Don’t Worry. Be Happy!
Whether it’s because the Holidays are fast-approaching, or we’re relocating to a different area, or we are faced with a life stressor that threatens life, limb, and sanity, we are oftentimes encouraged to stay calm and relax. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!
Being on the receiving end of such an admonition is not a welcome moment, to be sure. “Try being in my women’s size 12 shoes and say that again! You have no authority here.” Boy can I relate. Given an opportunity to break down that comment, however, I might eventually get to the point of being able to at least realize that if I were to take a few deep breaths I would feel slightly better as a result.
I fully understand the impetus behind someone telling us not to worry. Certainly I have said the same thing to someone in need and I absolutely meant it. But staying calm is not an easy venture, is it? But boy oh boy is it called for.
I react and I overreact – just ask my husband. You know what they say about teaching old dogs new tricks? Well, I’ve been trying to learn the calming lesson/trick for quite some time now. The more I overreact and discover later that such a reaction was not needed, I get that much closer to learning a lesson that will most definitely help my well-being. When an overreaction takes place, the fight or flight response gets set into motion which sets in motion bodily anomalies that never do the body good: accelerated heart rate, increased pain where pain might already exist, and if you’re me, the gastric juices start churning and a sour stomach ensues.
Being able to witness time and time again that things most of the time turn out okay, that most disasters are readily avoided, and life goes on regardless of any perceived evidence to the contrary, then we can settle down and carry on. But if you’re at all like me, you will need to administer compassion and loving kindness toward yourself to attain such a state of well-being.
I hope you succeed in doing so, as much as I hope to do so myself.
The brain is an organ we need to nurture, support, and appreciate. But sometimes the brain steers us in the wrong direction and if you’re like me, when that happens your well-being can get out of wack.
That’s when I end up having a love-hate relationship with my brain. Bear with me while I explain.
Let’s face it, that most sophisticated computer that rests within the skull that rests on top of the shoulders, doesn’t always get it right, like when the following scenarios occur:
- Insomnia because your brain wants you to figure out absolutely everything needed in order to cure the ills of the world – or at the very least, the ills of the small portion of the world in which you reside. Such future-focused attention doesn’t provide much present comfort, does it?
- Anxiety that doubles in intensity because anxiety is always fueled by fear – a fear that the brain expertly releases because of its innate fight or flight behavior that is simply trying to keep you safe but really overdoes it a bit…or a lot, if you’re me.
- Distraction gets in the way of full-functioning because too much input floods the brain so its ability to compartmentalize, eliminate surplus, and operate properly, stumbles a bit out of the starting blocks.
That’s just a few of the computer malfunctions that can take place within this wonderful mass of gray matter that no living being can do without.
But speaking personally, when I examine each of the bullet points above, I can willingly acknowledge that I might have more control over those anomalies than not.
- INSOMNIA: Instead of obsessing about the future – over which I have no control whatsoever while lying on my bed prepped for sleep – I can do my level best to be in the present where the future has no bearing whatsoever. Breathe. Read a book to sideline the brain’s worrisome thoughts about tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. One thing I know for sure, just lying there being frustrated about my sleepless state won’t do me any good so at the very least it’s a good idea to get out of bed and do something soothing to sidetrack the future-focused craziness going on inside my head.
- ANXIETY: If I address the current state of my being and realistically assess what is and what is not happening – shifting my focus from hyper-alertness broad spectrum attention to in-the-moment reality – my fear of the “what if” has no place in my day. I’ve learned that what I pay attention to magnifies in intensity. If I’m just focusing on that lower back pain twinge, that’s all that exists. You and I both know that isn’t the case but if you’re me, that little twinge may as well be a life threatening stabbing knife.
- DISTRACTION: Understanding that multi-tasking is not productive and is a myth that has been perpetuated over the centuries, challenges me to do one thing at a time so my brain does its level best on one task and then moves onto the next one. The more multi-tasking that occurs, the more chances to make mistakes – some of which can be dangerous; multi-tasking while driving, or taking care of a child come to mind.
Of this I am certain, however: I am grateful for my brain that most of the time serves me very well. You see, my father died from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 89 so I’m well aware of what can go awry in the brain’s circuitry, and there are so many other anomalies and abnormalities that can affect the brain, but I’ll try not to lose sleep over them!!! Although my brain isn’t perfectly normal, I will celebrate that it’s not all that abnormal so I will do my level best to not sweat the small stuff.
