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Burdens Do a Body Good
Meeting Life's Challenges with Strength (and Soul)
By Michele Howe, Christopher Foetisch
Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLCCopyright © 2010 Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC
All rights reserved.
Choosing Calm Over Control
According to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.
What type of client, customer, or patient are you? When you walk through the waiting room door, does the person on the other side flinch, tense, or otherwise prepare for attack? Do you disappoint, discourage, or offer a disgruntled impression? Is every statement or question voiced one punctuated by an undergirding of subtle disrespect, disinterest, or distrust? What is your attitude saying about you, your words notwithstanding?
It used to be that physicians had to memorize the Hippocratic oath, the most memorable line, to laypeople, being, "First, do no harm." Nowadays, this pledge has been updated to reflect a modern, high-tech society. Still, the underlying message remains the same. That is, one individual is making a promise to do his or her level best to help another person in need. Honestly now, aren't we thankful that the majority of doctors and other professionals from whom we seek aid do abide by this long-standing motto? If we didn't trust that person sitting on the other side of the desk or across the room to make a positive difference in our lives, we wouldn't waste time seeking out his or her expertise, right?
Though we continue to seek expert help from these professionals, we've similarly begun to tote along with us an attitude of consumer elitism. Truth to tell, we're ever ready to assert our rights even when they're not being compromised. We get angry when our appointment is pushed back. We feel frustrated when a promised contract doesn't materialize. We complain and fret and moan about every little inconvenience without taking time to consider that our minor grievance could transform into another's good. How is this so?
Consider this. The next time you're left waiting for an hour because of an unexpected emergency and your friendly neighborhood professional begs your pardon upon greeting you ... give it. Think about how you feel when your best-laid plans go wrong. We've all had those days when we started out on time armed with a solid plan of great intent and then were interrupted, stalled, and thwarted. How did we feel? We were discouraged, weary, and wanted to give up. In the coming days, do yourself and everyone else a favor. Hone that memory of yours that never forgets an offense against you for the good of someone else, and take the oath to keep others from harm. Purpose never to rattle someone's already fragile emotional cage with your unrelenting demands or unrealistic expectations. Rather, tell the person that you understand. Tell them you appreciate their diligent service. Tell them thank you. You'll begin to see the person behind the professional façade, and we all know how terrific it feels to have someone see the "us" behind what we do. It can't do any harm.
Takeaway Action Thought: Never view waiting as wasted time. These are opportune moments allotted for the purpose of regaining some inner stillness, calm, and clarity.
There are only two ways to wait. We choose either to wait well or to wait poorly. If we give in to impatient thoughts and words, then we risk jeopardizing our health and that of those with whom we come into contact. In a society in which there is only stop and go, waiting offers a welcome in-between space to purposefully hit the pause button and to rest and reflect. It doesn't matter what we're waiting for: an appointment, an apology, or an answer. It's the conduct of our heart and minds that will make all the difference.
* lowers blood pressure; when we accept the uncontrollable as necessarily part of daily life, our physical bodies take note and respond accordingly.
* reduces inner stress; from headaches to body aches, we feel better when we realize we are not in control of others' behaviors or responses, only our own.
* makes one more productive; being forced to wait in one area allows more time and energy to invest in countless others. There is no wasted time if we use each day to its fullest.
* allows for better decision making; rather than reacting with anger and impulsivity, we thoughtfully consider, decide, and determine taking into account all possible repercussions of our choices.
* expands our understanding of another's perspective; removing ourselves from the emotional intensity of the moment enables us to see a situation more accurately as time passes.
* gives opportunity to love sacrificially; we deepen, grow, and change every time we put someone's needs above our own, personal discomfort and all.
* raises blood pressure; as our mind thinks, our emotions flare, and from head to toe our bodies respond to the stress. What and how we process our thoughts and experiences does matter.
* produces anxiety; we fret, worry, and stew ... and forfeit the inner peace for which we long.
* inhibits productivity; when we focus exclusively on what we can't have, we become immobilized, unable to be of any good to anyone or anything else in our lives.
* increases chances of reacting impulsively; stand back, don't react. The more frequently a person acts or speaks before thinking, the greater the potential for negative and long-lasting fallout.
* shrinks one's sense of proportion; when we see only our side of a situation, we're not viewing life as it is. Whenever there are two people, there are two sides to every story, always.
* robs us of our ability to grow by enduring difficulties; when we respond self-protectively or solely with self-interest, we are the ones who are short-changed most.
* * *
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14CHAPTER 2
Defuse Your Anxiety by Looking Out for Others
To deeply understand fear we must also look at ourselves and the way we interpret our situations. Those scary objects can reveal what we cherish. They point out our insatiable quest for control, our sense of aloneness.
Edward T. Welch in Running Scared
It hadn't been five minutes into the film "The Pursuit of Happyness" before I felt something deep inside of me rebel. That foreshadowing device found in excellent literature that honors English students are so familiar with as they learn to identify, separate out, and even anticipate was haunting me from the outset. It didn't matter that I was already aware of the storyline and the satisfactory conclusion of this particular based-on-real-life tale. It still affected me, troubled me.
