We all need it. The undeniable truth is, everyone struggles with something.
The pain we experience from our struggles raises its head in many forms: the loss of a job, divorce, isolation and loneliness, a broken heart, financial woes, betrayal, illness, being the subject of gossip and character assassination, and especially, mourning the death and tragedy of those you love.
Pain is a necessary tool that, when processed and coped with through healthy measures, makes us wiser, more resilient, more relatable and valuable to others, and simply more human.
However, if we trap and conceal our pain, we inevitably repeat a cycle and deteriorate ourselves mentally and emotionally. This self-erosion not only becomes a peril to our own well-being; it also threatens those around us.
How many times have we felt ourselves falling in a downward spiral of negative energy that makes us defensive? It can be a selfish energy that hinders us from freely loving and giving to others. Or it can be a dark, jaded energy that poisons and stains our hearts with so much bitterness, sadness, and hate that we fail to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s time we realize our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Just as we sustain and fortify our bodies through proper nutrition and exercise, we must nourish and strengthen our mental and emotional wellness through measures like forgiving others, asking for help, becoming educated on mental health awareness, receiving counseling or therapy, and swallowing the pride and faulty thinking that we can manage life all on our own.
Everybody needs somebody. Everybody needs support.
I know this truth as well as anyone. For example, I’ve survived abandonment and abuse, experienced suicide ideation as a teenager, overcome the humiliation of being rejected by a significant other, constantly struggled with being overweight, and continued to ignore the cultural stigma of being a “bridesmaid but never a bride.” I understand pain because I, too, am human.
A healthy state of mind is essential to owning our opportunities and positioning ourselves to see and receive new hope and possibilities. As long as we are breathing, there is always hope!
Here are some healthy measures I’ve taken to cope with pain:
- Cry. This is my immediate response to pain. I cry, scream, and punch pillows when I am alone. Crying is cathartic; it cleanses my heart and facilitates my grieving and emotional healing.
- Confront. I like to journal and write down my sincerest thoughts and feelings—this is therapeutic for me because I get to release my negative energy on paper. Praying also helps, as this allows me to honestly share my pain with my Creator.
- Communicate. This one is hard I know, but so important! I had to learn how to share my feelings with people I trust and respect. A close friend, mentor, or pastor can offer an objective perspective and bring light into otherwise dark places.
- Community service. Performing community service allows me to focus on the needs of others instead of myself. I am actively engaged in non-profit organizations that provide opportunities for me to help others. In addition, I play tennis regularly. The friendships I’ve established on the courts are so supportive of me; plus, I burn a lot of calories in the process.
- Counseling. Yes, I have no shame in laying on the couch. I have received counseling on three different occasions to help me process my feelings of loneliness and career transitions.
- Continue living. Ultimately, the responsibility lies with me to press on. I have to make my own choice to accept reality. And by accepting reality, that doesn’t mean I am okay with it. Acceptance means I recognize the status of my situation and that I cannot change it, and then proceed with mindful intention to make positive, productive choices with my life.
What about you? How do you cope with pain? Please comment below and let’s help one another in our #OYO community because everyone struggles with something. Finally, if you or someone you know needs help and wants more information on mental illness (warning signs, counseling, where to go for help, etc.), please click on this resource: National Alliance on Mental Illness.