Is Your Grieving Making You Sick?
Chronic stress is the response to emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period over which an individual perceives he or she has no control. Keyword here, perceive. You may not have had any control over the death of your spouse but you can regain control of your own health. And you must! You may or may not have children that depend on you but you do have a life beyond the grief.
Chronic psychological stress is associated with a greater risk of depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and upper respiratory infections. It is the chronic state of stress we are in, a constant state, which is known as “fight or flight”. Our body’s natural defense is inflammation, which, with chronic stress, is prolonged and thus heightens the risk for disease.
Grief initiates the natural “fight or flight” response and sends the bodyinto overdrive. Overdrive is helpful when there is an emergency ormay have been helpful when woolly mammots chased us. Instead of fleeing an emergency, our bodies are in a constant state of fightingwithout a direction, outlet or purpose. During the grief period, we are frequently overwhelmed and lost. When we grieve, a flood of stress hormones is released. In recent publication’s the term ”broken heart syndrome” has been used to describe, what is medically known as, stress cardiomyopathy. The level of stress hormones in the blood can be two to three times higher than it is in those suffering from a classic heart attack. Overall, our immune systems become compromised. So what can you do?
Building your immune system is one of the most valuable gifts you can give you during the grieving process. This can be done through a combination of exercise, meditation, social support, rest and eating immune boosting food. Following are the 7 key components of maintaining a level of wellness and nutrition as you move through the grieving process.
Rest and Rehydrate Give your self a chance to heal by taking time to rest and drink plenty of water.
Exercise Take a walk, take a run, and take a yoga class. All exercise will contribute to keeping your heart and mind healthy. Daily exercise will improve your mood and enhance your sleep.
Diet Replenish your depleted immune system by selecting healthy foods.
Support No one should make this journey alone. Seek out a support group in your geographic area where you can get ongoing and regular support. Finding a counselor you know, like and trust, to support you on this journey will help to ease the pain and clear the fog that accompanies the early stages of widowhood.
Delegation You cannot do it all. Ask for help with the mundane tasks. Order groceries to be delivered. Write a list of what you believe needs to be done and hand it a friend.
Meditation Not medication! Studies have shown that just a few minutes a day taken to do a short meditation can combat the ill effects of stress. Meditation can be as simple as simply closing your eyes and focusing on your breath, or repeating an uplifting phrase. Experiment and find what works best for you.
Breathe! When we are in the state of “fight or flight”, or during times of stress, our breathing becomes shallow and our slouched stature reduces the ability of the lungs to expand and bring in the needed oxygen to our cells. Taking in a deep breath through your nostrils and either sighing, screaming, or just exhaling, brings a release and fresh oxygen to our brains. Take 3 deep breaths on the hour, every hour and your energy and mood will lift. If these 7 components are combined, they will aid in supporting your body’s natural immune system and help you to restore your health and well¬-being as you move through your grief.
Audrey Pellicano R.N., M.S. is a Health Counselor to widowed women, working with them to help them the courage to create a new role for themselves and face the world again without pain. She has been in the health care industry for 37 years as a Registered Nurse and Case Manager with a Masters degree in Health Science. Through her 20 yrs of widowhood, Audrey has experienced the lack of attention and knowledge given to widows. Her unique approach encompasses utilizing the dynamic tools that she knows work, including visualization and meditation. Please visit www.wisewidow.com. You can contact Audrey at email@example.com.