I couldn't shake that insistent voice inside my head that kept saying, "This is wrong, wrong, wrong." Throughout this film, in which a family was rendered homeless after a job loss, it felt obscene that it could happen in a country like ours. And yet, seeing it on the big screen ignited something that I've had a hard time shaking. I realized that every one of us is just a few steps from some sort of life-altering catastrophe. Your potential pitfall might be a minor illness turned terminal. Another person might suffer job loss or career replacement. Someone else might lose a spouse or child to violence. The neighbor down the road, or in the next apartment, could lose her home. You see, it doesn't matter how the displacement happens or even what form it takes. The bottom line is that every man, woman, and child needs back-up, lots of back-up.
This entity we term back-up finds its form through family, friends, or work colleagues who can be counted on to lend a hand during those spaces of time when everything we've got is not enough. Think of offering the warm hand of friendship, offering forgiveness, offering whatever it is that someone you know needs as smart investment and not in the predatory, I'm-giving-to-get sense. Rather, see people's needs, really see them. Then don't go home and fret and worry and stew about it. Put feet to your newly acquired vision, and set your hands to bringing some relief, some measure of good, where it's most needed.
Whether or not you ever envision yourself as a person in need, the potential is always there. The problem is; ignoring it doesn't make the risk go away, and the time will come when you're at the mercy of others. Does that frighten you? Maybe it should. It can be a terrifying reality given some people's propensity to blindness when it comes to lending aid. Seeing is believing. We need to open our eyes and our hearts. This might equate to giving until it hurts, in our bank accounts, our time, and our talents ... our treasures. Today, look around and willingly take on the role of being a back-up person for someone in need. Maybe in time, that fortunate soul will have your back when you require it.
Takeaway Action Thought: Oftentimes the best remedy to combat anxious uncertainty is to become another's back-up person.
All sorts of remedies are being offered for dealing with those sudden, intense rushes of anxiety and those inner tugs to bolt from an uncertain situation. Truth is, for as many real risks as there are to our safety, there are countless more that hover threateningly within our thoughts. We might mentally understand that our fears are just that ... fears founded in the uncertainty of life. Before we realize it, one undisciplined morsel of fear feeds on another and yet another until we are immobilized by what-ifs. Our bodies can kick into an automatic cycle of panic that stops us from thinking rationally. The next time your body has a mind of its own and begins to react in panic, give these exercises a try.
* Take several deep breaths. Inhale slowly through your nose; exhale through your mouth. Repeat.
* Focus on tightening and then relaxing one body part at a time. Methodically, work through your entire body head to toe.
* Stand up and bend over at the waist. One vertebra at a time, slowly work up to a standing position. Repeat as needed.
* Self-massage your temples and neck using firm circular motions until you feel the tension disappear.
* * *
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.
Psalm 46:1–2CHAPTER 3
Identifying Obstacles and Implementing Solutions
When we are broken, angry, and grieving, we pour out our honest heart cries to God. We beg; we complain; we cry; we pout; we bargain; we judge; we ask for vengeance; we tell him life isn't fair; we suggest who should be hurting instead of us ...
Sharon Marshall in Take My Hand
As one season ushers in the next with those subtle yet promising first climate shifts, so can inner change begin to move and alter without us being aware. Then, without warning, something large goes off-kilter inside of us, and we're left wondering why we feel so discouraged. So we take stock of the present, and while it may not be perfect, we notice there isn't anything going on today that should trigger such low spirits. We look around and are baffled as to why our emotions are going in the opposite direction of where our mind and life are headed.
Then, we remember. The calendar does tell all if we know how to read it. Even the most cursory paging back to months or years earlier will give a woman all the insight she needs to know about why she feels discouraged. Anniversaries, good and bad, affect us today. We remember when a friend died during the heat of summer and puzzle over why we suddenly feel sad on this gloriously radiant afternoon at the beach. Or, we recall the dampness of spring that accompanied our child's lingering and unidentified illness with all its associated fears and wonder why we can't shake a sense of impending doom as spring approaches. Little or large, anything can serve as a catalyst to set off a response of seasonal discouragement, not to be confused with seasonal affective disorder. This form of discouragement can hit fall, winter, spring, or summer.
If ever a deluge of inexplicable emotional swings catches us, remembering where we were a year previous (or even ten) can offer mighty built-in relief and comfort. Suddenly, the doldrums make perfect sense, and our relief abounds. There is only one problem with this single-sided remedy: the longer women live, and the more seasonal distress events accrue over time, before we realize it, every season has residual and lingering afterpains. Does this mean that discouragement is given license to linger and take up residence in ever-increasing quantity? Never. While women now have more understanding about why we feel particularly sensitive during a certain time of the year, we're also forewarned to take on our discouragement more fully armed.
