A Simple Prescription for Natural Healing

“Peace of mind is not the absence of conflict from life but the ability to cope with it.” -Unknown


When my daughter, Nava, was critically ill, on a ventilator in a drug-induced coma for three months, one of the ICU doctors called me in after a couple of weeks to tell me that if she survives, it will be a long road.

He started writing out a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication to “help” me through this horrific ordeal.  I certainly don’t fault him here as this was an extreme acute situation and he didn’t know if I could manage without falling apart.

His offering of “the pill” was an awakening. 

I realized I better start doing something to keep myself strong so I can function through this and be by Navi’s side. This was my impetus for gearing up into self-preservation mode.

The next day I began my walking regime around the hospital streets. I started taking 30 minutes off from sitting by Navi’s bedside listening to every beep, bleep, and gurgle, to engage in my non-medicated self-prescription program.

Truth be told, I’ve been a walker for the past 17 years, since my friend dragged to the gym the summer of my separation.  I guess I was ready because it didn’t take much coercion.  A bit of “c’mon get moving; it’ll do you good” was all I needed. I showed up, and have never stopped.

It became a way of life, a grounding and healthy reprieve during my divorce, my working and going to school, and dealing with the illness and disabilities of Navi’s earlier years. I found something to hold to that I felt was keeping me healthy and strong, both psychologically and physically; and exercise was it.

 And so when Doctor S. pulled out his prescription pad from his pocket, I pulled my exercise tool from mine; two working legs and I was on my way. 

I at least wanted to give it a shot. But mind over matter, I knew then I wasn’t starting with any pills. Side effects are a biggie with my sensitive gut.

And that is how I functioned for the next year as I spent 12–15 hour days by her bedside and through her rehabilitation. 

I cried, I ranted, I raved:  I walked, I sat, I prayed.

Can it be okay to feel bad? Can it be okay to curl up in a ball and cry our eyes out till we melt into sheer exhaustion? It’s surprising how giving ourselves this permission can free us up and help us move into another gear called “function.”

It’s when we push the bad feelings down inside that it festers and weighs us down. The heaviness of this load is like an anchor; it keeps us tied to it.

In rough situations we need to be freed up to do what we need to do. It’s not the (bad and painful) feelings themselves that disable us from functioning; rather it’s the expression or lack of that affects how we carry on.

Going through them can help us get through them.

Feeling bad doesn’t disempower us. We can feel bad and still be okay. But sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.  These “bad” feelings can feel scary. We don’t know what to do with them and so we turn to numbing and covering them up. We don’t know that we can come through them intact.

This is where we’ve gone amuck. Everyone wants to run in and take away any bad feeling. 

Parents want to protect their kids from pain, naturally so, but in the process of “bubble-wrapping” and rescuing them from experiencing pain, we rob them of coping skills—of learning that they can fall down and get back up; that they can make a mistake and learn from it; that they can come through the “scary” negative feelings in one piece.

We all have resilient muscles that must be used in order to grow stronger. Pills mute them. Rescuing mutes them.

Of course, there are illnesses which require medication. But the run-of-the-mill life situations that cause people dissatisfaction, sadness, and pain can be “treated” with life coping skills.

We have to instill these coping skills; we have to nurture them and be there for one another during those trying times. 

The internist doesn’t have to pull out his pad because someone comes in complaining of (circumstantial) depression due to divorce.

I’d love to see a doctor prescribe the following for sadness and anxiety:

  • Go home and have a good cry. It’s okay. to cry a lot at the beginning.
  • Find a good listening ear, hopefully a good friend.
  • Do some form of exercise every day ; it gets those endorphins going.
  • Meditate; it brings clarity, “groundedness,” and calmness.
  • Add a minimum of one thing to your day that brings you pleasure.
  • Give yourself extra TLC.
  • Lay off the self-imposed pressure and “should”

Frequency: practice each item at least once a day, and check back in a month.

Remember, oftentimes it’s in the struggle that we find our untapped strengths and beauty.

Photo by mara_earthlight

About Harriet Cabelly

Harriet Cabelly is a social worker, certified positive psychology coach, and life coach emphasizing living life to its fullest and creating a good life out of (or despite) adversity. Read more about her at Rebuild Your Life Coach and read the latest from her blog.

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  • The prescription you write is mos excellent.  For dealing with something major or something minor.  The fact that as a country (USA) has come to rely on a “pill” fix may be good reason to realize the fragile state it seems to be in!

    Mahalo for sharing your story of difficult times.  It does bring me to once again today be grateful for all that I have, my health being at the top of that list.

