This morning, I woke up and BAM! – my hip and I were no longer on speaking terms.  I couldn’t find a “comfortable seat” – standing didn’t work for me like it usually does (I’ve had back and hip pain for a long time, this isn’t new – but THIS feeling in THIS location THIS strong was different).  Sitting and I have never gotten along well and I had a lot to do so laying down wasn’t really an option.

Oh no, NOT AGAIN!! Not now – I don’t have time for this.  After a while of thinking this way and realizing it wasn’t really helping the situation,

I asked myself:  What has worked in the past? I quickly recalled the many tools I’ve learned to get through stuff like this and started using them.

I did some stretching, I used my Elaine Petronne balls to help me release the pain, I took Advil – and soon I was feeling better.  It wasn’t gone but it was much more manageable.

So, I asked myself:  What do I know now that I didn’t know before? This technique of pausing after something  like this happens and asking myself what I’ve learned from it is really helpful to me.  Why?  Because the next time something happens, I have more knowledge about how to deal with it.

Here’s a couple things I’ve learned along the way that may be helpful to you when something happens that you weren’t expecting:

  • Whine, complain and grouse about it:  I’m not one for kidding myself when something is hard for me.  I acknowledge it – this doesn’t work for everyone but it works for me.  I don’t like sugar coating things and making what’s inherently hard for me easier by lying to myself and saying “this doesn’t hurt, buck up!”
  • Get it out of your system:  Everyone has a different way of doing this – writing about it, crying, talking to yourself, laying on the couch with a book or watching a movie,  exercise (if it’s not disabling physical pain) or stretching are just a couple ways to deal with this.
  • Take the first step:  Here’s what that looked like for me.  I’m a big fan of talking to those parts of myself that aren’t getting along: “Char, honey, I get that this is really painful.  Ooooouch!!!  It’s $#%#%@@ killing me right now – it’s that painful.  And it completely sucks that RIGHT THIS MINUTE this is happening !!!  #(%(@P)@ (liberal swearing totally permissable here!)
  • Give yourself some time here:  Talking to yourself may look more like a conversation than simply a one or two liner.  For example, there may be parts of yourself that are annoyed, angry, resentful, etc that need some space to “air out” – take whatever time feels appropriate.
  • Don’t be impressed by your story:  You may have a lot of editorial comments about yourself here.  Judgments like “I shouldn’t have done that yesterday.  You’re so stupid.  You’re being lazy”, are real feelings and you can hear them without believing that they are true or getting defensive.  Just let them be – I know, easier said than done here.
  • Ask yourself what has helped in the past:  Just by putting that question out there and PAUSING for a moment to see what comes up may be helpful.  The important part here is to ask the question and be willing to wait to see what comes up. . . . have patience with this.  It’s a process
  • Start anywhere:  Try something – it doesn’t matter what you do first.  And don’t force the process.  At some point, your mood will shift and you’ll be ready to do something differrent.
  • Pause and see what you’ve learned:  Once you try something, stop for a moment and reflect.  See how it affected you.  How do you feel now?  Did it help this time?  Did it make it worse?  What did you learn?  This only takes a couple seconds to allow it to register but it’s useful in the future.
  • What do you know now:  If this worked, great.  Noticing what works reinforces it in your head so you can think of it should you need it again.  If you learned this wasn’t what you needed this time, try something else.  Repeat the process as many times as you need to.

I can’t promise you’ll get out of pain if you do this. What I can tell you though is you’ll gain greater self awareness about what is helpful when you’re in a situation you weren’t expecting.

An interesting way to deal with this is to make a note of it in a journal so you have it to refer to later if you want.  You could also make a folder on your computer called “Things that Work for Me” – and just make a note about what happened and what helped.

I keep a folder like this on my computer.  It’s entitled “The Book of You”.  In this folder, I have a file called “Back and Hip Pain” with a list of strategies that work for me when I have it. It’s not a big deal doing something like this and I find it helpful particularly when I have so much pain that I can’t think straight.  This has happened enough times that I now know to go to it first when I can’t figure out what to do to feel better.

Has this ever happened to you?  What do you do to help when you don’t feel good?  Let’s learn and support each other by sharing our strategies.

I was listening to XM Radio the other day. Elizabeth Lesser, one of my favorite authors, was interviewing Arianna Huffington who was talking about how multi-tasking and constantly being plugged into the internet, cellphones, ipods, etc are really affecting our well being. We are so busy muli-tasking  that many of the pleasures of daily life are passing us by.

I completely agree with this. After struggling with insomnia, I realized that part of the problem was being on the computer too late which was in essence turning my “nights into days” and confusing my circadian rhythms.

