Op-Ed: Overcoming the other unseen forces: anxiety, fear, and pain

You know the picture: Families burdened with adults out of work, little kids out of school, and big kids home from college.

Hospitals overwhelmed with new COVID-19 cases while still managing the usual – births, accidents, chronic illness, and deaths by what now seem like natural causes. Local residents concerned about vacation-home owners from suburbia and the cities returning, and it’s hardly spring.

Sally Newton, teacher at Windham Elementary School, believes that criticism caused by fear is driving people in our community apart. She says that knowledge, understanding, and a tolerance for differing opinions can help to diminish fear and bring us together.

Modern life has never been quite like this: families at home together all the time. The scene is not Father Knows Best of the ’50s or The Jeffersons of the ’70s, or Everybody Loves Raymond in the early 2000s. Now we’re talking about 21st-century culture in which technology has been challenging the definition of family togetherness. Most families have two working parents. Who cooks dinner from scratch? Who sits down at the dinner table minus the television or texting? We have made 21st-century life so stressful.

Then along comes the global pandemic, creating a super-strength recipe for stress: anxiety plus fear plus pain – anxiety about making ends meet, or worrying when, or if, the government check will arrive; fear of the unknown every morning upon waking up; psychic pain of not being prepared for such global disruption, and how to make the best of it. The recipe feeds adults and kids alike.

When a Vermont friend told me she was worried to death about her brother dealing with cancer in a hospital in Connecticut, I realized the multiple layers of stress – anxiety, fear, and pain – that our families, friends, and neighbors are experiencing.

We can read and talk about the stress we’re experiencing; but how do we identify the impact of stress on our own body so that we can manage it? Bodies talk to us all the time. In our fast-paced life, we ignore the signs that include head aches, blurred vision, ringing in our ears, difficulty swallowing, heart burn, upset stomach, jittery legs, sleeplessness, and low energy – the list goes on, including high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

How do you manage these messages without drugs?

My book, Just Breathe Out – Using Your Breath to Create a New, Healthier You, explains how focusing on your outbreath connects you directly to your autonomic nervous system, which is the master key for keeping your body balanced and comfortable. Yes, focusing on your outbreath is your primary stress management tool.

You must teach your muscles how to breathe in this new way. Muscles are smart, but they are slow learners. They require practice, which means diligence on your part. To learn the BreatheOutDynamic system, read Chapter 3 of Just Breathe Out, or go to the Betsy Thomason channel on YouTube and watch the 10-minute video version of Chapter 3, the how-to chapter. If you wish a free Just Breathe Out e-book, email the author at bzthomason@gmail.com. Mention where you learned about this offer and why you’d like to learn BODs.

Beth McDonald, livestock manager at Meadows Bee Farm in Windham, who has a teenage daughter and two young adult sons at home, says, “This may be the end to their lives as usual but a start to something better if we can all just hang in together and work towards healing.”

Betsy Thomason of West Townshend, Vt., is a retired respiratory therapist and teacher, WOOL.fm talk show host, and author of Just Breathe Out—Using Your Breath to Create a New, Healthier You. She can be reached at bzthomason@gmail.com. Visit her websites www.justbreatheout.com and www.outbreathinsitute.com. Betsy has no political or workplace affiliations.

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