Life on the Roller Coaster, the Tilt-a-whirl, and the Carousel

By Christine Cronin, LCSW-C

I am not a fan of amusement parks as I have a high propensity for motion sickness in airplanes, cars, and even watching family members themselves enjoying the rides, but I do recognize that people are drawn to drama and thrills. The roller coaster of life, with its fast pace and unexpected turns, can be fun. It can soar you to new heights and challenge you to try new things. Sometimes, however, it can be debilitating.

The pandemic has brought many of our lives almost to a stand-still. We are not going anywhere anymore, except to purchase groceries and take-out dinners or go to doctor and dental appointments. We are not seeing and hugging our friends. We are missing social events that involve a crowd and waiting for sporting events to open again. We are putting on hold the drama and thrills – the FUN – that were once happily sprinkled throughout our days.

Now, one year into the pandemic of 2020-2021, it doesn’t feel as much like a roller coaster as it does a Tilt-A-Whirl. Trying to find some place that will provide the COVID-19 vaccine shot, there is frustration. Confusion. Irritation. Hopelessness. Disappointment. Exhaustion. It feels like an endless, unstoppable spinning ride, out-of-control. Then, if there happens to be a crisis like the need for an emergency room visit after a fall or fear from having a fever, a sore throat or a cough, our life speeds up and we feel like we are not only on the Tilt-A-Whirl, but have no way to get off … the ride operator has stepped away for a soda.

How do we slow things down and get off the ride? How do we take back control?

What helps me is to tell myself to “S L O W   D O W N!” I love doing deep belly breathing. Try it right now – breathe in through your nose, slowly to the count of four, hold the breath to the count of four, then exhale through your mouth to the count of four. Do this again. And again. Maybe close your eyes and visualize a favorite moment or vacation scene: a body of water softly sparkling in the sun … a nature scene so beautiful that you sigh in delight … the happy spontaneity of people laughing out loud. Keep breathing, deeply and slowly.

If you can get yourself off the roller coaster and calmly ask the operator to stop the Tilt-A-Whirl, you can then make your way to the Carousel to enjoy the rhythm of life, the music of the calliope or the Wurlitzer pipe organ, the faces of people passing by while you relax with the soothing motion of ease.

Spring will soon be upon us, with fresh air and beautiful scenery and the blossoming of new opportunities for drama and thrills and fun. For now, take the time to slow down, breathe, and enjoy the Carousel!

Christine Cronin is a Clinical Therapist at Jewish Community Services

JCS is a comprehensive human services organization providing a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or 410-466-9200.

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