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June 30, 2022

The Heartbeat of Life

I was talking with a neighbor the other day, and I asked him how life was going. He replied, ‘Oh, you know, it’s like an EKG graph; up and down.”  This got me thinking about the heartbeat of life. It does consist of up and down phases. With Covid-19, social justice issues, and politics, this has been a challenging year. These stressors are on top of the other difficulties we are already experiencing in our own personal lives. Then came the fires, which pushed most all of us over the edge into emotional exhaustion. In the heartbeat of life, we are definitely experiencing a down phase on that EKG graph!
Our nervous systems are taxed, if not fried. Most of us are feeling some level of fatigue, irritability, heightened sensitivity, heightened cynicism, physical pain, sleep disturbances, digestion problems, and difficulty concentrating. These are all normal experiences in a “down phase.” Simply recognizing that we’re in a down phase can be very helpful. Then we can start to take extra good care of ourselves: eat healthy foods, drink water, get out in nature, move our bodies, talk with a good friend, watch a good movie, read a good book, get involved in our community, learn something new, love on our pets, and remember to breathe. It’s also important to get any professional help that we need. These are difficult times and it’s easier to navigate them successfully with others who are skilled in these areas.
It’s also important to watch our thoughts. It is common, during this time, for us to think the world is against us: no one returns our calls or shows up on time, work isn’t done right, no one is wearing their mask, clerks are rude or uncaring, neighbors’ animals are too loud, the computer is too slow or files are lost, and on and on. When we find ourselves constantly thinking negative thoughts, it’s time to take a “time out.” Take long deep breaths (six seconds on the in-breath, six seconds on the out-breath with no pause in-between) for three minutes to re-set your nervous system. Name three things that you are grateful for. Place your hand in the middle of your chest and offer love, comfort, and compassion to yourself (you can do this while you’re taking your three-minute breathing break). Drink a glass of water. These are all things that we can do no matter what we are in the middle of during our day.
When we’re in this down phase, it’s important to have perspective. Just like the EKG graph, whenever there is a down, there is also an up. That is the heartbeat of life. I find it helpful to remember how resilient I have been throughout my life. I think of all the other down phases I’ve experienced, and then I remind myself that I have gotten through them…all of them so far! “This too shall pass” is a motto of mine. It keeps me from feeling stuck and disheartened and it reminds me that life is fluid and in motion. If I take good care of myself, I will be able to flow with life.
This is how we can navigate the heartbeat of life.


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