Picking up after last week’s post on using self-talk to help move us from preparation to action, I’m continuing things within the realm of motivation. This week, I’m delving into distress tolerance strategies. Once we are ready for change, we are likely to experience discomfort; being armed with various strategies to push through discomfort helps us build our resilience. This works in any facet of life and with any type of goal.
Remember, doing things we aren’t used to doing in and of itself can be incredibly uncomfortable, but discomfort isn’t just physical. Sacrifice is also discomfort. Vulnerability is discomfort.
I’ll run through six different methods, which are acceptance-based strategies rooted in internal types of motivation. I’m sticking with strategies rooted in internal motivation because we generally possess less control over external motivators. Acceptance-based strategies are necessary here because the real goal is to make changes that make us *feel good*, not to find ways to feel good about *not* feeling good… and the only way out is through.
[And some disclaimers: Regarding physical discomfort, there is a big difference between discomfort and pain. For your safety, you should never push through pain, dizziness, light-headedness, shortness of breath, extreme temperatures, etc. If you are in a position where you’re working that hard physically, the most appropriate route is to do so with a professional to ensure your safety and wellbeing; I want you to be able to challenge yourself without risking injury.]
Let’s get into it.
1. Mindful Awareness – In this method, we view our experience subjectively, accepting the discomfort without allowing it to define the experience. Focusing on things other than the discomfort is an effective way to begin expanding the meaning of the experience beyond the discomfort. Similar to reframing, we’re redirecting our attention to other parts of the experience.
- “My calves and hamstrings are tired from this walk, but the breeze on my skin and sunlight on my face feels amazing.”
2. Dramatic Relief – This is a very primal method where we allow the outpouring of emotional relief during distress to help us push through. That outpouring can be positive or negative.
- “AHHHHHHHHHIIIII”m not sure if I’ll regret this tattoo!”
3. Commitment to Values – This is a universally applicable method where we allow our values to drive us through the discomfort ultimately contributes to who we are or want to be, and what’s most important to us.
- “Eating these extra nutrients to help reduce my blood pressure really sucks, but more than that, I want to be here to take care of my family for as long as I can.”
4. Environmental Reevaluation – This method asks us to remind ourselves how lack of change will affect others. This is especially helpful when self-worth is lacking; sometimes we need to be motivated by the way we impact others rather than how we impact ourselves.
- “I really want to lash out to make myself feel better, but I know that will hurt them, and that is more important to me. They are more important to me.”
5. Distress Tolerance – This method is sort of the opposite of the Mindful Awareness method where we practice discomfort to increase our tolerance. The idea is to focus on the discomfort, and compare in the future, which allows us to recognize the tolerance being built.
- “Standing up for my needs makes me feel so anxious, but the more I do it, the more used to it I get, and the easier it gets.”
6. Self-Liberation – This is a great method to help build self-confidence where we essentially remind ourselves that achievement *is* possible rather than focusing on the discomfort itself. It may be uncomfortable but reminding ourselves we *can* do it – and then *doing* it – can do so much for our self-confidence and self-worth.
- “What? Like it’s hard?”
Next week – nothing! I’m taking a couple weeks off from posting a blog. I’m working on some bigger stuff behind the scenes for June, and I know many of us will be preoccupied with the upcoming holiday weekend anyway. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be back to talk about productive coping mechanisms, pulling together all the content from the past few months to come full circle. I’ll also have some tangible documents to help us take control of energy levels, productivity, self-care, and stress-care while balancing our short and long-term health and happiness.