Going With The Flow… Or Maintaining Sanity When Things Fall Apart
One important component of good health is managing stress levels. This is true for everyone, but managing stress is vital for people with on-going medical conditions, like myself. When I allow stress, anxiety, or fear to control my emotions, I lose control of my body. Multiple Sclerosis is like that, no matter how well controlled the MS is, when stress levels are high the MS flares-up and takes over. So, when my husband got his lay off notice back in November I knew I had to take special care to manage stress so that the MS would not flare. I needed to maintain my typical functioning level so that I could take a full or part-time job, ramp up my writing business, and/or take on a full load of natural health clients to cover the bills while my husband looked for work. Since my primary responsibility is homeschooling our children, our family budget is based entirely on my husband’s income. We work hard to stay mostly debt free, and live on just one income. My income goes to “extras.” I can support us on my writing and natural health work, if I absolutely have to, but in order to accomplish that I have to be at my physical and mental best. I’m not at my best if I’m having a stress induced MS flare.
As events unfolded over these last 6 months, things got hard, financially, physically and emotionally. But I was successful in my goal –I did not have any kind of MS flare, in fact, I feel better right now than I did before my husband received his lay-off notice. The past 6 months have been anything but easy, we’ve dealt with quite a few high stress situations:
- husband’s lay off
- uncertainty about finances due to lay off
- increase in my working hours
- husband going back to college to earn his master’s
- husband taking two trips out-of-town
- moving our family of 5 to another state, 1000 miles away
- driving 950 miles one way to spend the weekend house hunting (with my teenage daughter)
- 18 year old daughter deciding she was not moving with the family
- doing most of the packing and unpacking myself
- driving 1000 miles, pretty much non-stop with 3 kids, 2 cats, 2 dogs, and 2 vehicles. ( I drove one vehicle, my husband drove the other)
- new job, new house, new state
- making the move quickly – we went from considering a move out-of-state, to loading up the U-haul in about 5 weeks.
By themselves, each of these things is a major stress causing event. Two of them, job loss, and moving, are even on the Health Status Top 5 List.
Combined, it made for a very tense and stressful 6 months. but, I survived without any negative health effects. Here’s how I did it.
- I made time for a 30 minute meditation each and every day
- Morning Pages. Morning pages are a brain dump technique developed by Julia Cameron and discussed in her book The Artist’s Way. I can’t recommend them (or the book) enough.
- I did not give up my hobbies. Usually when we have financial difficulties I give up my hobbies and spend that time working. The extra money relieves the financial difficulty, but I end up working all the time. This time, I rearranged my daily schedule so that I could spend more time during the day working, but left my evenings free for hobbies and fun stuff.
- I paid close attention to my food choices and didn’t let myself make excuses to make bad choices.
- Exercise. I made myself take a walk every other day, whether I felt like it or not.
- I made it a point to stay grounded in what I call “Spirit”. You might call it God, or Jesus, or the Universe.. but I kept up a constant conversation between myself and Spirit in order to remind myself that forces beyond myself were helping me find the “greatest good” for my family.
- I intentionally stayed open to creative solutions. Spirit always offers solutions to every problem. The trick is learning to listen closely enough to find your solution.
- I stayed organized. Organization does not come easily to me. In fact, it’s a chore to be endured. But, I did find that keeping up with a basic level of personal organization helped me focus my thoughts. In my case, the basic organizational level is a paper calendar and to do list, along with a master task list.
That’s it. Those were my “secrets” to maintaining my health during a highly stressful situation. I wish I had a single herb or supplement to share, or an easy way to maintain health, but like anything else health related, it takes personal dedication and attention to details to manage stress levels.
How do you maintain your internal peace when the world around you seems to be falling apart?