Category: The Charge Blog

How to Remove Suffering From Pain

Don’t resist the pain. Experience the pain. When you experience pain and just observe it, it no longer exists as suffering.

This was the message from Ronan Oliveira, who is one of the trainers for the fitness program that I am currently going through.

He was making this point because one of the exercises in the program required you to hold the dumbbell you were using while keeping your muscle contracted until you literally couldn’t hold it any longer.

He was talking about how training is not just about improving your fitness and strength but also a journey about experiencing something uncomfortable — something that takes you to your limits.

Ronan then went onto say, “the whole fitness journey is about experiencing something new and then noticing how it feels.”

This statement became a revelation for me. I started to ponder that this idea he was talking about applies to beyond just fitness but life period.

And what if this is a simple definition of what life is truly all about?

What if we replaced the word “fitness” in his statement with “life”?

Consider this idea for a moment:

“Life is just about experiencing something new and then noticing how it feels.”

Doesn’t that in many ways beautifully sum up the human journey?

Growth. Transformation. Change. Evolution.

But those can’t happen without experiencing our fair share of pain and discomfort along the journey.

Discomfort and pain come with the territory and when it arrives we expend much of our energy trying to resist it. The immediate reaction of our mind is to avoid it — because we label pain, discomfort, or anything that makes us uncomfortable as negative. Our knee-jerk reaction is to seek ways to make it go away so we don’t have to feel it.

But what happens when we resist pain and discomfort?

It then becomes suffering.

I remember when I would get a sore throat or even a simple head cold when I was younger, my immediate response would be to hurry over to the pharmacy so I could douse myself with over-the-counter medicines.

I knew it wasn’t going to get rid of the actual sickness but as far as my mind was concerned, it allowed me to mask the symptoms so I wouldn’t have to actually experience the feeling of being sick.

Looking back, this was a form of resistance.

This shows up in other “unpleasant” situations in our lives like being at the beach on a beautiful day but the water is freezing. You want to go in to enjoy the ocean but you don’t want to feel the cold.

So what do you do?

You go in but you do everything in your power to resist experiencing the cold.

You slowly dip your body into the water — bracing your shoulders as a way to shield yourself from the dreaded cold temperatures and to siphon some warmth.

Your teeth are chattering and you begin to shiver.

All of these reactions from your body are a by-product of your desire to not feel the cold.

You are resisting the discomfort caused by the coldness and hence you are suffering through the experience.

And while you set the intention to have the experience of enjoying the ocean, you are resisting the full experience and all the feelings that come along with it.

Because to experience true coldness without the suffering (shivering, teeth chattering, etc.), you have to pay attention to how the cold actually feels.

You have to notice how the water feels on your skin… how the sensations of coldness feel throughout your body.

To truly know what coldness is like, you have to allow yourself to feel it.

So, back to my trainer Ronan’s statement from earlier, that paying attention to pain removes the suffering.

Yes, the pain and discomfort from the freezing cold water will still exist… but if we choose not to resist it by actually feeling it, we are no longer suffering.

Instead, the pain and discomfort just become an experience.

This is about deliberately stepping into something uncomfortable and unpleasant.

Leaning into the discomfort, breathing into the sensations, and bringing your whole mind to the experience.

This mindset is at the heart of practices like yoga and meditation.

In yoga, when the stretches and poses feel hard on your legs and your lower back, the instructor will tell you to breathe into the pain and pay attention to it.

In meditation, one of the first things you learn (hopefully) is that thoughts, feelings, and distractions are all part of the experience — to simply notice them and not resist. The meditation itself becomes a way to experience what it feels like to be distracted and to have racing thoughts.

Because we can’t truly experience what something actually is unless we allow it.

We can’t truly experience what something feels like unless we immerse ourselves in it.

Whether it’s the muscle pain from holding a dumbbell, the cold sensations permeating through our bodies from the ocean water, or even the tension and frustrations we experience when we clash with someone — there is always something to be witnessed and felt in our experience even when we believe it’s unpleasant.

Is there a temperature to what you’re feeling? A texture? Maybe even a color? Perhaps, a sound?

You may not buy into this idea that paying attention to pain removes suffering. But if you were to bring your full attention to what the discomfort you’re experiencing actually feels like, your mind likely wouldn’t realize you’re not suffering anyway.

