‘But in that coming day no weapon turned against you will succeed.’ Isaiah 54:17.
These feel like some of those coming days. It is comforting that in Isaiah 54 is says, ‘If anyone attacks you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you.’ And, ;Thought the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my Covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.’
These feel like days of such heaviness right now. I just talked with a friend who is staying away from the news and social media completely. She hears what’s going on through people in her family and at work talking about it. That is all she can take right now. I get that.
We are called to stand strong. And we know the only way to do that is to trust in the the only ONE who knows all, is in all, and will ultimately prevail over all. As Jesus said in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
How are you? How are you managing your day, your thoughts, your diet, your exercise, your responsibilities? I admit, I just ‘did’ these things as I was caught up in the busy-ness of ‘life before’. I remember oh-so-many-times thinking, ‘If I only had a couple of unstructured days, I could get caught up.’
Well, now I’ve lost count of the number of unstructured days I’ve had, and I’m NOT caught up. Rather, sometimes I feel like I’m in the dryer being tossed around and unable to get my feet solidly under me.
Can you relate?
I propose, even those who are carrying on as if nothing unusual is happening are processing all of this at some level. They might be the ones who crash the hardest when faced with the realities of this pandemic in their own family.
I know, especially during the night, I get these waves of anxiety, what-ifs, grief, panic that try to overtake me.
What do you do when these thoughts creep in (or hit you like an avalanche)? [We will come back to this question soon.]
Health at all times, including during COVID-19
Health is multifaceted, and to be truly healthy, each area needs some attention.
Physical health – This includes your diagnoses, your fitness, your strength, and your immune system.
Mental health – This includes diagnoses, anxiety, depression, and panic.
Emotional health – This includes your coping mechanisms, your reactions, your strategies to manage stress.
Spiritual health – This includes your source of hope, your views about a higher power, your connection with your spiritual side.
Social health – This includes your relationships, your support network, those you care for and those who care for you.
I encourage you to take an inventory. In the past few days, how have you nurtured each of these areas of your health? Which have you given the most attention? Which have you ignored? Which need the most attention today?
There are MANY well-designed studies that have demonstrated the importance of each of these aspects of health. Especially now, during this pandemic, each part needs very deliberate strategies.
Attitude and Health
These studies have repeatedly demonstrated the negative health effects of negativity – fear, holding grudges, blame (conspiracy theories), isolation (huge right now), oppression, resentment, self-pity, rejection, and holding on to negative bad assumptions. There are TOO MANY negative messages in our society right now. Letting these rule your thoughts and emotions is directly damaging to your immune system and your physical health. It’s also damaging to your relationships (social health), spiritual health, and mental health.
In comparison, staying engaged, caring for other people, optimism (which is a choice), having supportive friends/family, maintaining an ability to bounce back (takes some real purposeful effort), learning good conflict management skills, and belief in a higher power or other source of hope are all linked to a healthier immune system, overall well-being, better health, and even longer life.
So, how can you use this knowledge to make a plan for when the waves of anxiety, grief, and worry hit you?
What do you do when these thoughts creep in (or hit you like an avalanche)?
It is normal, especially in these times, for this to happen sometimes several times per day.
So, should we let it happen? Ride the waves?
Should we chide ourselves for being so weak?
Do we need strategies?
My view is we need strategies. This is a time when we need to exercise our God muscles very deliberately. I have to admit I’ve not memorized scripture a lot in the past. I’ve been familiar with scripture and generally know what is found where, but not to the degree to be able to recite scripture.
That all changed when I went through a very difficult time a few years ago. I would wake up in the night with rapid-fire negative thoughts, imagined conversations, what-ifs, anger, frustration, and such. It felt like I was being attacked in my own mind.
That’s when trusted friends and years of hearing the message sunk in and I started memorizing scripture. I still haven’t memorized as much as I would like, but I’ve memorized some verses that have incredibly deep meaning to me. They feel like weapons I can recite over and over when I’m attacked in the night. I cling to these scriptures and keep them ready at all times.
I’ve since had opportunity to talk with various groups about stress and hope and health. So many people have described similar strategies and what a vital lifeline this is for them. None have been ‘perfect people’ who just naturally have it all together. They, too, have gone through gut-wrenching difficult times and learned the value of being battle ready.
So, rather than sink into the pain and negativity, rather than chide yourself for being susceptible, stand up and take up your weapons. Let’s go to battle with the ONE true source of victory!
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
What are your strategies? I would love to hear from you. And, if your group would like to take this deeper, ‘Grace & Health in Complex Times’ is a workshop I offer. It is a chance to connect health, hope, and healing during these very difficult days. We take frequent breaks, interact a lot (even virtually), and walk away with very tangible skills to care for ourselves and others. Let’s talk.
