Climbing Out of a Downward Spiral 11/09

November 2009

downward spiral

Because we have been reading about H1N1 for some time, we were cautious and vigilant as our 18-year-old son’s health took a nosedive. It started with a nasty version of the flu, complete with chest pain, strep throat, and then another painful condition that made eating difficult. My anxiety was heightened, to say the least. I was concerned for his health, as well as my family and mine. And all of this was happening the same week as the bungled vaccination efforts unfolded in our province.

It took three medical visits to get this all taken care of, totaling approximately seven hours wait time. Sometimes when everything goes wrong it’s a wake-up call – and a newsletter. Whether it is deteriorating health, weight, relationships or finances, a downward spiral is always an opportunity for learning and growth. It can happen very fast, as in my son’s case, or it can be a slow, steady decline.

If you find yourself tumbling, here are some ideas to help you right yourself.

1. Create self-awareness. As Einstein said, "You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created." Therefore, you need some new thinking. You need to pay close attention. Be brutally honest. Be willing to see what you don’t want to see, hear what you might not want to hear. Ask yourself, "What am I doing that is contributing to this problem?" You can also ask: "Why is this happening for me?" There is always something to be learned, if you’re open. Don’t ask, "Why is this happening to me?" Little good comes of that. If you’re really brave and open to feedback, you can ask others you trust for their perspective.

2. Advocate for self. When it comes to our children and our elders, we have to advocate for them. In any case, being quiet and toughing it out is not always a good option when you have a problem. You might need to make some noise, get some attention. Yes, it’s difficult for most people to open up, be vulnerable and share the problem. But that’s the only way to get support, which brings me to the next point.

3. Get support. Be it medical support, counseling or coaching, chances are you could benefit from an objective source, over and above family and friends. Perspective is everything and can change in the blink of an eye when you get out of your head. Don’t wait until you have a crisis.

4. Ask questions. Find out everything you need to learn. Knowledge is power. With access to the internet, there is no excuse to be uninformed and in the dark. Look for respected and reliable sources, of course. Do your research. Talk to others and learn what you need to know. That helps determine your actions.

5. Take responsibility. If you don’t own up to a problem, there will be no solution or remedy. Admit it, "If I keep this up, I will be bankrupt, dead, alone……" If you deny you have a problem, you just create a bigger problem, a deeper hole. The universe will continue to give you opportunities to step into the problem until you get it and are willing to feel the pain.

6. Act NOW. If you’re not acting, or you’re procrastinating, there’s a good chance there is fear at the root. Try to get to the bottom of it and work your way up, one small step at a time. Feeling overwhelmed can stall you when you look too far ahead. Stay focused on the present, and, as author Susan Jeffers book title says, "Feel the fear and do it anyway."

While some things are out of your control, like the stock market, many things are not. When it comes to good health, there are so many things you can be doing now, like dental hygiene, for example. Researchers believe that bacteria and inflammation from the mouth are linked to other health problems in the rest of the body.

Do you have regular check-ups? Do you look after your body inside and out? As my son just experienced, when things go wrong one health issue can cascade into another. Being pro-active today helps prevent problems tomorrow.

You can do more for your health and happiness than any doctor or drug can do. Please don’t wait to get sick and then expect to be fixed. It all starts with you. Good health also enables you to be a better advocate for your loved ones. I have done everything in my power to protect myself and the rest of my family from the infamous flu. So far, so good. If one of us gets sick, I will rise to the challenge. And if it’s me, just so you know, I really like chicken soup.