Developing Coping Skills

Of all the people who might experience a stroke, Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD, was perhaps one of the luckiest ones . A Harvard neuroscience professor at the time she was afflicted, Dr. Taylor had devoted her life to studying the brain. She was inspired to learn the mysteries of this infinitely complex organ when her older brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Through her decades of focused study, she hoped to help create a cure.

Instead, the morning her logical left brain began to shut down, she soon realized exactly what was happening, and was fascinated with the neurological process that was gradually erasing her memory, ego and sense of self.

Nearly two decades after the event that changed not only her life, but also medical science’s understanding of how a stroke works, Dr. Taylor inspires and motivates millions with her thoughtful accounting of her experience, and her slow recovery.

“What I love to ask people who are trying to cope with a challenge,” she told Oprah in a radio interview, “is, ‘What did you gain?’” From her own experience, she knows when people are thrust into chaos, they could just let physical and emotional stress derail them. Or, they could choose to see the unexpected obstacle as a unique opportunity to grow in body, mind, emotions and spirit.

“Coping skills” let you reframe the undesired experience, reduce anxiety, and begin to help the brain come back into balance chemically. As you are able to change the meaning you give your experience, you’re cultivating good mental health and wellness.

Many powerful coping skills focus on our spiritual fitness. Believing in a positive higher power is key, as is spending time in quite reflection and meditation. Deep breathing exercises can quickly help shift into a stress-free, peaceful state to heal body, mind and spirit.

Cultivating a spiritual community is healing. Sharing your burdens with your minister, rabbi or other spiritual leader helps you defuse stress. Also, having just a few friends or family members who “get” you, and listen without judgment, goes a long way in helping you cope.

Physical activities, particularly those that take you into nature, are also effective. A brisk walk, swimming or wading in a creek, or even sitting on a bench in the sun and reflecting on what insights you’re gaining add to a new sense of peace.

A pet doesn’t have to be a trained therapy animal to provide unconditional love and support when you’re trying to cope. Watching funny movies and playing silly board games, Pictionary or charade with friends, all trigger the production of pheromones in the brain, bringing waves of happiness and helping you adopt a new perspective on what was a challenging situation.

Put a new emphasis on eating healthy foods that detoxify your body. A well-nourished and exercised body is the foundation of a quiet mind and joyful spirit.

Whether you’re trying to cope with a serious challenge, or you just desire a healthy tune-up, an excellent first step is to take optimum care of your body, mind and spirit. At Optimum Health Institute (OHI) missions in San Diego and Austin, Texas, our caring team can help you achieve your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual goals for optimal health. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org , and call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.

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