It’s too busy noticing the sensations happening inside you… that it doesn’t have time to be focused on suffering… or anything else for that matter.

Like I said this is something I’ve started to ponder, that life indeed might be about just experiencing something new and then seeing how it feels.

What have you experienced lately that has been uncomfortable or even painful? How did it feel?

Please keep in mind I’m using the word pain very loosely here as what it means varies from person to person. Also, if you are indeed suffering from chronic pain or illness, in no way is this meant to minimize the realness of what you are feeling.

6 Life-Changing Tips to Mentally Heal from a Physical Injury

Your body can stand almost anything, it’s your mind you have to convince.

Dealing with an injury can go beyond just the physical components of healing.  It can require a great mental journey to fully heal as well.

Think about if you stub your toe getting into bed.  The next few times you’re in a similar scenario, your awareness will be heightened and you’ll be extra careful to not hurt yourself again.  And then eventually that will fade and you’ll go back to moving through the motions without thinking about it.

That’s just a minor example, but it illustrates the mental journey of an injury.

If you suffer a serious injury, the mental impact can be very difficult to manage and overcome.

A few years ago, I suffered a back injury that really affected me mentally.

I had been playing volleyball for almost my entire life – I would even go so far as to say that it was my life.  I played year-round almost every day. 

Volleyball was where I made friends, felt a sense of achievement, and found passion.  However, it also led to my life-changing back injury.

During my senior year of high school, right before I was supposed to start my last volleyball season, I started to experience some back pain.

At first, I thought with a little bit of rest and relaxation, everything would start to feel better.  But then days and weeks started to pass, and I wasn’t feeling any better.  It was time to go to a doctor.

After an initial exam and x-rays, the doctor determined that one of my vertebrae had shifted forwards.  In order to make a final diagnosis though, they needed to do an MRI. 

I had to wait a few days for my MRI results, which felt like years.  Meanwhile, I was still attending volleyball practice and games, cheering my teammates on from the bench just hoping to get some positive test results. 

And then doctor called and said I would likely never be able to play volleyball again. 

The days following were difficult.  I was dealing with constant physical pain which in itself was challenging, but it was mentally difficult as well.

I had to ask myself questions like “What are my hobbies or passions if I can’t play sports?” And I had to deal with the mental frustrations of wanting to do things that my body just was not ready for.  Exercising, sitting or standing for long periods of time, even going to an amusement park with friends…everything suddenly felt restricted.

But then slowly, through treatments like physical therapy I started to recover.  It took a while, probably close to a year, before I could fully live my life without constantly dealing with pain or being mindful of my injury. 

And now, seven years later, I have actually been able to recover to the point that I am able to exercise, play sports, etc. as long as I take care of myself when I do so.

All of that goes to say, if you are dealing with an injury and feeling the mental impact of that physical pain, I completely understand and you are not alone.  And I want to pass along some tips on how to mentally recover from a physical injury that I found crucial to helping me heal along my own personal journey.

Here are six life changing tips to mentally recover from a physical injury:

1. Accept what happened

The first step to mentally recovering from a physical injury is accepting what happened.  Come to terms with your injury and diagnosis.

Injuries stem from stress on your body, often through the result of an accident.  Whether you feel at fault or feel the blame is on others, you’ll need to find forgiveness in order to mentally heal from the experience.

Finding acceptance is important before moving through the rest of these steps.

2. Learn about your injury

The next step is to learn about your diagnosis.  The more you know, the more you can mentally prepare for the recovery ahead.

Understand things like how long you should expect recovery to take or what’s involved in the recovery such as medication, physical therapy, rest, etc.  By knowing the details of your injury and the expected recovery, you’ll be able to plan and set yourself up for success.

Planning will put your mind at ease and help you feel prepared to take on the journey ahead of you.

3. Commit to your treatment

Another important factor in mentally healing from a physical injury is to commit to your treatment.  If you got injured from a sport or hobby, it can feel devastating that you aren’t able to train for that activity any more.

Replace that feeling of a void in your life by regarding your treatment like training.  Set goals for recovery and take your treatment seriously. 

