5 Tactics for Tackling Pain

 

Positively-Present-Pain
  

For the past few months, I've been struggling with physical pain, something I've never been great at dealing with. (Though, admittedly, I've gotten better at it since 2015, when I had my first surgery!) Waking up day after day with physical pain is a strange experience if you've never been through it before. Obviously the physical part isn't ideal, but the toll it takes on your mental state is even more of a challenge. When pain starts impacting your whole life — where you can go, what you can do, how much work you can accomplish in a day — it goes from unpleasant to frustrating to depressing really quickly, making maintaining a positively present attitude difficult, to say the least! 

Since 2015, I've be dealing with a string of health issues — all of them different but connected to one another — and, needless to say, I'm quite over all of this pain and doctor's appointments and lying around trying all kinds of tips and tricks to see what will alleviate some of the pain. It's both time-consuming and boring, which is a pretty bad combo. Over the weekend I was in a bit of a funk, frustrated and angry and in a bit of a woe-is-me state, when I realized that, once again, I was being handed a perfect opportunity to practice what I preach. 

"What advice would I give someone in pain?" I asked myself, "What tactics could I try to improve my mental state, even if I can't seem to figure out how to get the physical pain to go away?" After hours of avoidance, I finally got myself to sit down and write, and here are some of the things that have worked for me. If you're dealing with pain (physical or emotional!), maybe give some of these a try and see if they work for you.   

 

1. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. 

When you're not used to worrying about your health, it can be difficult to pay attention to your body. Since my first surgery in 2015, I've gotten better at listening to my aches and pains and arranging my schedule in such a way that I can make myself as comfortable as possible, but it's taken a long time for me to get used to paying attention. When I first started feeling pain, I tried to ignore it, and when it came back again, my mind was like, Nope, this is NOT happening again. Just ignore it and it'll go away. Funny how that doesn't work with physical (or emotional) pain. If you don't face it, and do whatever you can to help alleviate it, it'll come back. Paying attention the pain, no matter how badly you'd rather ignore it, is the first step to making any sort of positive progress.

2. DISCOVER A GOOD DISTRACTION. 

Distracting yourself might sound like the opposite of the previous tip, but what I mean by this is: once you've identified the pain and done what you could do help it (gone to the doctor, taken medicine, done your exercises or whatever else the doctor recommended), it's time to stop dwelling on it. Feeling sorry for yourself might feel like a luxury you deserve when you're not feeling well, but it only brings you down further. Instead of wallowing (as I wasted part of my weekend doing, ugh!), find a (positive!) distraction that will keep your mind off the pain. Anything that brings your spirits up — a new book, a favorite funny film, a friend stopping by — is worth trying. And don't be discouraged if your usual go-to mood-lifter doesn't do the trick. Pain, especially if it's new, might require discovering a new distraction! (To find a new one, consider what's worked in the past. If it's funny films, scour Netflix for a comedy special. If it's a good book, treat yourself to one you've been looking forward to or ask a friend to stop by the library and select a bunch from your favorite genre!)

3. STAY AS POSITIVE AS POSSIBLE. 

Thoughts are incredibly powerful, and, while staying positive during times of pain is most certainly a challenge, it's worth every ounce of extra effort. When pain is chronic it can be hard to stay positive because there's no clear end in sight, there's no "take these pills and you'll be better in a week" to hold on to, but there's scientific proof that a negative attitude can make health worse and a positive one can make it better, so, at the very least, you can think of an optimistic outlook as a kind of medicine. If it's really hard to do (and I know how hard it can be when things aren't looking great), think of it a physical (mental) therapy exercise. It's not really fun to do and you don't always see instant improve me, but if you keep at it, it'll most likely help in some way. (The trick to staying positive is to pay attention to your thoughts. If this is hard to do, enlist the help of someone else to tell you to knock if off when you're in a woe-is-me state.)

4. LOOK FOR YOUR LUCK. 

Sure, you might not feel particularly lucky when you're in pain (in fact, it's probably the last thing you feel), but, cliche as this advice sounds, shifting your focus to all the ways you are lucky can make a hugely positive impact on your attitude. Each time you dread visiting the doctor, focus on the care you're fortunate to receive. Each time you feel like you're missing out on fun things, focus on the small joys of getting to rest and recover (and remember that someone else would probably love to be resting right now but for whatever reason, cannot). Each time you compare your current state to someone else's, remind yourself that you're lucky to have that person in your life. Gratitude can be arduous when you feel down on your luck, but when you start practicing it, it really does make you feel better. 