  • Aflores

    This seems very anti-medication.  I am all for a natural cure and God knows it works more often than not, but sometimes it really isn’t enough for some people.  I felt this post to be a bit judgy.

  • Shannon Sprague

    AHHHH!  The wonderful gifts of life’s pulsations!  thank you….

  • Actually, my therapist has “prescribed” most of the items on your list at the end, in addition to the medication prescribed by the psychiatrist. (Which pretty much saved my life.) She was especially helpful in getting me back on track after I was in a car accident last year, which 

    There’s no reason why these things need to be either/or; both/and can be pretty powerful.

  • Elaine

    Ah, forgot to finish a sentence in there…the car accident really threw me for a loop.

  • Z. Oviedo

    Love the Rx! Thank you for the post! 🙂

  • Hi JT Clough,
    Glad you like the prescription.  That’s the problem, that we’ve all come to rely on the ‘pill’ fix and we turn to it all too quickly.  We’ve lost our coping skills.
    Thanks for your comment.

  • Hi Shannon,
    Thank you for your comment.  Love it.

  • Hi Z. Oviedo,
    Glad you like the Rx.  You are most welcome.  Thanks for your comment.

  • Hi Aflores,
    I apologize if this came off too judgy.  It wasn’t my intention.  My point is that we as a society are too quick to go for the ‘quick fix’ without looking to utilize our bodies’ natural healing abilities.  It seems that the pendulum has swung way more in favor of the meds than the other way.  My thoughts are to bring us back in sync with the natural way as well. 
    Thank you for sharing your opinion.

  • Hi Elaine,
    I’m glad you have the help of both doctors – the one giving you the right meds and the one encouraging you to utilize the more natural ways.
    Yes, we definitely need to have that balance of many treatment modalities. 
    Glad you’re ‘back on track’. 
    Thanks for your comment.

  • abum1707

    I am already on many medications for anxiety and depression, among other things, but without coping skills like the ones above I wouldn’t be able to cope. I have luckily benefited from having an extremely special psychiatrist and psychologist who have taught me some extraordinary coping techniques.
    I appreciate you sharing these because not only is it a welcomed reminder for me, but so many others will surely benefit from it. Plus I will be sure to pass it on.

  • Great post, Harriet. I agree that the way to start is to simply give yourself permission to feel, and feel deeply. Nutrition, movement, spirituality, professional support and medication all have their place in the healing puzzle, but why jump to medication without learning the other skills first? I waited more than two years after being diagnosed with PTSD before turning to a script. I wanted to be sure I had exhausted every possible option before going there, so I could feel at peace with the decision. It was hard at times, but I’m glad I did it that way. Turns out I only needed a “micro” dose to stop what is called the kindling effect. Now, when I take my teeny tiny pill, I know it’s the right thing to do and it’s only one small part of my healing journey.

  • Hi Abum,
    You are fortunate to have found wonderful doctors/therapists who are incorporating treatment modalities beyond medication.  That’s the key – both.  Because utilizing meds without working on coping mechanisms isn’t enough.  Just taking pills without working through issues is not dealing with the source of the difficulties.  Meds can take the edge off and enhance mood while learning to deal and cope with one’s issues.   
    Glad you found this a ‘welcomed reminder’.  Thanks for passing it on.

  • Hi Tara,
    Nice to ‘see’ you here.  You’re so right – all these do have a place in the ‘healing puzzle’.  But like you say, it is so important to know we have other coping skills in our repetoire.
    It’s a good feeling to be comfortable with the decisions we make.  I’m glad you are at peace with yours in terms of how you handled your treatment for those couple of years. 
    The key for you is that it’s ‘one small part of your healing journey’.  You’ve found a ‘coctail’ of techniques/methods that work.  That’s great. 
    Best to you.

  • Tinarose29

    I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter. I hope she is fine now :). I too was described medication when I told my doctor I was depressed but I refused it and decided like yourself to exercise instead, it was so hard in the beginning, as there were days when I thought I was just wasting my time. I like waht you said about “oftentimes it’s in the struggle that we find our untapped strengths and beauty”. I think I have found these and I am ready to take life by the horns and LIVE!!! Hopefully fate, God and I are on the same page 🙂

  • Catherine

    This was a beautiful article. Thank you for taking the time to write this, Harriet.

  • Hi Tinarose,
    Thank you for your interest in my daughter.  Yes, she miraculously survived and had a miraculous complete recovery (despite having her colon removed and living with an ostomy). 
    Glad to hear you’re ready to LIVE.  Love your line that hopefully ‘God, you and fate are on the same page.’  I wish you the best.  Be open to what evolves and you will have an interesting ride.

