Hip Ways for Pushing Back the Blues
Life can throw a lot of crap at us; thankfully, there are several low-cost options for dealing with stress.
We are going to take a brief detour out of frivolity and explore a startling yet unavoidable truth: life is hard, friends! I suspect you knew that already. But lately I’ve been feeling the brunt of many friends’ tragedies: faltering marriages, cancer diagnoses (ugh!), wayward children. I’ve been struggling, too, with not-as-serious quandaries; chief among them is thinking about/obsessing over my all-but-estranged sister, my dear partner in DNA. Couple this jellyfish-like sadness glomming onto my brain with raising teenagers down to toddlers – gah! Is it simply because I’m getting older that problems don’t seem to have neat and tidy resolutions anymore, like they did when I was younger? Have these issues been quietly festering and growing all these years until I brushed away the undergrowth and saw the horrible rot? Oh, the soul-gnawing crap life throws us!
Don’t worry, though, you didn’t come to this column to dwell in sadness. We’re going to delve into a few ways we mommies can restore some peace, joy and equilibrium into our lives when the going gets shitey. Luckily, I have a fabulous posse of moms who supply me with a plethora of things that connect you to your soul. And the one that leaps out first to me? Gardening! Ugh! I have the blackest thumb in the lower 48, and really don’t enjoy getting my hands dirty, but maybe I should. My beloved friend Kym says, “I like to work in the yard. I LOVE to pull weeds, cut back bushes and plant flowers. The best part? My husband picks up all the trash of destruction. Cutting and arranging flowers for someone makes me happy, too.”
My friend Sarah says, “l agree with working in a garden. I haven’t had one for about three years because of busy life and a temporary home, and I cried in Lowe’s garden section when I saw all the families picking out plants this weekend, I missed it so much.”
And what fascinates me is that there’s scientific evidence of this: It’s called – really! – being “grounded.”
Shawn Stephenson of my favorite health podcast, “The Model Health Show,” notes that humans are very conductive to electricity. And it turns out the earth itself — dirt! — is brimming with free electrons that get transferred to the human body. When that electron is provided, it helps to reduce inflammation resulting from free radical activity. Clearly I’m no scientist, but Shawn says by getting yourself in contact with the surface of the earth, you actually have a rapid activation of the relaxation response — a deactivation of the fight or flight impulse. Mind boggling! The bonus? As my friend Fawn says, “There’s just something about moving your hands in the dirt and seeing wonderful things grow from a tiny seed.”
And dirt is free! Shawn notes that dirt, grass, mud, soil, sand (think relaxing beach!) are all conductive surfaces. Notably, asphalt is not. So, ladies, who cares if you can’t keep a thing alive. It seems just trying is worth it!
Many friends mention congregating with girlfriends over lunch or with a glass of wine — of course, we all need these very human connections. My inimitable friend Marlo takes the cake, though. She says, “I do cyber happy hour with my college girlfriends from across the country. We have also held a cyber baby shower….I mailed cookies to everyone. We all mailed presents to the preggo momma. Then she opened presents and we ate cookies together!” I mean really! Why haven’t I thought of that with my sisters on opposite coasts? My friend Shelly also does “cyber happy hours” with friends when no one has the time to physically get together. Marlo uses Google Hangout; it’s similar to Skype, but more people can be in a “room” at the same time. My friend Kym has used Facebook events with video feed. I’ve used GoToMeeting for a moms’ meeting to plan a school party; why didn’t I think of using it for something fun — with mimosas in hand?
FInally, both my friends Kym and Sarah swear by frequent acupuncture. Kym says acupuncture helps tremendously with her back pain and anxiety. My friend Sarah goes to Maplebrook; it’s community acupuncture, so you are in a room full of recliners with other people. Sarah says that took some time to get used to, but it is a mere $15-$35 per visit, so it’s quite affordable.
Sarah says, “Physically, I have less back and hip pain, which I have had since high school cheerleading and was worsened by pregnancies and giving birth. Emotionally…where do I even begin? I have much fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. To be real raw, I can’t fake acupuncture. I could squeak through therapy without getting too real, dive into exercise as a form of coping, build businesses to help compensate for frustration, but as soon as I saw my body respond to acupuncture, I knew it was safe. I’ve been going for about three months weekly and I don’t think I will ever stop. Life is so ridiculously hard, but I know our minds and bodies weren’t meant to bear the brunt of the all this stress. It has been a way for me to actually enjoy living again. That sounds way overboard, but it is crazy true.”
Wow! She reminds me that the needles are super tiny — and there’s a lot of medical science to back up acupuncture benefits.
As for me? What’s keeping me (usually) on the right side of the nuthouse doors? Miss Shelly’s School of Dance — the adult tap class. Every Friday morning, I don tap shoes and leave my two littlest girls to languish in the lobby while we work on two recital dances that we’ll be performing in May. Trying to keep up with these women — some of whom are more than 20 years older than I am — and working on these joy-filled, complicated dances is the closest I’ve come to “flow” — to living in the moment — for a long, long time. Oh, and lash primer really lifts my mood too.
There you go, ladies. Keep your chin up, and remember these wise words of Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’