Yesterday I read an essay about how different people find ways to ‘sort’ when faced with challenging situations. “That’s why writers write,” the author stated, “to separate the wheat from the chaff.”
Yes! I shouted silently. I write…because writing is how I sift, solve and survive.
Individuals with an MCI diagnosis need tools to cope with the various and inevitable emotional swings we experience on a day-to-day basis. Our lives are changing quickly, and we are learning to navigate confusing situations with the discomfort of no longer being able to rely on memory and cognitive function like we once could. Today I’m sharing four of the tools I constantly rely on to cope when I’m feeling unsettled, emotional or frustrated.
I write to disarm my fears by naming them—one by one, over and over again. I write to validate my mind’s innate nature to wander into the future, then return to the present with new insights. Writing is the vehicle I use as I search for meaning and purpose. I write in order to calm my mind and my soul. I write to remember.
Nearly every morning, I read from an assortment of inspirational books. Two of my favorite books are Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, by David Whyte and The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, by Mark Nepo.
I’m rereading these books for at least the third time, and each reading gives me fresh insights on how to better stay in the moment. To be present. To accept. To be grateful.
3. Physical activity
I also try to be physically active. I practice yoga at least once a week, and I walk almost every day. Yoga challenges my brain as well as my body as I work on coordination, balance and breathing. My yoga instructor knows of my condition and gently guides me throughout the class. Every session of yoga ends with a relaxation period, during which my breathing slows and lengthens and I experience a gentle calmness.
I try to walk every day for exercise and especially when I’m feeling stressed or depressed. The physical movement helps release my tension, and spending time in nature helps calm my thoughts. The walk can be short, with a destination as simple as sitting on a nearby log in the woods. The goal is to acknowledge and accept my fears and tension without judgment. To cry if tears come, and accept them as a natural release.
I practice slow deep breathing. On the inhalations I picture good energy inflating my lungs, dissipating the debris of negative thoughts and fears that have accumulated. I imagine my breath replacing the negatives with the positives in my life, which always begin with my family, my friends, my current state of functioning – which is really quite good. I find that the list of positives, once started, usually flows rather easily, and I always feel a welcome shift in my mood. And if a walk isn’t possible, sitting in my morning mediation spot in the livingroom will work equally well.
I understand emotional mood swings are a part of my condition and may likely increase in frequency and severity in time. But for the present, these coping skills restore a sense of acceptance as they displace the lurking shadow of fear and help me stay focused on the present.