Being in Well-Being
How is your health since your personal journey into grief and loss? Most likely, your grief shows up in your body as well as your mind. Have you noticed? Or do you ignore this too and make excuses for feeling lousy? Age, out of shape, no time, costs too much, I’m just not worthy without my loved one, I will when (fill in the blank)…
Stop for a moment right now and take inventory*:
- Is your sleep restful?
- Do your muscles have aches and pains?
- Are you finding yourself in the doctor’s office more often with less answers?
- Have you stopped doing “something” (exercise, being with friends) because of your body (tired, not able, pain) and grief?
- Take a body tour, toes to head: joints, skin, belly, weight, digestive, circulation, clarity, breath, posture. What’s changed?
- What medications do you use to sustain your current life? What does it say about your health?
- Is this how you want to live?
Could your health be better? Most of us will say “yes!” You do get choices to make your health and life the best possible, in spite of loss. And once you point your path toward feeling better, the reward for continued improvement will increase upward, just as easily as you may be going downhill.
Stress Finds You
Stress from caregiving and loss accumulates in our body, even when the circumstances are well supported and shared – even when you are “dealing” with grief in conscious ways. I know! Since my husband’s death a year and half ago I have fought back to reclaim my health and reconnect to my body. (In a 50+ woman’s body given all the media shoulds, that’s no small feat!) I have undergone major surgery for an inner ear disorder that has improved tremendously, but has ongoing side effects. I have arthritis in both hips so bad my doctor said, while giving me another cortisone shot, that it is only a matter of a few years that I’d need both hips replaced. It was debilitating. I was thinking “in a few months” given the pain and energy it took away from me. I wondered how I could be falling apart at such an alarming rate! I can see now, although I hate to admit, that the tipping points for my diseases might be noted as a delayed response to the stress of caring for my husband (with symptoms showing up during his care). With a bit of irony, I appreciate the analogy of how I interpret it showing up: I was out of balance, and I was failing to thrive under my own weight.
I began a yoga class last week. The most gentle type, with lots of personal modifications, but yoga nonetheless. It is a milestone for me. From a threat of hips replacement to yoga in six months! It began with a decision to love and care for myself and I really transformed since getting a strong prompt from my restorative massage therapist. As he was “beating” my hip muscles back into proper alignment he told me: “You can spend all the money and time you want for me to work on you, but until you change your diet and get rid of inflammatory foods, we will not make the progress you desire.” The progress I desire! Fix, yes, heal, um, maybe not. And there is a difference — healing is lasting. You can substitute any specific change recommendation for your own health, but for me it was the moment to know that I am the one in control of my future health, starting that day. I had to turn fixing into true healing. I make the choices about what I eat, the steps best for my rehab and what I do to get my mind and body in balance. It all hit me – my pocketbook, my time, my future, my health… even hope depended on me making lasting changes.
I understand that I am very fortunate to have good insurance (which pays for expensive surgeries and a few PT exercise appointments, but not my chosen alternative and holistic body-mind approach) and I have means to support my choices for care, but without the desire and will to make a real change in both my mind and body together, I would not be sharing this story. I was doing the outside body work, but until I included the inner self care it was only going to be temporary. It’s like a weight loss diet that is good for a while but you find yourself back at that old weight in no time. Shedding pounds, shedding old thoughts, even shedding all that mental burden of going up and down the stairs to care for my ill husband is part of my overall health journey. This is wellness.
How do you flip that switch to care about yourself? Body and mind have to be on board together. It is easier than you think, because when you stop thinking and take small steps you integrate change into your life. Or if you are the person who feels everything, a change in thought can lead you outward. Either way, this is the moment to make mentally, physically, spiritually healthful decisions. Food, self-care, body, mental challenges, environment, letting go — pick whichever life area you need that improves life now. Each one affects your total being.
Yes, It Starts With Breathing!
Choosing your change really begins one breath at a time. Especially in grief. When you experience a profound loss, recognizing the importance of breath could seem obvious – your loved one has stopped breathing. But what about you? Has this death taken your breath away? Has it taken you from life?
Breath is at the center of change because breath is life. Breath is at the center of our being as it oxygenates our mind and body. Breath is the spiritual awakening for meditation and prayer. Breath centers us in the moment of life, not in the past or the future.
