Searching for ways to make meaningful changes this year? No matter what your goals are, some of them may be overshadowed by the daunting feeling of living the remainder of your life with genital herpes. If herpes has interfered in your daily life, it may have caused some of your dreams to seem unachievable. Moving forward, consider shifting your mindset from the shadows of stigma and into the light of your true potential.
1. Reflect upon your goals and identity
Maybe your herpes diagnosis changed your perspectives, or put a roadblock in front of your goals. Or maybe you chose to pretend your diagnosis didn't happen. No matter your coping mechanism, make sure take a few moments to yourself, herpes diagnosis aside, and ask yourself the tough questions: What makes you you? What do you aspire to be? What milestones do you want to achieve in your life, and what mindset will get you there? What steps do you need to take to be the "you" that you envision in the future?
Some may find a daily or weekly journal useful, while others may find more comfort living in their heads. Only you are capable of answering these questions and tracking your progress through honest and deep reflection with yourself. Begin with a foundation and list small steps to work toward your goals.
2. Reevaluate what health means to you
Sure, many people hopped on the get-fit-in-January bandwagon with well-intended resolutions, but not all will see their newfound habits through to December. With your goal roadmap and newly envisioned self in mind, question what health means to you, especially as someone with herpes. It is important to have a general understanding of what the virus is, and how it can affect your day-to-day life, if at all. Such determinations may even help you disassociate from the stigma.
Herpes remains latent (inactive) within the host after primary infection at the base of the spine deep within the nervous system. A 2016 article in the journal Microbial Cell notes that the reason behind the virus' latency is widely studied, and the immune system plays a key role in recurrences. Although each person's individual body chemistry is different, keeping yourself healthy and happy, from the inside out, can help you lead a more balanced life.
Nowadays, it seems as though holistic health is becoming all the more trendy. Oftentimes, lysine is noted as a possible holistic remedy for herpes, but there is no scientific evidence, according to the NIH, that this is effective in its management.
3. Stress less
While it may seem obvious, research shows that psychological distress suppresses the immune system and can lead to depression and anxiety. That same study references how psychological distress can "be both a cause and consequence of HSV-2 recurrence."
While there is no cure for herpes yet, there is hope that yoga could assist in alleviating stressors of the nervous system, thus decreasing chances of recurring outbreaks. The NIH classifies yoga as, "a form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine" that may significantly decrease such stressors and reduce levels of anxiety of depression. While yoga is a great workout for those seeking strength, flexibility, or both, it is also a way to achieve more mindfulness and inner peace by using the power of one's breath.
One yoga class may not change your life, but a consistent practice yields proven positive physical and mental results that are worth considering, including acceptance of the present moment. If you plan to explore the benefits of yoga, experiment by taking different class types (restorative, hot yoga, bikram, yin, etc.) from different teachers to find the best variations that work for your body, mind, and what you seek from your practice.
4. Reach out for support
We can only take so much of the world upon our shoulders. Sometimes, a journal does not serve as enough release. Sometimes we need human connection: someone to reach out and hug us, to offer a hand, and a listening ear, in our most vulnerable moments. Although your friends, family, and partners may not understand the exact experience of living with herpes, they will care that you are hurting, and they will want to be there for you. They may even ask, "How can I be there for you?" and you may not have a concrete answer. After determining your own stance on health and educating yourself about the virus, these scenarios may serve well as teaching moments for friends and family. Although awkward at first, such moments are often effective at breaking stigmas and stereotypes about sexually transmitted infections.
The bottom line
Whether you choose to follow these steps, or set some goals of your own, we hope you embrace the chance to stand firm in a positive identity, rather than living in the shadow of harmful herpes stereotypes.