5. FIXATE ON WHAT YOU CAN DO. 

When you've tried all kinds of remedies and doctor recommendations and you're still in pain, your mind might turn to the fruitless task of contemplating all that you're unable to do. In times of pain, it's not surprising to feel frustrated and unproductive and useless, but dwelling on those feelings doesn't do you any good. Instead of focusing on all the things you can't do — work missed, plans cancelled, dreams delayed — direct your attention to what you are capable of doing. Some days I even write a list of all the things I've done (even if it's just showering, walking Barkley, and reading) so I can remind myself that, even on days when I can't do much, I've still done something. And even if you can't physically do a thing, you can still listen to a podcast or watch a film or daydream about all the cool things you'll do when you feel better. This mindset can be tricky to master, particularly if you're in pain for long periods of time and wonder if you'll ever be able to do certain things again, but when you fixate on what you can do instead of what you can't, you'll be surprised at how much better you feel emotionally.

 

Over the past few years, I've really gotten a life lesson on just how important health is, and how quickly pain can take charge and change your life. I've also been reminded that pain isn't always visible. Someone might look fine, might even act fine, while combatting a pain you can't see. If you're pain right now, I hope these tips helped in some small way. If you've been through chronic pain (emotional or physical) and have any additional advice to add, I'd love to hear it. In the comments section below, let me know what you do when you're facing pain 'cause you never know when a tip that worked for you might help someone else too! 

 

 

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10 Ways Sobriety Improved My Life

  Sobriety-Positively-Present

Having recently received quite a few emails asking for advice on sobriety, I’ve been inspired to think about what advice is particularly useful for someone seeking sobriety. When it comes to living a sober life, one of the best pieces of advice I can give is this: discover what will motivate you to begin ¾ and to keep going. No matter what your situation, the one piece of advice that applies to just about everyone is this: identify how your life will be better sober.

Too often, people contemplating sobriety focus their attention on what they might lose — their daily (often comforting) habits, certain people who will hinder their sobriety, activities that might no longer hold the same appeal, a quick (but highly problematic) escape from reality — when they should be focusing on is all that they will gain from choosing to get sober.

Sobriety, of course, isn’t for everyone, but if you think it might be for you, considering the ways your life might improve can be a powerful motivator when it comes to seeking, and sticking with, sobriety. Below I share a few of the ways my life has improved since I got sober (nearly eight years ago!), with the hope that they might inspire you, too.

 

SOBRIETY HAS HELPED ME...

  1. TAKE CONTROL OVER MY OWN STORY

    Sobriety gave me the incredible opportunity to take control of a story that I thought was out of my hands. Many of the actions, thoughts, and ideas I had while drinking were not aligned with my true self. I was living a life that felt wild and fun and carefree (and also depressing, embarrassing, and exhausting), but I wasn’t living the life I wanted to be living. Addiction takes control of your story, and sobriety puts the pen back in your hand, giving you the freedom to write for yourself.

  2. HEIGHTEN MY COMPASSION SKILLS

    Whenever you address your own personal challenges — whether they are addiction-related or not — you gain a better understanding of the potential challenges others might be going through. Very few people in my life knew what I was struggling with. To them, I seemed like my “normal” self. But getting sober helped me realize that you don’t always see what others are going through, and it opened my eyes to seeing the world through a more compassionate lens.

  3. EXPLORE NEW HOBBIES

    When I was drinking, my attention and time were limited to drinking-related activities. I had to prepare, engage, and recover from all of my alcohol-fueled nights. While I did, of course, still do other things, I didn’t have a ton of extra energy to spend exploring new interests. It was only after I stopped drinking that I started really seeking out new hobbies — like drawing! — and the opportunities these activities have led to has been life-changing.

  4. ENHANCE MY DAILY PRODUCTIVITY

    I wasn’t drinking every day (usually…), but that didn’t mean alcohol didn’t impact me on a day-to-day basis. It was something I spent time doing, sure, but it was also something I spent a great deal of time thinking about. It was an unpleasant distraction on a daily basis, and, much as my productive-loving self hated to admit it, it negatively impacted my ability to get things done. Without alcohol in my life, I experienced much higher levels of productivity, which, as you can imagine, was a huge game-changer.

