By Kristen Brown
Finding the silver lining. Turning lemons into lemonade. The rainbow after the storm.
You know them – all the sayings people tell us that are supposed to make us feel better when we face tough times. But here’s the thing, finding a silver lining is darn near impossible when we are so stuck in our emotions and negativity that we can’t see it. The key to getting through pain is to clear away the cobwebs so we can see the potential for future joy in the first place.
When I was widowed unexpectedly at age 31 with a new baby and a stressful corporate job during a crashing economy, I was in the deepest, darkest pit of pity, sadness and anger you can imagine. I was functional and taking care of my daughter, but the foggy thinking prevented me from seeing any sort of potential happiness. It was only when I was able to step outside of myself to see the implications of my mindset, behaviors and attitude on others, my career and my health that I started to see tiny glimmers of hope again.
Only by going through your pain mindfully can you possibly learn any lessons. If you wallow, feel sorry for yourself, complain and victimize yourself, it only perpetuates and prolongs pain. Here are 15 lessons you can learn throughout your journey to help you not only get through pain faster, but minimize future pain when stressful situations happen again.
1. You will find your true friends.
It’s inevitable that some people will not be there when you need them most. It’s also inevitable that those who belong in your life will be there for you to hold your hand and stand by you as you work through your pain. Know that those who don’t hang around aren’t meant to be in your life. Those who do should be cherished for helping you through your difficult time. Be there for them too.
2. Your body will tell you what it needs.
The power of stress on our health is that the earliest signals that we are going through something painful show up as physical symptoms. Moodiness, headaches, stomach aches, weight issues, insomnia – all of these are the first indicators that we need some physical self-care while we figure out how to heal emotionally. Listen to the signals and take care of yourself by eating right, exercising and finding ways to laugh even when you don’t want to crack a smile.
3. Your goals will become clear.
There’s nothing like life-shattering pain to help you get focused on what is really important to you. Is it really about getting a bigger paycheck or is finding a fulfilling career more important? Is dating another person of the same type the right step or would it be better to be alone for awhile to know yourself first so you make better partner decisions? Big setbacks can lead to huge leaps forward when you look at how the situation could be different so be open-minded and open-hearted during painful times.
4. Your money will have more meaning.
If you’ve experienced financial loss, bankruptcy, job loss or massive debt, you know the toll it can take on your happiness, security and relationships. The best steps during financial pain are to be aware of your money habits and set up a new budgeting plan so you feel more in control. That will immediately lead to more meaningful and clear decisions about what you want your financial future to be like that isn’t filled with lack, debt or worry.
5. You will know what you value in relationships.
When divorce, death of a partner or a break-up happen, not only do you lose the person, but you lose all of the dreams and plans you shared for your future. This forces you to re-evaluate what was missing in your past relationship so you can choose more wisely in your next one.
6. Your kids will learn from you.
When tough times strike and you have kids, they will watch how you handle YOUR pain and stress to know how to deal with their own pain and stress. Be mindful of how you self-soothe yourself during pain including alcohol and drugs, poor health habits, ways you speak to others and the energy you bring to a situation. If you over-drink, bad mouth and complain when you go through pain, that is how your kids will deal with their own pain when they grow up. Be aware and make the right choices to impact your kids positively.
7. You will become more independent.
No one knows exactly what it’s like to walk in your shoes. When you are hurting, people understand your journey even less. It’s up to you to dig deep to find the strength to get through each day even when you feel like curling into a ball in a dark room all day. Only you have the power to make choices for your life. This power can help boost your self-confidence and your independence when you see yourself moving through pain to a happier future.
8. You will discover that music helps you heal.
There’s nothing like a good sad song when you’re wallowing in pain, but you can also choose inspiring music to encourage you during bad days. It feels good to get a good cry out every once in awhile and those monster ballads can help make it happen. But more important are the energizing and reflective songs that make you feel good, empowered and strong.
9. You will finally embrace that mistakes are okay.
We are all only human. We WILL mess up – often and in big ways. Here’s the good thing about this – we’re all messing up together. You aren’t alone. And mistakes are just one more way to rule out a way not to do things to get you closer to the right choices for your life. Instead of crashing and burning when things go bad, accept the failure and bounce back with gusto.
10. You will become more resilient to big and small changes.
The more pain you deal with and get through with positivity, the better you will be at getting through future change and stress. Resilience is a much studied characteristic that seems to be bolstered by a positive attitude, having gone through pain in the past and how you’ve learned from that pain. Know that even if you feel awful now, it is serving you with strength for the future.
11. Your reactions to stress will be more positive.
When we experience bad stuff in life, we can either let it paralyze us into stress, anxiety and worry, or we can use the pain to propel us ahead. It’s up to you to decide how you will respond to stress. Painful situations have the weird tendency to help us get through stress more positively IF we let the lessons show up and follow through on them.
12. You will understand unconditional love.
When we are stressed, we aren’t usually at our best. We are cranky, easily agitated, tired, sick more often and don’t look great either. Those who stand by us even when we are at our worst love us unconditionally. That type of love can be our anchor when painful times happen and help us to love others unconditionally back.
13. Your pets can be the best medicine.
There is nothing like cuddling up to a furry friend when you need to escape pain. Animals can’t talk back. They don’t expect anything from us except food, potty breaks and cuddles. They are truly the best example of the unconditional love mentioned in point #12. Plus research has shown that pet owners are happier and less stressed because animals boost endorphins which are feel-good chemicals that boost our moods.
14. Travel can open your eyes to new perspectives.
Getting out of your normal routine and heading to a new locale can be extremely therapeutic when you are suffering a painful situation. Seeing other people in new environments engages your brain and body in something fresh and exciting instead of wallowing in the sameness of the pain you are feeling. Get out and explore even if it’s just a new neighborhood nearby.
15. You will appreciate the good times more.
The old saying goes that without a little sadness you don’t appreciate the happy times. If life were just one steady experience of sameness, we truly would not know when a good time is really good. The down times give us a grounding into our human existence while the good times remind us that life is amazing.
There are so many lessons we can learn from pain. The most important one is that we need to acknowledge that there are lessons to be learned in the first place so we can look for them. Every day we go through the stress of heartbreak, loss, change or setbacks is one more day closer to the other side of pain.
Kristen Brown helps people create fresh ideas for personal and professional growth. She is a Speaker, Bestselling Author, Widow Mom, Podcaster, Strategist and founder of Happy Hour Effect and LitPR. Seen on stage and screen over 500 times, she lives in Minneapolis with her daughter and will do almost anything for bacon. Visit HappyHourEffect.com!