Winter' 97 Issue 4
Drifting Clouds - Hiding Sun Meditation as a Way to Unravel the World
Self - Care: The Basics
Reflections on Simplicity . . The Power of Our Beliefs
The Oregon Health Plan: Boon or Bust?
Fear and Loathing at the Capitol
There is a Great Emptiness
Selfcare: The Basics by Michael Courtney L.P.C.
I make my living as a counselor, dealing with the stress people face in their lives. Stress can come from any number of sources and when it gets to be “too much” people come to see me.
When I started writing this article my first thought was “duh, this will keep people from needing to see me.” It would not profit me if you were able to handle every problem and stressor that came your way. On the other hand, my greater interest is contributing to world peace, which starts with each one of us.
My profession is one of bringing inner peace to as many individuals as possible. Therefore, the truth requires me to share the simple “secrets” which I believe are the foundation to peaceful living and effective stress management. But please remember, a foundation is a starting point, not the finished product. I challenge you to incorporate these ideas into your daily life. Taking care of yourself does not have to be a horror film. Have fun. Lighten up. Modify these ideas and make them work for you. If you have any questions or comments, give me a call.
The Underlying Problem: Stress
Once again, I am amazed how little many people know about managing their own stress. Time after time people come to me with the whole range of human emotions and problems, looking for something or someone to cure them.
As a professional counselor I believe that we overlook the simplest answers in trying to deal with the often overwhelming stressors that we face today. I agree that seeing a counselor or therapist is an important part of maintaining our mental health. At the same time, I tell my clients that “working on their issues” will take longer or even be a waste of time if they don’t learn to take care of themselves first.
Some stress is essential for everyday livingtoo much stress prevents us from living a full life, makes us sick and can even kill us. How do we maintain the balance of healthy stress, yet inhibit the build-up of mind and body-blowing pressures? Returning to the idea of dealing with the simplest, most basic requisites, I present the following Self-Care Skills. These are what I consider the foundation for healthy living.
Water is the most overlooked basic, with many “never touching the stuff.” Eight glasses per day is probably a minimum, yet most people rarely drink enough. Don’t forget, our bodies are about 80% water. Without water our brains do not get enough oxygen. Imagine every cell in your body looking like a prune. Many of us are often in some state of dehydration. Again, we don’t think clearly or manage stress well when our water supply drops.
Any mind/mood altering substance also reduces our ability to manage stress. I see many clients who regularly use legal or illegal drugs, claiming they use them to help manage their stress levels. Even those who are proud they don’t use “white drugs” are often slurping on a huge soda and need to go to the store for more. Eliminating or reducing the mood altering substances we ingest is a much larger subject than can be covered here. However, any reduction will pay off in physical and mental health benefits.
Feeling anxious, angry, and restless, or lethargic and tired? Exercise is often the answer. Fancy home equipment or a membership at the heath club is not necessary, but can be useful for reaching certain physical goals. For mental health though, a daily thirty minute walk can work wonders. The release of endorphins helps reduce anxiety and depression, eases tension, releases anger, and builds energy. Sleep patterns are improved with regular exercise.
When was the last time you sat quietly, with just yourself for company, and with no thoughts flowing through your mind? Diaphragmatic breathing can become a great form of meditation.
In our world today, it is often easy to overlook the simple. Self-care includes the basic practices we should follow before we look elsewhere for the answers. However, our culture and environment teach us that the answers belong to someone else. Going to the doctor or paying for a new exercise bike is often seen as the answer. There is no question that there are times when professionals need to be consulted. However, I believe that healing comes from within. We need to give our bodies and minds a chance to restore themselves.
Does maintaining proper diet, sleep, exercise, and breathing practices guarantee no stress in your life? Of course not. What I have seen over and over, however, is that the people who are willing to practice self-care are also the ones who learn to manage their stressors, who develop new ways of coping, and who “get it together.” We cannot afford to not take the time to care for ourselves.
While Michael Courtney finds peace and tranquility by surfing the Oregon coast, he has many other ideas for those who prefer dryer alternatives. He can be reached at his office in Salem, (503) 391-5728.
Site updated Spring 2010