As long as there is life, there would be pain in life. Pain comes in different forms and variations and we need to learn how to deal with pain in life, since pain and hurt is inevitable.
Every post on this blog aims to help you and me in living a better life. Partly, I feel I am writing this blog for myself so that I have the answers to life’s most difficult questions. I want you to have the answers too. These may not be the right answers, but I am doing my best to write an answer that would help you in dealing with life better, and be happier as an outcome.
Pain is a barrier to that goal. So, let us try to understand pain and how to deal with it in our lives. To start with, the question that screams out is what is pain?
So, what is pain?
In order to understand pain, we will have to agree that as human being we experience 2 kinds of pain:
1. Physical pain
2. Emotional pain
Let us look at both types of pain, and strategies to deal with it.
I like this definition from Hopkins medicine for physical pain: Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that tells you something may be wrong. It can be steady, throbbing, stabbing, aching, pinching, or described in many other ways. Sometimes, it’s just a nuisance, like a mild headache. Other times it can be debilitating.
When there is pain in our physical body, we know exactly where it is, and mostly we know why it has occurred. We may have hurt ourselves somewhere, caught a wound or may be had an accident which tore part of the skin. Something basically happened that hurt us physically. Physical pain may also happen from years of neglect to the body, for example, drinking excessive alcohol or smoking, which damages our internal organs, and by the time we realize, the physical pain becomes acute and chronic.
How to deal with physical pain?
Well, it depends on the intensity of the pain and the treatment is mostly clear since the source of the pain is known to us. Either way, one could follow either or all the steps below.
1. Understand the source of the pain
The most important thing to understand to heal pain and hurt is to understand the source. Once you know the source of the pain, you can figure out the treatment plan, whatever it is. Pain in life is a given and the sources keep varying. It takes self-awareness to understand the sources of pain.
2. Try yoga/or physical exercise
A lot of times, physical pain happens because the body gets rusted and we don’t use it enough. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, you are likely to experience physical pain in your spine or neck. You should see if yoga works for you, or any form of physical exercise. A body that moves stays fit.
3. Distract yourself from the pain
When the pain is too much, it tends to stop our ability to function on anything else. Try and distract yourself from pain and focus on something else, while the treatment heals the pain.
If you continue to focus on the pain, you would not be able to function.
4. Watch your diet
We don’t realize in the short term, but wrong kinds of food, excessive alcohol and smoking causes damage to our physical organs over a long period of time. As I write this, I know someone who is dealing with liver damage that the doctor says has happened over 2-3 decades of a lifestyle which can’t be termed as healthy. Now, he is experiencing physical pain which could have been avoided. Watch your diet and eat so you don’t reach the stage where pain becomes a part of life.
5. Chronic pain must be managed
Once pain becomes chronic, it must be managed with medicine and lifestyle changes. Hence, as best as you can, try to avoid reaching the stage of chronic pain. If you do, follow the doctor’s advice on managing the pain. Chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, live damage etc. may need lifelong pain management.
6. Try and avoid physical pain
As I mentioned through the points above, if one works hard to avoid physical pain, it is possible in most cases. Physical health is not quite rocket science that it cannot be managed. Obviously, there are instances where people succumb to lifestyle diseases even after taking care of their health, but those are exceptions to rule. Try to avoid physical pain by doing a combination of the below:
- 6-7 hours’ sleep
- Healthy diet
- 30 minutes exercise a day- that’s 3.5 hours in a week of 168 hours
- Take time before you hit the road to avoid possibility of accidents
- Drink alcohol in moderation and don’t smoke
- Observe your health consistently and see a doctor before it is needed
Now, let us look at the second type of pain which is way more complex than physical pain- emotional pain.
What is emotional pain?
As per Wikipedia, Psychological pain, mental pain, or emotional pain is an unpleasant feeling (a suffering) of a psychological, non-physical origin. A pioneer in the field of suicidology, Edwin S. Shneidman, described it as “how much you hurt as a human being. It is mental suffering; mental torment.”
Now, what does that mean? What does it mean to be emotionally hurt?
It means experiencing negative emotions as an outcome of decisions that we took in the course of life, which did not lead to positive and healthy outcomes. In order to understand how to deal with emotional pain in life, we would need to understand negative emotions.
What are negative emotions?
Negative emotions are painful emotional outputs which cause us to feel distressed throughout our system. We do not experience physical pain as an outcome of negative emotions, but it does affects our ability to function effectively.
Let us look at different types of negative emotions and how to deal with emotional pain caused by that emotion. Through this process, we will try to understand how to deal with extreme emotional pain.
Most of us have the ability to go some level of emotional pain. It is only when it becomes unbearable and extreme, it becomes quite hard to manage.
Fear is one of the most debilitating of negative emotions. It causes us emotional pain as long as we experience it. The problem with human life is that all of us experience fear almost through our lives. Fear is a part of life. Everything that we do or don’t do, fear exists, all through.
However, sometimes, fear is quite extreme and it affects us so badly that we just cannot function. Below are a few suggestions to deal with emotional pain causes by fear.
