Pain Recycled, A Wellness Approach

Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials the would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products.  When we think of the term or the action of recycling, we usually are thinking of plastic bottles, metal objects, cardboard materials and so on.  However, in light of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I would like to focus this blog post on how we recycle our personal experiences and heart-felt pain.

Our health and wellness journey cannot exclude our mental health.  Our mental health impacts our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being and vice versa. It is tightly interwoven into all aspects of our life.  Mental health is one of our greatest assets and supports our ability to overcome challenges and obstacles.  It impacts our relationships, our abilities to function in the workplace, individual life goals, finances, and much more.  If we do not address our mental health as part of well-being, our desire for healing and being whole will never come to fruition.

Everyone single human being walking this earth has experienced stress.  The stress can differ among us and will sit on a sliding scale of intensity in different points in your life. That stress can lead to avenues of great pain and mental anguish.  If we do not address that pain in our lives, over time, we end up recycling it into our future experiences.  Those recycled feelings and experiences if not processed in a healthy, productive way, will strengthen the vicious cycle of unresolved pain.

Therefore, the question is, what are the proper materials needed to recycle our pain so that it can be used for a new purpose in life and not just left-over trash that can clutter our potential?  Lets look at some material needed to translate the experience in a productive way.

1. Identify It! Become self-aware. Notice your reactions, emotions and mental thoughts that occur in a situation.  Where are they coming from and are they congruent with the experience?  Alot of our responses to a situation, a person or event are exacerbated by previous experiences.  It is a build-up of old trash that never was taken out, let alone recycled.

2. Slow Your Roll!  Before making a final decision or display an extreme reaction; feel that pain, sit with it, and give yourself time.  Be gentle on yourself and others.  We are wrapped in emotions and thoughts that can be projected onto others, intensifying the current experience.  Spend time with yourself, sort out those emotions, clean up your thoughts and place it into its proper context.

3.  Practice a Wellness Approach! Whatever relieves stress in your life that is not harmful to you, do it!  Go for a bike ride, practice yoga, meditate, confide in a friend, or try something new.  Remember, an “approach” is different than a one time “occurrence”.  An approach is something you can regularly incorporate into your life that can assist you in recycling that painful expereince.

4. Turn Your Pain into Purpose! One of the biggest influence on my healing in life has been giving back to our world.  What I realized early on was that my experience is not exclusive to me.  I am not alone and am walking this earth with many hurt human beings.  When I began to take my message to the streets, I realized that there were others who could benefit from what I was learning.  If you want to recycle your pain into a product that has a new, fresh and fruitful use, help someone else.  You will quickly find that your pain becomes the catalyst for your purpose.  

Lets make a deliberate effort to address our mental health in our wellness plan for our lives.  Make your pain, your emotions and your thoughts a priority, so that all other areas of your life can evolve.  Remember, there is truth in your pain. Do not be ashamed of it, but instead, recycle it for a new use in order to support the growth in yourself and others.  Our world, your community and you are depending on that process.

“One small crack does not mean that you are broken, it means you were put to the test and you didn’t fall apart.”  -L. Poindexter

 

May-is-MHA

Caregiver, Sweat That Stress Out

“Both tears and sweat are salty, but they render a different result. Tears will get you sympathy; sweat will get you change.” -Jesse Jackson

There is no question about the impact of stress on a person’s physical, emotional and mental well-being.  Stress in our society looks differently by gender, race, socioeconomic status and age.  However, the stress burden has increased over time across all demographics.  It is toxic, intense and can actually turn your genes on or off.   Stress can cause brain damage, impact memory,  shut down your immune system and increase inflammation in your body.

As it relates to caregivers, the  increased stress burden, is referred to as Caregiver syndrome or caregiver stress.  This syndrome is described as a condition that strongly manifests exhaustion, anger, rage, or guilt resulting from unrelieved caring for a chronically ill patient or loved one.  Although it is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the term is often used by many healthcare professionals, in the terms of expereinced trauma, grief and compassion fatigue.  With all the known science, knowledge and research behind the caregiver stress, what is the proposed solution?

