Thursday, June 16, 2016


1. the treatment of disease or disorders, as by some remedial, rehabilitative, or curative process: speech therapy.
2. psychotherapy.
3. a curative power or quality.
4. any act, task, program, etc., that relieves tension.

Before we go further, this is not a medical advice article. If you need professional help, you should search for it. My intention today is to offer some thoughts on #4 above--relieving tension, bringing back a feeling of well-being. 

If you’ve lived this long beyond the beginning of the 21st Century, you’ve seen a proliferation of therapies available.

If you have had surgery or are waiting for surgery to replace/repair some body part, you may have had Physical Therapy both before and after.

If you’ve been inactive for a time, you may need Occupational Therapy to help you become independent again.

Most of us have had antibiotic therapy at one time.

And if your needs are emotional or spiritual, there are therapies to help you rebound: music, art, crafts; outdoor activities; writing, especially journaling; working with youth, or the aged, or the handicapped, or the illiterate.

Many years ago one of the most active elder women in my church shared her secret to continued good health and commitment. When her husband died, her family doctor said, “Get involved in something.” He wasn’t telling her not to grieve—he was telling her to work through her grief in a positive activity. She had been an elementary school teacher before retirement, so she began to work in areas of the church that involved teaching. The last position she held before she went to live with her daughters was working with adults who were training to be lay ministers who assisted with all manner of needs in the congregation.

A friend of mine is going through a time of grief for a recently deceased family member. Her usual beloved activities are sewing and writing; she now feels as if she’s “going through the motions.” But she’s still doing them.

A family member has a degenerative illness that could have resulted in “retirement from life” but she’s chosen to continue with her normal activities as long and as well as possible.

My own experience with those times I want to crawl into my cave and pull the hole in after me have made me look for what I love about my life and focus on that for a time.

Here are some thoughts on therapies we may have hanging around the house:

Music – If you play an instrument, do that. Who cares if you can’t hit the right notes? It’s for yourself you’re playing. Or, sing—talk about not hitting the notes! That’s one I struggle with but I do continue to find joy in making a joyful noise.

Don’t sing or play? Put on a CD or turn on a radio or TV show or find tunes in your phone resources or check out YouTube on your computer. Music is literally everywhere. Let it wash over you. Feel it. Dance, if your feet tell you to. (It’s okay to listen to your feet from time to time.)

Art – Art isn’t just the visual arts—Art comprises painting, sculpture, writing (also music, but that’s a separate category today). My painting looks pretty bad—though if I were 6 years old it might be pretty good. Clay isn’t my medium. Writing is my thing. . . I write in my journal every day. I write emails. I write letters (the old-fashioned kind on paper that go in envelopes and have to have stamps and addresses and get dropped into boxes outside the post office). I’ve been known to write poetry. And if all my handwritten lists had been preserved through the decades, I’d have a tremendous body of work—not publishable, but definitely voluminous. 

Remember, we’re not looking for a letter grade here—we’re achieving something outside any grading system.

I can’t claim all my writing is art, but it functions in the same way—it allows me to explore things I’ve experienced, what I’ve felt, any meaning I can glean from it; and it rids my physical body of the effects of negative feelings simply by writing those things down on paper. (This is why many therapists—the professional kind with framed certificates on their walls—include journaling in their advice to people going through rough times.) You don't need to take a class to write a journal; just get some paper or a notebook, your favorite writing stick, and...well, start.

I am ready to try a new thing: coloring! If you haven’t seen the wide variety of coloring books/journals/calendars, you’ve been shopping in the wrong department, because these are all over the store: with the books, in office supplies, and on end caps near nothing related. These art coloring books feature intricate designs. All you need is the book (or whatever) and some colored pencils. Some include pencils so you buy a ready-made kit. Adult coloring has been popular for a few years. (I’m always slow to get into the act.) I’m told it’s a great stress-buster. Sounds good to me.

