I recently started taking a Pain Management class. And, while a very large part of me feels surly and resentful that I have need of such a thing, I am grateful that it’s available and free. The two women who teach it are lovely and they’ve given us lots of helpful information.
A few weeks back, the Occupational Therapist was teaching us new ways of managing daily household tasks, the ones that we used to be able to do without a second thought but that have now become anywhere from exhausting and difficult to downright impossible.
She even had a handy list of instructions, the first of which was: Stop and Think.
“If you take nothing else from this class,” she said, “that will get you through so much. And if you don’t take that in, nothing else I tell you will help.”
I say it to myself over and over these days, as I’m about to do something that feels painful or dangerous, like trying to get into a car like I always did – the old way of swinging my left leg up and in while folding the rest of myself into the seat is no longer possible. Stop and think. So I sit down in the seat first and then swing myself round and pull my legs in. It’s not graceful and it takes awhile. But my friends are patient and I’m less likely to fall down and I make far fewer yelping noises.
Plugging in the twinkly lights before dinner has changed, too. I used to just bend down and pick up the plug from the floor. But, stop and think. Because my leg muscles are so tight, bending down like that could cause a fall and I’d really hate that. So, instead, I pick up the bit of string of lights that’s close to hand and work my way along to the plug. Or, if I’m really feeling sore, I let Alan do it.
The more I use this new mantra for the small details in my life, the more I see how it applies to the bigger things as well, and not just for those of us taking Pain Management 101.
Wanting to eat healthier and heading into the kitchen to grab a snack? Stop and think. Will that bag of chips do anything good for you beyond quelling a momentary feeling of hunger? Or will you be happier if you take a moment and fix yourself something with some actual nutrition in it?
About to make a purchase? Stop and think. Will you feel good about this the next time you’re wrestling with the banking or should you maybe treat this item like we do museum pieces: admire and move on.
Catastrophising one bad day into an “I have wasted my life” self-pity fest (I can’t be the only one who does that)? Stop and think. You’ve done lots of cool things and your life’s not over yet.
It works for so many situations!
After awhile, you realize that the challenging part is not so much the thinking. We do that all the time. It’s nearly impossible not to think. That’s why meditation is such a challenge. Thinking is easy. It’s the stopping that’s hard. Taking those few moments to allow yourself to think through your situation, come up with a viable solution and then try it. Taking a breath. Not, for this moment, doing anything but thinking.
At first, you’ll fail. A lot. I still keep trying to get into cars wrong. But if you keep trying, it will come more naturally. You’ll find better ways to do things. You’ll find ways to keep yourself from doing things that don’t serve your best interests. Life gets just a little better, a little easier. A little more full of the good stuff, whatever the good stuff is for you.
Stop and think is my new mantra.
What favourite phrases do you use to make your life a little better? Please leave a comment and let us know!