I was sitting at a stoplight one block from UNC-Charlotte preparing to turn on to WT Harris Boulevard when it felt like at explosion of sirens went off. Suddenly there were rescue vehicles coming from everywhere. There were fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, marked and unmarked vehicles with lights and sirens. It was completely disorienting. I then watched motorists make all sorts of bad decisions. Some tried to speed through intersections in front of emergency vehicles. Some pulled to the right, some pulled to the left, some just stopped where they were. It was complete chaos with these first responders trying to weave their way through the confused masses to get to the emergency.
It was a couple of hours before I learned that a gunman had entered campus and started shooting in a classroom on the last day of classes for the semester.
It was a few hours after that when I learned of the heroism of Riley Howell who ran toward the gunman and saved many lives while losing his own.
And it was a few hours after that when another life was lost just off campus in an altercation. This lost life didn’t receive as much attention, but was still a precious life lost.
Then, as were moving our daughter back from Clemson a couple of days later, she received notice of a senior killed when he hit the back of a stopped dump truck on the highway.
In the midst of all of this loss I have talked with several parents of college students. Some are grieving and throwing themselves into remembrance events. Some are shocked and having difficulty resuming daily life. Some are having nightmares and anxiety. Some are carrying on as if nothing happened.
What are healthy responses to the events around us? Certainly no day carries a guarantee of safety or ease. And, rarely does a day carry a certainty of difficulty. Most days arrive, and we use our toolbox of skills and emotional intelligence to get through them.
So what is in your toolbox of skills?
Who are the key people who support you?
How do you relieve stress?
How much attention do you give to the news?
How have you been hurt in the past?
How have you dealt with that past hurt?
What is your source of hope?
Filters as tools
As a healthcare provider, I have encountered countless people with negative health outcomes related to a lack of tools to handle stress and negative events.
Some of these negative health outcomes have included chronic pain, anxiety, depression, isolation, heart attacks, strokes, phobias, and deep anger.
Consider these filters to enhance a healthier response –
Gratitude– What is going right in your life? For what can you be thankful?
Who/what is higher than you– deity, person, other that can help guide and protect you?
Past events– When have you been stressed or in a bad situation in the past and now you are on the other side? You survived. If all of those events in the past were survivable, how can that bring you hope in this situation?
Perspective– What is the worst possible scenario you can imagine? If you can imagine that, your reality is most likely to be much better than that.
Let it go– How have you learned to forgive and move on?This is one of the most freeing acts you can take for your own health.
Are you nearing or past retirement and feel like you’re surrounded by stress and worry? We can help!
I have this mental image of the devil with a bullhorn blasting messages of doubt, insecurity, worry, what-if’s, self-deprecation, and other ugliness right into my brain. His messages are so noisy and chaotic! They can pull me down and sit on me to pin me to the ground if I don’t take action.
Do you ever feel the same way?
Jesus is speaking into my other ear with messages of love, acceptance, strength, mercy, and grace. He does not use a bullhorn. In fact, if I don’t make an effort, I won’t even hear his sweet call.
This is what I picture is happening to each person I meet.
So, how do we tune out the bullhorn and relax into the loving messages?
Here are a few tips that I know to be true. (Now don’t ask if I practice them every day. I 100% know that my day is so much better when I do, and I still mess up and skip these life-sustaining practices regularly.)
Thanks to the advice of a Godly friend, I use an app called ‘Remember Me’ to keep favorite verses on my phone. When I have a minute here, 5 minutes there, I work to memorize these key verses.
Spend TRULY quiet time focused on God and hearing His voice each day.
Stay in the Word. Keep dedicated Bible reading time and really pray and think about what you are reading, asking God to explain. It’s amazing what you will learn!
Think outside of yourself. Be aware of the people around you. Reach out to friends in need. Reach out to friends who you don’t know are in need (they all have the bullhorn in their ear).
Let God guide your path. Satan will keep you so busy you can’t catch your breath. Let God quiet you and focus you on what matters.
Here are some favorite verses about God’s deep, unfathomable love for you to get you started!
What are the feelings and thoughts that come to mind when you consider the word ‘RETIREMENT’?
I am finding one of four answers from executive men who are nearing this transition.
I have been planning with fitness, travel plans, family plans, hobby plans and can’t wait to retire.
I am consumed with reaching my final goals at work and succession planning, so I’ll deal with retirement when I get there.
I am not looking forward to retirement, so I plan to die at my desk.
I am being coerced to retire before I am ready, and I am very unhappy about it.