  • Hi Catherine,
    Thank you for your lovely comment.  I appreciate your words.

  • JackeRose

    Thanks! that is exactly what I needed to hear today. Inspiring and positive.

  • Lynnfux

    Bless you for this. I have been reading it several times a day to relieve the sadness in my life andit has helped so very much. I love with people who all have a stiff upper lip attitude ,not too good when you feel like you are going to fall off the edge of the world any second.As a practicing Nichiren buddhist I know these thngs but in different words but stll we women find it hard to be there for ourselves.It was wonderful of you to share this with us. Thank you ,Lynn Fux (Nam Myoho Renge Kyo)

  • Hi JackeRose,
    Glad you found this when you needed it.

  • Hi Lynnfux,
    I wish for you the ability and permission to be there for yourself – to tend, nurture and care for yourself at a time when it sounds like you really need it.  Indulge yourself until you find some solid ground to stand on. 
    Best to you.

  • Amber

    What a great post. Life can be so scary, so uncertain, and so lonely,  when you are going through hard times. As a medical professional I am not going to say that medication isnt good for some when it comes to dealing with catastrophic events, or stress.
    However, from a personal standpoint, I have recently been dealt some heavy blows of my own. For the first time in a long time, my life has been very hard and uncertain.
    Nothing was working. Not meds. Not crying, not talking. anti anxiety meds did help short term but when the medication wore off, the worries and fear were still there. Laughing and smiling did allow some distraction but it was and is always a short term distraction for me. Talking to my God did help and bring me some peace, but again, I still didnt feel at peace. So, with my 6 year old son in tow, I began walking. Every day, before dinner, for 45 min. Walking has brought me a peace and clarity I cant begin to describe. But it is amazing what exercise can do.  I had no idea. Id always exercised before when I was younger to lose weight. I have never walked to become calm. Walking is an amazing thing for me. thanks for your post, and good luck to everyone.

  • Hi Amber,
    Thank you for sharing your feelings, and your story.
    I’m so sorry you’re going through such a tough time.  I pray for you that things become easier with time. 
    I’m so glad you have found walking helpful.  It has gotten me through my most difficult times as well. You’re giving your son a wondeful model of how to deal with stress in a healthy way; and spending quality time with him (side benefit).   It’s a win-win all around. 
    Have you read my post on my walking:

    Best to you.

  • Headstrong44

    What a great post, it really touched on many situations I have been going through. I am currently on stress leave from work, my workplace stopped my benefits, I’ve been without money for over a month, am on my own with my son, they terminated me last week. My doctor listed me as clinically depressed and with anxiety. With all of this going on and I can say this, life became so unbearable, I questioned my purpose on earth, whether I could make it because I felt like my soul was dying and felt like saying goodbye. I cried, took the antidepressants which I’m not sure is really helping. I am not one for medication and believe one must get to the route cause of the ailment. I’ve been in the valley, have prayed, learned to start journalling and listing what I am grateful for. It has now become wonderful and a great routine. My workplace was dysfunctional, toxic and I never felt I fit in. When I was terminated last week I felt a freeness the next day. I’m now trying to figure out what my calling or passion is because I feel like a different person, there has been a shift in me and it is significant. I’m grateful for my life for it is precious, my son, the support of my son, who has seen me at my lowest and still showed and showered me with love. H took care of his mom and at nineteen that is amazing. Im very thankful to come across this site, I’ve decided to stop the mess tomorrow and go back to walking in the beautiful park and exercising on my elliptical.

  • Hi Headstrong,
    Wow, a big Wow!  First of all, thank you for sharing.
    Secondly, it sounds like leaving your job/workplace has been a blessing in disguise.  You know what they say, when one door closes, another opens.  Be aware of what will open up and evolve for you, as you take steps and action towards looking and figuring out what ‘your calling’ is.
    A son who at 19 ‘showers’ his mom with love is a Huge Gift.  Sounds like you’re starting on a good path with what you’re doing – walking, exercising, journaling,feeling and expressing gratitude – all very positive action steps.  Great for you!
    Blessings to you.  I’d love to hear how you’re progressing.

  • Sushma

    True….. life is so uncertain……evn i hav come across with the fear and anxieties…i went to doctor also who prescribed an anti-anxiety medications which i only took it for 2 days n stopped it as i didnt feel like i hav any illness to take the medication….so decided to calm myself only through meditation and by building my confidence level day by day and by having more faith on the universal power……Thanks for the post….it was very much helpful….may god bless u…..!!