We all hit breaking points eventually, despite years of acquired healthy coping mechanisms and intellectual understandings that the world has not tragically come to an end over one or two difficult life circumstances. When faced with a breaking point, I tend to express my unhappiness and frustration rather abruptly, but I then move toward balance again quickly, sometimes within hours, even minutes. My emotional turmoil is acute at this point in my life and never lasts for consecutive days. However, before my time in therapy learning how to cope with life’s little lemons (for me, the diagnosis of a “progressive and incurable” neurological disease), my poor mood persevered for a lengthy period.
Recently, I demolished my lower back, particularly the sacroiliac joints and the muscles around them, which are in spasm and causing excruciating pain with movement, doing some gentle yoga stretches. It has been a problem area for me for some time now, and I am about to address it in physical therapy. But I have to admit, this acute injury just about took me to a breaking point. I thought to myself, “How much more physical pain can one human endure?!” Just as I am reversing the symptoms of a “progressive and incurable” neurological disease (off all medications and gaining back normalcy with each passing day), I take ten steps back, couch bound once again, and taking muscle relaxers, medication I refused for three days until I realized I was only tweaking my injured muscles and exacerbating the injury with each movement.
This is when my coping skills came in handy. Below are three tips to recover from a breaking point.
1. Allow Yourself to Feel – Are you angry? Sad? Hurt? Disappointed? Repression and denial of feelings and emotions, while unhealthy, do serve a purpose. They act as a buffer to feelings and emotions that are not yet ready to be or aren’t capable of being felt in a way that is purposeful and productive. Unfortunately, a chronic pattern of avoidance can actually create a state of dis-ease in the body. Instead of being addressed and let go, that energy is circulated and re-circulated throughout the body, often gaining momentum with each unexpressed go around and eventually settling in as pain, physical illness, or chronic emotional distress. After the original injury, I spent an entire day crying on and off out of pure frustration, and it felt wonderful, as healing as rest by all accounts. Recognize your emotions and allow yourself to sit with them, experience them, and, ultimately, let them go.
2. Have an Attitude of Gratitude – It could always be worse, and while that is not something you necessarily want to be told by someone else when you are writhing in physical or emotional pain, it is an important distinction to make internally during those particularly demanding times. Taking on an attitude of gratitude, focusing on what you do have instead of what you perceive to be missing, is a powerful and effective way to create happiness despite trying times. Despite my acute injury, I consistently remind myself of all the blessings that surround me, including delicious raw vegan food on my table, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, an amazing support system, and love in my heart and surrounding me. Express gratitude for the people in and components of your life, big and small, to boost bliss and appreciate the abundance around you.
3. Utilize Social Supports – Social supports are everything, and as human beings, we are social creatures who crave interaction and communion with important others. When I suggest utilizing social supports, I mean having trusted individuals in your life, friends or family, who you can confidently turn to in times of crisis. As luck would have it, I had two important job interviews scheduled the day after the acute injury to my back. I could not drive, and my beautiful family rearranged their schedules to cart me around so that I could prop myself up long enough to get through the interviews. That is social support. That is love. That is magnificent.
pictured is Peter Tunney's 'Grattitude' - double the t's for the double the gratitude :)