By Dale Peterson, MDBuilding Health

The 2012 elections in the United States are rapidly approaching. Political campaigns are in full gear.

To run a successful race, candidates must have a strong support base made up of a core group of individuals who support the candidate’s views and work to see that he or she is elected to office. The base is not the only source of support, but it a nucleus around which successful campaigns are built.

Just as it is important for a politician to build a broad base of support to ensure electability, it is important for each of us to develop a broad support base to help see us through challenging times. Our base may not be the only source of support and comfort in trying times, but it is key to successfully surviving stressful situations.

I once saw an elderly woman who had suddenly lost her husband of sixty-two years. She told me that, with the exception of the six weeks he spent in basic training in 1952, they had been together constantly since being married. They taught in the same school, attended the same functions, and shared everything in common. They had only one car, because they always went everywhere together.

She told me that she had no children. Her entire adult life had revolved around her husband, and now he was gone. She was lonely, so very, very, lonely.

It is impossible to comprehend the pain of the vacuum that is created when the love of one’s life is absent for the first time in sixty-two years. Certainly, she will never feel complete again. Her loneliness is compounded by the fact that the home she and her husband shared is in an isolated spot from which she rarely hears a vehicle on a highway. She and her husband put the house up for sale a year ago, but she has had no offers.

I did what little I could to ease her grief. I listened. I assured her that her loneliness was a predictable result of her loss and that the grief she felt was normal and expected. I encouraged her to reach out to others as much as possible, but her ability to do so was limited because she had a narrow base of support.

I encourage you to develop a broad base. Don’t neglect family relationships, since these are often the strongest lines of support in times of crisis. Participate in organizations that allow you to build friendships with people in different walks of life. Interact with people of various ages and seek out friends who are at a different stage of life than you are. I have known several individuals who outlived friends and family members of their own generation. Those who had long-standing friendships with younger individuals were much happier and less lonely than those who had socialized exclusively with people their own age.

I encourage couples to develop individual interests. In the event of the death of a spouse the relationships built as an individual will remain strong; those that see you as one member of a couple may weaken or disappear when your partner is no longer with you.

How broad is your base? It is an important question. Unlike a politician, you won’t need to conduct a poll to find the answer. Think about the relationships you have. How many are close enough to rely upon in a crisis? If the number is small start building your base while things are going smoothly. You never know when you’ll need their support.

 

Dale Petersen MD

By Dale Peterson, MD- Building Health

Dr. Dale Peterson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Medicine. He completed his residency in FamilyMedicine at the University of Oklahoma. He is a past president of the Oklahoma Academy of  Family Physicians. He had a full-time family practice in Edmond, Oklahoma, for over 20 years and was a Chief of Staff of the Edmond Hospital. He was active in teachingfor many years as a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine through the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Peterson left his full-time family practice in 1999 to consult with individuals who are seeking ways to restore and maintain their health through improved nutrition and other lifestyle changes. He founded the Wellness Clubs of America to give people access to credible information on supporting and maintaining their health.  His monthly wellness letter, Health by Design, and his Health by Design E-Newsletter provide helpful information to individuals interested in preventing and conquering health challenges.  His book Building Health by Design:  Adding Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life was released in December 2010.

Dr. Peterson speaks regularly on subjects related to health and nutrition. He hosted a weekly radio program,Your Health Matters, on KTOK in Oklahoma City for five years. For the past nine years he has addressed questions from across the nation on his Your Health Matters weekly teleconference.He offers a free video LifeXtension course at www.drdalepeterson.com.

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