- Understand your fear- Understand what you are really scared about. How would it affect your life? It is important to be able to put the fear in perspective.
- Accept the worst- One of the best ways to deal with emotional pain is to accept the worst outcome that could happen mentally. Once you do accept the worst outcome that could happen, you ease up. You have accepted the worst, and there is nothing to be scared about anymore. Most fears are not as scary as they seem to be, and in most likelihood, the worst possible outcome would not come to pass. In some cases, the worst would come true, and you would still have no choice but to accept it. For example, we are all scared of our relationships failing and our loved ones dying. But, relationships do fail, and loved ones do die.
- Face your fear- Face your fear. There is no alternative to facing life. We can’t live life timidly, hoping that problems and difficulties will not strike us. Life is hard, and it does expect us to be hard, it case we are to fight back. If we don’t fight back, we would fail.
Another negative emotion which affects human beings all the time is stress. What is stress?
The pain caused by stress is real and extreme stress causes us to reach a point where we cannot function physically or mentally. The signs of emotional pain caused by stress include trembling, nervousness, lack of confidence, crying, feeling overwhelmed among others.
There are several ways to deal with stress. However, each of us needs to find our own ways, since different things work for different people.
- Breathing deeply- Breathe and let it go. Focus on your breath and don’t focus on anything else.
- Distract yourself- If the problem is causing you acute emotional pain, find a way to distract yourself from the problem. Travel somewhere or take a break from the job. Just go away from the problem, so that you have time to think and gather perspective.
- Exercise-I have always maintained that if we exercise physically, our ability of deal with our emotions improves, as we are able to think confidently. Exercise produces positive chemicals which makes our mind function better.
- Deal with the source of stress- Deal with the source of stress. Take it head on. If it’s a complicated work relationship, and it is leading to a lot of stress, you need to either fix the problem, or in your long term interest, quit the job or business deal. If it’s a personal problem that’s leading to consistent stress, you need to start questioning the purpose of the relationship.
- See a therapist- I am not in favour of taking medications for emotional problems. Yes, please take medications for physical problems for we don’t know a thing. However, our emotional problems and the pain they cause are an outcome of fundamental flaws in our lives, which no medications can solve. That being said, there is nothing wrong in seeing a therapist who would be able to counsel you from a medical perspective. We all need good listeners and therapists by definition are good listeners.
Another cause of emotional pain is frustration with life, when it doesn’t turn out to be the way we want, and our efforts have not been bearing any fruits. All of us experience this kind of pain when we experience failure, and rejection, especially over a consistent period of time.
How do we deal with frustration?
- Get perspective– Failure is giving up. If you haven’t given up, you haven’t failed. Everyone has failed or been rejected at some point in their lives. Even Elon Musk mentioned recently that he had offered to meet Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, to sell Tesla a few years back but Cook hadn’t taken the meeting. Elon Musk is currently the second richest man on the planet and would soon be the richest. If he could get rejected, all of us should be fine with rejection since it is likely that none of us would achieve as much as he has achieved in his life so far.
- Keep going– They say fall down 7 times, get up 8 times. We would all experience adversity in life. The idea is to not let adversity stop us from moving forward.
- Even if you lose everything, you can rebuild– 2020 turned out to be one of the most difficult years in the history of the world after the world war years. However, the human race has shown resilience and tenacity and fought over adversity. You can rebuild, after you lose everything too.
- Believe in yourself– One of the continuing ways to deal with frustration arising from setbacks is to continue to believe in yourself. You are not a failure. You are just experimenting till you find the right way. Believe in yourself and keep going till you find your way.
In life we would lose people and things. As I mentioned in fear, we would lose people we love to failure and death. We could lose things we cherish. It would cause immense amount of emotional pain.
How do we deal with loss?
- Remember, people are more important than things- One of the reasons we don’t have a perspective on pain in life is because we cause pain to people we think we love for things we want. Never cause pain to people for things. When you lose things, you can rebuild them, but when people leave, they would never come back.
- When relationships fail, it ought to be for good- People enter relationships expecting happiness for both the parties involved. However, it doesn’t always happen. Relationships fail because people can’t find ways to live peacefully and happily with each other. So, if they fail, perhaps it is better for the future of both the partners. Once you accept that perspective, you would find it easier to deal with the loss.
- People die. That’s the truth of life- Death is perhaps the only thing that’s certain about life. In my close to four decades of life, I have seen a lot people die, and some of them were younger to me. Keep that on the back of your mind that everyone you have around you, would eventually die. In fact, you may die before them. There is no way other way to deal with emotional pain arising out of loss, but pure acceptance.
So, here we are. By no means, this is not an exhaustive piece. I know, I may have helped you in finding a few strategies to deal with pain, but you would have to find your own way to heal, and find answers to your pain. I hope you experience little pain in your life, but as I write this, I know it is not true.
All of us are meant to experience pain in life and we will have to go through it. It would pierce through our skin and our mind, and we would not be able to stop it. However, we can manage it, and keep moving through life. None of us are spared from pain. Some of us are given more than others have been, and that’s the way things are.
Thank you for reading.
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