When things are not going well on a personal level, we contemporary humans have at our fingertips remarkable and sophisticated interventions. Some are formally administered such as medication, therapy, seminars, and sermons. Others are haphazard coping strategies such as media, intoxicants, seeking affirmation, or coddling a pet. Their side effects notwithstanding, all these strategies have provided immeasurable respite, healing, and growth for people facing chronic discomfort of all types.
[We interrupt these ramblings with a reminder that Nick Vu is not a doctor, and what he says is not medical advice. While these strategies might serve as supplements to professional treatment, they are not replacements for such.]
I would like to propose a framework for considering and prioritizing your personal coping strategies. It is rather straightforward: Focus on your most vital needs first.
What are the resources most critical to animal survival? Stated another way, being deprived of which resources will end your life first? I would rank them as oxygen, warmth, sleep, water, food…. I postulate that improvements in each of these areas, in this order, would offer the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to wellness, immunity, and healing.
- Breathe. It is the advice we always hear when panicked, upset, or stressed. Yet even when calm, are you taking short, shallow breaths? Do you catch yourself holding your breath? Other suggestions: reduce or eliminate smoking, use air filters when dealing with smog or smoke, cardio exercise helps oxygen more effectively enter the bloodstream.
- Warmth. “Put on a coat or you’ll catch cold!” Maintain a comfortable temperature with proper clothing and/or the thermostat. If you are housed, this item is likely not a big issue for you.
- Sleep. Consider not only quantity of sleep but also quality of sleep. If routinely fatigued, this is the most likely culprit. Avoid caffeine 6-8 hrs before bed. Avoid alcohol and screens 2-3 hours before bed. Try a white noise machine if you are a light sleeper like me.
- Hydrate. Keep water nearby. Try electrolytes especially if you have been sweating.
- Eat well. Maximize the amount of vegetables you eat. Reduce or eliminate processed sugars and processed flour.
The list does not need to stop there. Likely candidates for what comes next are affection, a sense of safety, or a sense of belonging. Dealing with injury also neatly fits into the model. Blood is obviously high on the list, but for most of us it is in a generally healthy state and can be ignored. That is until significant blood loss occurs, or some other conditions such as infection or disease. Perhaps rankings on the list fluctuate depending on an item’s current threat to survival. What do you think?
Next time you are facing difficulty, run through a checklist such as this one. Go even further and build it out with your own techniques, or people to turn to, to help get each category under control. Remember, the problem you are facing is exacerbated by underlying, more basic needs. (You have a harder time dealing with conflict when you are hungry and tired.) Also consider adopting small lifestyle changes to improve the most deficient category.
When in doubt, go back to the basics.
[Note that this that this is a think piece, devoid of reference to qualified medical or scientific sources. I am simply sharing interesting patterns that I notice, which could be connecting dots that have no connection. Go get real medical advice if you need it. If you have any thoughts or critique on the above topic, do share.]