I understand the ups and downs of living with diabetes (quite literally). I love what I do and feel that I am uniquely qualified to treat the emotional issues of people with diabetes.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy and a spiritual approach

Known as “Dr. Bev” in my private practice, I focus on strongly endorsing and empowering the lives of people with diabetes. I’ve described the approach I take as “T L C Therapy: Talk, Listen, Counsel” which was published in the AADE (American Association of Diabetes Educators) journal In Practice (in September 2014). T L C Therapy can be broken down as follows — Talk: teaching patients about diabetes and its management; Listen: supporting patients and validating their feelings when they speak; Counsel: utilizing Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to help my patients develop healthy coping strategies so they can achieve the goal of diabetes acceptance.  As a clinical psychologist, I have seen my patients go through various stages of emotional adjustment, such as denial, anger, bargaining, and depression/diabetes distress. It should be noted that not all people go through those stages, nor do they necessarily occur in the same order. Learning how to recognize what is not within your power to change – your diagnosis – and learning to recognize what is within your power to change – your thoughts and your actions – can help you accept your diabetes. People with diabetes can learn how to survive with diabetes, but more importantly, how to thrive with diabetes.

In addition to Cognitive Behavior Therapy, I also include a spiritual approach to the therapy I provide. As I said earlier, I believe that diabetes can be viewed as a blessing in disguise. I am a big fan of the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

A belief in God is not required to benefit from this approach. What is needed is an open mind and a positive attitude about life. If you interested in further information about me and the work that I do, please visit my web site at: www.AskDrBev.com.  You can also follow me on Twitter @AskDrBev.

In conclusion, here’s some helpful thoughts to keep in mind:

  • “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.” – Eckhart Tolle
  • “Remember, happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have, it depends solely upon what you think.” – Dale Carnegie
  • “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Max Planck
  • “Choosing to be positive and having a grateful attitude is going to determine how you’re going to live your life.” – Joel Osteen
  • “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou
  • “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale
  • “Your illness does not define you. Your strength and courage does.” – Anonymous
  • “A bad attitude is like a flat tire – you don’t get anywhere until you change it.” – Anonymous