Illnesses, injuries, set-backs – they’re simple facts of life. We may have a plan for how we think our lives should or should have evolved and then something happens to take us in a different direction. How do we deal that? We have the choice to fall into a “woe is me” cycle and lament the unfairness of whatever happened, or we can choose to view it as an opportunity, our eyes opened to a different world of possibilities we may not have seen before.
I have been reflecting on this a lot lately as it relates to what sometimes feels like an ever-expanding set of chronic injuries (or my running joke that I just need a new right half of my body haha – right jaw, right arm, right hip, and most recently right foot) and thought I’d share a few lessons I’ve learned to help keep things in perspective and stay positive.
1) Can you find the silver lining?
This has been a big one for me. Two years ago, I was on one path and that path didn’t include daily stretching or meditation. If it hadn’t been for my chronic pain and injury issues, I wouldn’t have started this healing journey. I wouldn’t have developed a passion for mindfulness and holistic health and I most definitely would not be sitting here writing this blog post. If I hadn’t had the hip surgery at 16 that derailed my competitive tennis career, I probably wouldn’t have met the people I did in college including my most amazing friend and current roommate (and blog photographer). We met in a women’s weight training class that I would have been exempt from had I been on the tennis team.
2) Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude:
Tying in with finding perspective and that silver lining is of course gratitude. Neuroscience shows us that gratitude literally rewires our brain, so as cheesy as it might sound integrating gratitude into our daily lives is a very valuable coping mechanism. Now this can be easier said than done if you are in state of severe pain whether physical or emotional, but gratitude doesn’t have to be big. For instance, try an exercise or informal meditation when waking or before going to bed of writing down (studies also show us the power of writing something down vs just thinking it on our heads) three things you are grateful for right now. It could be as simple as gratitude for a comfy bed, a cup of tea, or a hot shower.
For myself and my many injuries, I like to say a prayer of gratitude for my non-injured body parts and even the injured ones for their efforts in healing. I’ve made the mistake of taking injured and non-injured body parts for granted before whether not giving a second thought to my feet before tearing a tendon in my toe or even my “bad” right hip. My right hip has been feeling semi decent lately and so I haven’t been thinking much about it. Then just the other day, I stepped wrong and tweaked it and it became very flared up. Suddenly now I would love to go back to that semi decent state and say thanks. Same with my jaw – on days it doesn’t have high levels of pain I tend to take that for granted until it flares up very badly. So, in a bit of a backwards perspective way of thinking, it could always be worse, and there is tremendous value in exercising gratitude for how we’re feeling on any given day even if that’s a day we’re not feeling all that great.
3) It’s ok to not be ok or “positive” all the time just show yourself some self-compassion.
Now with all that said on gratitude and finding silver linings, it does not mean we have to be “positive” all the time. It’s ok not to be ok. The so-called “negative” emotions of sadness and anger and fear are a fact of life and without them the “positive” emotions of joy and peace and courage could not exist. The trick is to embrace and feel all emotions without letting them overwhelm you completely or pushing them aside. How? By simply showing yourself some self-compassion and kindness just like you would a dear friend. What do you need right now to soothe yourself in a healthy way? Maybe it’s a hot bubble bath or exquisite piece of dark chocolate or curling up with a good book or entertaining show.
4) A little humor never hurts.
I’m not saying it’ll always be possible to approach a moment of suffering with humor but sometimes it’s just what’s needed to cut through the cycle of feeling upset about the fact that you’re feeling upset or in pain. For instance, most of my injuries have happened on the right side of my body so at a certain point I just have to laugh and wonder if one day I’ll just replace my right side for a robotic half haha?
I’d love to hear your story and how do you have dealt with frustrations and set-backs. Share in the comments below or reach out and email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“When the storm rips you to pieces, you decide how to put yourself back together again.”