The deeper I dive into stress and pain management coaching the better I’m able to understand the power of words and how the language we use affects us. Everytime I start drafting content, I am aware of my word choices and how the language I use will resonate with - and therefore help - my readers and clients.

Those of you who have been reading along may have noticed some of the incredibly powerful words used in Embracing Grief. These words accurately described my feelings and experiences surrounding grief, stress, and loss.

I usually avoid saying things like: “I don’t have a choice” or that “I suffer”. Yet, both those phrases accurately describe how I felt at the time.

I suffered. 

I felt I had no choice. 

My felt heart drop through my feet and into the earth. 

We feel emotional pain internally and externally; emotional pain can manifest in our physical body. First we have the thought, then if we don’t cope with the thought, we experience the emotion physically. When emotional pain goes unacknowledged for long periods of time, it transitions to chronic physical pain.

As someone who already lives with a physical body that experiences chronic pain, the emotional pain exacerbates the already existing pain. Man, talk about a bad combination. 

My back currently has two choices on the menu: unbearable muscle pain or crippling nerve pain. I’m not sure about you, but given these two options, I’d rather go somewhere with a better menu.

By honoring my feelings with accurate words, as heavy as those words were, it helped me to heal. (Okay... maybe crying with a friend over Zoom also helped a little.) Using the right words helped me to connect with how I really felt, and by doing so, I was able to let go. 

Healing myself on an emotional level helped me to remember that suffering was a choice. I healed at the emotional level. 

To clarify, suffering is a choice, but pain is not a choice. Most of the time, this is the mentality that guides my daily life and choices. I do the work to release the hard emotions to grow and accept what is. 

When I clear the emotions, I clear my vision.

When I cleared my vision, I created space to see the possibilities.

Once I could see the possibilities again, I could navigate the sensations in my body while keeping focus on my daily activities. 

My relationship with the P word then changes. Instead of “Even weekends suck right now! Why can’t I get a break from pain like I get from work? I just want to not be here for a while.”, its “Yay! Saturdays...the most magical day of the week for me! What do I want to do today?”

This changes my mindset back to acceptance and asking questions like this may be where I am, but what can I do right now to make myself more comfortable?

I can see choices past the pain, there are more options on the menu than just pain. I could turn the menu over or ask what the specials are.

I choose action. Everyday, I can do something to benefit my back and alleviate the unpleasant sensations.

Do I take action or hang out and wait until surgery? How much do I want to do?

To better manage my priorities and streamline my time, I’ve adopted a wellness practice that focuses on how I start my day, or my morning routine. The non-negotiables for me include:

  • Getting my blood flowing with cardio
  • Stretching and strengthening with my Physical Therapy
  • Laughing (humor is healing)
  • Meditating
  • Adding play

In addition to broadening my perspective, meditation helps strengthen my back while reducing pain.

Throughout the day, I am mindful when I need rest. Sometimes taking it easy is the right thing. This mindfulness includes getting enough sleep for my optimal physical recovery.

Doing the work doesn’t suddenly make confronting and coping with painful emotions easy. Instead, doing the work makes it easier to navigate my emotions. Over time, each emotional confrontation and subsequent coping has gotten easier. Now, my body is not as reactive to manifesting emotional pain as physical sensations. And for me, that’s worth it.

By, Katie Wrigley and Sarah Kramer