By Lynn Billett, Family Nurse Practitioner
In my career as an experienced family nurse practitioner, I have encountered and counseled thousands of patients who have shared so many heartfelt stories with me – a good chunk of stories involved unnecessary stress and brimming battles of unnecessary worrying. I would like to share three stories with you.
The first story is about a 32-year-old defense attorney, who we will call Jocelyn. Jocelyn came to see me for stress and anxiety. As tears streamed down her face, she told me she had a very stressful job with long hours and a boss who was a demanding micromanager. Personally, things were stress-filled too. She was stressed that her husband recently was laid off. She was stressed that she would lose her house. She was stressed that her dear grandmother who lives in Austria was dying – all during the holiday season. She was even stressed because she hadn’t taken a vacation for as long as she could remember. She was despondent, depressed and didn’t know what to do. Naturally, her worries led to insomnia.
While consoling her, I encouraged her to first, take a deep breath. I explained that worrying wouldn’t benefit her or anyone else for that matter. I told her that it would cause other illnesses and that it would only speed up her aging. I reinforced that, we as human beings are capable of overcoming surmounting obstacles and that ‘this too, shall pass’ as does everything. I reassured her that it’s okay to be concerned and that stressing wouldn’t change ‘what is’ because quite simply, ‘what is, is.’ “Surrender and release what you can’t control.” I said. I advised her to focus instead on the things she could control. I told her “Make a list and start put it into action and don’t let your emotions get in the way.” I encouraged her to take time out of her busy schedule to take care of herself and trust that whatever happens will turn out fine.
After three months passed, she saw me for a follow up evaluation. She appeared refreshed. Reinvigorated, she told me she made a list and checked off her action items. She also took a three week vacation and visited her beloved grandmother for the last time in Austria. They said their good byes and her grandmother left her a big inheritance. In the end, everything worked out: she didn’t lose her house, she had a break from her stressful situation and realized she needed to transition out of her current position into a new job and her husband was interviewing for a new job. If you’re stressing, take a moment to let yourself take in that moment. Release the emotion and take action.
The second story is about a 59-year-old woman, we’ll call her Jackie. Jackie came in complaining about a sinus infection. She told me that she had been making multiple hospital visits to see a dear friend who was dying of pancreatic cancer. She was a self-proclaimed worry wart who didn’t sleep much and was adamant that she got her infection from the hospital. She admitted she worried about everything, her two grown children and their families who live out of state, her husband who recently went through radiation treatment for prostate cancer and is currently on remission…and the list went on and on.
I had to tell her three times that worrying would not benefit her or anyone else. She said, “I can’t help it, I have always been a worry wart.” I asked her, “Where did you learn how to worry?” And as if she had an aha ephiphany, she said “my mother?!” It was then she made the connection. I encourage her to cherish the time she has with her sick friend and to live in the present moment. Not in the past, which doesn’t define who you are and not the future, which doesn’t exist. I told her, “He’s not dead, don’t mourn over what hasn’t happened yet.” And if and when he passes, you will carry on the good times you have shared with them. If you’re not a peace with yourself or a current situation, ask youself why. Where did it originate? How can you make positive changes? Be present – that’s the best gift you can give yourself and others.
The third and final story actually happened to a friend of mine who e-mailed me the week before Christmas one year ago. She apologized profusely for not sending out Christmas card. It was a holiday task that she failed to accomplished. She also missed out on attending Christmas get-togethers and soirees because her son was hospitalized and on the same evening, a tree fell toppled onto her house, crushing the roof and destroying her living room and kitchen. She had to spend the entire holiday season in a hotel until her house was fixed. I told her not get caught up in the moment—the minutia and beat herself up. It’s easy to beat yourself (we are our worst critics) when unexpected things happen. If you’re shaking your head yes, then listen up; The next time you find yourself beating yourself up for the smallest shortfalls – think to yourself, will this matter tomorrow, next week or next year? If not, chances are you’re stressing about nothing. Oh and by the way, my friend’s son recovered from his illness and the insurance paid for the repairs and no one is disappointed at her for not going to the parties or for not sending out Christmas cards.
I remember reading a quote from the famous Mark Twain who said, “I’m an old man with so many great troubles, but most of them never came true!” So what if you know that whatever happens to you in life, somehow, everything will be just fine? Then there will be no worries! My intent this holiday season is that you find at least one of these stories helpful and share them — spread the gift of peace of mind with your family and friends! Happy holidays and don’t stress (especially if you’re not going to be stressed about the current situation this time next year).
This week on Intentblog, we will be featuring 1-2 new blog posts a day that will give you ideas for gifts that give back this holiday season: charities you can donate to, products you can buy that give back to worthy causes, and more. Check back every day this week until December 25 for more blog posts on gifts that give back.
PHOTO (cc): Flickr / Joe Jimbo
Lynn Billett worked in Sacramento, CA the past 11 years as a Family Nurse Practitioner providing care for patients from infancy to adulthood. Her energy and exuberance in practicing medicine shows through in her dedication to patient care. She cares deeply about patients’ well being and is passionate in educating, empowering and inspiring them to take better care of themselves outside of the office. Lynn obtained her undergraduate degree at California State University Sacramento and received her Bachelor of Science Nursing at California State University of Fresno. She returned to school at the University of California Los Angeles to obtain her Master of Science in Nursing, Nurse Practitioner certification in Family Practice and a subspecialty in Occupational, Environmental Health and Safety. In addition Lynn trained at the UCLA Wooden Center and was certified through the American Council of Exercises as a group fitness instructor. She also studied yoga and has been practicing / teaching for more than 10 years. She is well versed in: English, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Spanish.