Coping with Stress

Why Is Your Pain so Complicated?

One of the things that really contributes to stress is how our minds make up all sorts of unhelpful ways to help ourselves. One of those ways can be called Complicated Pain. Why is your pain so complicated?

Let’s say you have a young child that throws a tantrum in public. The frustration and possible embarrassment that you feel during the tantrum itself is called Simple Pain. It’s what comes naturally when life doesn’t go your way. It’s to be expected, and it will go away once the tantrum is over.

Now, let’s say that you notice this Simple Pain, and you immediately think to yourself, “I should be more patient,” or “This wouldn’t happen if I were doing a better job as a parent.” These thoughts naturally can lead to feelings of being ashamed, upset with yourself for getting irritated, feeling guilty, etc. That is Complicated Pain. It’s pain brought on by how our problem-solving minds tend to worry about how we worry, or chastise ourselves for feeling discomfort. The problem is, there is virtually no limit to how much Complicated Pain we can bring upon ourselves. There’s always a judgement, regret, worry, and uncomfortable feeling that we can pile on. Quite effortlessly, I might add.

You could take any problem you are having, and make a pie chart representing all of your suffering from a given situation. Divide it into the Simple Pain due to the problem itself (such as: Car broke down, so I have to walk), and the Complicated Pain (such as: Car broke down, so I’m worried about money, afraid that this is going to ruin the whole year, getting upset with my spouse for spending too much last week, irritated with myself for feeling this way, fearing that this means I’ll have to go see a therapist.) Ask yourself whether what you are experiencing is directly from the event, or in any way part of your thoughts about the event.

My prediction is that a lot more than half of your suffering is due to Complicated Pain. Though there are many ways to reduce this, a great and simple way to start is to just notice without judgement that this is happening. You’d be surprised at what might happen for you! But, don’t worry, I have more hints to share in upcoming posts, so stay tuned!

Kat is a counseling therapist in Lakewood, CO specializing in helping people get unstuck from relationship and personal problems.

Work, Balance, and Perfectionism

work, balance, and perfectionismAs I sit with some rare and (sort of) precious computer time while my toddler naps, I realized that I hadn’t done a blog post or a Facebook or Twitter update in so long! The thought of “catching up” suddenly inspired the perfectionist procrastinator in me to dread it, feel overwhelmed and somewhat lame for letting things go. But this is also a great opportunity to explore what the term “balance” means to me, and why it is that I don’t feel “effective” or “productive” unless I’m all-consumed by a project?

My part time practice is a great way to spend quality time with my son while doing what I love. But sometimes it’s easy to get over-involved in one aspect of your life and neglect the others, which leads (me) to realize that things aren’t balanced. I’m going to start to balance more. I’m starting by letting this be a short(er) post.

Without getting too philosophical, I’m going to practice balance by re-committing to:

  1. Do a little of something in each important area at least a few times a week. Not everyday. Not once a month in a marathon. Some weeks will be better than others.
  2. I’m going to watch my attachment to the thrill of “being super productive.” Being all-consumed for an hour is not as peaceful as consciously avoiding that high and practicing contentment with doing a little bit here and there. I’m making the fulfillment of doing the activity the motivation instead of the drive to tick off a to-do list.
  3. I’m going to explore how I wrap my identity up in these roles, and why that can lead to imbalance. Can I just be here now?

This is about perfectionism and the way that it destroys balance. It’s about how to practice contentment and be mindful in life, make conscious decisions, and not just feel shameful when you let a ball drop.

The house will fall apart.

Your car repairs will be overdue.

You will want to be impatient about how fast you can learn new things.

You will wonder if you have done enough as a parent.

You will struggle to balance work, family, exercise, etc. etc.

You will learn that balance is in the eye of the content.

If you don’t have the life you want, you’re missing one of these three things

When people hear the word “peace” they often think of a monk meditating, or a deceased person resting, or maybe even something anti-war related. Some may want a peaceful life, but many might think this sounds boring or unattainable. I think it means something a little bit different to everyone. Peace to a mother of five might literally mean peace and quiet. Peace to a single 30-something on the career ladder may mean a break from constant worry about work. So your definition of a peaceful life will vary depending on your situation. I like to think of peace as synonymous with happy (not excited).

No matter your personal definition of what kind of peace or happiness, there are three things that are essential. If you don’t have the life you want I can bet that your life is missing one of them:

Making the best of bad circumstances

This isn’t merely about looking on the bright side, it’s about re-wiring yourself to interact differently with the world. This will change the way you, feel, act, and think. It can change the type of bad stuff that comes your way. We can’t avoid getting old and sick, but we can change our experience of the world.

Loving others and being loved in a healthy way

People with healthy relationships live longer, have fewer mental and physical ailments, and are happier. The good news is that you can contribute 50% of the health to any relationship you are in. A little bit of health goes a long way!

Having expectations that don’t leave you disappointed or worse, hopeless

Ah, the fine art of being a “Realistic Optimist” or a “Positive Pessimist.” Optimism or pessimism alone can be equally damaging because the world isn’t as simple as that. Knowing how and when to use each one is something that those with fulfilling lives have a good handle on.

So, that is what this blog will be about. Simple, easy ways to do a little bit more of each of these three things for yourself and your family.

Think you can stump me? Try it! This isn’t to say that I have every answer for everything, or that this is a comprehensive list of all that you need. (Yes, we need air, food, etc. too!) If there is a topic that you think would be good to address in a post, let me know! Of course, if you comment keep it general for your privacy. If you need to talk about your specific situation that you need help with, you can use the secure contact form to get in touch with me. But, I would love to know what you think, if you would add anything, or if you even agree that these things are 100% essential to a peaceful, happy life!