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Health & Spirit

When National Disaster Strikes, Is It OK to Go Bowling?

Marilynn Preston on

Disaster distress is all around us, and of course it takes a toll on our personal well-being. You probably escaped the high-water horrors of Hurricane Harvey and the massive monster that is Irma, but there's no getting away from the images and reports of death and destruction in Texas, in the Caribbean, in Mexico and Florida, devastation on such a crushing scale, it sinks our spirits just thinking about it.

Flattened houses, floating cars, entire communities destroyed, overcrowded shelters turning families away: day after day of horrifying stories about people trapped, lives lost, everything gone, starting over amidst the rot, the mold, the stink, the suffering.

No wonder I don't feel like writing a column about eating your greens.

So let's review some strategies for feeling better in bad times, because the human spirit is hard-wired to rise above the miseries and make the most of the lives we've been given. That's how our sense of personal well-being returns, because we practice resiliency:

TAKE ACTION. You already know this: Doing good makes you feel good. Sitting around and binging on depression helps no one and does nothing to make things better. So what can you do this very moment to bring some cheer to yourself and others?

For one thing, you can write a check of any size to a charity that's helping the recovery effort. Charity Navigator (https://www.charitynavigator.org) can help you choose a reliable nonprofit, but so can someone you know who's working at a food pantry in Houston.

Volunteering your time is another way to be generous, but here's a reminder: We're all connected. If you can't travel to Texas or Florida, you can help the needy right in your own hometown. Feed the hungry. Build playgrounds for kids. Work for justice and peace. You'll be flooded with good feelings, and the whole planet will benefit.

SHIFT YOUR BRAIN. When your left brain is an overthinking mass of jitters, shift to your right brain and let your creativity flow. Draw a picture that expresses whatever emotion is haunting you. Relax into a favorite poem that inspires courage, and then write one of your own. Sit quietly and breathe deeply, knowing disturbing thoughts may arise: And when they do, don't judge or criticize. Simply return to your breath and calm the mind so that balance returns.

TALK TO SOMEONE. When you're feeling anxious (thinking, "What if my child was swept away by a flood?") -- it often feels good to talk about your fears to a loved one, friend or trained therapist. Other people can't resolve your worries, but letting them fester -- buried, denied, unspoken -- magnifies them. Don't expect answers. Just talk it out, and know that being listened to, over time, will calm your fears and help you feel whole again.

GROUND YOURSELF IN JOY. In times of trouble, it's OK to do something that makes you happy. In fact, the psychologists of positivity tell us it's a good thing. Go bowling, if that's what brings you joy. Find a way to be in nature: walking, swimming, paddling. Take a day off not to be sick, but to boost your sense of well-being. Imagine that!

You're not denying. You're not ignoring. You're doing the carpe diem thing. You're seizing some moments for yourself so you can recharge, restore and renew. The world is fragile and unpredictable, but we humans can get stronger and healthier, moment by moment. One chapter in my new book is all about unconditional happiness. Just saying...

WRITE STUFF DOWN. No matter how miserable you might feel during the day, at night, before you go to bed, jot down three or five or 10 positive things that happened to you during the day. Reread it in the morning. Your mind attaches to the negative. It's not your fault; it's how we survived living in caves and running from animals who thought we were delicious. Now we have to hunt around and remind ourselves of the good stuff: your 7-11 isn't out of water; your partner praised your potato salad; your child passed his algebra exam.

Some people call this a gratitude journal. I call it disaster relief.

ENERGY EXPRESS-O! SETTLE INTO YOUR SERENITY

"God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." -- Reinhold Niebuhr

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Marilynn Preston is the author of Energy Express, America's longest-running healthy lifestyle column. Her new book "All Is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being" is available now on Amazon and elsewhere. Visit Creators Publishing at creators.com/books/all-is-well to learn more. For more on personal well-being, visit www.MarilynnPreston.com.

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

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