There are times in most people’s lives when they may experience emotional pain. This may occur in response to changes that are out of one’s control, a loss, extreme prolonged stress, or any number of life events. It isn’t always easy to figure out how to move forward when faced with such extreme emotions. Often it becomes difficult to make even the simplest decisions in the midst of this kind of inner turmoil, resulting in the tendency to push through the pain regardless of the impact it may have on one’s health or well-being.
Our society seems to expect us to be “on” at all times, and slowing down to regroup is seen as a weakness. We feed into magical thinking, believing that good things come to us when we are “good”, and that somehow we must deserve it when bad things happens. The truth is, the life cycle includes moments of pain as well as moments of joy. When we experience physical pain, like a sprained ankle or a back injury, it is easy to slow down and allow the body to heal. The body let’s us know when we are pushing beyond our means in order to heal appropriately. It isn’t as easy to recognize this process when we are experiencing an emotional crisis.
When my daughter was a collegiate swimmer, she was often told to swim through the pain, regardless of how she was feeling. Ignoring the pain over a long period of time led to both physical and emotional ailments that have taken awhile to heal. It isn’t easy to loosen our grip on activities in which we have heavily invested our time and energy. When we push beyond our means, our bodies and minds will let us know, becoming louder until we can no longer ignore it. That is sometimes the only way we finally get the message to take care of ourselves. This is a phenomena that is impacting many overextended workers around the country, as they face the pressures of juggling more work during the economic downturn.
It can be scary to let go of the things that may be taking a toll on our health but have become so familiar we don’t know any other way of living. The only way to know for sure is to loosen one’s grip enough to explore another path that may ultimately be better. Looking back on my life, I can see that the times I was able to step back and heal were the times that I experienced the most growth and ultimately came out of it stronger and healthier.