It will help ease your mind by focusing on the actions of recovery.

4. Don’t push yourself too fast too soon

While goal setting and committing to your treatment is important, it’s also critical to be conscious of not pushing yourself too fast too soon.  Once you start to see the progress, it can be tempting to rush towards that finish line.  But it’s important to remain on course and not push yourself too quickly.

Pushing yourself before your body is ready can lead to you injuring yourself even more.  It will also be even more mentally frustrating if you try too much too soon and then feel let down when you don’t find success.

The best thing you can do both for your physical and mental health during an injury recovery is to stick to your treatment plan.  Take things one step at a time and ease your way towards healing.

5. Find passions and hobbies that fit your new lifestyle

If you are injured, you’ll likely be unable to participate in the typical hobbies and activities that you used to fill your daily life with.  It will feel sad, frustrating, maybe even cause you to have some anger about it. 

All of that is okay – and understandable!  However, a great way to combat this is to find new passions and hobbies that fit the new lifestyle and restrictions that are impacting you right now. 

For example, I always enjoyed reading and writing, but volleyball took a lot of my time so those hobbies fell off my radar.  And then, once I was injured and could no longer find fun and enjoyment through sports, I reconnected with my passion for reading and writing. 

Having a passion or hobby that you can find fulfillment through will help you get through this injury.  You may even find a lifelong passion that sticks around even after your recovery, as I did with writing.

6. Lean on others for support

The last tip for mentally recovering from a physical injury is to lean on others when you can.  If you were injured during a sport, it may be tempting to distance yourself from the team and your friends because it’s hard to watch everyone else playing when you can’t.  But this is doing yourself a disservice mentally.

Having the support of friends and family will help you through your recovery.  Whether it’s a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or someone to provide words of encouragement the support system will be comforting during this difficult time.

Surround yourself with positive people who can encourage you throughout your recovery from this physical trauma.

Those are the six life changing tips to mentally recover from a physical injury.

Recovering from an injury can be really difficult both physically and mentally.  At times throughout your recovery, you will likely feel in denial, sad, angry, and all of the other negative emotions that come with dealing with a difficult challenge.

However, through things like finding acceptance, committing to your recovery, and seeking support from others you can find both physical and mental healing.

What positive things have you discovered about yourself after experiencing an injury?

Time Doesn’t Heal All Wounds, But Subconscious Healing Can

Time doesn’t heal all wounds, it just gives them space to sink into the subconscious, where they will still impact your emotions and behavior.  What heals is going inward, loving yourself, accepting yourself, listening to your needs, addressing your attachments and emotional history, learning how to let go and follow your intuition.

Yung Pueblo

It might be the elephant in the room, but it needs to be said.  Covid-19 has changed us.  We all, in some way, are connected to the loss.  We have lost family members and friends, the businesses we poured our hearts and souls into for so long have been forced to close, our jobs have unexpectedly been furloughed, our income has stopped abruptly, and our essential connection–human connection has been acutely cut off.  With all of this change comes a slow and staggering trauma to our systems whether we are ready to notice it yet, I’m not sure.

What I have noticed is the symptoms from that trauma rising up, collectively.  The symptoms teeter-totter between fear of the unknown and the resulting apathy or hopelessness that forms from being in this fear for almost a year now. We are easily triggered, pushed to our edges with family members at risk, less money, and our children doing school in the living room. The real question is, how are we processing this trauma and how are we going to make it to the other side stronger than before?

I believe the answer lies in the question and that this trauma must be acknowledged and processed.  I personally have always been curious about trauma and what makes some stand through some of the most difficult challenges in history and make it to the other side, and what makes others continue to suffer for long periods of time after the trauma.

Kerry Ressler, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine says, “Some people have this ability to keep going, maintain relationships, hold a job down and not give up even though they may be overwhelmed with emotion, in the animal kingdom, most creatures are extremely resilient. Humans can be too. However, unlike animals, some of us may have a hard time shutting down our stress response after a threatening experience because we continue to ruminate about it or anticipate a similar danger. The extent to which different people can move on and then confront similar traumas in the future is linked to their upbringing and character.”

He goes on to explain that our childhood experiences and how we overcame stressors over time helped build our resiliency.  Some children, he notes, are more prone to optimism genetically which is connected to resiliency in our adult life. 

