Over the years, I’ve had friends who have suffered.
Some have had miscarriages. Others have lost loved ones. Some have had health challenges and some have had children pass away.
Over the years, my family and I have suffered, as well. There was the six month period when our 11-year-old was under investigation following a ski accident. And then there was the discovery of cancer and the reality of living with adverse genetics
If there is one thing I know, it’s that hard times happen and they happen to all of us.
If we are lucky, most of the time we feel blessed. Our lives progress as if charmed. Our children grow, healthy and strong. Our parents remain vigorous. We enjoy the days as they pass, aware of only minor irritations.
But sometimes we suffer.
When You’re Suffering
To suffer means “to undergo, be subjected to, or endure pain, distress, injury, loss or anything unpleasant.”
And try as we might, we can’t avoid suffering completely. It’s part of life.
What we can do however is mitigate the suffering, and experience the pain without letting it overwhelm us.
While I’m no expert, over the past two years I’ve worked with experts, as well as done a lot of reading and thinking about suffering.
Here’s what I’ve learned about overcoming suffering and getting through hard times. I hope it is of value to you today or in the future.
Have an Affair With Your Senses
Our senses help us make sense of the world and focusing on actually experiencing our senses can bring some needed equilibrium during times of stress.
When I feel anxious, I’ve been taught to stop and truly see five things.
Then I truly notice and touch four things. Next I listen for three things and then smell two things. If I’m eating or drinking at the time, I try to truly taste as well.
It doesn’t matter in what order you do these or the number that you assign each sense. The important thing is to focus on sensing the world around you and experiencing the moment.
Anxiety and suffering often arise when we project too far into the future, giving wing to our fears. Bringing your focus back to seeing the mountains around you or listening to a bird call can help keep you centered.
It’s like staying focused when skiing. Which is why I believe skiing is so good for all of us.
Use Your Good Mother Voice With Yourself
You’re a good parent, I know you are.
While we all have parenting moments we’d take back and Mulligan if only we could, most of us know what to say and do when our children are hurting.
When you’re hurting, think about what you’d say to your kids or a friend in need. Write these kind words down and say them to yourself. Be your own good, loving mother.
You wouldn’t berate or ignore your children in a time of suffering. Don’t berate yourself or ignore your feelings.
Freaking out? Breathe slowly and deeply. While many of us know this, I find it hard to remember. And I rarely remember to do it when things are really rough.
Since my attention span is short and I tend to multitask, a better approach for me is to build opportunities into my day for deep breathing, mindfulness and meditation.
Some mornings, I wake up and give thanks for five people in my life. Based on a suggestion from these two very easy to read and super helpful books (Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress Free Living and Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness), I visualize important-to-me people and think joyously about each of them.
Other days, I practice yoga at home or in a class. I’ve also tried guided meditation, using the 21 Day Meditation experience from Deepak Chopra and Oprah. A new series is available free every quarter.
Other suggestions I’ve seen include doing household tasks such as the dishes or pumping air into your bike tires with total concentration on the task at hand.
Now that’s positive multitasking.
The world can be overwhelming with lots of upsetting events and news. For most of 2016, I upheld a news blackout. It was liberating and settling. I loved it.
Then came 2017 and I decided that it would be irresponsible of me to keep my head in the sand. This doesn’t mean I obsess about the news. It does mean that for issues important to me and my family, such as fair medical coverage for those with preexisting conditions, I make calls and write letters. The alternative was to panic and project my dark thoughts and fears into the future.
Acting within my ability is much healthier and alleviates feelings of powerlessness. Taking action helps me get through hard times.
As a skier, climate change can also get me going. On this issue, I’ve gone one step further and joined a steering committee for a ski industry group committing to making a change. I hope to be writing more about this effort in the future.
Other steps I take to alleviate stress, anxiety and suffering include eating as healthily and clean as I can (I try to use the suggestions and food pyramid found in the Mayo Clinic Diet), exercising outside every day and getting as much sleep as possible.
Ultimately, I’ve found going outside to be the most therapeutic action of all.
Spending time in nature, whether skiing all day (obviously my favorite), riding a bike, going for a walk or simply sitting in the shade and using my senses, can be calming, centering and humbling.
I think it’s the best therapy of all.
I reference three fantastic books in this post and it is my privilege to give one of them away to a reader.
This is a winner’s choice giveaway.
One winner will be chosen in a random drawing on June 26. The winner will receive their choice of the Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress Free Living, the Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness or the Mayo Clinic Diet.
To enter, please leave a comment about anything, but I am interested in learning what helps you through times of stress and suffering.
For a second entry, please follow me on Instagram.
As you may know, I am a Mayo Clinic patient and it’s fair to say I’ve drunk the Kool Aid.
Mayo Clinic has nothing to do with this giveaway. This is an opportunity for me to pass on their wisdom and knowledge in a small way.
This post contains affiliate links. If you do wish to purchase one of these books, please visit the Amazon links in this post.
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