Help Through the Storm

(c) 2012 Catholic Counselor Lady. My daughter having a lot of fun during a time with no "Fun do."

When my daughter was younger she used to pronounce the word “Thunder” as “Fun do”. However, fun was not what she had in mind at all when her little lips produced these words. Usually the house was shaking and it sounded like a freight train was going to run through the living room.  I remember my Grandfather describing thunder as the angels bowling in heaven. Thunderstorms in the Midwest are quite dramatic. And almost always they happen in the dark. Even If it is the middle of the afternoon, it is still dark.  I witnessed thunder and lightning during a blizzard in Chicago last year for the first time of my life.

My memory of storms

I don’t know if it is due to shortcomings in my memory, or the way that things were reported in the past, but these days it seems like the frequency of violent storms such as with hurricanes and tornadoes are on the uprise. I remember few hurricanes if any occurring in my childhood. The most significant tornado in my world was from the movie Wizard of Oz. However, it seems that once I hit young adulthood, the news became splattered left and right with natural disasters. An article that appeared in Science Daily (July 30, 2007) states that the “frequency of Atlantic hurricanes doubled over the last century.”

I was surprised to learn that tornadoes actually are more common in the United States than in any other country (Wikipedia). My son, who loves to travel, pointed out to me that many travel advisories are often issued to tourists coming into our country on how to be prepared and cope in the event of a tornado or hurricane. Americans and their storms must make an impression on the rest of the world. Tornadoes commonly occur in the Midwest and in Florida where the area is known as “Tornado Alley” and during certain times of the year. However in recent years we have seen some devastation in places that usually don’t get hit as bad.

Storms can occur in other ways in life

There can be storms related to climate change and environmental instability and there can be storms in our lives due to events in everyday life. It can be sunny outside but still some could be having a lot of “Fun do” going on inside of their minds and hearts. The possibilities are endless in terms of what might upset a person.  In psychology, something that bothers a person from the past can manifest itself as a form of depression; while something that bothers or worries a person about the future often is seen as anxiety. In other words, depression is past focused and anxiety is future focused.  This is why often a goal of therapy is to help a person to be grounded in the present moment. This is also an emphasis of many spiritual writers as well. Jean-Pierre Caussade in his classic work Abandonment to Divine Providence writes extensively on how to live fully in the present moment.  I know that I have mentioned this in at least another blog.

Suggestions on how to get through the emotional storm

One of the most obvious and at the same time most difficult to do is to remain calm. A person suffering from panic attacks might feel as though they are going to die or have a heart attack right on the spot. However, this is merely the body’s way of going into overdrive to initiate a fight or flight response to a potential threat. Sometimes however, people have difficulty turning off the “overdrive” function even after a threat is long past.  Believe it or not, this type of anxiety is best dealt with through acceptance, facing the situation for what it is, and realizing “that this too shall pass.”

Be sure to exercise and get rest when going through a lot of stress and storms. These two sound like they are at the opposite ends of the spectrum, but exercise and rest are actually twins for good health. In a natural way, exercising helps to work out the adrenaline produced from stress. The exertion helps to create good chemicals in the brain that can lead to greater feelings of well-being and even euphoria.

Most of all be sure to play and pray

My mother-in-law in her Japanese accent always tells my family, “Be sure to play”. I love puns and “plays” on words, so to me, this interchange of “play” with “pray” is quite interesting!  It is true that we all need to have recreation through tough times too.  However, most importantly we need to remember to pray.

Actually to pray unceasingly (I Thessalonians 5:17) is great advice given by St. Paul.  Many don’t know what it means to pray unceasingly.  It is having one’s mind and heart open to God through all of one’s activities of the day in addition to any formal prayers of petitions, supplications, and devotions done.  Such might sound like a lot of work. But really, it is about being mindful of God and seeking to do His will through all things.  This also helps one to live fully in the present moment.

Jesus walks on the sea in the middle of the storm

This Saturday’s Gospel is from St. John 6:16-21 which recounts how Jesus walked on the sea in the middle of a strong storm:

When it was evening, the disciples of Jesus went down to the sea,
embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum.
It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.
When they had rowed about three or four miles,
they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat,
and they began to be afraid.
But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.”
They wanted to take him into the boat,
but the boat immediately arrived at the shore
to which they were heading. 

This was a storm of memorable proportions that occurred like all storms: “when it was evening.”  However, what is significant to note is that not only does Jesus tell them, “Do not be afraid”, but also that once they encountered Jesus “the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading.”  Such is a message that assures us that we will reach our destination through the storm once our eyes are on God.

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