Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Finding Serenity

Tools to Combat Stress and Depression


In my novel, "The Shade Tree Choir" the main character's name is Krame. He is eight years old and physically abuse by his alcoholic father. He is kicked, punched, starved, locked in darkness, and forced to stand at attention leaning into the corner of two walls. His mother is of no help as she too is an alcoholic and is mentally ill. He receives no guidance, no maternal support, and is only concerned with physical survival! His childhood is lost. He has no innocence. From constant stress, one of his 'friends' becomes chaos. He learns to accept that emotion and is a master at living with it. He also learns not to trust, he has a fear of abandonment, he hides behind a wall of emotional protection, and he realizes all he has is himself!

"The Shade Tree Choir" is a story of success and not one of doom and gloom. Many years later, Krame's father realizes the mistakes he made. He tells Krame such. While emotional damage was done as a child, Krame forgives! That is step one for all of us battling various forms of mental illness. In my opinion, that is the first step in self-healing. If we continue to live with hatred in our hearts, we will not progress. We will not heal. Having this 'baggage' hooked to our spirits is like dragging a chair with our foot all day, and every day!

I am that character, Krame! I have suffered from Clinical Depression my entire life. I was recently diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I love myself and where I am in Life. I forgave my father many years ago. I also love him and have missed him since he died many years ago. Rebecca Anhalt has written several fantastic Blogs related to mental health. One of them that comes to mind right now is when she wrote about 'what goes into our minds - comes out in our actions'. Basically, Rebecca tells us that if we put negative thoughts into our minds, negative actions result. You can find her at www.rebeccaanhalt.com

As a physical therapist, I can tell you that our minds are the most receptive when we wake up. If you will spend just three minutes picturing yourself as a good and kind person and 'right with the world', you will have a better chance of having a great day. This is called Mental Imagery.

Another tool for managing stress and depression is exercise. As a physical therapist, I am aware that exercising is boring. One of the last activities I wanted to do in the past was to exercise. It was easier to stay inactive and on the self pity-pot. I assure you that I am aware of how tough it is to begin. Maybe start with a walk in your neighborhood. Forming a group of walkers develops the positive social activity that is needed for full recovery. Do NOT walk and gripe about things the entire way. That is counter-productive.

Exercise has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Many years ago at the University of California, San Francisco there was a study done with a group of drama students. Blood was drawn from each student and the levels of 'happy hormones' such as endorphin and serotonin were determined. The students were divided into two groups and told to go off on their own and act a 'part'. One group was the 'Sad Oh". They had to act the part of a very sad person (or -Oh) using every emotion they could gather. the other groups was a 'Happy Oh"! They were full of excitement. They were filled with joy! After some thirty minutes, they returned and had their blood drawn and tested again to compare results with their baseline. Those who were 'happy' had elevated levels of serotonin and endorphin. Those who were 'sad' had decreased levels! In short, this is what Rebecca writes about in her Blog. "Our bodies react to the costume we wear"!

Some people spend a lifetime blaming others for how they feel. There could be a history of sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, or any other attacks on us. I appreciate my past. It is a part that makes me unique from all others. I have learned to embrace my past, hold it up and look at it, and let go. I am proud that what I went through made me stronger. It has allowed me to share with the world where I am today in my recovery. In April, 2012, I was an emotional wreck and today, that seems like a million miles ago. The final straw was the result of a six year, frivolous, civil law suit. A couple months ago they dropped the charges after destroying me emotionally and hurting me financially. There will come a day when I can forgive them - but not just yet! I want to drag the chair around (that I mentioned earlier) a little longer.

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And the wisdom to know the difference." That is the Serenity Prayer used by AA folks and other support groups. It also applies to us who suffer depression and stress. Let go! Get off the pity-pot! We cannot change the past, but we sure can learn from it.

I believe what we give to others, we give to ourselves. If we spew negative thoughts toward others we will be negative. The opposite is also true. Author, Dan Hays has an excellent book titled "Freedom's Just Another Word" that tells a story about his abuse from his alcoholic father and emotionally distraught grandmother who passed on to Dan an image of no self-worth. After years of struggling he made it 'over the hump'. I recommend you buy his book (after you buy mine first - kidding), as it is a good story and so well written. He has a wealth of information on his web site and other social media. The reason I mention Dan Hays to you is that he also believes in passing on kindness. It comes back ten-fold! By helping others we help ourselves. Donate your time with a non-profit, help the less fortunate, use the phrase 'Pay It Forward". I assure you, the stress will reduce and your depression will lessen.

Lastly, find a hobby that requires your concentration. I write and create stained glass. The photo at the top is one work I hope you enjoy. Other activities might include: Learn to play an instrument, create a small garden, write poetry, make woodworking projects, and create jewelry. Share with all of us what your hobbies are!

Summary Tips

* Forgive Others
* Use Mental Imagery
* Exercise
* Embrace Who You Are
* Use the Serenity Prayer
* Give to Others "Pay It Forward"
* Develop a Hobby 

The Shade Tree Choir Book Trailer