When we get the flu or we break a leg, there are well-established ways to bounce back from them. But when the hurt stems from an emotional sort of pain, the remedy can be a little less clear. When times are tough and it seems like life keeps beating down on you, it can be difficult to find a reason to want to keep going. Sometimes all we want is for the pain to just go away.
Below I walk through some wellness practices that have helped me through the tough times. Think of these as resources in your toolbox, each one complementing the others. There might be a situation in which one of these practices doesn’t help much with easing the pain, but that’s okay. Just try a different one. And remember, the more you add to your toolbox, the greater of a safety net you’ll create for yourself.
Also known as talk therapy, this involves an individual session during which you sit down with a licensed psychologist or clinical social worker for usually about an hour. A therapist can offer support in a variety of ways. A common one is acting as someone you can bounce your thoughts off of in order to sort out the confusing ones. While they are there to listen openly, they can also help with re-framing those thoughts and provide a change in perspective that allows you to deal with the issue(s) at hand in a healthier manner. While you’re there, you do not necessarily feel like you’re being analyzed. Sometimes it feels nice to just have your feelings validated too.
Those sessions were a safe place where I could unload what I was holding inside, without fear of judgment or criticism. My troubles wouldn’t necessarily all go away, but it would be that boost I needed to get through the rest of my day or week. Some sessions I would come out emotionally drained, but overall it empowered me enough to keep going. Life is hard enough as it is, so having someone in your corner offering that additional support can really make a difference. It is also completely okay for you to step away if you feel you aren’t clicking with the therapist. Opening yourself up in such a way puts you in a vulnerable position. It is important for you to find someone who you can trust and feel comfortable with.
For more information: http://psychcentral.com/psychotherapy/
2. Group therapy
Working similarly to individual therapy, this form of treatment differs in the sense that it operates in a group setting, made up of perhaps not more than five participants along with a licensed professional. In these sessions, we would start off with everyone checking in on how their week had been, which gave us a nice opportunity to hash out what did or did not work for us. Then we worked through lessons with information dispensed in flow charts and tables to help us better understand the material we’d be covering over the course of seven weeks. We would also go through exercises that involved brainstorming triggers and our own coping mechanisms.
I was a part of two separate groups that each addressed different issues. These sessions were great in equipping me with the knowledge to better address the concerns I had. They also offered me another means of support. On different occasions, I randomly bumped into two people I had met through the sessions. It might have felt strange to run into them in a setting outside of the group, but that was very much not the case for me. Not only was it just nice to see a familiar face again, but it was also comforting to know that these people were fighting the same battles as I was. It reminded me how I was not alone in my struggles.
It has been proven that the rush of endorphins produced by a good workout can improve a person’s mood. Exercise can also just be a good form of release from that inner voice feeding any negative self-talk that may be going on. When I’m in the middle of a good workout, I’ll find I’m too busy focusing on how hard my body is working and on catching my breath. I won’t even have a chance to dwell on (for even a second) what was weighing me down pre-workout.
My personal favorites have been swimming, running, cardio kickboxing, and yoga. While the activity of yoga is less intense, it still provided that stress relief and mental break for me. If anything, it took me through some great body stretches and helped me release any tensions I had with each breath I exhaled. Exercise can even be as simple as taking a leisurely walk outside. Pay attention to the steps and breaths you’re taking, and let yourself have some peace of mind.
Being completely present allows you to have a moment during the noise and bustle of your day, which will help any previous anxieties melt away a bit. Of course, this is easier said than done. I know I’ve found myself crying before over a meditation track that guided me through a beach scene, which in turn brought my thoughts to my grandpa who passed away just a year ago. It was a loss that I clearly hadn’t healed completely from yet. While intended to reduce stress and emotional reactivity, it instead acted as a trigger for me. When those thoughts creep in though, you’re told to not judge or criticize but instead to simply acknowledge that they are there and to let yourself come back. I’ve enjoyed this practice in a setting with a facilitator guiding a group of us, but there are also options to try it on your own time in your own space. Here are some free tracks to help get you started.
5. Social support
Above all else, reaching out to those you trust can be the best type of support. However, this is also easier said than done. There have been times that I didn’t feel like talking to anyone, much less going out and socializing. I thought that I wouldn’t be that much fun to hang out with anyway while I was feeling down on myself. I also didn’t want to bring anyone else down with my sadness. Yet in the times that I did manage to bring myself to go out, I actually felt uplifted enough that the pain didn’t hurt so much. While I may not have been as outgoing as I would be on a good day, being in good company helped break through that dark cloud hanging over my head.
Emotional pain is not so different from physical pain, as studies have found. As much as it can weigh you down, you do have an inner strength that you can draw upon. We all just need a little help sometimes. Take the time to find what works best for you in working through that pain. Because you can get through this.
You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – A.A. Milne