  5. INCREASE MY SELF-AWARENESS

    Getting sober is an oddly wonderful way to get in touch with yourself. At times, yes, it’s painful (you’ve got to face so much of what you’ve been avoiding in a boozy haze), but it’s incredibly rewarding. Since getting sober, I’ve learned so much about myself, and I’m so much more aware of how the world around me impacts my thoughts and emotions. Not only does this awareness help me continue to stay sober, but it also enhances my understanding of what is and isn’t good for me.

  6. HAVE SO MUCH MORE FREE TIME

    Not only did getting sober give me the opportunities to explore new hobbies and become more productive, but it also gave me the awesome gift of free time. No longer spending my weekends preparing to drink, drinking, or recovering from drinking, I suddenly had a lot more time to do things I actually enjoyed doing. Even the simple act of lying in bed with a good book on Sunday morning is an experience that was once rare to me. Every time I wake up hangover-free, I’m so thankful for the opportunity to enjoy the day.

  7. CREATE CLEAR BOUNDARIES

    Sobriety taught me the importance of the people surrounding me. They can either lift me up or pull me down, and nothing brings that distinction into sharper perspective than seeing everyone you know through a sober lens. Once I began to see people clearly, I was able to work on developing clear boundaries for who I did — and didn’t — want in my life. The creation of these boundaries was certainly not easy, but it’s been one of the most transformative aspects of sobriety for me.

  8. EXPERIENCE PERSONAL GROWTH

    Since childhood, I’ve always been interested in personal development, and began exploring it more seriously about a year or so before I got sober. Understanding myself better allowed me to grow and change, but it wasn’t until I got sober that the real growth began. There’s something about seeing life — and yourself — unfiltered and raw and real that allows for the most honest, eye-opening personal growth to occur.

  9. AMPLIFY MY SELF-LOVE

    Strongly linked to the experience of personal growth is the amplification of self-love. When you make a choice to get sober, you’re making one of the most self-loving decisions you’ll ever make. You’re choosing to respect, celebrate, and appreciate yourself every single time you choose to say no to what’s not serving you. Self-love, like personal growth, is a life-long pursuit, but I know my own self-love really began when I chose to step away from substances and toward the substance of self-love.

  10. DEVELOP STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS

    One of the greatest benefits of sobriety is creating stronger, more meaningful relationships in my life. No longer are my relationships based on a mutual love of something bottled and poisonous. No longer are my relationships fraught with the tensions and challenges that came with the things I said and did while drinking. The relationships I have now ¾ including the one I have with myself ¾ are built on honesty, kindness, and respect.


Whether or not sobriety is something you’re exploring or embracing, it’s my hope that the benefits showcased above will inspire you to consider what you might gain if you let go of something that is not adding value to your life. Making the decision to get sober is not an easy one, but it becomes easier when you shift the focus from what you’re giving up to what you stand to gain.

Thank you to Seasons in Malibu for sponsoring this post! 

 

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Seasons in Malibu is a luxury, world-class addiction treatment center and drug rehab. The experts at this dual-diagnosis, CARF-accredited facility specialize in treating many types of addiction ranging from prescription drug abuse and opiate addiction to alcoholism and cocaine addiction. Known for their 95% satisfaction rate from clients, Seasons in Malibu offers an incredibly high number of one-one-therapy sessions, a multi-dimensional approach to treatment, holistic recovery options, customized aftercare and so much more – all with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean in beautiful, relaxing Malibu, California. If you or someone you know is looking for help, visit SeasonsMalibu.com to learn more about their programs, treatment options, and to get a free insurance check


The 5 Best Ways to Beat the January Blues


Hey Its Okay Positively Present

 

Happy 2018!

2017 was... interesting (to put it nicely), and I can't deny that I'm looking forward to a fresh start, with 12 whole months of possibilities ahead. That being said, January is always a bit of a tough month for me. For some people, there's the excitement of a fresh start, the glow of the coming year's opportunities, and I want to embrace all of those things too, but more often than not, it's just stressful. The beginning of January often comes with a mix of make-it-the-best-year-ever pressure and it's-ages-before-my-favorite-season (autumn) rolls around again. 