May 30, 2019 will mark my fourth year of becoming a full-time caregiver for my mother with Alzheimers.  I can testify to the stress like no other, as I still maintain my full-time job, take on a second part-time job as a spin instructor and Health Coach, in addition for  caring for every aspect of my mothers life.  Daily I  fight systems of care, advocate for proper diagnosis, testing and treatment of her illnesses,  manage all her finances, and experience her dementia behaviors in my home.  If you want to truly know what a war on healthcare looks in this country, take on caring for a chronically-ill loved one with limited resources and finances.  My world has been completely altered for both the bad and the good, yes, the good.  I am working on a better me, on a better world, all in the name of love for my mother.  Her diagnosis has changed my life’s direction, permanently.

What I have learned through this caregiving journey has extended my quality of life, through a personal investment in my own health.  However, not every caregiver has this epiphany and is usually buried miles deep in stress due to loss of every kind, including employment, health insurance, retirement benefits, social outlets and finances,  in order to be the rock for their sick loved one.  As the the numbers of caregivers in this country increases, so does the level of burden on the systems of care and the economy.  We are encountering a Public Health crisis with this underserved population being ignored by all professions.

What is the solution?  I have many thoughts on how societal polices and laws could impact an individuals world through local community supports and financial relief.  However, there is not one simple easy answer to address the multifaceted world of a caregiver.  I have always said, if an answer does not exist, seek it, search diligently or become it.  Yes, become  your own answer.  Do not sit in apathy, but instead, stand up and fight for the justice you so much deserve.  Be the voice, the reason and the solution not just for yourself, but an entire population in need.  Research, study, ask questions, do not accept the lack of, the minimalist solutions or closed doors.

I may have read every research article on Alzheimers, wrote world-renowned physicians, sought holistic preventative measures and studied the body composition and  its reactions to environmental influences.  I increased my knowledge of the brain-body connection, inflammation, the importance of proper nutrition, exercise and stress reduction activities.  In a recent blog post, I described the connection between cycling and brain health.  We have ignored brain health for so long and the current dementia epidemic demands that we elevate the science, research and knowledge as a national priority.  In turn, I have taken my love for cycle and translated it into a  disease-prevention approach in my life and messaging platform for others.

Recently, a good friend of mine asked me to attend a heated cycle class, at the Sweat Shoppe in Atlanta, GA.  Yes, that is what I wrote, “heated cycle.”   I sat and processed that request for a minute, and then of course I agreed to go. I mean, how bad could it be?  I had taken heated yoga and was game for anything new, especially fitness-wise.  Well, my first encounter with this “heated cycle” was hellacious, to say the least.  The extreme heat, the intense spin moves, and a packed class full of enthusiastic sweat- loving cyclists had me visualizing a “polar-bear” plunge. (You know, that activity in the middle of winter, where you strip down into your bathing suit and leap into ice-cold ocean water.)

After the 50 minute ride, I emerged from the room, soaking in sweat like I had just taken a shower in my clothes.  Every part of my physical being was drenched and I really was questioning my sanity at this point.  As I left the “heated room” and drove home I could not help but think about the physiological benefits of what I just experienced.  I was feeling great, refreshed and full of energy.   According to the benefits listed on the Sweat Shoppe website, the heat and the sweat have major impacts on your immune system, removes impurities from the body, releases endorphins and much much more.  So let us connect all of this; cycling, sweat, heat, physical activity, brain-body connection and caregiver stress.  This sounds like a health correlation and possible protective factor to me.  If stress is the major risk factor in a caregivers world, let’s increase the protective factors around them at the community level, so there is a positive individual outcome to negate that stress.  In a one hour sweaty cycle workout, I increased my mental, physical and emotional well-being, reducing my physiological response to the caregiver stress burden.

Caregiver, I encourage you to think outside the norm, the societal box, and seek the alternative solutions to address the stress you face everyday.  It will not be eliminated quickly and has life-altering implications on your present and future well-being.  Look for your own solutions, or be open to new ways of managing your stress. Your life depends on it and make the decision that you will not be the next one diagnosed with a chronic or terminal disease.  Defy the data and love yourself enough to SWEAT OUT the small and big stuff.

“We learn more by looking for the answer and not finding it, then we do from learning the answer itself.” -Lloyd Alexander