I’ll admit right at the outset, I’ve never had a serious illness to contend with and neither have any of my nearest and dearest (although last year my dad was treated for a type of cancer relatively common to older men but it was caught early, completely eliminated and never caused him any real suffering.) However we all go through hard times in our lives for one reason or another and these times test us – they test us to the very core of our being. The question is: how do we react and respond to the challenges we face?
I think a combination of factors come into play. As I have suggested lately, personality types cannot be overlooked. If you are someone with a naturally negative outlook on life then it would be very easy to fall into a depressive state and curse the sun the moon and the stars for bringing such bad karma into your life. It takes a real effort to break yourself out of negative thought patterns if you err on the side of pessimism but, as I touched upon in my post about introverts and extroverts, we all have it within us to break our own moulds – even if it does take effort and energy.
Personally I err towards being quite anxious and can get emotional and tearful at the worst of times – and even to the point of a panic attack. However i really believe that it is possible (at least for someone who doesn’t have to contend with a hormonal imbalance – I can’t speak for those who suffer clinical depression) to use the power of your mind to improve the way you see your situation and the way you react to external forces beyond your control.
I have a couple of books on the subject of mindfulness and I believe that the practices described are such a useful starting point. Strip everything back to basics – concentrate on your breathing and make a concerted effort to let your worries go, at least for that 5, 10,15 minutes – no matter how bleak things may seem.
The mind/body connection is a powerful one, there is a huge body of evidence to show that our thought patterns can alter and affect our physical well being and if you begin to crumble mentally, then it may well be the beginning of a vicious cycle which will only make the external challenges you face more difficult.
I think that reigning in your knee jerk reactions to external trials is also enormously helpful in parenting. I have reacted in both ways at times when the kids have tested me. I have taken offence, become angry, exasperated, tearful, and, other than becoming tearful, none of those reactions improve the situation (there are a handful of times when the sight of me crying has actually provoked the sweet-natured empathy of both boys but I certainly don’t want my children to find themselves playing the adult to me on a regular basis).
At other times I have somehow managed to let tantrums, harsh words or angry actions roll off me like water off a duck’s back and its this strategy that takes the sting out and diffuses what might otherwise have become an escalating confrontation. It is so important to be able to model mature behaviour – not allowing others to provoke you, being firm but fair and sticking to your own principals – these are life skills that allow you to douse the flames which may threaten to engulf you in any given situation.
Of course It’s easy to say but in reality it takes practice – we all have bad days, us girls might be affected by PMT, we might be lacking sleep or have just been given bad news. What I’m trying to say is we’re all human, but with these positive, powerful strategies in mind at least we know where it is we need to get back to once the storm breaks.