Given that difficulty is an inevitable part of life, it helps if we have ways of supporting ourselves when life is challenging. Although it would be nice if we could acquire such skills at a young age—maybe along with learning to read and write—it’s never too late to add some new skills to our tool box. Read on for 8 suggestions about how you can ease your emotional pain.
Accept What Can’t Be Changed
There is tremendous wisdom in Reinhold Niebuhr's well-known prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Although it can feel challenging to truly accept the circumstances in life that we wish were otherwise, it’s helpful to see that wishing things to be different than they are—especially when we can’t create such change—only adds more suffering to our plate. When you feel you can, practice letting go and accepting things as they are. Notice what gets freed up emotionally by doing this.
Sometimes our suffering is caused by our mind’s tendency to want things to be tidy and consistent, along with our expectations that life should unfold in a logical way. In reality, it’s often our closest relationships that cause the greatest heartache and the things we most care about that pierce us emotionally. Of course, it’s also those life situations that cause us great pain that often offer us important life lessons. See if you can move toward accepting, and even celebrating, the paradoxical nature of life.
When we’re feeling down, life’s heaviness can prevent us from connecting to the things that we’re grateful for, even though these things are usually somewhere in our awareness. It’s helpful to take a time-out to name and notice the aspects of life that we’re thankful for—allowing this sense of gratitude to uplift our mood.
Time to Feel
It’s human nature to want to avoid feeling painful feelings, but sometimes we just make things worse by keeping ourselves busy instead of taking some time to be present with what’s going on inside of ourselves. Our emotions often have messages for us, signaling areas of our life and places within that need our attention. By listening for this wisdom, we can sense what needs to happen in order to help ourselves feel better.
When we feel like we’re drowning in difficult feelings, it helps to move our focus outside of ourselves, possibly channeling our life experiences and emotions in support of someone else’s pain. By redirecting our attention, we often gain a sense of ease and a larger perspective about our own situation.
Go to Others
Sometimes, too, we need support from others whom we can trust—whether this is family and friends who can offer us kindness and love or a professional who can direct us to resources that can meet our needs. Don’t forget that there’s always the option of reaching out for help.
Take Care of Yourself
At times, we may need to move into survival mode by focusing on the self-care basics that can help us function at our best while we’re going through difficult times. Getting adequate sleep and regular exercise, along with eating healthy meals, can take the edge off our pain—allowing us to access the stamina we need to get through the rocky terrain we’re traveling through.
Uplifting quotes, inspiring news stories, humorous tales, and wise advice can help to expand our mindset and ease our difficulty. Consider having a cork board—or some other place in your home or on your computer—where you can keep a collection of inspiring words and images to reflect on during challenging times.
Karen Horneffer-Ginter, Ph.D. has been practicing psychology and teaching yoga and contemplative practices for over 16 years. Visit Karen online at http://www.fullcupthirstyspirit.com or her Facebook page.