There’s been a lot of death and dying around me lately. I thought I’d share some ideas that you might find useful if you find yourself in a similar position.
First up, for me, grief is better than depression or chronic pain.
Depression is like carrying around a void. The void is always there then, one day, it’s gone. There’s a lot I can do to prevent a downward spiral (into the void) and I’ve gotten better and better at self-management.
Pain: I’ve been fortunate that my longest block of chronic pain was 14 days. It was like carrying a small fire. Over a decade later, I feel gratitude remembering the moment I noticed the pain was gone.
With grief, there is space between the (trembling) waves that arrive, at unpredictable times. I pay attention to the space, it feels great.
At hospice training, they encouraged us to mourn the small losses to prepare ourselves for the inevitable larger ones.
The practice of leaning into small losses will serve you well.
Did you notice the mental setup?
- Things could be worse
- I can handle my problems
- These issues are actually good ones to have – this is a opportunity to practice my coping skills
What I Control
I can’t make myself sleep. I can set an alarm and wake up at the same time, every_single_day.
I don’t control my moment-to-moment neurochemistry. I can exercise in nature and avoid excessive fatigue.
I can’t control my thoughts. I can control:
- who I spend time with
- where I spend my time
- what I say, write and read
- where I surf on the internet
Control the controllable – accept the rest.
Grief often manifests as anger.
Anger isn’t all bad – my anger might have nudged me to toss Facebook into the trash and that’s been a plus for 2020. Anger also motivated me to cut my intake of politics, another useful shift.
While I might not control my anger’s arrival, I can influence its departure and notice each time I choose not to act on my anger.
Not acting on anger – there have been some useful wins in that department over the last few months.
The Role of Steady
I went for a long hike on Sunday.
Afterwards, I was looking at the pictures and noticed it was the first time I was smiling, rather than wincing, in a long while. I’m laughing as I type because, all summer long, I couldn’t figure out why my face looked so screwed up in pictures.
Other than walking around in nature, the only other time I’ve noticed feeling really good was after an hour riding easy.
I haven’t done much anaerobic exercise. In the past, I’ve noticed sustained high-intensity exercise isn’t useful for mood management. There’s a brief high followed by a lengthy hangover, when I’m emotionally vulnerable and my will is tapped out.
If you are prone to “euphoria-then-crater” then watch out. I have good systems for keeping myself in check. I never train with faster people when I’m on edge, even a virtual leaderboard can get me into trouble!
How might I know I’m on edge? I could assume it based on the deaths around me.
If external reality doesn’t register then try looking inwards and watch for triggers being triggered…
…anger, sadness, hunger, sugar cravings, sleep pattern changes and/or small cuts that are slow to heal.
The list above is my early-warning system (of impending doom!).
Keep the good stuff in your life.
- Shared Experiences
- Dietary Fiber
- Bright Light
Schedule the good stuff with yourself, your friends and your family.
Focus on doing the good stuff and have faith you will overcome.