No doubt there are other scenarios, but these are those that have been communicated most frequently.
Major Life Transitions
In life, we all traverse many transitions. Some are small and others are large. Some are planned, even eagerly anticipated, while others come out of nowhere.
Some of the major transitions in our life are:
Choosing a career
Changing jobs or careers
Losing a loved one
There is a planning process that can be used to prepare for most of these major transitions. Consider the number of life skills training, wedding planning, child preparation, career building, and grief counseling resources that are available. These transitions can be very difficult, and the help and counsel of wise experts can make the leap much more manageable.
Retirement Wellness Strategies
We exist to help you strategically plan for retirement. This process will benefit you the most if you start about 2 years prior to retirement. This will minimize the surprises and disappointments that are common with unplanned retirement.
You will have
Your personal board certified specialist health advocate to walk through all medical and health encounters
A thorough health review to enter retirement with optimal health and stamina
Risk identification and minimization based on your personal and family history
Planning tools to avoid the unexpected
A retirement strategic plan for building a meaningful active next life phase
Contact Dr. Michelle Fritsch today at email@example.com 410-472-5078. Learn more at www.retirewellness.com.
As we enter this New Year, consider the imposed transition of the calendar. This is a good time to think about change, new goals, and exciting possibilities.
From way back in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, we have verses of promise for the future.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
What about the changing of years brings you hope?
What brings you sadness?
How adaptable are you to change?
I have been accused of creating change on purpose, so I’m definitely in the camp that appreciates and promotes change. I have many friends who find change very difficult and often unnecessary. Where are you on this spectrum?
I find great hope in the many verses that explain God’s promises of provision, even during change.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Do you ever feel like you’re barely hanging on by your fingernails? All might even look right when people look at you, but you’re really enduring a great struggle? I think that is true of many people. In this case, knowing you’re not alone doesn’t help the current situation.
What leads to this situation?
Wow, the number of ways someone can find him/herself in this situation is large and diverse. Here are a few:
Loss of a loved one, friend, dear colleague
Loss of a job
Major life transition
Not finding a source of hope
Situation that seems endless
What are the signs?
Sometimes people find themselves at this point and are surprised. The loss or life change might have come out of nowhere. Or, the slope to hanging by a thread might have been gradual and barely noticeable.
Some of the signs I hear clients talk about include:
Waking up with anxiety during the night
Loss of energy
Changes in appetite
Thoughts that are hard to quiet
Decreased sense of self worth
There are physical effects of being in this dark place. Blood pressure and blood sugar are harder to control. When sleep patterns change, risk of depression, pain, and anxiety go up. Productivity declines, so there are lost days of work or decreased work getting done (and that can further increase the stress). Relationships can suffer.
Taking the next steps forward
The first step in recovery is to recognize the signs. Realize you are in this place.
The next step is to realize you don’t need to walk this path alone. If you have trusted family or friends, let them help you. Call your doctor and explain the situation and how you are feeling. Reach out!
The step that is most important is to find your source of hope and meaning.
Finding and focusing on hope and things beyond yourself
Life contains many struggles. That is true for everyone no matter their occupation, the country where they live, their religion, their political beliefs, or their hair color.
People really struggle to handle the ups and downs of life alone. The tendency is to get more and more focused on yourself and your situation. This is a deep, dark, downward spiral. We have probably all found ourselves on that dark path at least once. Some people live in this vicious cyclone of self.
If you’re there now, make a real effort to reach out the do something for someone else today. It can be something as simple as holding a door or giving them a place in front of you in line. Small and large acts of kindness toward other people is one of the best remedies for our own difficult times. Try it and see!
The other is finding your source of hope. Hope is what gets us through the tough times. It is what changes our perspective beyond ourselves and our current situations. It is liberating!
Hope through Christ is central in the Christian beliefs.
Hope is a critical element of the Jewish tradition.
If you aren’t sure of your source of hope, I encourage you to invest some time to reflect on this area of your life.
Retirement Wellness Strategies
A growing number of retirees are finding themselves disgruntled, disillusioned, and hanging by a thread. Startlingly, the suicide rate is rapidly escalating. One of the primary purposes of Retirement Wellness Strategies is to facilitate finding meaning, relevance, and peace in retirement.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
These verses tell us trouble is just going to happen. You are definitely not the only one enduring trouble. You are not being specifically punished while the rest of the world goes on their merry way.
[Side note, the world you see people portray on social media is not all reality. Those are the super great moments of people’s lives. They have ugly, messy, stinky, troubling moment, too – just like you.]