With all this being said, I believe that yes, our childhood experiences, upbringing, and genetic disposition for handling stressors contribute significantly to our ability to process trauma, but I also believe that there has to be something outside of our past to help those that struggle with resiliency right now. 

I myself have been on this journey as I look for ways to move through trauma to the other side and find a place of peace.  My journey has brought me to alternative healing therapies, specifically subconscious healing as I find that our trauma settles there and resides long after the experience is over.  We only see it rear its ugly head when something triggers us and sends us right back to the original emotions felt as if no time has passed at all. 

Subconscious healing, specifically Rapid Transformational Therapy, allows you to regress back to childhood memories where the subconscious mind formed beliefs around your resiliency, coping skills, and ability to thrive in challenging circumstances.  The therapist guides you through those memories and helps you rewrite the meaning your subconscious mind formed, thus giving you another opportunity to build these basic blocks of development.  This healing allows you to go back to those moments and heal the misbeliefs that had you stuck in thinking that you were incapable to survive. 

I have had incredible results in my own life, as I suffered for a long time with ruminating thoughts that kept me stuck trying to “fix” or analyze moments of my life for years after they occurred. I would replay scenes relentlessly and always be looking for more of the same in my present that would then somehow validate the pain I experienced in the past.  It was a vicious cycle of trauma. Rapid Transformational Healing has brought me to a new level of resiliency, that gives me the courage and the beliefs about myself that in the end allow trauma to pass and for my mind to finally let go.  It has been a tangled journey to get here, but finally, I’ve been able to do some untangling that I feel is so relevant to these times.  May we all seek to untangle and heal, so that our resiliency is strengthened in times like these.

My Struggle with Anxiety and How I Overcame It

Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.

—Charles Spurgeon

Lying in bed, I looked up at the ceiling desperately praying for rain. I thought, if only it were to rain, I would be safe this weekend. A simple bout of precipitation could save me from the unforgiving anxiety that was overtaking me.

Do you want to know what I was so terrified of experiencing that weekend that drove me to such desperation? A baseball tournament.

You see, I was fourteen years old and had just made it onto a top-level showcase team. These were travel teams you played on with the hopes of being noticed by college or professional scouts.

It was a dream come true to land a spot on this team. So why then was I trying my hardest to avoid my first tournament?

Well, it was all thanks to anxiety. At this point, I had developed such deep-rooted anxiety when it came to baseball that the joy had been completely sucked out of the game. I still had the desire to play, but my anxiety was getting to the point where I needed a solution.

Sadly, I didn’t find one, at least not then.

I dealt with my anxiety off and on with differing levels of severity all throughout my high school and college years.

While in college, my anxiety worsened. This was mainly due to the added pressure I had put on myself to succeed in baseball. I was now a starter on my college team, but this only meant more anxiety rather than a reprieve.

My anxiety stemmed from a bad case of fear of failure. This is when we are so afraid to make a mistake or be perceived as a failure that we do all we can to make sure that doesn’t happen. I will go into more detail on this later.

As my performances dwindled due to anxiety, I was faced with two choices: give up baseball and be free from the anxiety or figure out how to overcome the anxiety.

If you’ve experienced this level of anxiety you know that giving up one activity only opens the door for the anxiety to creep into another area of your life. So, I knew there was only one true option.

I had to figure out how to overcome my anxiety.

I employed the services of a sport psychology consultant during my sophomore year in college. Since then, I have been on an upward climb out of the depths of anxiety. What I would like to do is show you the daily routine I developed in order to overcome my anxiety.

Before I go into the routine I now use, it will be beneficial to highlight the main symptoms I experienced from my anxiety, as to help you in identifying and understanding it within yourself.

Symptoms of Anxiety

When we are talking about the symptoms of anxiety, which in this case can be best described as performance anxiety, there are two categories: a behavioral response and then the physical symptoms which are felt.

The reason for this lies in how our bodies respond to anxiety. There will be a physiological change that occurs when we perceive a threatening situation. That is where the physical symptoms begin to present themselves.

Next, there will be a behavioral response that occurs when we instinctually attempt to rid ourselves of the anxiety.

