Thursday, January 26, 2012

Some Thoughts on Self-Care

Grief can be lonely, but you are loved.
You are NOT alone.  Please take care of yourself.
We all live very stressful lives.  I bet you could name five major stressors in your life right now, off the top of your head without even thinking.  Grief and mourning are very special kinds of stressors, and like all stress grief can impact our bodies, our thoughts, our feelings and our  behavior.  Most people expect grief to affect their emotional and spiritual well-being. However, many do not appreciate the physical impact of grief and loss.

The website of Mayo Clinic describes the following physical effects of stress:
muscle ache
generalized tension or pain
chest pain
changes in sexual drive
stomach pain or nausea

Emotional and behavioral symptoms of stress have a direct impact on our physical well-being.  Consider the following:

Stress's impact on mood
lack of motivation
trouble concentrating
irritability & anger
sadness & depression

Stress's impact on  behavior
Over-eating or under-eating
Outbursts of anger
Drug or alcohol abuse
Tobacco use
Social withdrawal

You may not even realize that stress is a factor in the difficulties you are experiencing.  And if you have any concerns about physical symptoms you are experiencing you should always check with your physician.

In recent months I have grown increasingly concerned about the physical illnesses, some quite serious, that grieving persons I care for have experienced.  Then one of my friends shared with me her recent recurrence of cancer.  This friend has endured the sudden death of her mother and the extended illness and death of her father in less than two years time.  These losses left her reeling and caused her to make some major changes in her commitments and daily activities.  In the midst of her pain and exhaustion she neglected to keep important doctor's appointments.  Just a couple months after her father's death her husband was diagnosed with cancer.  This prompted her to go in for her own  routine check up, only to discover that she was experiencing a recurrence of her own cancer, diagnosed now as a Stage 3 cancer.

My friend attributes this cancer recurrence to the stress of care-giving and grief.  The combination of the physical impact of the stress of grief along with neglecting vital doctor's appointments put her in a very precarious situation.  I am pleased to report that after surgery (two large incisions) and many diagnostic tests and procedures my friend has been told she is again cancer-free.

Her outcome was ultimately a positive one.  Her message and experience is too important not to share.

While grief can leave you  reeling in uncertainty and confusion, you are loved. Your life is so meaningful to others and you are a person of worth with a mission to accomplish.  Please take care of yourself.  It is an investment that only you can make.

Watch for more information about Self-Care during times of Grief and Mourning coming soon!