And although I don’t believe that it’s ALL small stuff, I can admit that a heck of a lot of it is.
Identification: Who are you?
When referring to identification in this post, I am talking about human characteristics – specifically, emotional and mental states.
For example, I tend to be anxious – allowing anxiety to rob me of my peace, and oftentimes, rob me of my sleep. But being anxious is not my identity. I get anxious but that is not who I am.
Being labeled (pigeonholed) by others is one thing, and it’s harmful, but even more so, labeling ourselves does each of us a huge disservice.
I may have anxiety, but I am not anxiety. Someone else may have ADHD, but that person is not ADHD, they have ADHD tendencies. If someone suffers from depression, their identity is not depressed person, rather, she/he is a person who gets depressed. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, to put someone in a pigeonhole is to, unfairly think of or describe someone or something as belonging to a particular group, only having a particular skill, etc. For example, actors don’t want to be pigeonholed as only having comedic skills; a talented actor wants to be thought of as having more range than that. Similarly, a lawyer is also a parent, a spouse, a friend – not just a mediator or adjudicator. My gastroenterologist’s whole identity isn’t wrapped up in her specific field of medical expertise – thank the good Lord – she is also a hiker, a mommy, and an accomplished baker.
If I place myself inside the box of anxiety, I may have the tendency to remain there longer than is healthy. If I live outside of that box and only end up there from time to time, I have more range as a human being and can branch out and experience calm and peace as a natural state. I am not anxious person Irene, I am Irene the mother, spouse, grandmother, sister, friend, and as luck would have it, published author.
ANOTHER WAY IN WHICH WE LABEL PEOPLE IS BY THEIR DISEASE.
When my father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, he wasn’t his disease, he was everything he was before the disease and even everything he became after diagnosis. He had limitations, don’t get me wrong, but those limitations didn’t define who he was: an extraordinary human being. When my sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer, that was one horrible aspect of her life but that didn’t define who she was before she died. She was a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend; she was a caring person with a keen sense of humor; she was the goddess of her wonderful household who kept it running like a fine-tuned engine.
Labeling limits our perception of who someone is in their essence.
There are so many directions this post could have gone – physical characteristics, gender identity, race, ethnicity – instead, I decreased the scope because emotional, mental, and medical matters have been weighing upon me as of late, so that’s where I went with this 500 word post. That was enough for me, I hope it was enough for you.
Be well, y’all.
Medications: harbinger of cognitive decline?
Why can’t I remember how to use this can opener?
How in the world did I get lost driving to the supermarket – a route I drive at least once a week!
My words are getting all jumbled up and my sentences aren’t making sense.
What’s happening to me?
Are you one of the many people who started to take a medication to resolve a condition, or at least to make it better, only to end up with distressing – and life-changing – mild cognitive impairment?
How long did it take for you and your doctor to realize that this horrific change of condition was caused by a medication that was added to your health regimen?
What types of expensive, and grueling, tests did you go through prior to coming to that conclusion? Did any of you go through neurological testing?
And how long did it take for you to feel “normal” again once you took your doctor’s advice to either go off the medication or replace it with a medication that did not cause cognitive decline?
I am personally aware of several people who experienced cognitive decline after taking the Pfizer drug, Lyrica (pregabalin). This drug was originally intended for treatment of neuropathic pain and as an anti-seizure medication, but was approved for treatment of fibromyalgia in 2007. Additionally, cholesterol-lowering statin medications oftentimes cause the same cognitive outcomes. And with the Pfizer drug Lyrica, increased depression – even suicide or newly diagnosed depression – were directly linked to this drug.
As Baby Boomers, we’re entering a phase where, depending upon what ails us, we start adding prescription medications to our health regimen in an attempt to have a high degree of health and well-being.
We need to be completely aware of how a medication may affect us, but it’s unfortunate that most of our awareness is dependent upon the Patient Information Sheet provided by the pharmaceutical companies. These information sheets are sketchy, at best, and carry only half-truths, at worse.
Do you have similar experiences you can share? We’d like to hear from you because awareness, and education, will help us all.