Like many people, January often finds me either fretting about what I didn't do in the previous year or worrying about all that's yet to come. Plus, the holidays are over, the days are short, dark, and often gloomy, and it's cold. It's not the greatest month for a lot of us, but that doesn't mean we can't do our best to stay as positively present as possible! 

Here are some of the tactics I'll be using this month to try tackling those January blues. All of these I've tried before and they've really helped me ward off the doom-and-gloom of the new year. Hopefully they'll help you too! 

 

ACCEPT THE DOWN-AND-OUT VIBES

When it comes to dealing with a difficult situation — no matter what it is! — the first step is acceptance. If you try to pretend you're not struggling or you try to push away the sad or stressed emotions, they'll come back even worse (and often in unpredictable and bizarre ways!). If you're not feeling the "new year, new me!" vibes, don't worry — you're not alone. It's a challenging time for a lot of people, and the first step to making it easier is recognizing that it's okay not to feel super excited and optimistic about the year ahead. Twelve months is a long time, and you don't have to be jumping for joy on day one. Allow yourself to feel how you feel, and try your best not to judge yourself or tell yourself that you "should" feel a certain way. You feel how you feel, and that's perfectly okay. 

 

DO SOMETHING YOU PUT OFF LAST YEAR

Part of the not-so-great feelings that can come along on January 1 involve believing that you didn't accomplish everything you wanted to last year. You've probably heard about the high failure rates for new year's resolutions so if you didn't get all of your bad habits under control last year, you're not alone. You can't change everything that happened last year, but you can take a positive action right now. Think of one thing you could do right this month (today even!) that you wanted to do last year. It doesn't have to be something big — could be cleaning out a closet, donating some old clothes, writing an email to an old friend, visiting a museum you've been wanting to check out — but pick something and do it. It'll make you feel good, and it'll set a positive, proactive tone for the year ahead. 

 

START A NEW (POSITIVE!) DAILY HABIT

I know, I know — this is the most cliched new year advice in the world, but for the past few years I've started doing Yoga with Adriene's 30 Day Yoga Journey and it's been amazing for me. Working out is hard (especially if you're not a fan, like me) and this is an easy way for me to get into a routine without too much effort since I can do it at home anytime I want. Plus, because she's been doing these for a few years, I start a old video series in February and it keeps me on track for a few months. It apparently takes about two weeks to start a habit so why not incorporate something into your daily routine now? It doesn't have to be a major shift (sometimes that whole "resolution" concept feels daunting!), but doing something (however small!) new on a daily basis will give you a nice little focus for upcoming gloomy month.  

 

KEEP YOUR HOME FESTIVELY HYGGE

Last year after Christmas, I decided I was going to leave up the lights all year 'round. I'd decorated my bookshelves and windows with them and I knew that taking them down was one of the hardest bits of post-Christmas de-decorating because it meant a lot of the light would be taken out of the room. Keeping up lights always seemed too college-dorm-room to me, but once I decided to embrace them, it was kinda awesome. I generally don't use them much in the warmer months, but they keep my place feeling cozy and hygge-like all winter long. Lights might not be your thing, but try to do something at home that'll keep you feeling cozy and uplifted throughout the darkest months of the year. Even a little thing can have a big impact on your mood!

 

MAKE A STAY-THE-SAME RESOLUTION

Years ago, I wrote New Year, Same Me: 6 Stay-the-Same Resolutions, and I think about it every year when all of the articles and blog posts on making and keeping new year's resolutions start popping up everywhere. There's always so much focus on what we want to change and what we hope for in the year ahead (or reflections on what happened the year before), and most people don't pause to think about what they want to stay the same in the upcoming months. Resolutions might work for some people, but I personally find them frustratingly ineffective. Since I wrote that post back in 2010, I've found it a lot more useful to think about what worked well in the previous year and direct my focus to creating more of that in my life. Instead of focusing on what you don't want to be (or don't feel you are), try zeroing in on what's working about you and your life, and it's sure to make January a bit more joyful (and perhaps a little less judgmental, too!). 

 

If you're struggling right now, don't forget: you're not alone. A lot of us have a hard time during this time of year, and the best thing you can do is do what you can to make the most of it. Hopefully these tips will provide some inspiration for the weeks to come, but if you're really feeling down and can't seem to shake the January blues, I highly recommend seeking advice from a professional. Therapy (and light therapy!) can work wonders for the toughest time of the year. 

 

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