Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chronic Coping

Chronic Coping

There's a story about a man riding the commuter train home one evening who was visibly upset. Another man who took the same train knew the harried man from exchanging regular greetings and light conversations during their rides to and from work, asked him what was wrong. The first man proceeded to tell him that his company had downsized and he had just lost his job along with his health benefits. He then added, "And my wife told me last night that she wants a divorce and our son was suspended from school yesterday afternoon! I don't know what to do," he added with an exasperated sigh. The second man looked at his distressed friend and after a few moments said, "Here's what you should do. Don't think about any of this the rest of the night. Go home. Have a really good dinner, take a long hot shower, and get a good night's sleep." He was basically telling his commuter buddy that after re-grouping and recouping from clearing his mind, eating, relaxing his body and resting his mind, he would be much better equipped with sorting out all of his problems.  

This advice, or at least the wisdom of the concept of coping, can be vitally helpful for those of us in the long throes of battling chronic illness, and, for those who love and care for us - especially our "main" caregivers. When our symptoms flare up and seem out of control; other "life burdens" such as mounting medical costs, unexpected home or car repairs, seeing one of our children injured (recently, a broken foot in our daughter's case), job or income changes, an unforeseen increase in property or income taxes, and a thousand other potential trials that can come at us without warning, can quickly put us in a place of panic. 

Having a plan of action or a regular list of coping tactics can spare us from spinning completely out-of-control. The following are things that have helped us when life's ups and downs seem to turn upside down:

> Get QUIET. ["Peace Be Still" Mark 4:39 These 3 simple words that Jesus said to calm the waters for his disciples calm me in the midst of "life storms" when I say them out loud]. If you are at home, close the blinds or turn the lights down and sit in the quietest room/space in the house. If you have non-toxic scented candles - light a few and/or, put on some calming music. Now, take at least 7 to 12 deep breaths through your diaphragm (letting your upper abdomen rise as you inhale), and holding the air in for 3 to 5 counts, then, slowly (3 to 5 more counts) exhale. Try to clear your mind completely - if thoughts crowd in, push them out. It sometimes helps to focus on an image (a blue sky with white clouds or a babbling mountain creek).

If you are at work or driving or out in public, find a bench or an area where you can sit and do the above breathing exercises. As you breathe and clear your mind, your heart rate will slow down and the urge to panic will subside.

> If you believe in God (Divine Love/Power), then pray for peace and guidance, asking for clarity in dealing with your dilemmas.

> Nourish and hydrate. Eat a healthy meal or snack (clean; organic, Non-GMO, non-trans fat, low sugar, lean protein and complex carbohydrates). When you put premium fuel in your body it will reward you with the energy and strength to handle most situations. Drink 20 oz. of fresh purified or Spring water at least 4 intervals throughout the day (five or six if you are taking medications that dehydrate such as antihistamines and sodium based drugs).

> Exercise and/or stretch slowly. Gentle Yoga movements, a short walk on soft surfaces, climbing stairs, cycling (stationary, or if outdoors - in an uncongested area). Just 12 to 15 minutes can do wonders in circulating blood flow and promoting oxygen intake - which will give you more mental clarity to respond better and make sound decisions.

> Relax tense muscles with a hot bath and mineral salts and a few drops of organic essential oils OR take a hot shower and use bath gel with essential oils such as chamomile, lavender, or tea tree.

> If at all possible, get a massage or an acupuncture session. Both of these treatments will help your body to detoxify from extra stress factors. Most cities have massage  and acupuncture schools where you can get an intern to provide treatment for about half the cost.

> Rest. Get a power nap during the day or get to bed early enough to get 7 to 8 good hours of sleep. If you have medication to help you sleep - be sure to take it. Also, Chamomile, Valerian Root, Lavender, and Peppermint (or a combination of these) can help you relax and sleep better. Kava Kava is also very helpful for relaxing and a sleep aid. It comes in tea and also capsules and liquid tincture (you can find at most holistic stores and grocers).

> After you've quieted your mind, fueled and exercised your body and regenerated from rest, you can better access life challenges.

Put it down on paper; just like you would write a "pros & cons" list, make a list of your current problems and a list of potential solutions. Do this together with your caregiver or your patient spouse if possible (it helps you both value that you are a team - in spite of the illness and health restrictions). IF you can't partner up with your mate/caregiver, call a friend or family member, or someone who can counsel with you without getting over emotional. (A pastor/reverend/ church counselor, a therapist/psychologist, or life-coach).

> Seek specialists when they are needed; attorneys, accountants, therapists, support groups and sponsors, etc.

Use these contacts/individuals to help you make a "game plan" designed to help you work through the challenges or obstacles. Keep a list of things to do (to avoid panic and distress), AND, your "game plan" posted where you can see it and make notes and updates as things transpire.

> Seek inspiration. Stay inspired through DVDs, CDs, helpful books, visualization exercises and images, self talk, and lectures and videos on the Internet.

Think of all of the things you've survived in the past and let that fortify you through this set of trials or challenges. You CAN cope even in the midst of chronic illness!