Raiman Naiman wrote a great book on this called Healing Night if you’re interested in more information about this.  In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honroe is another great book on the subject of monotasking..

On the other hand, there are occasions that in my mind definitely call for multi tasking. One of those situations is when you’re making phone calls and can reasonably anticipate that you’ll be put on hold.

I used to get very frustrated with voicemails, being put on hold,  dealing with computers instead of people that ask you to respond to questions and I’m delighted to say that I’ve conquered (at least for the moment) that learning curve.

I did this by making a list of things to do while I’m on hold.  Sometimes, this list is in my head – it may be something like cleaning out a refrigerator, filing, or grooming the dog.  It may be laying down with my feet propped against the wall with an eye pillow.

In any event, the idea here is that after I’m done going through the necessary inconveniences of resolving the problem that put me on hold in the first place, I end up feeling like I’ve accomplished something and relaxed while doing it.

It is a place where multi-tasking works.  Just as mono-tasking works when it’s important to be focused on driving, multi tasking helps me stay cool, calm and collected.

This has been a learning curve for me.  It took me realizing how resentful I felt about having my time absorbed by some meaningless hold music to help me see that I was in control of my mood.  And, as Maya Angelou says, “when you know better you do better.”

Is there something you are feeling resentful about?  Can we help you find ways to feel better?  Have you learned some ways to manage your time and your mood that may be helpful to the rest of us?  Please feel free to share your comments and questions here.

I have a client whose dad lives out of town.  He’s now single as he’s recently become a widower and he had a couple aches and pains but on the whole was doing really well managing on his own.  The other day, though, he slipped on the ice and ended up with a broken hip.

As you can imagine, it’s really difficult living with a broken hip.  For one thing, driving is out of the question for a while.  Sitting, getting up, lying down, and going to the bathroom all present new and awkward challenges that we can’t even imagine if we’ve never been there.

In the meantime, the son – my client – has taken time off work to help his Dad and get him settled at home.  His employer wonders when he’ll be back.  So does his family.  And so does he.

His life is now upside down in a way he’s never known before.  His dad had friends but no one close enough to live with his dad and help him through this.  He’s doing his best to make important arrangments so his dad has the support he needs and he’s doing a great job managing the details.

So you may wonder how I help clients in situations like this.

What I do is I help them figure out what practical details need to be attended to and come up with potential solutions to these problems. For example, his Dad can’t do the grocery shopping or the laundry at this point.  He also can’t get to his bedroom on the second floor.  Much of what I help clients see is how to anticipate the needs that may come up now that things have changed and come up with some possibilities for handling things.

As we all know, life is constantly changing which means that things need to be tweaked to accomodate the changes.  That’s another thing that I help with – I help clients respond to those ever changing circumstances and make the tweaks that are needed.

But, of everything that I do, the one that clients seem to need the most is some acknowledgment for how hard the situation inherently is. When someone we love is sick or has an accident, things change.  That, of course, is a fact AND it can be a very tough pill to swallow when the one we love has always been strong and self sufficient.

Often, they don’t want help and it’s hard to help those that don’t want it.  When we are doing our best to help, it can be nerve-wracking and stressful to feel like we’re “swimming against the tide” as we try and make things better.

I can’t offer you a magic wand to change things unfortunately but what I can give you a couple suggestions to get through these tough situations with a little more ease.

And, believe it or not, the first thing to ask yourself after you’ve gotten through the most urgent part of the situation and you know your loved one is safe is this question:  What is the most important thing that YOU need to remember right now?

There’s no right or wrong answer to this question – and the first thing that comes to your mind is often exactly what you need to know.

Notice how I put the focus back on you – the one who is helping your loved one through this.  Why?:  Because you must put your own oxygen mask on first as the airlines always say.

And as much as we may want to help someone else, if we’re not taking care of ourselves we can’t be of any use to anyone else.

Once you remember what you most need to know, you may know instinctively what to do next.  For example, maybe what you most need to remember right now is that you’re okay.  Just knowing that may be all you need to know to keep moving forward.  If so, great.

If the answer you get to that question feels incomplete, try asking yourself this: what would truly be helpful for me right now?

The answer may be dinner with a friend,  exercise, sleep, or to catch up on some nagging important details in your life.  AND you may not be able to do those things right now.  If you can’t, can you make a date with yourself to do them at a specific time in the near future?  You may think that’s impossible – and you may not be able to name the exact time and place, but I invite you to just make space for that idea of taking care of yourself to germinate  and watch what happens.

You may find that suddenly, you have the time to do that thing that would be so helpful.  Or, you may start looking for ways to create that time.  Or, you may choose something else to do to take care of yourself in the meantime.