How is this so? It is essential that women accept the fact that feeling downhearted after any type of loss is the appropriate response to pain. Emotions are part of being human, and our responses to feeling hurt are fitting ones. The pain matters, as does its attending emotional response. However, staying at that place where discouragement reigns is wrong and cowardly. It is ever so.
Given that everyone experiences seasons of dejection, it doesn't suit for women to walk through life in a continual state of despondency. Rather, women must choose discouragement's opposite response. They must take courage. Despite how women feel, choices must continue to be made that will serve as those crucial forging instruments to rebuild our emotional structure. Like every skill, practicing courage, even emotional courage, takes deliberation, effort, and careful thought.
There is no glory or good in nursing a negative, can't-do posture. Instead, we face what's happened, accept life's ever-altering panorama, count the costs, and then rebuild with the soul of a visionary.
Author Sharon Marshall offered this pictorial vignette describing her own long season of discouragement after the death of her son and how she proceeded through it. "When hurricanes wrack the eastern seashore, the towns in the path board up. Residents plan to wait out the storm, then get on with the business of rebuilding. There are times in our lives when we need to do that. Wait out the storm. Cry our tears. Do whatever's next. Let people in to love and help us. Then when the storm subsides, begin to rebuild." For rebuild we must.
Takeaway Action Thought: Despite the bleakest circumstances, we alone retain the power to choose our response and to enact the best solution to remedy it.
Pep talks are one of life's bonuses. Whenever we feel low, the right, good words from a friend can do wonders. Though our circumstances haven't changed, we feel differently about the situation. Often, we just feel different: better, stronger, more competent and able. We now have the courage to persist past those discouraging difficulties and see both our obstacles and their corresponding solutions with greater clarity. Read on to discover what you can do if you're feeling discouraged about some aspect of a physical recovery.
* Obstacle: Sometimes people get discouraged when they've been hurting for a long time, and the recovery process now adds more time to this hard season.
Solution: Once the physical issue is addressed and corrected, the cure or fix is simpler than people realize, and given time, it will resolve itself. Adequate time is the cure.
* Obstacle: People not only have physical pain to cope with; they are dealing with other, secondary life issues that exacerbate their bodily pain from emotional and physical perspectives.
Solution: These individuals have to understand how the two problem sources have combined to create a seemingly overwhelming situation. When people see this connection and identify both parts, neither oneweighs so heavily. Understanding the season is the cure.
* Obstacle: People want someone else to make it all better for them.
Solution: Individuals have to take ownership for making healthy, healing choices and need to understand there is only so much others can offer them. Accepting that no one else can take away their discouragement for them is the cure.
* * *
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Excerpted from Burdens Do a Body Good by Michele Howe, Christopher Foetisch. Copyright © 2010 Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 Personal Life Challenges
1 Waiting: Choosing Calm Over Control 7
2 Uncertainty: Defuse Your Anxiety by Looking Out for Others 11
3 Discouragement: Identifying Obstacles and Implementing Solutions 15
4 Loss: Deciding What's Worth Losing and What's Worth Keeping 19
5 Depression: Evaluate, Then Make Changes 23
6 Exhaustion: Decoding Your Body's Messages and Finding a Healthy Balance 27
7 Sorrow: Facing Difficult Situations with Courage, Strength, and Fearlessness 31
8 Giving Up: Words That Provide Emotional Strength to Keep Going 35
9 Hopelessness: How Today's Difficulties Equip Us for Tomorrow 39
10 Confinement: Making Decisions That Offer the Best Types of Freedom 43
11 Regret: When We Pay Attention to the Wrong Things 47
12 Disappointment: Putting Expectations in Their Place 51
13 Broken Dreams: Being Tough Enough to Stay Tender 55
14 Doubt: Knowing Who and What to Trust 59
15 Failure: Finding Success One Single Step at a Time 63
Part 2 Situational Life Challenges
16 Workplace: How Our Talents Benefit Others Personally and Professionally 69
17 Care Giving: Proactive Planning Takes Care of You Both 73
18 Parenting: What We Believe Shouts 77
19 Financial Setbacks: How Material Wealth Insulates Us from What Matters Most 81
20 Relocation: Moving for the Right Reasons 85
21 Divorce & Widowhood: When Friends Secure the Gap 89
22 Retirement: Kindness Is Age-Resistant 93
23 Career Choices: How People Factor into a Satisfactory Workplace 97
24 Physical Illness: How Your Social Environment Can Make You Sick 101
25 Relational Stress: How Our Pain Levels Us 105
26 Aging: Making Good Choices, Lifelong Good Habits 109
27 Childrearing: When Parents Pass on the Torch of Responsibility 113
28 Relationships: Meeting Practical Needs Up Close and From Afar 117
29 House & Home: Setting Boundaries That Make Everyone Feel Safe 121
30 Time: No Time Like the Present to Change 125
Works Cited 131
About the Authors… 134