Improving my mental, physical and emotional wellness
I am pleased to share this article with the low vision community, at the suggestion of Dan Roberts, founding director of the highly regarded MD Support organization serving many people with impaired vision in the USA and abroad.
To make it easy to understand, encourage self-reliance, and stimulate action by as many readers as possible, I have chosen to use a limited number of simple ideas and lessons learned during the past 12 years as a regular participant in Mr. Roberts’ online programs, and also as an active member of the local support group of the Foundation Fighting Blindness.
I hope my presentation may inspire many readers to learn how to:
a) better cope with their vision limitations, as well as the life-long challenges facing every living person.
b) improve their physical mental and emotional wellness.
Idea #1: Every person is unique
All of us inherit our DNA from our parents and ancestors. Two facts explain our differences: 1) Nobody picks their parents, so, a person may be born in America, Europe, Asia, or Africa. 2) Each person has about 7 billion cells in his body, so even though some groups may have similar traits, nobody has the same cells.
As an adult, if you have brothers or sisters, and/or, if you have children, you already know that each person is unique and different. As a result, each person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. That is what I do.
Finally, since each person is unique, including you and me, we need to respect ourselves.
Idea #2: Take charge
As adults, we probably know our needs and priorities better than anybody else, so it makes sense for each of us to take charge of our lives. Yes, we can listen to others whose opinion we respect, but we will ultimately have to live with the consequences of decisions we make and actions we take or fail to take.
Idea #3: Be Flexible
We live in a world of fast moving changes in many aspect of life, like technology, economic growth, job market, politics, etc.— which requires readiness to adapt. Also, your needs and attitudes would change, depending on your age bracket, family status, financial situation, abilities, and limitations. For example, a young adult starting a job has different needs and interests than an elderly retiree or a middle aged person holding a job and raising a family.
Public information and clinical trials in the USA and abroad indicate great progress in research and development projects that promise an ultimate cure to many retinal-degenerative eye disorders. A cure may not be too far off.
Serious Problem of Daily Stress and Anxiety
As the years pass, more people may experience declining vision, and sometimes even severe vision loss, affecting their quality of life. For example:
- People affected by age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may find it difficult or impossible to: a) read a newspaper, letter, labels, etc. without a strong magnifier and good lighting; b) watch TV beyond 3-4 feet away; c) recognize peoples’ faces from two feet away (even family members, friends, or neighbors); and d) daily misplace items like wallets, keys, or eye glasses, and then struggle to find them.
- People affected by retinitis pigmentosa (RP) learn from personal contacts and public sources about others who became blind years ago. So, as their vision keeps declining over the years, many of them begin to live in fear of themselves going blind.
Naturally, such obstacles generate stress, anxiety and frustration, leading to rising blood pressure that can cause heart problems, digestive difficulties, diabetes, etc. Sadly, such symptoms are silent, invisible, and rarely talked about. Over time, the cumulative effects can cause lasting damage to many peoples’ mental and physical well-being.
My Recent Actions
At age 93, with AMD since 2004, I now face serious vision loss that took many years to develop. This led me to devote the past 12 months to searching for ways to improve my quality of life. So I picked about 20 helpful videos from “You Tube“. Then, I found an amazing blog entry titled 15 Ways to Change Your Thoughts and Transform Your Life that taught me several new lessons. It contains profound ideas that can help improve our mental, physical and emotional wellness, achievable without medication, cost-free, and in total privacy.
As a result, I started a new Daily Wellness Regimen six months ago, to take care of my body and mind— to promote my physical and mental fitness:
Every day, as part of the aging process, I had begun to slow down and face some pain in my lower back and some decline in memory and concentration. To cope with those challenges, I now eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water. I also try to keep busy daily as much as possible. To generate ideas to help improve my quality of life, I use my special computer daily to browse several free websites. Here are my favorites:
Every Day Health (everydayhealth.com), which offers over twelve free online newsletters on various topics. I signed up for Healthy Living, Diet and Nutrition and Mental Health, but the choice is yours.
Harvard Health Publication (Harvard Medical School) (health.harvard.edu). While this excellent newsletter is free, printed and online reports and special online courses are subject to reasonable fees. Every week a 30% discount is offered on selected reports. In addition, one website page lists topics of 60+ programs.
Body Exercises. About five times a week, I do walking exercises outdoors (or indoors, in bad weather). I also view short videos on You Tube for special exercises to strengthen my muscles or overcome lower back pain.
Mind exercises. I use my computer daily to read online articles in the NY Times, other newspapers and magazines. I also read and send e-mail messages, keep in touch with old time friends, acquaintance, as well as social contacts.
Periodically, my wife and I participate in several online (Zoom) discussion groups or listen to lectures on topics of interest to each of us. In addition, we go shopping locally, and we visit the homes of our three married children, where we often meet all or most of our grandkids.
Every night before going to sleep, I devote 45 minutes to three activities:
Activity #1. Listen to a 20-minute muscle-relaxation tape, with the instructor telling me to silently repeat phrases to relax every muscle in my body from foot to head.
Activity #2. Practice “mindfulness” meditation that helps my mind focus on the present situation. The idea is to turn off thoughts in my wondering mind and focus on activities that can and need to be done today. The lesson in this is that a) Yesterday (the Past) is gone forever, and it can’t be brought back; and b) Tomorrow (the Future) is uncertain and unpredictable. Nobody knows what may happen in the future. This led me to:
- focus on the present situation (Today) and try to live life to the fullest each day. The point is that delayed action will cause Today to become Yesterday.
- cultivate resilience & be able & ready to cope with a sudden, serious adverse event, like an accident, serious illness, death of a close relative or friend.
Activity #3. Silently repeat 20 times selected affirmations (self-talk) like:
- “I feel good about myself (helps build self-confidence).”
- “I take things easy, and stay calm.”
- “I keep a positive mental attitude.”
- “I am cheerful, optimistic and happy.”
- “I feel relaxed and calm (helps to manage stress).”
- “I focus my mind on the present, and do things that can and need to be done today.”
- “When people talk, I pay attention and listen to what they say.”
- “I am resilient — able to cope with any obstacle or difficulty — doing it calmly and wisely.”
Sign of Hope
Over time, my repetition of the above affirmations has become part of my subconscious mind, changed my attitude, habits, and behavior. As a result, all these new ideas from the videos and article are helping me become quite relaxed and calm, lower my blood pressure, boost my resilience, and promote feelings of happiness and contentment.
I believe that after reviewing the above information readers would be able to make wise decisions, based on their own needs and priorities. So I suggest that you copy the contents of this presentation and the above blog entry as a permanent document with easy access in the future when needed.
Attention! Life is unpredictable. Every day, many people may face stressful side effects from a serious health issue, death of a close family member, job loss, financial problem, etc. If so, its may be prudent to see your doctor and decide if you also need to visit a psychiatrist or psychologist. Luckily, this problem does not apply to the vast majority of people.
However, this article deals with stressful side effects from serious vision loss. Since this situation cannot be eliminated, you need and are able to adjust your reaction and attitude to this Reality (“Situation”) So I suggest a simple common sense idea: Try to mentally accept this reality and go on with your life.
Yes, you need to learn to focus your mind on what you can do. Otherwise, you may face needless mental and emotional distress and bad feelings. Hopefully, practice could help you become more relaxed and calm. It worked for me and others.