I recently received a phone call and learned that a loved one had passed away. This is a breakdown of the steps I have taken to fight stress and sorrow while I am separated from my support group half way around the world.
I have been throwing myself into my work and my new environment; I have shared my sorrow with my friends and asked for their support. I decided to put off grieving until I could be alone. Until the time came where I could morn alone, I only let myself remember the positive things and try to smile when thinking of him. I have been trying to focus on learning about the culture I am immersed in and getting to know my new friends.
The biggest thing that has helped me is being grateful. I have been trying to look at everything, even the smallest things, as a blessing. Wow, I am so happy I could share so many positive memories with him. I was blessed to have him in my life. I am blessed to wake up today and be following my dreams in Uganda. I am blessed to have lived long enough to come across this creek, hear the crickets and frogs at night, see the smiling faces greeting me, learn from my mistakes, and to be able to give myself to others. It is not easy, but I try to be mindful, making the choice to be grateful instead of resentful and to be optimistic instead of being scared. It is very hard to not be spiteful. It is hard work shifting my perspective to see everything, even the things that hurt so much, those things that tear my heart open, as opportunities and blessings. I remind myself that I have been through so much worse before and have become stronger for it. I remind myself that this too shall pass.
Before I started my journey to Uganda, I tried to prepare myself to overcome stress, anxiety, homesickness, and sorrow. I knew uprooting myself from my support network would not be easy. I started an art journal to go to when I needed help.
I filled several pages with inspirational quotes. I intended them to remind me of my passion, to remind me what I fight for, to remind me what I live for, and to remind me of who I am.
I also researched therapeutic methods to improve mental health and created activities for myself centered around: mindfulness, gratefulness, positive affirmations, opposite action, and meditation. I created action plans with steps to observe and describe emotions and triggering events, to recognize and combat shame, and to practice self compassion.
Sometimes when my emotions are high, it is hard for me to understand what is happening to me; so I created cheat sheet flow charts to identify my emotions through describing my symptoms and triggers. This way I could better ground myself.
My art journal, my gratitude plan, and even this blog are helping me to stay happy and positive. I am able to focus and stay on task.