Grief & Growing Through Difficult Times
By: David Lechnyr, LCSW
It takes an enormous amount of energy to remain stuck in chronic grief, resentment or sadness. Often, we try to resist these genuine emotions by keeping a stiff upper lip or a cheerful demeanor when we’re really seething inside. This is especially true during the times of the year when subconscious beliefs or difficult emotions surface, such as the anniversary of a death, loss, tragedy, or divorce. It can be made worse by worries we have ‘pushed back’ in our mind, old traumas and unresolved past issues. However, the present journey of grief can offer us lessons we can grow from.
What we Resist… Persists
Instead of trying to talk yourself out of how you feel, harness the courage to acknowledge uncomfortable emotions. Accept your regrets, anger or sadness without remorse. Just let it be. Then let it go. Not only will your energy resurface, but you also will find sensible solutions to many of the to many dilemmas in your life your discomfort will evaporate like mist in the sun.
Look for the Positive
Every thought in our heads is accompanied by a cascade of biochemicals called neurotransmitters. In general, thoughts that are optimistic, grateful and loving result in “feel good” neurotransmitters called endorphins. The same “feel good” chemicals are produced during exercise, love making and meditation. By contrast, thoughts that are fearful, angry or hopeless increase levels of stress hormones, which make us feel tired, anxious, sad, overwhelmed, and irritable.
Fatigue, even depression, is a physical ailment. Yet changing the way you think can help restore energy.
Learning to focus on the positive can do wonders for energy levels as well as improve health and longevity. Research by Dr. Becca Levy, Ph.D., of Yale University shows that positive thoughts energize the body to walk faster. Furthermore, Levy found that an upbeat attitude toward aging extends life expectancy. It can provide the same kind of benefit as exercise, not smoking and having a healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and weight. Other research suggests that when people train themselves to feel love and gratitude regularly, their blood pressure normalizes, their heart function stabilizes and they have more energy. Learn to look at life challenges and struggles as challenges that will positively strengthen us over time. Avoid thinking that problems, or difficult and unfair situations, are useless and make no sense. Focus instead on how this can lead one to growing and developing emotional, physical, and spiritual strength over time.
One way to practice a positive attitude is by keeping a “gratitude journal”: Every day, write down three to five things for which you are grateful. Another strategy is simply to take notice when you fall into a “poor me” or martyred state of mind. Then do all you can to turn those thoughts around. Avoid thinking about the dramatic negative traumas/situations; focus instead on how these are normal learning experiences that will strengthen us. Seeing it as a positive gives one excitement and hope that is focused on the future rather than on the suffering of the present times.
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