Physical Symptoms:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dry mouth
  • Trembling hands and knees
  • Shaky voice
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Light-headedness
  • Feeling of coldness

These are all pretty typical whenever we are feeling nervous or anxious. The ones that really impacted me the most were trembling hands and knees, a shaky voice, and light-headedness.

I can remember being up to bat and feeling my whole body tremble. It’s hard enough to hit a baseball even without your body shaking.

Also, I know I have focused mainly on baseball, but I experienced anxiety a lot in social situations too. This is where I mainly dealt with a shaky voice.

I once gave a presentation in class where I was laughed at because it sounded as if I was going to cry, that’s how shaky my voice was.

All of these physical symptoms can be tormenting to deal with, making it understandable as to how they drive our behavioral response.

Behavioral Responses:

  • Avoidance
  • Flight, meaning escaping the anxiety-producing situation.
  • Engaging in alcohol or drug use to cope with anxiety.
  • Quitting the activity that causes anxiety.
  • Losing all ambition due to fear of performance anxiety.

Avoidance is the first behavioral response listed for good reason. It is really the one that the rest stem out of. Whenever we are experiencing anxiety, the first thought that comes to mind is, “How can I avoid this situation?”

That is the best option we have in the moment to rid ourselves of these terrible feelings. If only we could escape the situation that is causing the anxiety, we could be free.

Unfortunately, that is only an immediate reprieve and does not get to the core of what is causing the anxiety. This only allows for the anxiety to express itself at another time, leading to a vicious cycle of avoidance.

I experienced avoidance a lot with baseball, which for me took the form of self-sabotage.

You see, avoidance doesn’t have to be overt. Especially since it can be difficult to quit a sport or activity you love. However, just because you don’t want to quit does not mean you don’t want to avoid the feelings of anxiety it causes.

This is where self-sabotage comes into play.

There was no chance of me quitting baseball. So, my subconscious mind had to come to the rescue. I began underperforming with secret hopes of being benched. If only the coaches would play someone else, I could be free from this anxiety yet still be on the team.

Accompanying avoidance was a loss of ambition. There was little drive left in me at that point to keep progressing in my sport. All that could come out of me continuing to play would be further feelings of dread and anxiety.

But there was still a part of me that knew I did not want anxiety to hold me back any longer. Whether I would continue on with baseball or not was irrelevant. I knew that if my anxiety was not controlled, I would live a life of regret and disappointment.

What I realized was that anxiety is not something that could be overcome by once-a-week counseling sessions. I had to employ the same tactics I’ve used to build muscle and become a better baseball player. That meant creating a routine that I would follow each day, comprised of habits aimed at overcoming anxiety.

So, with the aid of much research, I came up with a daily routine that finally was able to accomplish what I so long hoped for.

My Daily Routine to Overcome Anxiety

Before I was able to benefit from any of the habits I am about to list, there was a first step that needed to be made. I had to finally accept my anxiety. For so long I had been trying to pretend it wasn’t there, ignoring my nerves and the impact they were having on my life.

All this did was feed them power. It was definitely difficult to do, but once my anxiety was accepted, I was then in a great place to actually make progress.

My daily routine came from books I’ve read, lessons I learned from the sport psychology consultant I worked with, and trial and error. The habits that make up the routine will undoubtedly change and evolve as I grow. But for now, these habits have worked wonders in alleviating the impact anxiety has on my life.

I prefer to perform this routine in the morning because it primes my mind for the upcoming day. This allows me to put myself in the optimal frame of mind to face any anxiety or challenges that present themselves each day.

By doing these activities daily, I can reinforce a positive mindset each morning, no matter what the previous day entailed.

I am going to outline my morning routine and then go into a little detail as to why I chose each habit.

Here is what a typical morning looks like for me:

  • Wake up at 5 a.m.
  • Take a cold shower.
  • Write out my statements of gratitude, feeling the gratitude with each one.
  • Write my morning pages, which consist of anything and everything that is on my mind.
  • Read my affirmations.
  • Perform a twenty-minute yoga routine. 
  • Meditate for fifteen minutes.
  • Perform my visualization. This includes seeing myself accomplish all the goals I have currently set. 
  • Weightlifting
  • Breakfast

Each one of these activities was chosen for a specific reason. What I would like to do is provide you with a little explanation for each one, so you can see exactly how it works in reducing anxiety.

