Saturday, May 17, 2014

on being happy regardless

Ah, the weekend at last. Though Jakey has no respect for the sanctity of weekend R&R -- he literally knocks on my door every single morning at 6am (or earlier!) -- I do get to sleep a little more while the hubs goes pick him up, and I'm spared the rigours of french-braiding the girls' hair.

Anyway, I did want to share with you this book I discovered a few days back. I was catching up with a neighbour of mine who lives down the street -- she was lamenting the increase in her and her daughter's allergy sufferings ever since major construction work began behind our houses, on which daily meds have had no effect. I totally sympathised, because I've been observing the irritating effects myself -- smarty eyes and Ro's stuffiness and sneezing.

Unfortunately, the work is happening on the side where our bedrooms are, which necessitates keeping the windows perpetually shut -- while that may be keeping outdoor crap at bay, it's also keeping indoor crap in. I've decided to open the windows when it rains, but then they don't call it a drought for nothing.

Anyway, while we chatting, I saw this book on her table -- Stop Being Your Symptoms And Start Being Yourself, by Arthur J. Barsky, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of psychiatric research at Brigham and Women's Hospital; and Emily C. Deans, a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a practicing psychiatrist in the Boston community. Opening it at random, I was struck by the point the authors made about how, in our modern world, we are "doing better and feeling worse" -- or the paradox of medical progress -- i.e., while we've now overcome many of the diseases that used to cause sudden or untimely death, like pneumonia or TB,we've had more limited medical progress with the "chronic diseases and frailties that come with a longer life...

"The result of these medical advances is that while they enable us to live longer, the proportion of life spent in ill health has actually increased. Our dramatic gains in lifesaving treatments have increased the proportion of people living with chronic ailments. Dementia is a vivid and omnipresent example. The incidence of dementia is rising because we can now treat the pneumonia, kidney failure and heart attacks that used to end people's lives before they grew old enough to become demented..."

"Trends in contemporary American society aggravate our distress and make coping with symptoms more difficult. They influence our personal psychology by heightening unrealistic expectations and supplying idealised images of good health, coaxing us into making upward comparisons. This in turn amplifies symptoms and makes them harder to live with... Our standard for judging good health has been elevated so much that we are now more bothered by symptoms and infirmities that in the past we were able to tolerate better".

My friend was reading the book because, as all sufferers of chronic ailments know, it's easy to sometimes get depressed, overwhelmed or anxious about one's symptoms. Well, of course I asked to borrow the book. According to the synopsis, the book explains the six-week program designed by Dr Barsky to overcome the symptoms of chronic illnesses.

The program "teaches patients to master the five psychological factors that make chronic symptoms persist through hundreds of exercises, worksheets, and patient examples. You may not be able to completely eliminate your medical symptoms. But it is possible to control your symptoms rather than letting them control you—to manage your pain, fatigue, insomnia, and anxiety. You can minimize your symptoms, learn new coping skills, and do more to make sure that your symptoms are not robbing your life of meaning and pleasure". Sounds good right?

Well, I'm still in the first couple of chapters, but thought I'd share a bit with you. "Two very important psychological factors determine how much our illnesses bother us and how satisfied we are with our state of health: our expectations about how healthy or ill we should be; and the health of those to whom we compare ourselves. In general, our satisfaction with a situation depends in large measure on what we think that state of affairs should be... Your dissatisfaction and distress with your health are relative and determined by comparing yourself to some standard -- that is, some imagined ideal of how healthy you should feel... We view our own situation in a more favourable light when we become aware of others who are in more difficult situations and confronted with worse problems".

And then from Chapter 3, or Week 1 of the program: "The attention you pay to a troubling symptom is one of the most important factors in how you perceive it. The more you concentrate on an unpleasant or uncomfortable sensation, the worse it becomes over time... If concentrating on a symptom increases sensitivity and discomfort, it follows that lessening the attention you pay it will decrease discomfort... you have the power to improve symptoms by distracting yourself and learning to ignore them".

