Thursday, December 6, 2007

Drugs Is The Answer

Sometimes in grief, the pain can be so intense and so prolonged that we would do anything to get some respite, if even for a minute. I found drugs to be super helpful at such moments. No, I don't mean the ones prescribed by a doctor, and I certainly don't mean illegal drugs. I'm talking about the ones our mind creates, specifically endorphins. Endorphins function in a similar fashion to morphine and other opiates. Some people call them "natural pain killers."

Many activities can release endorphins, such as:

  • Exercise

  • Meditation

  • Enjoying music

  • Stroking a pet

  • Enjoying nature

  • Laughing

  • Smiling

  • Singing

  • Aromatherapy

  • Massage

When a wave of grief hits, we may not have the presence of mind or the will to laugh or sing or enjoy nature (or anything else!) or meditate or exercise. We may not have essential oils on us at the time, and massage isn't terribly practical when we're at work.

Smiling, however, is always an option. Even a forced smile will release endorphins. This is a trick I learned just after Deb had been diagnosed with 3-6 months to live (she lived 16 months after the terminal diagnosis). I can remember being at work and stressed beyond imagination, and I'd think of this trick and force a smile. A real big one. Then another, and another. There were many days, and often several times a day, when I'd need a "hit" or three to get past the next five minutes.

After Deb died and the acute phase of grieving began, there were a number of days where I almost couldn't even force a smile. But even a tiny, weak smile would be enough to ease the pain momentarily. This one simple tool never failed to bring at least some relief. I still use it today if some event causes me to become emotionally unbalanced.

When I was researching for this post, I discovered that it is the initial act of smiling that causes the endorphin release. So, for a real big hit, I can smile quickly 50 times in a row :-) I'm just thinking now of all those lovely brain drugs I missed out on when I would force a smile and hold it ;-)

I find it enormously helpful and comforting to know that pain relief is a simple smile away. I hope you find it helpful also.

Further reading:

Bonus Tip: Yes ladies, ingestion of chocolate also releases endorphins ;-)

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