How to Free Yourself From The Chains of Regret

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Dealing With Emotional Pain

How to Deal with Emotional Pain

When a person undergoes a life disruption, such as divorce, job loss, a death, it is usually not advisable to take medication that will alleviate the pain immediately.  When pain is alleviated with medication, the person’s motivation to make changes is reduced.  And there is a great deal to learn from the process of managing emotional pain.  (Of course, there are times when medication becomes necessary, especially with suicidal thinking which may accompany a major depression.)  When you undergo a major life crisis, you need time to gain insight into what has gone wrong and achieve integration again.  Emotional pain, while unpleasant, serves its purpose, just as physical pain in our bodies.  It prompts us to take action.  Similarly, drugs and alcohol may help to alleviate emotional pain – but then the opportunity to learn our life lessons vanishes. Deadening pain chemically may allow old patters of behavior to continue – in which case, paradoxically, the pain you are trying to escape will persist into the future.   Pain spurs us to learn new ways of coping.

3 Tactics to Use When Dealing with Emotional Pain

There are three tactics that people in crisis can use to get through the crushing periods of pain that accompany a life disruption.  These methods do not end the pain, which has value, but they allow us some relief for a time.

First, diversion.  Sometimes we need to remove ourselves physically or mentally from our emotional pain for a while.  We can take a weekend trip, read a book, watch an engrossing movie, talk to a friend, take a walk or get some other physical exercise.  Diversion allows us time to heal or sufficient distance from a problem that we can come back to again and perhaps see in a new light.

The second tactic for dealing with emotional pain is to stay in control over those aspects of your life that you still have some ability to control.  A major life disruption can leave you with the feeling that you have no control over events.  However, you can use self-discipline to clean your residence, bathe, feed the dog, water your plants, and pay your bills.  Stay in control of those things that you can control and let those things that are uncontrollable run their course.

Finally, find someone who can show you empathy.  There is no better way to relieve emotional pain than to talk to a trusted friend or therapist who can say with conviction, “Yes, I understand – and I care.”

Waiting

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Don’t Worry, Be Happy: How to Cope with Life

As we all know, some people worry too much.  Rather than solving a problem, too much worry becomes the problem.  Not only does excessive worry create much personal suffering, but it also affects the people around the worrier.  I wonder if a lot of our worrying in life is like this:  constant, spontaneous and effortless focus that gets dislodged by distracting external events or our own change of perspective.  Now, I think that anyone who does not worry is just living on a different planet; yet, as we know, just worrying about the weather does not make it rain.

9 Tips for Coping with Life, from a Psychologist

After 31 years of working in the field of psychology, I know a few things make a difference in coping with life.

  1. Pay Attention to the Important Things, More than the Urgent.  Sometimes the only way to get the important done is to stick it between the urgent things that drive our days. Worry is often related to disorganization.  Make a list of things to do each day and cross off tasks once they are completed.  Leave early enough to make appointments on time.  Put your keys in the same place every time you come home.  Keep your house straightened up.  When things are under control, there is less to worry about.
  2. Take Action on What You Want To Do And Figure Your Results As A “Prototype”. A handy friend of mine told me how he approaches building things.  He considers the first version as his working model.  Although I have two left hands with tools, I always thought I had to get it right the first time.  My combination of ridiculously high expectations and little tolerance for error was a deeply frustrating workshop ethic to follow.
  3. If You Do Not Know How To Do it, Ask For Help.  Most of us just need a little guidance or a resource with whom to check out our experience.  We all need support and positive feedback from time to time.  Other people may have solutions to problems that we haven’t thought about.  For reassurance, find people who know how to give it.  Many of us spend a lifetime looking in all the wrong places for approval.
  4. Try To Do The Right Thing.  Maintain your sense of integrity whenever you do something.  Tell the truth. Obey the law.  Keep to your promises.  Let your conscience be your guide.  Granted, we might tell an occasional lie or break a promise, and this is fairly common – but it can also set the stage for worry.  We may think sometimes that we can get ahead in the world the easy way – but the price we pay could be excessive worry, among other penalties.
  5. Minimize Catastrophic Thinking. Some people find it difficult to keep perspective when faced with even a minor stressor.  Not every mole means cancer and not every bill is going to lead to bankruptcy.  Test out the reality of these situations by talking them over with a trust friend.
  6. Limit Your Exposure to the News. Although there is value in keeping up with the latest news, understand that the media focus on bad news since this tends to sell best.  We seldom hear about the good news in the world on TV or newspapers.  Constant exposure to negative events increases our tendency to worry.  Instead, look for what is good in life.
  7. Sleep, Eat Properly, Exercise.  Lack of sleep and a bad diet can make us irritable, distracted, and anxious – all condition which set the stage for worry.  (Try to be mindful of the problem of overeating as a way of making our worries disappear.)  Exercise helps us dissipate the anxiety that often accompanies worry.
  8. Avoid Substance Abuse.  Drugs and alcohol may give the illusion of comfort for the time being, but using them has negative long-term consequences.  They increase depression, cloud judgment and may give you something to really worry about later.
  9. Learn How to Let Go of Worries. This is a skill that might require some practice and each of us will have our way of doing it.  Some people do this by allowing themselves perhaps half an hour a day of worry time – and at the end of the allotted time period, they will be free of worrying until the next day.  Some people give up their worries by writing them down on a piece of paper and then tearing them up.  Some people prefer to hand them over to a higher power.

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardships as the pathway to peace, taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will, that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

As this year continues, on behalf of the psychologists in the practice, I want to thank you for recommending us to others.

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How Can You Tell if Someone is Suicidal?

My friend Steve and I talked about him the last time we met for breakfast.  The three of us had been college classmates but Steve and Rich were closer in those years.  A few years after graduating school, Rich shot himself to death.  Neither of us could remember any sign or warning of his despair.  He was there in our lives and then gone.

IS PATH WARM – Warning Signs of Suicide to Watch Out For

“IS PATH WARM?” is a mnemonic device developed by Lanny Berman, Ph.D. (Executive Director, American Association of Suicidology) to identify acute risk factors for suicide.  I share it with you for we all want to be on our toes for those we care about.

I Ideation – directly or indirectly disclosed thinking of ending one’s life.
S Substance Use – misuse of alcohol or drugs.

P Purposeless – finding no meaning or value in living.
A Anxiety – a regular sense of being on edge; sleep problems.
T
Trapped – thinking that there is no other solution.
H
Hopelessness – and it will always be like this.

W Withdrawal – increased isolation from family, friends, and usual activities.
A
Anger – rage at self or others.
R
Recklessness – making risky and dangerous choices.
M
Mood Change – endless despair or a sudden and unexplained release from it.

In the thirty years I have worked as a psychologist, I have gone to court one time to speak with a judge about detaining someone in a hospital because of imminent danger of suicide.  This list captures many of the signs I saw back then.

More information on these suicidal risk factors is available at www.suicidology.org.

On a minor note, I recommend two books to bolster our strength before we get to despair: Endurance by Caroline Alexander and Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand.  These true stories, one of hardship and the other of wartime cruelty, and are breathtaking descriptions of impossible conditions and human triumph.

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