Riding the Crisis, by Barbara Kondilis, LCSW, MPH

Living the crisis in Europe I often question what I can do to help myself and my family make it through one of the most difficult financial and social crises for the last 3 years in this part of the world while facing an uncertain future here and beyond. I catch myself struggling with my own feelings of anger and sadness, trying not to ‘dump’ on my own family when I cannot seem to pay bills. People often work without pay for months. Inequity burdens day-to-day functioning. When they say you need to breathe through the oxygen mask first and then help others, it is so true.  It helps me keep my head screwed on straight as things around me seem to be falling apart.

Many have it worse. Some have lost their smiles (never mind their homes), their savings depleted. Systemic changes affect everyone’s health — thousands of immigrants try to adjust to their life in a new country, flooding this part of the world. Differing cultural and religious beliefs try to find common ground. This in itself brings back memories of my own childhood as a daughter of hard-working immigrants and years of struggle.

To top it off, this past year I have felt the tragedies of losing friends and colleagues; some to car accidents (ambulances not able to get to the scene on time or hospitals under-resourced) or untimely death due to their own lack of self-care. I walk down streets stumbling over cobblestones and heroin drug addict syringes at my feet while hoping I don’t see anyone OD today. Neither the municipality nor police follow through on safety laws. All of this can make anyone not want to roll out of bed and go to work, but the bills continue to pile up…

A crisis can make or break you but it’s also about how you “frame” things and what good or bad habits you maintain. And, being in mid-life, as caretakers of children and older parents, we can become particularly stressed and vulnerable to illness. I take this framing so seriously that my wall-hangings include a set of frames above my bathroom mirror. Every time I go to the “loo” (as the Brits say to be more polite) I cannot miss reading the words “Live, Laugh, Love” on a daily (and nightly) basis! 

Lately when drinking water or other beverages I intentionally use my glass with the message “Keep Calm and Love Life.”

I keep daily linguistic and mindfulness rituals. They include staying positive, taking walks (20 minutes of brisk walking daily despite the needles!), eating my Mediterranean inspired diet and trying to take supplements during higher stress periods. I heavily rely on giving and receiving social support to help keep me on track. I escape to laugh and connect with Toastmasters for better public speaking and leadership support. Through my mentors’ encouragement, I started my own community blog www.healthliteracyweb.com  where I continue to “spread the word” for better individual and community health….stay tuned!

Barbara has lived in two countries, three U.S. states, has worked over 20 years in mental health, and almost the same time in public health, educating and counseling individuals and groups, while trying to find ways to improve health communication and support health literacy initiatives. Appreciative of interdisciplinary contributions and social support, she believes in self, individual, and community growth through mindfulness, meditation, good eating habits, positive physical and mental activity, facilitating better discussions and negotiating change.  In her spare time she writes poetry, appreciates art, culture, photography, travel, and is an avid supporter of Toastmasters International, focusing on public speaking and leadership skills (see local info at www.toastmasters.gr) . Follow her blog at www.healthliteracyweb.com

 

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