Beyond Pandemic Stress: Creating Buffer
If you have been following my recent posts about the fallout from the pandemic and the terrible toll on our psyches and bodies that the pandemic has had, you'll recall how important it is to do what we can to reduce stress in our lives. While we can't always control what happens in our lives and in the world, we can always have some control over how we respond. And responding proactively is one of the most important actions we can take in choosing self-care and self-respect over not treating ourselves with respect. Self-care is an act of self-respect and self-love. Self-love may get a bad wrap, but in its most basic form, self-love is the foundation to self-care, healthy boundary setting, and conscious choices for personal well-being.
The pandemic has been a reminder of how important it is to be mindful of our health and well-being. There are still many people suffering in the world, and we know that our control of the virus is tenuous at best. This knowledge is like the background hum of a city that never sleeps, airwaves filled with invisible signals that bounce from satellite to receiver dishes, all without our awareness.
This is the same as the cumulative effects of stress…. humming away in the background, impacting us whether we know it or not.
This is why consciously taking the time to create our buffer is so important! Think of it as an insurance policy of sorts - while we can't always control what happens in our lives, we do have some control over how we respond. Little things, like taking time out, conscious breathing, relaxation, time in nature. These activities are all gentle fortifiers that infuse our bodies with calm and turn the volume down on the catecholamines of excess stress.
It's both a lifestyle choice and a mindset shift that creates a habit of an alternative response: we become more aware of our habitual patterns of response. Once we become more aware, we can switch these out for healthier ones. This is the path to offsetting the stress effect.
One Life. Make It Matter.
'One life, make it matter' is my mantra', as you may know. This mantra reflects a profoundly philosophical perspective on life that has arisen in response to personal challenges, including a cancer diagnosis and the loss of two babies. It has also come from the personal challenges I have seen loved ones and friends struggle with, including loss, grief, and depression.
It has also come from my experience in paramedics and bushfire - seeing someone's worldly possessions go up in smoke, with nothing left but the trauma in their heart and the clothes on their back. Or, in the emergency department during a paramedic round, listening to an intern tell a wife trying to deal with her gravely ill husband that she must consider what his end-of-life wishes might be. Sometimes life is cut short. An unexpected twist of fate leaves a family grieving the loss of a loved one and a life once familiar and safe. These are the traumas of the everyday. Everyday people. Everyday traumas.
But, in some respects (notwithstanding the trauma), I consider these personal experiences to be privileges of sorts -— to be there at the end of someone's life, to be the one holding their hand as they slip away. Traumatic, yes, but a life lesson that speaks starkly and compellingly in the language of life and of loss, reminding me over and over just how transient and how precious our life is. We have one life, not several. We don't get a second chance. This is it.
And one of the best ways to acknowledge this is to take care of our one and only precious life.
Life is a gift. Cherish this gift. Make the time to care for this life. To care for you.
My need to find a way to take better care of myself and find a way to feel safe no matter how unsafe the world may be, is what led me on the path toward creating a way to find peace, wellbeing, and a sense of safety.
In the face of an assault of a family member earlier this year, and feeling fearful for his life and for my own safety, I knew I had to create a way to restore that intangible sense of safety. Otherwise, I felt as though I was going to become a victim of one-too-many serious life stressors.
And I'm not alone in this kind of response. In addition to the global rise in mental health issues that have escalated during the pandemic, so have rates of violence - family, domestic etc. This is yet more fallout from the pandemic.
More than ever, people need to find a way to create that sense of peace irrespective of what is happening in the world. It is really lifesaving to find, have and create a mental 'out' where you can retreat to when things are a little too difficult.
Does this mean the trauma goes away? No. Does this mean the pandemic is irrelevant? No. Does this mean that life is easy-breezy from here on? No. But it does mean that you can create a pocket of calm, a mental break, and a way to recharge when you feel a little sea-sick from the stormy seas of life.
Finding Safe Haven.
This is why I wrote and created Safe Haven, A Pocketbook of Peace & Well-being for Uncertain Times, and the complete My Safe Haven Peace & Wellness Program that accompanies the Pocketbook.
Because I knew I needed to find a way to live with all of this stress and yet find my way to a calmer place. To be mentally safe when my world felt like it was falling apart. To reduce the toxic stress that had the very real potential to make me get sick again.
And with Long Covid, in particular, this is something that many thousands of people are now facing. Make no mistake: the stress, as mentioned previously, is not insignificant: it's a global problem, inflicting enormous hidden health costs with far-reaching repercussions. And I knew there were others who felt like me: overwhelmed, tired, sometimes fearful of physical or mental safety, and emotionally overwrought.
The new Covid normal is different to life before.
But some things are the same, like taking care of ourselves and proactively reducing stress where we can. Our need to be mindful of our physical and mental well-being, however, is perhaps more important than it's ever been.
If you are anything like me, you will know that the time is right to say yes to doing things better, to acknowledge that we only have one life. Our sacred duty, if you will, is to make our one precious life matter.
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