I was reminded this week of how difficult it is to stay positive and self-supportive in the presence of painful physical symptoms. Over the past couple of years, I have worked very diligently on understanding and incorporating wellness and self-support into my own life and into support of others. I feel very grateful to be able to say that these practices have changed my experience with and frequency of physical pain so dramatically that when faced with physical symptoms over the past week I was caught off guard by how quickly I jumped ship from self-support strategies to self-criticism and internal frustration strategies. I am learning to appreciate these experiences as opportunities to be mindful.
One key component of mindfulness is the understanding that we can’t always change what we are experiencing but we can always support ourselves in how we experience it. This weeks Mindfulness Strategy is Supportive Self-Talk.
Here are a couple resources to support you in understanding and connecting with your internal Self-Talk:
Jim Kwik: How to End Negative Self-Talk: Be Inspired https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XkviCyYmZ0
The Most Important Conversation You’ll even Have – The Importance of Self Talk: Fearless Soul https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2pPNBk_7L8
5 Tips to Improve Your Self-Talk: Psych Central https://psychcentral.com/blog/5-tips-to-improve-your-self-talk/
Here are some reflections to think about when working with your internal dialogue:
Bring Awareness to your inner voice. Allow yourself to observe your self-talk. You may be surprised how many versions of yourself are directing the internal dialogue. You may have the inner dialogue encouraging you to lay down and rest, reminding you that it’s okay to rest and recover, layered with the inner dialogue demanding you to get out of bed, stop feeling sorry for yourself and get on with your day, you’ll feel better. Internal dialogue is always present. Observe your internal dialogue like a third-party listening in on a conversation.
Supportive Self-Talk is not about convincing yourself you feel happy when you feel sad, or that you aren’t really in physical pain when you are hurting. Your system is too intuitive for that. Supportive Self Talk includes sincerely, genuinely, supportively acknowledging how you feel. The difference in Self Talk might sound something like this.
“It’s not that bad, it could be worse, stop feeling sorry for yourself, you are stronger than this stop letting it get the best of you”
“Wow, I’m really feeling overwhelmed by this pain, it really hurts, it’s slowing me down and interfering with the tasks I would like to do and because I’m worried about how many days I’m going to feel this way.”
Supportive Self-Talk provides opportunity for you to support and encourage yourself in moving forward while also acknowledging some of the amazingly supportive things you are already doing for yourself. Awareness and acknowledgement of how you are feeling, provides opportunity to support what you are needing in that moment. Using the above examples:
“It’s not that bad, it could be worse, stop feeling sorry for yourself, you are stronger than this stop letting it get the best of you” internal response “I should be handling this better than I am”
“Wow, I’m really feeling overwhelmed by this pain, it really hurts, it’s slowing me down and interfering with the tasks I would like to do today and I’m worried about how many days I’m going to feel this way” internal response “there is a pretty good chance this is going to take a couple days to recover from, I’ve been given some options for pain management I’ll use what I need and give myself a moment to relax until the pain lessens, and once it lessens I can take a bit of time to look at my to do list and see what tasks I’m feeling able to take on today and what tasks I know I will be more effective and efficient at when I’m feeling better in a couple days, and if I really start to feel more overwhelmed I’ll call (friend, family member, doctor) I really appreciate how they (encourage me, remind me, support me) when things are difficult”
Appreciate yourself for the effort and intention you have to self support and be patient with yourself. You are doing your best everyday to navigate an incredibly difficult experience and some days are going to feel easier than others.