These verses also tell us God knows we are living through difficult times. God knows we struggle. And, God has not left us alone. He loves us! He is looking out for us! He is here to help us!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Is your attitude the RESULT of what is happening around you? Is it the RESULT of what others do to you? Is it the RESULT of your life circumstances? —-OR—-Is your attitude your CHOICE?
I propose your attitude is your CHOICE!
We live in such a blame society. People are called haters, shamers, intolerant, biased, and worse.
So often we try to claim that others made us the way we are – sullen, angry, withdrawn, hurt, rejected.
We give others and situations the power to determine how we are going to go through each day and how we are going to approach life.
If you are a balloon bouncing in the winds of circumstances, there is hope!
How to choose your attitude
What are your first thoughts in the morning? How do you approach your day? What music do you choose? What do you read, think about, and how do you plan for your day?
These aspects of your life are associated with maintaining health even in the midst of negative events:
friends to talk to
people who care about you
a sense of self-worth
conflict management skills
The items on this list have all been linked with improved health.
And I will add having a source of HOPE. I believe hope is powerful in the midst of difficulty.
Gratitude and attitude
Another way of thinking that improves your attitude and your health is gratitude. For what are you thankful? No matter how many bad things are around you, what is good? You’re still here if you’re reading this! What parts of your body work? What are you able to do? Who do you care about? Where are your safe places? Where is the beauty around you – pictures, nature, architecture, music, literature, videos, clouds, trees, or babbling water?
Find those good things and be thankful for them. Fill your bucket with all of the good in your life. It makes the bad much more tolerable.
Make it about someone else
Doing something for or being kind to someone else can be a real attitude adjuster. Rather than focus on yourself and your own needs, raise your head and look at the people around you. Find something small you can do to make someone else’s day. You will be amazed that you benefit from those actions at least as much as the person you blessed.
Health benefits of a good attitude
No one can choose your attitude except YOU! This is such a liberating concept. In the midst of and despite the difficulties of life, you can each day CHOOSE to have a GOOD attitude!
When you do, your physical health (blood pressure, breathing, kidney function); your mental health (calm, clearer thinking, more creativity); your emotional health (less reactive, more even emotions); and your spiritual health (happiness, hope, joy) benefit.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.
If you haven’t heard Francesca Battistelli’s song, Where Were You?, I highly encourage you to listen.
Yes, the difficulties of life will keep coming at you. You know they will, but those are the very events that allow us to grow deeper in our faith and find that hope that keeps our attitude good in the midst of everything.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Choose your good attitude each day and let it shine for the world to see!
I was teaching health profession students this week about mental health and pain. The Circle of Self was a good visual way to capture a current phenomenon. One of the very important things we talked about was the LIMITS of MEDICATION! The students were very insightful about the reasons so many people are struggling with depression, anxiety, and pain. And, the more we talked, the more it made sense that this is a common pattern.
We made a list of reasons why the incidence of depression, pain, and anxiety are so common. I would love to hear what you would add to this list. Current themes in our society that contribute are:
Decreased coping skills
Social media – most posts are either deceptively positive to look good or very negative
News, especially so much bad news
Poor sleep hygiene
Expectation of instant gratification
Reliance of medications or techniques to ‘just fix it’
THE CIRCLE OF SELF
When someone experiences depression, anxiety, and/or pain, several things tend to happen:
Less movement – more sitting or lying around
Decreased social activities – stay home more, reject offers to get out
Nod off or purposefully take a nap during the day
Have interrupted sleep at night
Experience pain – either pain when there was none or worsening pain
These changes lead to more and more focus on self. How do I feel? What is happening to me? Why me? Why do I feel this way? Why can’t I sleep? Why can’t I get motivated? Woe is me…
This common pattern of self can also impact heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and more.
The role of SLEEP
Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. As we age, more and more things seem to interrupt this sleep. You might need to go to the bathroom more often during the night. Pain can wake you up or keep you awake. Napping during the day can mess with your nighttime sleep.
Too little sleep can increase your risk of depression. It can also make your recovery from depression most difficulty.
Too little sleep can limit your ability to manage with pain. Pain can feel worse, be more frustrating, and limit your activities more when you’re extra tired. Also, the more you hurt, the hard it is to sleep, and a vicious cycle is started.
The role of MEDICATION
Low amounts of key neurotransmitters in the brain can lead to depression and/or anxiety. There are medications that can help increase the amounts of those neurotransmitters. Note, this process takes about 8 weeks, so starting medicine doesn’t make you feel better right away. Usually your energy gets better before your depressed or anxious thoughts.