The point is that once you tune into your own needs, you may just be more attuned to how you can create the time to take care of  yourself in a much needed way. It may not look exactly as you envisioned  – maybe it will just be a couple nice deep breaths instead of dinner with a friend .

Remember that you are important. Whether you are the one who isn’t feeling well or the loved one helping out, there are clues everywhere for what can be most helpful to us when we’re going through something difficult – and we have a choice about how we approach our situations.

What do you most need to remember right now?

What would truly be helpful?

No matter what your situation is, I welcome your comments.

We used to have a goldfish named Blaze.  One day Blaze got sick – she would go to the top of the tank, then sink to the bottom, then go right back up again.

I remember being on the phone with my closest friend, Donna, and saying “Oh my God, she’s up, she’s down, oooops, there she goes again.  Donna – she’s not moving.  Ooops, she’s back at the top of the tank again.” I went on like this for over a half an hour – probably much longer.

As I think about this, I think of how my clients often can’t keep up with their own feelings. I was talking to someone the other day struggling with chronic back pain – in the course of a half hour conversation, she simply couldn’t find a comfortable “seat” for herself.  And she couldn’t figure out what to do to get the pain ease up.

Once things eased for a few minutes I asked her what had changed.  She couldn’t really tell what she’d done or why things had changed.  Till, she moved again and then something else shifted.

It can feel like you can hardly keep up with your own feelings – like as soon as you figure out what makes something better, something else starts hurting again or the original pain returns.

What’s a person to do?

I don’t have a crystal ball or a magic pill here.  And I really wish I had a pat answer for this.  But, there just isn’t one. It’s all in the way you look at things in the moment – and in the next moment.

My personal mantra for the day is patience. I’m in the final stages of solving the technological issues of my new book Patient Power. It has had its fair share of ups and downs in terms of getting the material created in a way that is very user friendly.  It’s been a roller coaster much like it is for people who don’t feel good and are trying to find the way to deal with their pain.    In short, it’s been a real labor of love.

I’m willing to wait until the technological issues are resolved.  I’m willing to be patient and ask for help.  It goes directly against my inherent tendency to want to figure this thing out fast.  All my efforts at pushing through quickly have failed.

So, I’m trying another approach commonly known as “slow and steady wins the race.”  It is very analogous to dealing with pain or discomfort.  Taking it slower, gathering information carefully and then figuring out what’s next work very well when you’re dealing with something like diabetes or chronic  back pain.  True – we’d like to not have those issues at all but when they are there, it’s unlikely that there truly is a quick fix for them.

What’s your approach when you don’t feel well?  What helps?  What’s your instinctual response?  What do you do when someone you love is under the weather?  What have you found helpful?  Please feel free to share your story here.

I love the snow and walking in the cold with my dogs, Phoebe and Vanna.   Phoebe is a golden lab/husky mix and Vanna is my australian shepherd mix.  They are truly the loves of my life.  So, every day, me and my girls – we go walking along with the Prince of Peace.  I get my best ideas on these walks and frequently use them as food for thought in my blog post.

This evening as I was walking and reviewing my day, I asked inside myself what to write about.  The answer I received was simple but profound in its effect:  just show up.

What does that mean to you when I say “just show up”? Check in with yourself and see what you find.  Do you feel scared?  Excited?  Sad?  All of these things?  Something completely different?  Would you rather keep reading and get to the point here?

There is no right way to answer this question. Just like there is no one right way to deal with anything in life.  There’s your way – taking your best stab at things, and then seeing what happens as a result of it.

When I say to myself, “Char, just show up” – at this moment, I feel excited because I have complete freedom to talk about whatever I choose to share here.  And what I notice is that the more I “show up” with what’s true for me in the moment, the lighter and more peaceful I feel as a general rule. When I showed up with the dogs on my walk this evening, I enjoyed the brisk winter air, the hushed quiet that happens in my neighborhood when it’s cold and dark, my girls who are like tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum – one looking at the moon walking backward and the other with her head dragging through the big mounds of snow.  They’re are just  too cute.

Anyway, I invite you to notice how you show up in your life. Are you dragging because you’re feeling tired?  Just notice that.  Are you sick with bronchitis or the flu and still pushing your way through?  Again, just take a breath and notice.  You’ve gotta breathe anyway even if you feel you must push through right now.  Are you sick in bed and kinda tired of the whole routine?  By noticing that, maybe you can make a slight adjustment to show up more fully with all of your feelings and learn more about what’s going on inside your head.

I encourage you to take ten seconds right now and just pause – and show up for yourself.  Tell us what you discover if you want.  That’s how we learn – from showing up for ourselves as well as each other!!