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Fashion As Comfort: Using Clothes To Heal

Fashion As Comfort: Using Clothes To Heal

A health crisis can come in many shapes and sizes. For some people, it is managing a disease or defect for an entire lifetime. This disease or defect might be visual or it could be internal. In many cases, it’s both. For others, it could be an injury sustained in the line of duty or while playing a sport.

Dr. Laura Miele-Pascoe, a professor with Ohio University’s Masters in Coaching Education, wrote about the psychology of injury for professional athletes in an article for Psychology Today. Discussing the career-ending injuries of athletes like Lamar Odom, Miele-Pascoe points out that, “Not everyone has the capability of overcoming what I call the darkness inside of their psyche. Some people turn to drinking; others turn to drugs . . .” This can be said for anyone who has suffered a health crisis and is struggling to cope.

If the crisis involves a person’s appearance, coping can sometimes be even more difficult, as everyone can see the scars, the loss of hair, or whatever has altered that person’s appearance. We all cope differently. While it may seem superficial to some people, fashion can work wonders for people managing health crises. Some use it to cover up; other use to enhance.

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Fashion As A Cover-Up

I had open heart surgery when I was eight months old and have had a huge scar on my chest ever since. It is visible above most necklines. I’ve been lucky that my heart has remained relatively healthy the rest of my life. I haven’t needed extra surgeries, and my scar healed nicely without any extra help, though there are some great new treatments out there.

Had my surgery taken place when I was older, or had I needed more than one, I may have been less confident about having this scar. For many of my fellow women survivors of this type of surgery, comfort may be found in wearing a strategically tied scarf or higher neckline.

I have a second scar from my surgery, one that healed improperly. This one is more traumatizing psychologically for me than the other, because I was always teased for having a second belly button. Even today, I prefer swimsuits that cover it rather than ones that cover the giant red line running down my chest.

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Fashion As A Way To Show-Off

For more than five years, I’ve volunteered with my local branch of the American Cancer Society (ACS). I’ve met amazing people who have survived cancer and who are still fighting it. I’ve met a young man recovering from breast cancer and toddlers fighting lymphoma.

For these fighters, one of the biggest battles is the physical effects cancer treatment has on them. Not only do they deal with the emotional toll of hearing, “You have cancer,” but many endure painful treatments that will save their lives but do damage to their appearance in the meantime.

There are nonprofit programs — like Sherman Oaks, California’s weSPARK — that treat both the emotional and the physical effects of cancer treatment. weSPARK partners with ACS’s Look Good Feel Better to provide self-esteem boosting fashion and beauty treatments for cancer patients.

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Look Good Feel Better provides makeup tutorials, hair styling guides, and even a virtual styling tool to women and teens undergoing cancer treatment. Some cancer survivors and patients go about using fashion in a different way to show off their strength.

One woman I met at a Relay for Life still wears her hair shaven as a reminder to herself and to others that she survived breast cancer. She also wears a “F*ck Cancer” shirt on a regular basis; the t-shirt and her hair proclaim an understandable love/hate relationship with the disease she defeated.

Fashion As Both

Many people going through a health crisis use fashion in both of these ways. They gladly show off some scars and hide others, like I do, calling one a lifeline and barely admitting to another. Others cover up their balding heads with hats and skillfully tied scarves while wearing vibrant clothes, calling attention to the healthier parts of their bodies.

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Some people take the combo to extremes. Brave mastectomy survivors are covering up scars and showing off their survival by getting tattoos on their chests. PersonalInk is an organization of tattoo artists dedicated to providing their services to mastectomy patients who want to cover the scars but show off what they’ve survived.

Injured veterans are also finding solace in the fashion and tattoo worlds. Many who have lost limbs to improvised explosive devices are turning to modeling to heal their psychological scars. Alex Minksy, a former Marine who lost his right leg, began his second career as the subject of a photographer’s simple request. Now the tattooed vet models for fitness sites, fashion photographers, and even on the runway.

Fashion As A Healer

No matter how we use fashion, it can be a great healer. We may use it to cover up a new injury or show off an old scar. We may use it to do a little of both. Like each of us, it is diverse enough that it can heal our psychological and physical wounds. We just have to find the fashion that speaks to each of us.

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H. E. James

Writer and researcher

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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