I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1 (NIV)
Husband and I have been taking a class offered through my work called, “Transforming Stress.” The class is designed to teach you not only how to cope with stress, but how to develop habits to reduce stress and contribute to your overall physical and mental health. The little monitors that they gave us to clip on our ear and measure how we react to stress just stresses me out as the overachiever in me frets over why the signal doesn’t go from red to green and stay there. But, the other mechanisms that the class teaches like deep breathing and visualization have been helpful for the most part. Sometimes, stress and anxiety will catch me off guard, but if I remember to breath and go to “my happy place” (to places that are always near water, always cool and sunshiny, always when I am on vacation), I feel much calmer and relaxed. Another method that the instructor emphasizes each week is practicing gratitude or appreciation. Remembering the things that we have to be thankful for and focusing on the positives in our lives rather than the negatives. She noted that people who are grateful have a lower heart rate, lower blood pressure and are more content. Science has actually recorded the physical changes in the body when the person chooses to be appreciative and thankful. I have also been doing some reading about MS and interestingly, those books also emphasize the importance of having a thankful spirit even in the midst of living with MS. It made me start thinking of all the reasons I have to be thankful for the disease.
1. MS propels me to change the way I eat and select healthier foods and portions.
2. MS requires me to exercise and learn the methods of MELT to stretch and strengthen my muscles and body.
3. MS forces me to make better choices about how I spend my time. I am learning to put rest on my to do list and to only say yes to things that I really want to do.
4. MS gives me a renewed appreciation for my horse. Studies show that only 20 minutes of horseback riding a week can result in better balance and flexibility. I look for opportunities to ride now that I have a reason to do so.
5. MS builds a stronger bond between me and my dog. When I am tired and feeling off center, Cory provides emotional and physical support. On stairs, I use her for balance and at night, she sleeps beside the bed so I can reach over and stroke her fur which soothes me to sleep. Our training pushes me to leave the house at night when I would prefer to veg and reminds me that I need to stay healthy so I can do the things that make both of us happy.
6. MS reminds me to look for the joy around me and to choose joy. I heard some people on the radio talking about a way to declutter. “Ask yourself if the item brings you joy.” If not, toss it. I not only use it to keep my house clean, but to keep my calendar clean as well.
7. MS teaches me not to be afraid to ask for help, to humble myself to confess my needs and emotions to my friends and allow them to minister to me. For someone who is used to being a minister and not the one on the receiving end, this is a huge and valuable lesson.
8. MS clarifies my focus. When I would be distracted by symptoms, fears and worries, I have to remember my goals and do what I can to make them reality.
9. MS solidifies my relationship to my husband who is becoming even more sensitive to my moods and needs and I to his. I have always known he loves me, sometimes more than others, but now I KNOW he loves me.
10. MS makes me dependent on God who despite the uncertainty of my future or of my own body remains in control and is constant in His love towards me.
What about you? What can you be thankful for even in the midst of your current storm?