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Advice for 2021 - Just Breathe

Let’s be honest – 2020 sucked a lot. The pain and suffering caused by COVID-19 was a major reason, however there were other events, both big and small, which highlighted the inequity and discrimination that still faces our most vulnerable citizens. Lives have been lost and others have been changed forever. We, as a society, have been tossed into a whole new ball game with little to no equipment with which to play safely. As we move into January of 2021, we keep hearing how bad the first part of the year will be with increased COVID-19 cases, high levels of hospital and ICU admissions, and more deaths. As we each wait for our turn at vaccination, I offer a story that I hope will be helpful to some.


Just over one month ago, I was in the hospital with pancreatitis, an extremely painful and potentially life-threatening condition brought on by a blockage due to a gallstone. At one point my pain medication had been slightly decreased, unbeknownst to me until I was writhing in agony one night with no relief. I kept asking for help. I kept being told by the nurse there was nothing she could do. I remember telling someone that I was gonna throw myself off the roof of the hospital. That was the moment I couldn’t take it anymore and wanted to die.


And then something happened. I started breathing. First just counting down one minute, then the next minute, and the next. I slept in ten-minute intervals only and each time I awoke in pain, I would start breathing and counting again. I literally didn’t know what else to do! Now I’m not gonna lie and say the pain went away, but that focus on breathing, counting, getting through just one minute to the next, stabilized me both physically and mentally. I went from wanting to die to hanging on to a present that I was still there and fighting my way through. As hard as this moment is to recall, I am proud of the fact that I could take one of my mental health tools and utilize it for my physical condition. The link between mind and body was never more real to me than then.


And this is my advice to all of you as we enter a new year. Yes, there are still some tough days ahead. Yes, we have been through an incredibly traumatic time. But we can move ahead and find strength. We can focus on being present and holding on to each moment. So my dear readers, when you feel overwhelmed and like you just cannot take it anymore, stop a moment, sit in your favourite chair, be present, and just breathe. We will get through this and emerge stronger than ever. All the best to everyone in 2021.

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