Since my teens, the question I’ve needed answered was whether it was our strong and prepared bodies that kept our souls and our minds afloat in times of hardship, or was it the strength of our emotional health that served as the beacon for the rest of our existence to follow?
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It’s a heavy question, but something that weighed on my mind. I thought about my own history, the tragedies and tribulations from which I came to be here today.
My grandfathers who were sent to the camps were my personal examples.
Though they fell to the physical terrors they faced, they held true to their beliefs. They didn’t betray, like the good guys from my favorite stories.
I’ve always loved reading historical novels and watching historical films. The heroic stories of what real people endured captivated me.
It indulged my endless curiosity in people, in life. Not only did these historical figures become my role models, but my source of inspiration, guiding me since my childhood.
Every now and then, I measure my actions and my moral compass against those of my heroes.
Of course, the stories I have read took place in various different settings and times in history.
What all of these stories did have in common, however, was that these heroes stood at crossroads.
There was always been a choice to make, to stick with what’s comfortable and easy and continue on, or to betray someone, something, some idea, in favor of a new life.
I quickly noticed and grew to detest how the supposed traitor was portrayed. Always regarded as a selfish figure, as if there was no differentiating selfishness and self-preservation, they were always shown as the lesser heroes, the ones who compromised at someone’s expense for their own gain.
Regardless of what culture the story came from or what time in history, these were second only to villains. But were they really that bad?
Some were captured as prisoners of war and tortured. Some were survivors of treacherous childhoods.
Many of them were broken physically, morally, and came to forcefully accept the foul play of perfidy.
But back then, I was just a girl. I was composed of things taught and encountered, not quite the product of a sheltered environment, but more or less safe from the atrocities of the world. It was during those days that my fears and conflicts were simple.
I was afraid of darkness, of snakes, of cemeteries, of the group of boys watching me pass, of having blood drawn, of the sounds you hear in a dentist’s chair.
Sure, some of my fears could possibly lead to physical pain, but it was a time in my life where that idea was still far off.
As I grew older and saw how physical pain consumed people I loved, some succumbing while others learned to manage.
I thought back to those heroes who could be broken in bone but never in spirit, and I wanted to make them proud. I wanted to be ready for whatever physical pain life hurled my way. I wanted to be the kind of girl and later, the kind of woman they’d be proud of.
What I didn’t realize was that my teenage introspections were my first musings in how the brain processes pain. I wanted to know how to translate emotional strength from within and manifest it in a physical way.
I learned that pain is intimidating if you aren’t mentally prepared to deal with it.
It was then that I was ready to learn techniques to do just that. I began to hunt and collect the techniques from any source I could possibly find.
I had conversations with professional athletes, doctors, firemen, policemen, active duty and retired members of the military.
My journalist’s badge and level of popularity at the time have given me access to some truly valuable sources. Here’s what I’ve learned.
1. Know Your Strengths
If you look to other times in your life that you’ve exhibited strength, you can harness that strength. Think of all the things your body has proven to be capable of throughout your lifetime. Every bump, bruise, broken bone has been a testament to your body’s strength and ability to mend and move forward.
2. Understand What Pain Is
Pain is a series of sensations that elicits a particular reaction from your body. By isolating the sensations, you’ll force your brain to process them separately, which in turn makes the pain less intensive.
While you might think that by this logic, you can block out the pain altogether. Unfortunately, such is not the case and will stress your body out, intensifying the pain.
3. Connect To Your Positivity
Of course, you have the option to experience your pain and endure it, but channelling in on the pain will magnify the experience. However, connecting to positive thoughts and emotions can give you the push necessary to make it through.
4. Take Control Of Pain
If you’re dealing with chronic pain or a particularly traumatic one-time incident, you may get caught up in feelings of hopelessness and desperation. Instead, you can take action, make proactive decisions. You can be a victim, or you can be a survivor, but only you can make that choice.
5. Turn To Mindfulness In Times Of Difficulty
Mindful meditation is incredibly helpful in times of pain. Mindful meditation can help control your body’s reaction to external stimuli, meaning that by meditating you can control your pain. You can train yourself to keep your breath even and show little or no physical reaction to the pain you’re in.
While we always hope to minimize the amount of pain, physical and emotional, that we deal with in our lives, we cannot eliminate it. It’s best to be prepared by constantly working with the skills you can use to bring your reprieve before you need them.