A) Eat an entire carton of chocolate ice cream in the dark with all the curtains closed while watching "Sense and Sensibility" for the 85th time?
B) Meditate peacefully for a half hour followed by self-led yoga ending in the child's pose?
C) Call your mother, sister or friend?
D) Drop the kids with any neighbor that will take them so you can go to a bar?
Everyone experiences pain, and everyone has their "Go To" method for dealing with it. That good or bad thing that they do without even thinking about it.
There was a time in my life when I got up at 5 a.m. to clean and didn't stop moving until I was done mopping the floors for the second time at 2 a.m.
No, I hadn't lost my mind. I was losing my relationship with my first husband. All the cleaning and organizing was a way of controlling the things I could and coping with the pain that came from the things I couldn't control. Cleaning sounds like a healthy way to cope with pain. But, in my case, it became unhealthy when I cleaned instead of sleeping.
There is no way to be alive without experiencing pain or even trauma, whether it is emotional or physical. What is painful to me, may be no big deal to someone else. For example, I didn't cry when my goldfish died. But when my co-worker's fish died we held a funeral, and she mourned. Whatever pain you feel is yours and very real.
When we are hurting emotionally, our body may feel pain and demand our attention. For example, when we are under chronic stress our body may have chronic tension headaches.
Physical pain can cause emotional problems. Chronic illness can stretch marriages or cause depression.
It is common for abuse survivors to feel pain in the body part that was abused. For example, strangulation survivors may have chronic neck pain for real or emotional reasons. People who have been sexually abused may have unexplained or very real abdominal pain. When we work with a therapist on our emotional pain, sometimes it helps our physical pain.
Think of the things that cause you pain. Pain or stress can come from negative and positive experiences.
You may feel pain if you have
Have suffered a loss through death, divorce or physical separation from a loved one.
Have a chronic illness, an ill child, partner or parents.
Have addictions or a partner, or child, with addictions.
Even though they are good or happy experiences, they come with inherent stressors that we need to cope with. For example:
Having a baby.
Job change, even if it is to a new or better job.
When you find yourself in a situation that stretches you, what do you do to cope?
Maxine Harris, in her book,"Trauma Recovery and Empowerment," reports coping methods all come with a cost, high or low. Everything has a consequence, and even healthy coping methods, if overused, can become high cost.
For example, borrowing a book from the library and taking a few minutes a day to de-stress and read a good story can be low cost. But, if I read one book after another and neglect my family, job and home, reading becomes a high-cost coping method. The cost may be losing my relationships or job.
Examples of low-cost coping methods
include exercise, reading, napping and therapy.
Using drugs is a high-cost coping method. If you have chronic pain and begin abusing or overusing your medication, you risk being unfit to parent your children or being so medicated you do something to harm or lose a child.
Examples of high-cost coping methods include
drinking or taking drugs including prescription drugs, eating disorders, sleeping, reading or anything done to excess.
It may be hard to believe, but if you are alive and reading this, whatever method you have chosen is working for you on some level.
Healthy low-cost steps to coping with pain
1. Develop a list of low-cost things you like to do when you are in pain, like taking a walk or reading a book.
When we are stressed out or in pain, we don't make good decisions. It is important to plan your healthy coping method before a crisis. Have a plan in place that includes a list of several low-cost coping methods. Your list could include things like: Exercise, take a hot bath, read a good book, sing, take a walk and more.
2. Prepare and make your healthy coping choices and necessary equipment readily available.
If you choose to meditate or take yoga, purchase a yoga mat, rent a yoga tape or watch a YouTube video on meditation. In other words, prepare so that your low-cost method of choice is easily accessible, and you are not tempted to revert to old habits.
If you co-parent, work with your spouse or partner to have regular or daily time to take care of yourself. If exercise helps you cope, find a partner and take turns watching the kids and exercising.
4. Know when it is time to ask for help
If you have thoughts of self-harm or hurting others, it is time to ask for help from a professional. Chronic illness and major life challenges can cause depression. Never hesitate to get professional help.
Set the example for your family by choosing a variety of healthy ways to cope with pain. Your children will learn by your example. Every day you make a good choice is a good day.
Shannon Symonds, Author of Safe House due to be released July 2017 by Cedar Fort, has 15 years experience working as an Advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to write, run and Laugh