Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Mental health: A look at stress, distractions & help July 30, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 3:10 PM
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Part of the sculpture, “Waist Deep” themed to mental health. and outside the Northfield Public Library. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2019.

I REACHED UNDER THE SINK, pulled out the garbage container and dumped the flour mixture into the trash. The morning prior, I’d tossed overcooked wild rice.

It’s not like me to waste food. But I’ve been stressed and distracted this week, causing me to lose focus. When preparing Blueberry-Banana Bread this morning, I couldn’t recall whether I’d added baking powder. So into the garbage the flour mix went. On Thursday I was similarly distracted and, while I heard the timer alert me to the rice being done, the grains needed a bit more cooking. Except I forgot. Lucky for me the rice didn’t burn to the point of a smoke alarm sounding.

STRESS & DISTRACTIONS

What’s the point of sharing this? My experiences, minor in comparison to US Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, reaffirm how stress and distraction can affect results. Because my thoughts were elsewhere, I burned the wild rice and couldn’t recall ingredients added, or not, to the flour mix. So I opted to start over and focus on the task. The results were delicious Chicken Wild Rice Hotdish and Blueberry-Banana Bread.

Perhaps Biles wishes she could start over. Or not. She recognized the mental stress and pressure she was feeling and chose to step out of the competition. That shows great personal strength. She chose to put her health first. She chose also to put her team first, realizing she was not at her best. I applaud the honesty, courage and recognition that her health needs to come first. She’s also reopened the discussion on mental health issues faced by athletes. That leads to other discussions about mental health in the general population.

STRONG & BRAVE

Some of the strongest, bravest people and families I know are those who live/deal with mental health challenges. They must not only find ways to cope and live their lives, but also overcome stigma and roadblocks. That can be undeniably difficult. These individuals and families need our compassion, love and support.

I fully expect Biles will have easy access to professional mental health care. Yet, for too many, that is not the case. Finances, lack of providers and more can limit treatment. That is reality.

FOCUSING

As I write this, I feel focused. Writing helps me mentally. And as a woman of faith, prayer helps, too. As does reading my Bible.

I’ve also eaten way too much Blueberry-Banana Bread today. Typically when I’m stressed, I don’t eat much. But there’s something about warm bread that keeps drawing me back to the kitchen…

Between pauses in writing and bites of bread, I still find my mind drifting. To my dear cousin Dawn and family who lost their husband/father/grandfather unexpectedly yesterday due to natural causes. Rich was only 58. The stress that family is experiencing must feel overwhelming. My heart hurts for all of them at their loss.

Because I was thinking of Dawn this morning, I was unfocused in the kitchen. I was also thinking of my son’s upcoming move, which will take him even farther away from Minnesota. My mind brimmed with concern, worry, sorrow and too many distracting thoughts. We all have days, maybe even weeks, when we feel stressed, unfocused.

ABOVE ALL, LISTEN

I hope that when you see someone struggling, you choose to encourage. To show compassion. To understand. To listen. To keep the focus on the friend or family member and not interject your own story, advice or opinions. Bake some Blueberry-Banana Bread or Chicken Wild Rice Hotdish (“casserole”if you live outside Minnesota) to take to and comfort someone. I expect Dawn’s refrigerator is already filled with food from those who love her and her family.

Most of all, simply be there. In a text, a note, a call or in-person. Show you care.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling