Grin and bear it?

Published on:
October 22, 2020

Ever suddenly pull a muscle — whether it’s by lifting something awkwardly, exercising or just getting out of bed wrong? This is happening more frequently as I get older. It teaches us not to repeat certain (often ill advised) movements. It’s also nature’s way of telling us to lay off it and give it a rest before we do something that’s really going to mess us up. Usually, we just limp or hobble along and grin-and-bear-it until it gets better. Fortunately, the human body is remarkably resilient. And over time, we all learn to live with a certain amount of pain. It’s just part of life. Those occasional aches and pains keep us sharp and in the moment.

Stress is a kind of a mental ache. In its extreme form, it can be debilitating and affect our health. Unlike a physical injury, it often goes unnoticed, but it is always there and has an impact. We are distracted, our creativity is low and (yes, it’s true) we can be irritable. Unlike a physical injury, grinning-and-bearing-it is not a good option. Instead, we need coping mechanisms that de-stress the mind. Try to reframe the problem. Seek control by identifying choices that you have. And stay connected through words and activities with those who are important to you.

Other ideas to get by in these times.

Sometimes we get all caught up in structure and routines. Yes, it’s important to have a routine to start your day and one to wind it up, but in between flexibility is paramount. Things come up. Stuff happens. We need to adapt and move tasks around. Being tied to a routine can create friction and even guilt. Instead, commit yourself to practices, which are more of a to do list than a schedule of activities. This requires discipline to set aside time -- to exercise, walk the dog, mediate, call your mom or shop for a healthy dinner. You make a deal with yourself in order to take care of more pressing things. Don’t sell yourself short on this deal.

Chunk the work. When we get a big project, the temptation is to try to tackle it all at once, or at least in one sitting. It looms large in our future so we put it off. When we do dig in, the enormity of it all causes us to look for distraction or get caught in the minutia. Better to spend some time up front and break the work up into a series of manageable pieces. When you have discrete milestones that you know are achievable, your mind can focus and creativity can happen. It’s like golf. You focus on one shot at a time. Unless you need a mulligan or you can’t find your second shot, but otherwise, just like the (game) of golf.

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