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Stress in Grief

Biology of stress: Blood flows to muscles, making them stiff. Adrenaline is pumping. Heart rate and blood pressure rise. Breathing is shallow and rapid.

Symptoms of stress: muscle tension, clammy hands, pain (back, head, neck, chest, e.g.), easily winded, stomach in knots, scattered thinking, sleep difficulties, appetite change.

Cause of stress: YOUR INTERPRETATION of internal (life choices like poor diet & exercise, negative self talk, Type A personality) and external (daily living, environment, negative people, life changes) events.

Stress is good when it makes us aware, and keeps us and our loved ones safe (riding the bike lane on a busy street).

Stress is bad when it is allowed to take over, adversely affecting our physical and emotional health.

This is not myth – stress can be fatal. One parish pastor says he’s buried more caregivers than old sick people. It causes deadly diseases. It is not to be taken lightly, or brushed off.

Stress is usually brushed off. Those who are stressed tend to use phrases such as “I’m fine, really” and “It’s just (fill in the blank)”.

When you have some time, go online and search for the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. It is a list of life events THAT CONTRIBUTE TO ILLNESS, each assigned a number of points. Here are some of the items, ones most often related to grief/loss, and their point value:

Death of a spouse 100 or a loved one 63
Change in health of family member 44
Change in financial state 38
Change in living conditions 25
Revision of personal habits 24
Change in residence 20
Change in church activities 19
Change in social activities 18
Change in sleep habits 16
Change in eating habits 15

That adds up to 319 (spouse) or 282 (loved one).
150 points is a slight risk.
151-299 is moderate risk.
300 or above is life threatening.

Please note that this does not include changes in work, family relationships, or other things found on the scale.

“I’m fine, really.” Riiiiiiight.

What to do?

Get help to get organized, and back on track. Good health (physical, emotional and psychological) is 20% heredity and 80% life choices.

Meet with people who’ve been where you are, and talk, talk, talk.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung instructed his patients to observe one hour of silence per day. No phone, text, computer, errands, chores, tv, iPod, video anything. He writes that it was very obvious which of his patients followed his orders, and which didn’t.

Identify your immediate needs, and devise a way to get them met. This list may include a hug, a massage, dinner with friends, a weekend away, maid service. This is a very difficult thing to do, and you’ll probably need help with it. Most do.

Finally, the greatest stress reliever of all – laughter. Go ahead and research the physiological and emotional affects of laughter. This is no joke! Can’t find anything to laugh about? Join the club. But here is a recipe that is 100% guaranteed successful, every time.

Get together with some people. The number is irrelevant, and whether you know them or not inconsequential. The first person lies on their back on the floor. Person 2 lies on the floor, with their head on the stomach of Person 1. Person 3 lies on the tummy of Person 2. Person 4 on tummy 3, and so on, until one human chain is made of all those present.

Person 1 says “HA”. Person 2 says “HA HA”. Person 3 says “HA HA HA” and so on down the line. If you have to, start over.( Haven’t had to start over yet.) The exercise will take on a life of its own and come to a natural conclusion.

The recommendation here is that all people, everywhere, do the HA HA exercise once a week. Twice if you wear a suit more than 3 times a week. It should be added to curricula and agendas. HA HA centers should be established. We could all laugh our way to

Shalom.

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