Crafts – You don’t have to be a basket weaver to experience the joys and satisfactions that come from making something with your own hands. My dad was a carpenter; he built houses, but he loved best the finish work that made the house look complete. His satisfaction came from the precision needed to make a house with good proportions (he designed from scratch on the backs of old envelopes), walls that were plumb, windows and doors of the right size for the house and placed in the proper places for the space they occupied.

My son also likes to build and has made a number of items, large and small (a quilting frame for me and miniature furniture for Christmas tree ornaments, to name a couple); he can sew a dress for his granddaughter or a pirate costume for his grandson; and he’s a creative cook. Plus he has a day job.

Sewing and other fiber arts seem to run in our family—I make quilts and knit; all my children can knit, though a couple of them have given it up in favor of other pursuits; two of them make quilts; one loves to decorate; one crochets. We get a sense of accomplishment from our work, yes; but there’s more to it than that. While we work on our project, we focus outside ourselves, and our thoughts and good wishes run to the person who will receive the gift we are making. Getting outside ourselves is probably the best gift we can give anyone, including ourselves.

Origami frogs
Cooking—and creating a new recipe—can be a drudge, or it can be exciting. Take your favorite old recipe and give it a new twist. If you’re bored with your current recipe box, look online for something different to make. There are more cooking blogs than you can shake a wooden spoon at.

If your ideas run in different paths, take up stained glass or origami. Then teach it to someone else.

Outdoor Life – I’m not a gardener, and my birdwatching is limited to whoever comes to my feeders. But I do walk. Formerly I walked outdoors, early in the morning, in residential neighborhoods—my day was brightened by the changing seasons and the beautiful flowers, shrubs, and trees I saw. My spirits were lifted by the knowledge that people cared enough to take good care of their little patch of Planet Earth. Best of all, I had all the joy and none of the scratches, mosquito bites, or aching back pains.

I’m told, though, that gardening is one of the greatest activities for losing yourself. Kneeling on the ground to weed a bed of annuals can make time seem to stop. There’s nothing but the flower bed, the trowel, and you.

Helping Out – So many opportunities abound that there’s no excuse for not helping someone, somewhere. Schools in my neck of the woods welcome volunteers (many are retirees) to read to the children—or, perhaps, have the children read to the volunteer. If you’re not up for that, you can help out wherever you’re needed—make copies for the teachers, move stuff that needs moving, sort books and magazines, ask the librarian what you can do for him/her.

One of the local churches used to have a literacy program to help adults who can’t read. Reading is not only a skill, it’s a confidence builder. If a person can read the job applications they fill out, they feel more able to fill the position.

Another type of literacy program uses readers to record books on tape (nowadays they’re books on CD, but the old name sticks).

The hospital needs volunteer docents to show people where the various departments are (yes, there are signs, but if you’re in bad shape or grieving, you may not even notice there’s a sign; tunnel vision applies here). Other docents take folks from one place to another in wheelchairs. Or they serve at volunteer desks to sign patients in and point them to the next available clerk to register the patient.

My own helping out is done in my home—and sometimes at my fabric-and-craft store (buying trips)—when I cut out kits for blankets and pillow cases, or sew them myself. I prefer to work alone; it’s my time for meditation and for giving thanks. Once a week I work with my sewing/knitting group at church and my focus expands to each of the members and her life. I will not miss my Friday morning time with the sewing ladies. It’s a life-enhancing group. What better way to get out of my own way and celebrate the good things of life?

The above is not a comprehensive list of possible ways to help yourself out of a blue funk or lessen the toll grief takes on you. You will have your own ways to deal with life as you live it. Just keep celebrating the good things.


  1. Good advice here. I'm a "pink lady" and there's nothing any better for taking you out of yourself than seeing others' suffering.

    1. Thanks for the affirmation, Liz. Compassion is always needed.

    2. Thanks for the affirmation, Liz. Compassion is always needed.

  2. A vaguely remembered quote I've always liked says something lift yourself up, lift someone else up. Great post.

    1. That is a quotation to remember. Thanks, Dori.