Waking up Early

I have always loved being an early riser. Ever since I was little my nights have been cut short in hopes of waking up at my desired time. However, there is a dark side to this. If I were to not wake up when I wanted, my day would begin with feelings of guilt and shame.

I used to get so mad at myself whenever I would oversleep, that once I even threw my phone upon waking up. To counteract this and ensure I took control of my mornings, I instilled in myself the discipline of waking up at 5 a.m.

This has become so habitual for me, that I don’t even think twice about getting up. In doing so, I have taken control of my mindset and attitude first thing in the morning.

Cold Shower

I can remember thinking about beginning a cold shower practice and wanting to vomit. The thought of waking up and immediately putting my body under ice-cold water was horrifying.

But the research pointed to cold showers as being a fantastic tool in reducing stress levels. So, I decided to give it a try, and oh what a difference it has made. By forcing myself to endure the cold every morning, I have developed greater willpower and have felt my level of anxiety drastically decrease.

Gratitude

Anxiety cannot survive in the presence of gratitude.

It has often been hard for me to locate areas of my life to be grateful for since I am always looking for ways I can improve. By writing gratitude statements each morning, my day is rooted in thoughts of gratefulness rather than lack.

Now, I have begun to feel gratitude more as a result of this habit. During the day, whenever I feel anxiety creep up, I immediately think back to my list of gratitude statements.

Writing

Writing is a phenomenal method to empty your mind. Once I realized I could have a mini therapy session with myself each morning, I latched onto writing and haven’t looked back.

My morning writing is completely private, and no one reads it. Whatever is on my mind ends up written on the paper. Through this process, I empty much of the clutter that then results in anxious thoughts later in the day.

Affirmations

My anxiety was and still is accompanied and fueled by negative self-talk. This type of defeating internal dialogue eats at our self-worth, continually degrading and tearing us down.

I utilized cognitive restructuring which involves using inverse positive statements to counteract the negative beliefs we hold about ourselves.

Implementing affirmations into my daily routine has allowed me to retrain the way my mind speaks to me, thus lowering my susceptibility to anxiety.

Yoga

The postures and controlled breathing that are required in a yoga practice have drastically improved my focus and discipline. On top of that, my stress and anxiety levels have decreased.

Yoga has always been an activity that interested me, ever since my coaches told me I should take up a practice for the mobility benefits. It took me a while to commit to a daily yoga routine, but once I did, the positive effects have been numerous.

Yoga has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety, as well as improve the overall mood of an individual. In working to overcome my anxiety, it has been a powerful tool.

Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a fantastic way to gain greater self-awareness, along with building a separation between us and our thoughts.

My anxiety was often fueled by thoughts running rampant through my mind. One of the main benefits of mindfulness meditation is a reduction in ruminating thoughts.

Through meditation, I have gained more control over my thoughts, which has resulted in less free-flowing worries leading to anxiety.

Visualization

When we are prone to anxiety, it can be difficult to see ourselves as successful. We often view our lives in a negative light, rather than a positive one.

What visualization allows us to do is see and feel ourselves in whatever manner we like. For me, this includes feeling confident and also seeing myself successfully accomplish my goals.

The increase in self-confidence and self-worth that visualization produces has greatly reduced the effects anxiety has on my life.

Weightlifting

I have been weightlifting ever since I was fourteen years old. So, it’s not a new habit that I have adopted to ward off anxiety like the previous activities. However, it serves a powerful purpose in my fight against anxiety.

Weightlifting, which is the form of exercise I prefer, allows me to release a lot of the energy I have flowing through my body. Exercising on a daily basis helps to clear my mind and definitely provides me with a strong feeling of confidence going into the day.

This serves as a fantastic culminating activity to my daily routine. Combining the mental nature of the previous activities with the more physical nature of weightlifting helps to integrate the mind and body as I move into my day.

My daily routine has been tailored to fit my needs in overcoming anxiety. It has worked wonders up to this point and I look forward to seeing how it evolves in the future.

How has anxiety affected you in your life? Do you have daily habits you perform to counteract the impact of anxiety?