Help is on the way


Just when we think there will be respite from the challenges we have faced for the past year and one-half, the virus and its variants rush back into our lives, and all promises of normalcy are once again put in abeyance.

And health issues are complicated by the touted political agendas of those who choose to use this moment in time to position themselves favorably with those whose dollars and votes they seek to access.

As we attempt to strategize on how to respond to this miasma which envelopes every aspect of our lives, we need to consider that our health is trifold: physical, mental, and spiritual.

Most of us tend to know when the stresses we face have put us so out of kilter that we are frightened by what we think, say, or do. This situation demands an appointment with our general practitioner and a candid conversation with that person. Prescriptions that are monitored by our physician might be needed. Additionally, therapy might become a part of our lives until we learn coping skills that work for us.

My first experience with therapy was when I was 29 and my beloved father was diagnosed with a terminal illness that would take his life in a matter of a few months. As a wife and the mother of two little boys and a full-time college assistant professor at Urbana College, I needed to use the talk therapy provided by a therapist to reorder my life and my priorities. Pursuing a doctorate at the University of Kentucky was out, and The Ohio State University was in so that I would be close enough to my father in Toledo to visit regularly. Other changes were necessary, but the doctoral- program issue gives you a specific example.

My second experience with therapy came with the turmoil associated with my divorce from my first husband. When I realized the first therapist I chose wasn’t working for me, I changed to a second one who helped me navigate that obstacle.

Both experiences have taught me strategies that have become a part of my toolbox, and I want to share them with you. You will find your own; however, you must be committed to the process as you discover what works for you.

Breathing: When I feel anxiety mounting with something as simple as being caught in a traffic jam, I take a deep breath through my nose (slowly) and exhale very slowly through my mouth. I do this only three times in succession.

Visualization: Consider a time in your life that was very pleasant, a time when you were at peace with yourself and your environment. Go to that place, taking a road or steps. When you get there, enjoy the feeling, re-experience it. As you calm yourself, take that road or steps back to your normal life. Feel refreshed? Of course, you do. Once you’ve discovered that place, use the same experience repeatedly. In mine, I’m on Gilliam’s Hill in Cumberland with my brother. The sun is shining, wild roses are blooming, a gentle breeze is blowing, and we’re picking blackberries. With the use of the visual you select, you will learn there is an ease in returning there repeatedly.

Body Relaxation: Start with your toes in a “tense and relax” strategy and slowly move up your body, tensing and relaxing the parts.

Gratitude Exercise: Start considering things for which you are grateful, and don’t for a second believe there is a void here. We all have things in our past or present lives for which we can be grateful if we seek them. They need not be earth-shattering things but can be very small: a smile, a compliment, a tiny gift of a wild flower, an outreached hand. If it helps, write these on scraps of paper which you put in a box or a jar. You might even consider keeping a gratitude journal. And be mindful of what is positive in each moment of your life. Focus on those positives.

Talk Therapy: Some of us have persons in our lives with whom we can share our joy, our concerns, our pain. We’re lucky that way. Don’t overburden these persons in terms of frequency and length of time. And please don’t keep resurrecting the same old issues that need attention instead of addressing them.

Spiritual/Religious Traditions/Exercises: Maybe you have no religion. Perhaps the religion in which were brought up is no longer working for you. Surely you believe in something. Find the solace and use it- on a regular basis. I use parts of my Southern Baptist upbringing (the singing, the walks home with neighbors from church services, the scriptures I memorized that relate to my life). I also use the Serenity Prayer in which I ask for serenity to accept what I can’t change, courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference between the two.

In conclusion, if you are the type of person who needs scientific proof of what you’re doing is working, buy a blood pressure cuff for your wrist, learn to use it, and monitor the slowing of your pulse rate, the lowering of your blood pressure, as you discover and use strategies that bring you the calm you seek. Help is on the way.

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