Seeing my mom slowly weaken and die in front of my eyes left a deep and lasting hole in my heart. The doctors couldn’t believe someone so young fell ill to a disease that mostly strikes the elderly. It just didn’t make sense to them. My mom and I were very close. We both knew the answer why she had been stricken at such a young age. It wasn’t the disease that took my mom’s life, it was the stress and anxiety in her life, and we’d caught it too late.
Our well-being is falling. On one side we are facing a mental health crisis. Depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD are on the rise and we are more medicated on anti-psychotic drugs than ever. On the other side, our bodies are rebelling against us. Cancer treatment centres are full of people, young and old, getting their daily dose of chemo and radiation. Our bodies are sending us strong messages. Will we listen before it’s too late? It took me the painful experience of losing my mom to MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome) / leukaemia at a young age to start listening to my own body.
We are living in an age where being busy is glorified and being stressed out is the norm. Many of us have lost the ability to recognise stress signals because we are so used to feeling them all the time. Tension headaches, lethargy, insomnia – no big deal, I’ll just pop up a pill and take my coffee to go.
We’ve learned in biology class that when the body feels stress it goes into a fight or flight mode, our survival mechanism as we evolved from cavemen and women, to cope with an imminent danger. The fight or flight response was never meant to last day after day. It was meant to fade away once the danger passed and the body went back to its normal, relaxed state. But the daily stresses that we are now facing, whether it comes from working long hours, financial worries, difficult employers, our relationships or traffic jams, are constantly present on our minds and bodies.
Our bodies have become a dumping ground for stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol as we are constantly trying to “put out fires”, not paying attention to how much we are hurting ourselves. After my rude awakening with my mom I learned that our bodies mean business and if we don’t treat them well we will pay for it big time.
The rise of stress is not just in adults. At my tutoring company BASIRI Tutoring we see a great increase in the number of children taking medications for various mental health issues. There are no long-term studies on whether these drugs are even safe for a young, developing brain. But parents feel that they don’t have an alternative to their child’s anxiety attacks or out of control behaviours. As a society we tend to focus heavily on the treatment and the cure instead of prevention. When registering for tutorials, parents often ask when they should look for supplementary help for their kids. My response is that it is always easier, cheaper and faster to maintain a good level of performance and prevent problems than it is to remedy academic struggles and failing grades. I believe this to be true in every aspect of our lives.
My mom gave me advice that I took to heart: don’t wait to take care of yourself until you are forced to do so. She asked me to live my life with balance, in-tune with my mind and body’s needs. As much as I’ve improved and am continually improving on how I lead my life, the tendency is always towards falling back to society’s race of grave habits, and I find myself having to consciously pull back to a balanced state again. To help with my goal, every morning my partner and I start our days with a short meditation and I find this to be a great way of checking in with ourselves to set the mood and create our intention for the rest of the day.
I know that a purely balanced and zen state all through out the day is possible only if I removed myself completely from the society that creates the chaos. I tried that but it wasn’t a feasible solution for me. Instead I’ve chosen to shift from the treatment centered mindset and live with a preventative one instead. With this mindset I am more inclined to take measures to avoid the problems that I wouldn’t want to see in my life. I’ve found a great deal of benefit in approaching life this way as I am constantly working to keep my current state of contentment and joy rather than working in hopes that the results will bring me happiness. You will never see me run for the cure of cancer or any other disease, I will put my efforts and energy towards their prevention. And although I miss my mom every single day and wish that she was here with me, I will use her precious teachings in my own life and towards helping others.
Author Bio – Mehrnaz Bassiri is the founder of BASIRI Tutoring. She graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelors of Science and a Master of Science from the University of British Columbia. Mehrnaz is passionate about education and it’s impact on our society. She has lived, studied, and worked in Iran, Japan, England and Canada and enjoys learning about various education systems.