In asking readers to track their focus on symptoms, the authors write, "Are you surprised by how much time you spend thinking about your discomfort, fatigue or pain? Were there times in the day when you did not think of the symptoms? What were you doing during those times? Wht did you do that made you think about the symptoms more? Is there a way to increase the amount of time spent in activities that help you decrease the discomfort from your symptom?" And then, in the "List of Distractions": "Spend time on an enjoyable craft project" -- yay! (all extracts from Stop Being Your Symptoms And Start Being Yourself, by Arthur J. Barsky and Emily C. Deans).

Of course, this book is written from a secular standpoint, and the Christians among us should already know and trust that Jehovah Rapha -- the Lord our Healer -- is always with us and wants to bless, heal and restore us, in His perfect way and timing. We need to always walk in faith, and speak positive words over our lives, however things may seem or appear. As Joyce Meyer writes, "After praying for healing, at least give God the same opportunity as you would a bottle of medicine! Keep taking your medicine, the Word, and continue leaning on God in absolute trust and confidence (Col 2:5)" (from Be Healed In Jesus' Name, by Joyce Meyer). But this book looks to be a promising read, and I know many of you do live with chronic discomforts and ailments that can be quite trying, to say the least. It's a great comfort to know you're really not alone though, isn't it! Do feel free to email me if you want to know more, or just need a shoulder :)

But on to some other fun-ner stuff. First off, I was really tickled by the reactions to my last post on the fwooarishly droolworthy Morten Harket -- friends even messaged me on my phone and FB haha.. So I thought I'd just share this little gem I'd found some time back; unfortunately, it's cut off quite abruptly, but it's certainly pleasant eye candy nonetheless.

And just before I go -- remember poor little Rila who was just stuck at her face? Well, my chips arrived and I finally put her all together. Here she is!

I renamed her Ryuko when everyone agreed that Rila was too soft a name for someone like her, and streaked and dyed her hair a funky, vibrant purple. I love her punky, edgy attitude -- I'm certain she's listening to 80's rock here!

I think she's softie at heart though, and she's looking for her forever home now. How can you say no to this face?

Have a blessed, restful weekend everyone! See you again soon!


The Cranky said...

Janice, this post couldn't have been more timely (for me anyway) and I thank you for it. Seems there's a book I need to purchase.

My Garden Diaries said...

I want that book! It sounds just fantastic! And I would agree that we are a culture fixated and weighted down with our many health issues. Your sweet girl here is BEAUTIFUL! I am always amazed by your work and hope that you do get some R and R this weekend! Nicole xo

The Dainty Dolls House said...

This books sounds very interesting!! Ryuko looks wonderful, such a sweet face :)) Have a gorgeous week doll xx

Jane Chérie said...

Thank you for this post. I felt you wrote it for me hehehe! I think I need to follow the doctor's advice and really make a change of lifestyle. I like the part about distracting yourself with crafting :) I sure feel more alive when I am working on my hobbies! Do you know how long the construction will go on? I hope it will soon be done so you can have a healthier environment soon.

Unknown said...

Congrats Rila you look amazing all put together. I hope you find a very happy forever home.

Rowena @ rolala loves said...

The theories in this book sound really interesting. I've been able to overcome most of my health issues but perhaps I should look into it. Ryuko is such a lovely little girl :)

Rowena @ rolala loves

Magic Love Crow said...

This was a great post, filled with lots of information! I have to say first, I LOVE Ryuko ;o) She is precious! I love her hair ;o) She is truly adorable ;o) Sorry about the construction behind your home! I hope it ends soon! Very interesting book. Makes sense. Big Hugs and I love the video ;o)

Unknown said...

You have outdone yourself. She looks stunning the way you dressed her and posed her. Thanks for sharing.

Almost Precious said...

Ryuko is adorable and I'm sure she will be adopted quickly.

The book sounds most interesting. I do think we tend to obsess over our symptoms and the more we worry over them the more exaggerated they become. It becomes an endless cycle.


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