Five Ways to Help You Battle Stress and Anxiety
I've always looked forward to summer. I adore warm weather, longer days, the incredible vibrant colors of nature and the choir of crickets, birds, woodpeckers and owls.
They sing me to sleep.
I spend more time outdoors in the warmer temperatures as opposed to the winter when I spend too much time indoors avoiding frigid weather and icy roads.
Unfortunately, the past couple of years our summers have been filled with illness, heartbreak and loss. I don’t know why but the worst of all possible things happens to us in summer.
Without detailing all of the negative summer events over the years I’ll quickly outline the main ones.
A few years ago I was hit simultaneously with gallstones and kidney stones. To say I was in pain is putting it mildly. That ordeal kicked my MS into high gear. It also caused anxiety and depression which, as you can imagine, caused me to spiral out of emotional control.
I was a basket case.
The summer after that my husband was flat on his back for three months with two herniated discs. I helped my son pack for college, drove him to school and helped him settle into his dorm room all without my husband. Then I cried an ugly empty nester cry by myself once I left the campus. On the several hour drive home I wept.
This summer was the worst of all. First we lost my beloved father-in-law, a gentle, kind man who we dearly miss. A few weeks later our veterinarian told us that our darling cat, Max, the apple of our eyes, had incurable cancer and we needed to put him down within the next few days.
To say my heart hurt isn’t giving credit to deep sorrow.
Then there’s our house. The home we were blessed to build 22 years ago. It’s our dream home surrounded by woods. A ranch with extra wide hallways, grab bars in every bathroom and an aesthetically pleasing display of windows to showcase the outdoors. We raised our son here and built a life we’re proud of.
But, as happens in life, it’s time to downsize and say good-bye for many reasons. I know we were blessed to have such a beloved home but I can’t resign myself to the fact that we have to say good-bye. My last day here is, at this moment, unimaginable.
The last piece is my latest MRI, the one I wrote about in my last piece, where the words MAY BE PROGRESSIVE appeared. That was a kick in the stomach.
All of these summer wallops have set me off balance. I cry at the drop of a hat. I sigh. I stare at the house. I look in hiding places in case Max is somehow there. I hear my father-in-law's voice. I pray my Copaxone keeps working in my favor. And I don’t get much work done.
How do YOU cope when you’re feeling stressed, depressed, anxious or fearful? Here are a few tips that worked for me:
Take care of YOU: Eat healthy food and drink plenty of water. Consuming food that is processed or high in sugar and salt may seem like a quick fix to make you feel better. They’re not. Reach for foods that are healthy such as fresh fruits and vegetables. I love ripe nectarines. Their sweet taste sends me back to childhood, and that is always welcome.
Exercise as much as possible: This one can be difficult depending on your MS. I try to walk when I can, but when I was depressed I barely got out of bed. Then I found that even walking a little bit, such as back and forth in my driveway, helped me get fresh air and slowly lifted my mood. Do what you can on your own level.
Get plenty of sleep: Getting enough sleep isn’t always easy. If you’re having difficulty sleeping at night try to get daily exercise, or if you can try to nap a little less (or go without one completely.) There are also alternative remedies that may help such as melatonin or 5-HTP. See what works best for you. (Consult your doctor before trying.) If none of this helps consult with a qualified therapist about sleep medications.
Give yourself a break: Go easy on yourself when bad things happen. Life is not perfect and neither are we. Grieve fully when you need to and sit with that for awhile. But don’t do it for too long. If your grief is lasting longer than usual seek the help of a qualified counselor.
Reach out: I’ve mentioned seeking help from qualified counselors but also speak to loved ones, spiritual leaders, or support groups. There’s no shame in reaching out. We all need to lean on each other once in awhile. You know the old song to reach out and touch somebody’s hand, make this world a better place if you can. Yup. That’s the truth.
Before I go here’s a little something I worked on recently to help relieve my stress. I purchased an adult coloring book with colored pencils and found that after finishing my first drawing it helped! (I purchased the book and pencils at Barnes and Noble but they can be found online as well.) Give it a try!
Does listening to music help lower the severity of your stress or MS symptoms?