“When you begin to see that your enemy is suffering, that is the beginning of insight.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Trials and tribulations are part of life; there is no way around it. At the time of writing this article, our clinic is treating post-concussion patients that also have to deal with CoVID and all its consequences. It’s consequences may not be obvious to many, but they are indeed real, even a change in recreational habits carries with it a score of 19 points on the Rahe and Holmes Stress Scale (a.k.a. The Social Readjustment Rating Scale [SRRS]). This scale sees our annual allowance of stress as 150 points. More than that, and the model predicts an increased risk of health problems. Many of our concussion patients have scores in excess of even 300! Take the test and see how you fare…
“You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.”
– Bruce Lee
There are many ways to surf the waves of trials and tribulations. You can activate internal attitudes and “rise to the challenge”; or you can use external techniques that help you cope. The mindfulness philosophy reminds us that we are not our suffering (i.e., the teapot or the bottle).
Below we have included an overview of commonly used techniques. In no way is this list exhaustive, and you may have techniques that work better for you than anything on this list. But we wanted to share with you the following for your considerations. Many of our patients keep a list of “go to” strategies when they feel the waves of life crashing down on them, and this helps them catch the wave and surf it.
- Wise Mind “ACCEPTS”
- Self-soothe the five senses
- Improve the moment
- Radical acceptance (a term from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy [DBT])
Activities: This could be anything – exercise, gardening, watching a movie, candy crush, painting, etc.
Contributing: Believe it or not, making more money or buying things doesn’t make people happier (Yu et al., 2016; Kumar et al., 2015). I feel the spirit of this technique well illustrated in Drake’s song “God’s plan”.
Comparisons: Are you comparing yourself to the crème de la crème? Or that lucky ol’ son? If you look down, you often you will see many less well off. 6/10 of people have a chronic medical condition. Sometimes seeing where we are on the scale helps puts things in perspective.
Emotions: Do things that stimulate different emotions. Often people say to laugh. No doubt, that’s enjoyable. But, many psychologists even recommend stimulating emotions, even if negative. I’m reminded of a patient who was dealing with cancer and at that time he kept his spirits high and and his energy strong; he credited the then prime minister who he could not stand!
Pushing away: Leaving the situation, mentally or physically for a while. This could involve distraction or just doing something that resonates more with your values. When angry, it often is a good idea to leave until you cool down.
Thoughts: Focusing your attention elsewhere, like expressive writing/journaling, or doing an activity, or working, can help make you feel more accomplished.
Sensations: This may sound strange, but squeezing a ball, or holding ice, can have a way of calming your limbic system.
Imagery: relaxing scenes
Meaning: find meaning or purpose in your plight. Many successes were born of hardship, and even failure…Is there a silver lining?
Prayer: open your mind to the Universe, does not necessarily have to be attached to any specific Diety.
One thing in the moment: entire attention on what you are doing in the moment (comes from mindfulness).
Vacation: get “away”, local or distant; or just mixing it up a bit
Encouragement: give yourself a “pat on the back”. Many of us discount our strengths and accomplishments. It’s not your fault and you’re still trying to make the world a better place…good for you!
This can be a tough pill to swallow. But sometimes it’s helpful.
Take a look at this movie clip from the movie “Ray” that tells the story of Ray Charles as a child going blind. Given Ray’s condition and the times he lived in, his mother decided it was in Ray’s best interest to face Radical Acceptance.
Keeping in mind the big picture
Highlight your values
We usually have to accept situations that are beyond our control, especially when it affects us. This serves as a foundation on which one can move forward in a way that gives personal meaning to unhappy circumstances.
What are your core values?
Attitudes we hold while we are doing unpleasant activities have a big influence on how we feel.
Bob Marley, left Jamaica at a time when it was at civil war, and after there was an attempt on his life. Bob Marley was shot in his chest and arm. He left to England for his safety. However, he felt obligated to go back to Jamaica and serve his country, even at the risk of losing his life. His values, which were the inspiration for many of his songs, allowed him to do it with fervor and zeal. He accepted the risk because his values were more important to him than his discomfort and risk he ran by returning to Jamaica.
He held the “One Love Peace Concert” in an effort to unite the country.
See how he united the prime minister and his opposition, on stage, in front of the whole country (start at 1:37 min):
This is a practice that our patients find very helpful. We have written a few articles on the topic for our patients.
Please read them to get an introduction to mindfulness.
Kumar, Amit & Gilovich, Thomas. (2015). Some “Thing” to Talk About? Differential Story Utility From Experiential and Material Purchases. Personality & social psychology bulletin. 41. 10.1177/0146167215594591.
Yu, Ying & Jing, Fengjie & Su, Chenting & Zhou, Nan & Nguyen, Bang. (2016). Impact of Material vs. Experiential Purchase Types on Happiness: The Moderating Role of Self-Discrepancy. Journal of Consumer Behaviour. 15. 571-579. 10.1002/cb.1598.