While taking care of ourselves physically is always the number one priority, it is also mindful to nurture our emotional well-being in the same regard. Living with SMA means enduring added obstacles and challenges that can, at times, become overwhelming, and so it’s important to take the time to pay attention to these needs as well. As someone with firsthand experience, I thought I’d use this space to share some of the techniques that have helped me work through the hard times and taught me to nurture my emotional well-being better.
One simple technique I’ve found to boost your spirits is to give yourself a compliment. Here’s a little something you may forget as you get caught up in everyday life: Your body, despite how you may feel on some days, is working it’s best to keep you going. Every single second of every day, it is working its absolute hardest to pump blood through those veins and move air into those lungs. Now, throw SMA into the mix. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a hard feat to me. So, give yourself a little credit with a pat on the back. You deserve it for getting this far.
Another great tactic for nurturing your emotional well-being is to shift perspective. This has truly guided me to where I am today. A simple definition of a word that packs so much meaning and power, Merriam-Webster describes perspective as a mental view or prospect. In times of doubt, worry, or defeat, it has helped me more clearly see this beautiful gift of life given to me. In times of contentment, it has taught me to become more grateful. Wherever you are in your life — whether you’re happy, sad, or uncertain — a simple shift in mindset is all it takes to begin appreciating every little bit this life has to offer again.
However, I admit, learning to work this practice into your daily life isn’t easy. It is something that must be worked on every single day. Rewiring your thoughts to change your perspective can be messy and discouraging, especially on the days when you just can’t seem to catch a break. I know because I’ve been there. And, even though my perspective is something I’ve been working on for a long time, I know I’ll be in that messy and discouraging state of mind again in the future because that’s how just life is. But when that time comes, here’s what I try to always remind myself: “You woke up this morning. You took deep breaths and you smelled the pot of coffee your mother made. You lived to see another day, and that is a beautiful gift.”
Just as complimenting yourself and gaining perspective takes time and practice to understand better, so does this final technique that I believe is a game changer for our emotional well-being: the art of gratitude. This technique has helped me work through some pretty destructive times in my life and has allowed me to see that the moment I feel as if the walls are crumbling onto me, there is still a reason to be thankful. Every night, once my BiPAP is snug to my nose and the lights go off, I reflect on my day and what I am grateful for. On my hardest days, whether I’m in the hospital or caught up in the noises in my head, I simply tell myself I’m grateful that my body did not give up on me.
The beauty of expressing gratitude is that there is an endless supply of things to be grateful for. Something as simple as finding gratitude in your PCA baking your favorite dessert just right or the way the sunlight hits your skin through the window on a winter day can make all the difference in understanding how fortunate we are to be living this life. They key is to shut off the noise of what others are doing around you, reflect, and search within.
I guess you could say I’m a seasoned pro at this “living with SMA ordeal,” but the truth is no matter what I do, life happens. Life happens, and it tears you down and tries to get in the way of your happiness and overall state of well-being, but there are ways to combat these feelings and take control of them. The techniques mentioned here are just a guide, or a roadmap if you will, that I have found useful over the years. What are some techniques that you live by?
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.