You have back pain so you take an ibuprofen.
You had a stressful day so you pour yourself a glass of wine.
You have a fight with a spouse and secretly blame him/her for the entire issue.
Sound familiar? It certainly may if you’re living in today’s society.
But we can’t ignore what is going on right now – the coronavirus pandemic isn’t something we can run from, and that thought alone is enough to make us uncomfortable.
Western culture has evolved into avoiding all types of pain. Whether physical or emotional, there is always something we can take or do to ease the symptoms as opposed to paying attention to what the discomfort is trying to tell us.
It may seem innocent and even helpful; who wants to suffer? However, in my practice, I have witnessed how ignoring or avoiding pain both mentally and physically can manifest bigger issues.
First and foremost, it’s imperative to understand that discomfort is not something to run away from.
Paying attention to and experiencing our emotional and physical pains brings about the opportunity for healing – both physically (by allowing the immune system to do its thing or paying attention to inflammation that is intended as a warning to help us slow down) and emotionally (by working through/coming to terms with difficult emotions or sticky spots in a relationship).
Therefore, discomfort is actually important information that shouldn’t be ignored or suppressed.
Physical ailments can start out small – a slight ache in the lower back, a tingling in the tip of a finger, a bit of a fever, chronic soreness after workouts, etc., but if we don’t listen to what our bodies are telling us, these seemingly insignificant discomforts can turn into serious injury or disease.
Recently, I found myself in this situation. A visit to my own doctor resulted in a diagnosis of a torn ligament in my thumb – one of which I had no idea was there.
Wondering how this happened, I considered the situations that led me to neglect the pain that had been accumulating for some time – the busyness of unloading groceries, hurrying around an airport, everyday responsibilities that needed to be done yesterday – my life was too full for me to pay attention so I just pushed through.
A bigger injury that is now too painful to ignore.
This is also commonly seen with athletes. Taking pain medication before a long run or using extreme therapies to ease intense inflammation can all lead to questions such as, “What are the long-term concerns or benefits? Is a serious injury about to occur if pain is dulled?”
So what might you do instead?
When you feel physical pain or discomfort, slow down and pay attention to it.
Is it chronic or acute?
Is it from a certain movement/exercise or is it experienced even in a relaxed state?
Is my fever a robust response from my immune system and should I really suppress it?
What could be causing this?
Meeting with me or a medical specialist can help answer these questions and discover the root cause of the discomfort.
Sometimes, discomfort such as a fever can be beneficial in allowing the immune system to be fully active (in which medication to suppress this could be harmful). However, recommendations from a professional practitioner is essential in knowing what to do and how to treat it if need be.
Don’t wait – getting help early can mean the difference between healing correctly versus living with more chronic pain effecting everyday life.
Any big emotions (such as grief, trauma, relationship issues, parenting, or even everyday stress) that we can’t or don’t want to process fully can get stored physically in the body and can lead to unwanted symptoms and sometimes harmful disease.
Commonly, emotions may manifest themselves in areas like:
and if you’ve ever done a meditative body scan, stretching exercises, or had a massage, you may have been able to tell exactly where your feelings have been stored.
Over time, however, unprocessed emotions can lead to bigger issues such as, but not limited to:
– digestive upset
– chronic inflammation and pain
– sleep issues
– unbalanced hormones
What to do?
Feel your emotions. Acknowledge them. Sit with them. Process them.
Many times, we may not be consciously aware that we have stored our feelings (we can get quite good at compartmentalizing!). However, it is normal and healthy to feel, cry if needed, and be able to move through difficult emotions.
To begin processing, try:
– 3-15 minute guided meditation daily
– mindful walking or hiking
– breathing exercises
– finding a resource such as myself, a somatic/yoga therapist, or even an app that helps guide you to make connection with your inner self
– setting aside time for yourself to think everyday
By finding a safe and healthy way to work through your emotions, physical ailments can release and emotional growth can occur. Listen to your mind and body so you can heal those areas that are calling out for help.
Do you live in the Boulder or Denver metro area and feel like life is moving too fast for you to slow down and find the time and space for your discomfort – whether that be physical or emotional?
If so, please call me at (720) 340-0193 or send me a message to discover how I can help.
Seek the opportunity in the challenge.
Don’t fear discomfort, but rather experience and grow from it.