Managing Discomfort through Mindfulness: Applying simple mindfulness strategies can increase our tolerance for discomfort, says Dr. Carmen Lucia.
Nov 01, 2015 03:55PM
● By By Dr. Carmen Lucia
Everyone feels discomfort from hunger, fatigue, depression, anxiety and impatience. Given how busy and stressful our lives can be, it seems sometimes the sources of our discomforts are endless. In response to a particular discomfort, especially in emotional realms, it is not uncommon for us to use any means necessary to avoid or quash the feeling.
Avoidance can take the form of pretending that the unpleasantness doesn’t exist, but unacknowledged pain, be it mental or physical, has no way to resolve, causing secondary problems like insomnia, panic attacks or chronic physical discomfort. While there are absolutely times when avoidance is appropriate, doing so consistently will only cause discomfort to linger and possibly escalate.
Applying simple mindfulness strategies can increase our tolerance for discomfort and help move it out of our way. Mindfulness is about cultivating awareness of the present moment without judging it, and accepting what is.
Notice. The first step in managing discomfort is to notice what has arisen. At first, we may only notice the discomfort after it becomes more of a burden to carry, rather than when it is only a minor irritation. But over time, we will find ourselves noticing earlier, which allows us to intervene on our own behalf much sooner, lessening the recovery time.
Allow. Carl Jung, the famed Swiss psychiatrist, said, “What you resist, persists.” Allow the discomfort to be there without doing anything in particular about it.
Investigate. Bring awareness to the discomfort, quieting all else. Check with the feeling to determine what it really is. For instance, the subtle difference between hunger and anxiety is barely perceptible, and boredom is often mistaken for depression. Take a few moments to learn about the feeling.
Name it. Without judging our experience or what it might mean, simply name what we’re feeling as it arises. We can do this by speaking out loud or in our head, or we might journal as the words come. Avoid writing the story, rather, label the experience briefly and as accurately as possible.
Mindfulness is considered a practice because we are always learning and applying. We can find patience for ourselves and the process. It will get easier over time, as will bearing our burdens.
Dr. Carmen Lucia is a licensed clinical psychologist and owner of Multiplicity Enterprises. For more information, call 480-773-6599 or visit MultiplicityEnterprises.com.