This article appeared in the February 9, 2016 issue of the “Norwalk Hour”
Life Can Bring Us Close to the Edge
By Alan Mathis
Everyone seems to searching for an answer or way to have an impact on the current heroin epidemic. There’s been a lot of conversation, meetings, and awareness events. Here’s a suggestion that each one of us can implement starting tomorrow that is a zero cost idea guaranteed to have an impact.
For the past few months I have worked to become increasingly aware of my feelings as well as observe the feelings of those I live and work with. I wanted to learn more about what provokes or triggers intense feelings of stress, anxiety and sadness and what if anything we do to maintain a sense of wellness – or whether there is any reactions at all. This may seem to be a strange endeavor but stay with me for a minute and hopefully you may find my experiment helpful.
Life presents each of us with a never ending series of obstacles and challenges that vary in size, scope, duration, complexity and severity. These events can cause us great harm if we are unaware and fail to prepare to manage our mental health. Numerous studies over the past two decades have demonstrated the strong connection between our mental health status and our physical health, wellness and quality of life. I know that it comes as no surprise to you that people experiencing a prolonged sense of anxiety and sadness often resort to unhealthy habits like taking mood altering substances or compulsively over eating.
Likewise it’s been known for sometime that stress can significantly worsen the health of people with chronic conditions like diabetes and lupus, just to name two. So how we weather life’s storms; how we feel emotionally is significant to our longevity and quality of life. Increased longevity and improved quality of life is the focus of Liberation Programs’ Recovery for Life work with the more than 2,000 people with mental health and addiction disorders from lower Fairfield County the agency serves annually.
A colleague and therapist I’ve worked with for nearly 10 years reminded me recently that some level of stress, anxiety, sadness, frustration and even anger is actually normal and healthy. Our emotions have been connected or encoded in our physiology over the course of humankind’s evolution. This has helped us survive. I would imagine that being unexpectedly confronted by a bear on a camping trip should result in a powerful release of chemicals in the body that would signal a need to take flight or fight. Without the appropriate heightened state of vigilance our survival is at greater risk.
Many of us have not gotten the message that our mental health is every bit as important as our physical health and time must be taken daily to manage and safeguard it. Not every event or incident in life carries the same significance / consequence as a bear attack and should not trigger the same level of response. It is unhealthy for your body to continually feel under attack. Like an electrical outlet with too many high voltage appliances plugged in you will most certainly blow a fuse. A blown fuse for humans results in poor decision making, damaged relationships, possible violence and the inability to heal from medical conditions.
I believe each of us needs to develop at least three skills. The first skill is the ability to experience a proportional emotional response to the challenge confronting us. Second, we need to stay focused enough to develop and implement solution(s) aimed at getting the result you may want. Third, we must develop the ability to find some measure of peace and joy during our “valley” moments and begin to implement our solutions. One must be prepared to continue to live life fully with the knowledge that we may not get the result we hoped and worked to attain.
To maintain health and wellness we must strive to seek balance. It’s important to be able to experience our feelings, make sense of feelings and then manage our response while remaining authentic to who we are and who we aspire to be. This is really terrifically difficult work; it is the art of living well and you can do it.
Please take a moment to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – share with me what you have been experiencing recently that may be nudging you close to the edge. Let me know what you are doing to find balance, peace and joy as you are experiencing this valley moment. I want to know and our team at Liberation just may have some thoughts to share with you that may be beneficial.