In the studies that showed that these medications can help, counseling was also a key part of therapy. The medications by themselves don’t help as much as they do when you also have counseling. It is the counseling that can help you find some different ways to think, stop the negative thoughts, and help you focus on more positive aspects of your life.
For pain, some medications block some of the pain signals going between the site of the pain and your brain. Others decrease the intensity of those signals. The pain medication should match the type and intensity of the pain. This means the same pain medication is not the best option for all types of pain. There have been huge issues in our society of overuse of pain medicine, especially opiate medications. These have a role in some types of pain. Once the pain starts to decline, the medication should be decreased and stopped. In another blog, I’ll review all of the many types of pain medications and when/how to use each.
Breaking the Cycle
Medications are part of breaking the cycle for many people. Note, medication is often helpful to start the process. It might not be needed long term. Ask you doctor about how long it will be helpful for you.
Counseling is part of breaking the cycle. Learning to change your thinking patterns is key. Having support is also key.
Then, I want to share something that has repeatedly been shown to effectively break this cycle. Do something for someone else! Focus on self leads into the negative circle that gets tighter and tighter, isolating you from others. To purposefully think about others can help you out of this dark place. Call to check on a friend. Help someone with a project. Visit an older relative or friend. Take a meal to a new parent or someone who is sick. Make a donation. Write a letter to a soldier. Plan a special outing with a friend. Join a club that works on a social issue.
There are many options! The point is to find someone else you can think about and help. Distraction is helpful for pain tolerance, anxiety reduction, and depression treatment. Thinking about someone else helps you out of the dark focus on self.
I believe the circle of self can and does impact all of us. It is one of Satan’s best weapons. How distracted do you get when you are in pain? How about when you are feeling down or anxious? Even a common cold can be very distracting. And, once you are distracted, how hard is it to pull back out of the negative cycle?
Peter encourages us to recognize all of this and to learn to think more like Jesus.
Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.
In these complex times, we are bombarded with information that can keep us stressed, anxious, and/or depressed. Paul tells us to not focus on these things. He encourages us to focus instead on what comes next. How much time do you spend thinking about your future in Heaven?
We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.
Thinking about others, loving others as much and in ways we love ourselves, and putting others before ourselves are common themes in the Bible.
The media, social media, and even people on the street are expressing a lot of stress and insecurity. Change is difficult – even more so for some people than others. Uncertainty is also difficult to handle. Put the two together, as the United States did this week with a new election, and people react. No matter the outcome of this election, change and uncertainty were inevitable. Any new leader brings new ideas and ways of handling political situations, and each leader is elected with the hope of a brighter future. In the months before the election our fears are played upon to help steer us toward one candidate or the other. And once the election is finished, one set of fears, or the other, becomes the new reality.
So now what?
I heard a lot of people this week talking about heavy drinking, protesting, sleeping to avoid dealing with their thoughts, self medicating with anti-anxiety agents or drugs, having anxiety episodes, and feeling rage. At the end of any of these options, it is highly unlikely that person will actually feel better. These are destructive choices that won’t actually resolve anything.
There are other alternatives that will both help overcome the stress AND help you to feel better.
Focus on your source of hope.
Focus on all of the good things in your life.
Do something kind for someone else.
This simple three-ingredient recipe is a key to contentment and happiness.
Getting outside of yourself is good for your health – both physically and emotionally. Find even the smallest of ways to do something good for someone else. Get together with friends to work on projects together. Help someone celebrate a milestone. Take flowers to someone who is down. Walk around your house and remember the occasion that led to each picture, each memento, and each special possession. Talk on the phone with someone dear to you, and let them know how much they have done for you in life. And to top it all off, spend quiet time with God and your faith.
I’ve written before how impressed I am by the amount of science supporting this simple recipe. It can decrease anxiety, depression, hurt feelings, concern for the future, and stress. It can lower your blood pressure, lower your anxiety, and improve your outlook on life.
It might sound overly simple or pious, but it really works!
For more information about stress management to improve your health, contact us at Meds MASH at www.medsmash.com/contact.
I can’t imagine life without my ROCK SOLID source of HOPE.
I have been blessed to know about this unwavering hope throughout my life.
I see the angst in the world right now and wonder how many people have never even heard about my source of hope. How many have heard only the ‘media version’ and never the truth? How scary would all of this unrest be without such hope?
Then I know of friends who attend church each Sunday and have for all/most of their lives. But attending church doesn’t equal having that deep-seated hope. Having Christ solidly in your life is a decision – a life altering decision that opens this whole world of peace and hope.
Having a source of hope gets you through all situations. Having an eternal perspective puts everything else in perspective.
Just as the Israelites were reassured, I HOPE we can be as well.