10 Ways to Well-Being For Your Mind and Body
- Pay attention. In an anxiety or pain moment (the brain or body on overdrive), notice how and what and where you feel it. Just notice. No judgment, no action needed. This alone can help ease the pain as you bring focus onto the problem area.
- Three minutes. Do something different for three minutes. Change your focus. Stare out a window if you’ve been looking at the computer. Stand if you’ve been sitting; sit if you’ve been on the move. Call to say hi to someone you are thinking about. Let hem know it’s brief and make a time to get together or chat longer later. Call to make a much overdue appointment- with the massage therapist, the doctor, or dentist or hairdresser. Allow three minutes to grieve or remember, then resume your activity. What else can you give three minutes to do?
- STOP and Breathe.
- Download an app! There are free phone and computer applications for breathing, reminders to stand up and stretch, check your pulse rate, or watch a soothing music collage. Commit to use it for at least a week.
- Have a cup of tea. Need energy? Try peppermint. Want calm? Chamomile is suggested. Can’t decide? Green tea is a great default. Read the packets and give yourself what you need in the moment. Iced or hot, with honey, lemon, or cream… mix it up.
- Take an Epsom salt bath. Magnesium is welcomed and healing to your muscles, the warmth helps your circulation, and cleansing is refreshing. Bonus – remind yourself you deserve these minutes to not think, but to immerse yourself in good healthy thoughts and relaxation. Ahhhh…
- Don’t like baths? Rub the Epsom salt all over your body in the shower. Start from the top of your head. Let it wash over you. Imagine the pain and worry going down the drain with the salt! In fact, you can brush it all away with purpose as you do.
- Dress in something colorful. Has your wardrobe gotten stale? Add a spark of color to brighten your day. Think you can’t wear red? Try a necklace or bracelet. Get a new tie or scarf. Blue not your thing? Maybe once upon a time, but see if it holds true today. You might try Sky Blue instead of Navy. Color can change your mood. Dare to wear opposing colors! Go little or add a big splash.
- Move your body. Who says you have to walk or run? Stretch, twist, fill your lungs like a balloon, take a super hero pose, and then another, wiggle around, dance to the radio for one song, touch the floor (or try!)… No one is looking. You don’t have to leave your room.
- Forgive yourself. Studies show that compassion for our selves is a far better motivator to change than guilt and shame.
Before you jump on the try-to-do-them-all-to-make-a-change-sabotage-yourself train, know this: You only have to do one. Pick it and do it. Do it several days in a row. Or choose a new one each day. Perfect doesn’t count. Do this for a week, then call me, comment or Facebook and let me know how it went!
I can’t and haven’t gone this walk alone. I have invested in a team of supportive folks specific to my changing body and mind needs because my life evolves through changes. As one area strengthens I can move my resources to another. These are the small changes adding up to a big difference. The medical doctor gives me tools and diagnostics to share with my massage therapist. My therapist referred me to a great chiropractor. I added the right exercise and training for me at this time – from rehab into building strength. I have stepped out of my comfort zone and joined in activities I may not have before. I have a coach for maintaining a positive mindset and personal accountability. I interact with my friends more often for my overall well being. I read, write, think and talk. I listen, breath, notice and release. Some of these actions have been in place for a long time, years actually, others are brand new in my life. Some I have found since my husband’s departure. Out of necessity. I am better and happier for it all.
The difference for me is a body and mind that was merely getting through the day to now being excited for life and what is to come. I feel healthy! I have energy to spare (as long as I include my catnap). Imagine that! I both understand and live just how greatly grief affects mind and body. I have walked this journey and I am here to say, “This is do-able.” Getting through grief. Making life meaningful. Finding your best health and well-being. You can do this, too. Your loss changes you. The question is, “in what way will you choose the path forward?”
You matter to others, so make yourself a priority. Tell me what you think. What’s your body challenge? How has it related to your grief, or does it? Which one of these steps is something you will do today (and tomorrow)?
_ _ _*Many of these grief responses are quite normal and temporary. This list is not intended to diagnose or treat you in any way. However, if your body inventory is indicative of illness call your medical healthcare provider of choice for an appointment. Knowledge is powerful! Change can occur when you make informed decisions.