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Moving on After Loss or Change

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Stress Hardiness:
Moving On After Loss or Change

by Terry Foody, R.N.

Whenever there is a major stress or change in life, such as death of a loved one, divorce, cancer, surgery, job loss or change, moving, chronic illness, trouble with children or parents, financial ruin, menopause or even childbirth, enormous amounts of energy and attention are diverted to the event.  It takes great effort to shift the focus back to the whole self, as the mind and spirit are weary from dealing with all that has happened and anticipation of more problems to come.

Let the body take the lead.  Even when we don’t feel like we can move, motion is the answer back to the whole self again.  Movement can actually get the energy level up and speed the process of healing and recovery.   We can start up again with what we were already doing before the event ...walking, swimming, bowling.  Or we can try something different that calls to us now... running, golf, yoga, gardening, bike or horseback riding, dance, weights etc.  Whatever we choose should bring pleasure, confidence and strength.

It’s important to have a noncritical attitude when taking on a physical activity.  High expectations for performance or immediate change in body contours can lead to defeat and quitting.  Doing the activity for the joy of having ourselves in fluid motion can foster success.  And we’re never too old, too fat, too out of shape, the wrong shape, the wrong sex, or too alone to start something or start again.

I started running at night on the icy slate sidewalks of New York State during my emotional teenage years because my classmates made fun of my skinny “bird-like” legs.  I thought running would build up muscles and help fill me out.  I found I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment and forgot about how my legs looked.  However, there were no sports for girls in my high school, so without structure and direction, I stopped by the time I was a Senior. 

Years later, I took up running again and continued for almost a decade.  I kept at it regularly and entered many races.  During that time I also smoked, so I never reached my potential for full physical benefits.  The smoking finally stopped, and then the running for various reasons.  I became involved in many other physical activities including jazz, clogging and contra dancing, all of which I enjoy.  I’ve been riding a bike and swimming since I was a child.  But running kept calling to my spirit. 

Some time ago, despite losses, changes, surgeries, physical problems, and the fact that I wasn’t getting any younger, I started running again.  Why?  Because I like the feeling of my body moving through space.  It makes me feel strong and free.  Like a kid again.  I especially like running across the country-side and racing around the track.  I may never be very fast, but I’m old enough and some of the races are small enough that I’m winning the trophies I missed out on as a teenager.  Funny how that happens. 

Too often we think of exercise as a dreary chore.  With a little imagination and listening to the desires of our heart, it can be a movement to carry us beyond our stress or change and ignite our spirits once more.