Dealing with Discomfort
Show me a way out, there has to be one
for this time seems to be feeding on me;
long before it’s gone, it will change me into
a living corpse: a body that forgets to feel.
Show me a way out, there has to be one
for this fate seems forever binding despite
the choices, despite the redemptive intention;
I don’t want my life to be left alone to chance.
I wrote this poem in my diary on 15th May, 2020. It had been a difficult week for me and these words best represented my thoughts and how I felt as a result of the same. I had to think twice before sharing this poem in this article. Then I thought, this poem is not just an expression of my thoughts and feelings in the current situation.
For so many of us, this lockdown has brought a whirlwind of uncertainty, worries, and sadness. We’re more helpless than we’ve ever been because all of humanity is halted at the moment. We’ve never dealt with a similar situation in our lifetime before. Hence, we don’t know how we can best approach this situation, how we can try to remain sane, and how we can stay hopeful despite the odds.
Of course, there’s a brighter side to this great period of halt—life hasn’t stopped to be fair. We’re finally taking time out for our family members, friends, and loved ones. We’re picking up on some good habits and investing our time in activities that helps us remain connected with ourselves. There’s finally time for us to reflect on ourselves which we put off doing previously in the hustle and bustle of pre-lockdown times.
Despite these, there’s no denying that sometimes we feel overworked, hopeless, anxious, afraid, annoyed, worried, angry, sad, and all those negatively charging emotions that you can possibly think of. We all are still in the process of adapting to this ‘new normal’ that we so call, and it’s natural to feel these emotions. It’s natural to have negative thoughts during such an uncertain time where we don’t know what’s going to happen next.
While there’s no one specific antidote to the negativity that may overwhelm us from time to time, there are few ways with which we can check-in with ourselves whenever we feel gripped by our thoughts and emotions.
The first thing that we might want to remind ourselves of is that we’re not the only ones affected by this situation. We’re all in this together—for better or for worse. The moment we arrive at this understanding, we’ll also come to realize that things could easily have been much worse. The fact that they aren’t, is something to be thankful for.
What we can then do, is take a step further to accept the thoughts and emotions that we experience. Denial, repression, and ignorance make matters worse by bottling what we feel inside of us and making us react eventually—in uncalled for ways. As humans, we have the power of acceptance and reflection so we might as well exercise that. By accepting the state of our being, we can acknowledge what’s alive in us. Through reflection, we can uncover what our thought processes and emotional states could be telling us. What is it that is making us uncomfortable, sad, worried or anxious? Are we making things worse by mixing our judgements and evaluations with the facts? Is it possible that we’re feeling this way because certain needs of ours aren’t fulfilled? What could those needs possibly be and how can we try fulfilling them?
While awareness itself is a strategy for management when it comes to our emotions; what has almost always helped me manage my emotions well, express them in constructive ways, and gain perspective, is by having meaningful conversations. Most of the time, we stay inside our heads and overplay certain thoughts again and again. Since thoughts are what produce emotions in us, recurring negative thoughts means recurring negative emotions. While none of us are exempt from this phenomenon, we can find a way out by talking to a trusted friend—a family member, a mentor, partner; someone we can trust to listen to us non-judgmentally, ask us questions, and provide us with some insights about our situation.
If we find it difficult to have conversations when we’re overwhelmed, we can find other means to help us express our emotions. Writing could be one medium. Exercising some form of art can be another. Expressing ourselves through music can sometimes help us reconnect with ourselves in the most therapeutic of ways when we can’t make sense of things. It’s just a matter of finding out what works for us.
In figuring out ways to deal with the discomfort that the negative thoughts and emotions can bring, we also need to be patient. In today’s world of convenience and fast-paced solutions, we might want our thoughts and emotions to be ‘fixed’ as conveniently and quickly as possible. But that is not how it works. We may be living in a world full of modern infrastructures and technological aids but our biological wiring is a result of hundreds and thousands of years of evolution. So, we need to give those thoughts and emotions time to sink in. We need to make ourselves a bit more open to experiencing them, long before they start loosening their grip on us, and leaving us more resilient for the next time we experience something similar.
If we think about it, discomfort isn’t what makes our life inconvenient. Not knowing how to deal with it, is what does. As Susan David, the author of Emotional Agility says, “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” Here’s wishing you meaningful days ahead.