Relief vs. Restoration (4 min read)

Dana seeking relief in 2018 vs. seeking restoration in 2022.


In college it was seeing a grade come through that I was stressed about either because I didn’t study enough or because I worked so hard on it that if I didn’t get the grade, I would have been heartbroken.

Relief comes from a massage or plopping down on my bed for an evening when I’m sore from working out or exhausted from a long week at work.

Relief is the feeling after a puff of my inhaler when my asthma is acting up, or when it’s more severe, with the help of a nebulizer or in extreme cases, a prednisone.

When I was a school principal it looked like coming home each night and having a glass of wine. On school holidays it looked like traveling to different places from New Orleans and Kansas City and even internationally, like Japan and Australia.

When I took my mom to the hospital because she was having a heart attack, relief was watching the line on the electrocardiogram change after the use of a defibrillator.

Relief is hearing “it’s not cancerous” or “we caught it early.”

Relief, a feeling of reassurance and relaxation following release from anxiety or distress.

Relief, a temporary break in a generally tense or tedious situation.

So often we seek relief from tense or difficult situations. Sometimes we look for it in an act of self-care like a bath, the lighting of a candle, or a nap. Other times we seek relief in food or alcohol; sometimes we seek out things like relationships or sex to relieve whatever stressors we’re facing.

Though it may feel good at the moment, we may relish it in for a bit, relief is temporary, momentary.

It may not be cancerous, but something is still wrong and we’re not sure what.

We caught it early, but there will still be severe treatments with side effects.

There may be wine right now or a vacation this week, but the stress and demands of the job will be there when I return.

I can breathe for now, but what happens the next time a wind hits me just right or someone’s perfume sets me off? I am not cured from asthma.

A massage takes away the pain for a day or two but quickly wears off. Will the pain resurface the next time I work out?

One grade doesn’t make or break me, but it can add up.

Relief is temporary. It’s not lasting. It’s like a band aid that covers it up but the problem is still  underneath the surface. I’m not saying that we should never seek things that bring relief, but ultimately we should look for something deeper, something that isn’t temporary, something that brings wellness to the whole-being.


The action of bringing  back, repairingrenovating something to its original state or condition.

When we think of restoration we may think of broken relationships or old houses that are repaired or restored, both of which can take months, sometimes even years. There’s also ecological restoration which is repairing ecosystems that have been destroyed. This can take decades or hundreds of years.

Maiden Island Reef in the Caribbean was destroyed in part due to a hurricane in 1995 but had also been degraded due to urbanization and industrialism.  The reef is part of the largest ecological restoration project where “approximately 3,500 Reef Balls, prefabricated concrete modules designed to mimic natural reefs, were installed around Maiden Island” (Antigua: Maiden Island Total Reef Restoration). In 17 years time it’s noted that the restoration project has resulted in over 5,000 new coral colonies and more than 30 species. There has also been the re-establishment of 4 coral species that were lost during the 1995 hurricane, as well as the stabilization of over 9,000 pounds of loose rocks that will help reduce further hurricane reef damage (Antigua: Maiden Island Total Reef Restoration).

Notice the words re-establishment and stabilization. Restoration isn’t preservation; it isn’t re-creation or reconstruction. It’s taking what’s already there, finding out what the problem is, repairing what’s broken and making it stronger, more withstanding. 

Restoration realizes the root of the issue but also the importance of the original state and purpose, repairing it, making it whole.  

So instead of seeking relief for my asthma, I decided that I should seek ways to manage it and restore my physical challenges. I couldn’t change a pre-existing condition, but I could take measures to decrease the severity of it. I started to pay attention to the foods that set it off and avoid those or remove them from my diet. I managed my weight so that it alleviated added stress on my body. This took time, years to maintain, and though I am still the same person and my asthma still exists, I am stronger, my asthma much more stable.

When I noticed myself seeking relief in alcohol or traveling to escape town every time I had a vacation, I had to force myself to do some introspection. I realized I was using coping mechanisms to deal with stressors in my job and it wasn’t worth it to me. It took time to come to the realization that it was more important to remove that stress as a permanent solution. Once I did that, I wasn’t seeking temporary fixes in things that weren’t necessarily good for my mental or physical health like alcohol or food or constantly traveling away from my family. I was able to take the core of who I was, my intended purpose, but alter it to be healthier and more whole.

Relief can be good in the short-term while we’re trying to figure it out, but ultimately, restoration is what we should be seeking in these difficult situations. Relief seems easier, faster. It is in the moment, but really, it’s a temporary solution. 

Restoration may be a process, it may take longer than we wish but it’s better, more sturdy, an improved version of the original. Results don’t happen overnight; good things take time. Restoration is an investment but the results are worth it. 

Author: Dana Perich, Wellness Coach & Trainer