There are new phrases that are becoming normal in this new strange world we find ourselves living in. Flattening the curve is one of them.
I’m observing a growing anxiety in our isolation and this longing for life to return to normal. We are a society on edge.
Nine years ago I experienced a heart attack. I woke up on a Sunday morning thinking I was having a panic attack. I had a lot going on. My dad was in ICU after nearly dying from infection and CDiff, complications from surgery. My mom was ill. We were all recovering from a nasty flu. I was in the middle of menopause.
The symptoms like many women were not typical of a heart attack. I had pain in my arm pits, something I associated with hormonal upset. There was numbness in my left arm. And I did feel exceedingly anxious and couldn’t settle down. At the advice of a doctor friend we finally went to the ER to get checked out. No one was more surprised than me at the diagnosis.
I recovered well but live with a heart that has not always cooperated. One of my prayers is often “Guard my heart”.
There were a number of factors that probably contributed to my heart attack, anxiety was one of them. Our minds and bodies and our spirits are so connected. I’ve often joked that I am hormonally challenged, but hormones also play a vital role in our well being. Our adrenal glands are affected when we go into fight or flight mode and there are consequences when we have a prolonged period of stress.
Collectively we are in uncharted waters of stress, fighting an unseen virus. There is fear, anxiety, worry not only about our health, but our entire way of life. Many have lost their jobs, some their business. We lost our way of being in community, and are missing the way of life we knew. We are grieving. And the future seems somewhat uncertain.
Three weeks ago I experienced symptoms that unsettled me. My arm was numb. I had tightness in my chest. I felt anxious. I responded with my normal arsenal. I prayed which is always a good thing. I practiced deep breathing. I finally called the 811 line to check in with the nurse. And she told me to get checked out at our local ER. I really didn’t want to go. I was embarrassed.
I became thankful I went for a number of reasons. The staff were exceedingly kind to me, some of them I knew and was grateful to see them. I received the necessary tests and felt reassured when my heart checked out fine. It was the right thing to do, especially with my heart history.
The bigger challenge was and is . . . Is to be kind . . . to myself. It is not easy to write about this. I’d like to think that anxiety doesn’t get the best of me. As I embrace my own humanness I know I have a deep sensitivity to life, as do many others. Anxiety and depression run in our family. We don’t easily talk about it.
I was grateful our church ran a course on Mental Health last fall which exposed some of the challenges many of us face when we struggle with mental health issues We don’t seem to have a problem revealing we have a headache or are afflicted with other physical ailments but there is a continuing stigma around mental health. By the way, that course, called Sanctuary, is based out of Vancouver and is available to the public. (Resources below).
Most of us will experience mental health problems in our lives: others will develop diagnosed mental health conditions or illness. I have been grateful for a deeper understanding and the knowledge that we need to recognize these issues and respond with compassion.
As we continue to support one another in these unprecedented times, I believe it is good to address the challenges of ongoing stress and pressure. As I’ve checked in with dear ones, it seems we have turns having good days and bad days Some days are pretty good! We see the good in people, we feel connected and cared for, we are learning new skills and ways of being
And then there are the hard days, and those who are already in difficult circumstances might feel it even more intensely Coping mechanisms might fail. It can manifest itself in frustration, anger, tears and even unkindness. Just as we are grieving, there are often physical symptoms to trauma: headaches, a heavy chest, stomach upset, lack of energy. This can be the epidemic of anxiety.
This is longer than a normal blog, part of my own therapy is to write! So if you are reading this, thank you!
The question is how do we flatten the curve of anxiety? We talk about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), but this is no post-traumatic, we are living in a pro-longed stress period, experienced collectively, and yet very individually. We all respond differently, according to our personalities, our past history, and our support systems which also affect us.
Here are a few ideas, and I’d love to hear yours. For we are all connected, even though we are physically apart. Talking on the phone, having honest conversations about how we are coping is a good start I think.
I know the days I take time to walk and stretch and exercise are good for me. Even when I don’t feel like it.
Watching my diet, and taking good supplements is also important in my self care. Vitamin B is particularly good for stress. I use essential oils, and find lavender among others to be soothing.
I try to limit my news intake. I do my best to get enough sleep. I determine to dwell on what is good and lovely and beautiful.
There are times where we might need to reach out and talk to a health professional. I’m grateful that we can still talk to a doctor, even if it is by phone or video!
As i write this a bird sings outside my window. The sun is coming up, faithful. I think on my verse I chose for this year, back in January, which says: “I have set the LORD always before me, because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:5. I’ve written about this before, but as I’ve studied this verse, I recognize that sometimes I AM shaken, but I can go to a safe place, a place of refuge, one verse calls it a strong tower. It is there I can relax because I am being held by the One who created me, One who is not shaken by what is going on. This brings me great comfort and peace.
I’ve been greatly encouraged by Dr. Bonnie Henry who is the Chief Medical Officer in BC who has such a calm demeanor. Almost every briefing she ends with “Be kind.” Such good words and a daily reminder that we will get through this, as we are kind to each other, and to ourselves as well.
There are some wonderful resources offered at this time. Here are two:
Sanctuary Course on mental health: Right now they are offering if free until the end of May! https://www.sanctuarymentalhealth.org/sanctuary-course/
I’ve been excited to learn that Psychologists in BC are offering their resources for free to all who need it in our province. This is generous and kind, and I know will be very helpful for many. Check it out here: https://www.psychologists.bc.ca/covid-19-resources