Matters of the Mind: Recruiting the body mind and soul for relief from emotional tumult

Use this list as a reminder in bad times when we find ourselves on the slippery slope of stress and sickness.

The number of cases with anxiety and grief is rising. On a daily basis, I am observing the increase in volume and intensity. In session with a senior orthopaedic surgeon yesterday, I heard him say, “We can fix broken bones, but how does one fix a broken heart?” My answer to him was to first allow himself to see the fractured heart, to avoid denying it and stop trying to desperately nail it back together. At 65 years, I know we will take some time to change the course and flow of thoughts he is so used to having.

Alongside deeper cognitive work, we need a few to-dos as a routine, a checklist, more rigour and more investment to help prevent further deterioration or progression of melancholia, anxiety, grief, frustration and most importantly support remission. Following is a list that can be printed and used as a reminder in times such as these to help us cope when we all understand that self-work and health are important but often find ourselves on the slippery slope of stress and sickness. A handy few tools to help us hold on, find and build on strengths and keep well.

Body (Behavioural)

*Practice meditation. Choose a focal point (visual imagery, sounds, tactile) and sustain the silence.

*Breathwork. Find a simple sustainable breathing practice that resonates. A simple energy and mood lifter is: inhale deeply through the nose for four counts, exhale through the mouth for six counts.

*Yoga, exercise, walk, treadmill, cross trainer, spot jog, whatever gets you sweating.

*Have a disciplined routine and productive clear goals for the day.

Mind (Cognitive)

*Focus on the present. If your mind wanders into future worries or past regrets, it is okay, bring it back to the present moment. Recognise the present and orient yourself in the moment. Practice being in the now.

*Accept the agitation, worry, angst, discomfort as normal and do not judge yourself for experiencing these. The experience and its manifestations become negative or intolerable because we label them so. We must allow such experiences to unfold as they do, without labels on them or ourselves for having to go through it or not being able to prevent it; it is not the experience that is negative, it is our self-talk that is.

*Accept a lack of control as part of a “good, healthy happy life” and not as an “uncertain, scary or out-of-control life”. A high need for control is often the cause of significant emotional pain. Being aware and accepting of life having an element of the unknown, enriches us with a growth mindset, spontaneity, curiosity and resilience.

*Allow the difficult emotion to tell you something about yourself. Our emotions are a result of our self-dialogue. The inner voice we each have–that is the source of meanings, perceptions and significance of stimuli for us. Becoming aware of this self-talk can help us become self-aware, how we think, the meanings we are choosing of events, the perceptions we make of people. Self-awareness is the place where we can all take notes for growth, rationality and improvement.

Soul (Spiritual)

* The soul is hungry for learning and growth. These lessons have to be seeded out. Look at distress, challenges and pain as trying to give you a message, trying to teach you something that you would learn only this way.

*Be gentle and loving towards yourself. While busy with a thousand things in a day, one forgets to be compassionate to the core of one’s own being, the self. Our demands and expectations take us down a road, away from awakening to our reality, authenticity, who we are. Reminding ourselves of tenderness towards the self is a crucial daily spiritual goal.

*Forgiveness is a remarkable virtue–for the self, for all the mistakes we make, for all the times we fall. Why I do not insist on forgiving others is because I do not believe I am in any such grand position to do so. I am no one to approve, disapprove, begrudge or forgive anyone.

*To practice oneness with all. Being one with ourselves first, then others we see, those we do not see or hear and further with the community and the world has a profound impact on our mind and health. Absorbing the enormity of our existence but also our mere atomic significance, our collective compounded strength and yet the humility to know our minuscule impact, to love others and add value to others as a service for ourselves are just some deep and meaningful nourishers for the soul.

*A daily gratitude practice keeps us aware of all the good things in our life. This can be practiced anywhere, anytime, verbally, mentally or by writing in a journal.

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