Dealing with discomfort

November 16, 2020 8:41 pm

Last week I was chatting with my colleague Fiona McLean, and we realised that we both had recently worked with clients who actively avoided doing something they needed to do in order to side-step feeling any discomfort. In many of the situations, uncertainty and fear of ‘getting it wrong’ influenced people’s decision to simply maintain the status quo and not proactively address the challenges. In each of these cases, the individuals felt stuck but also were not willing to or unable to effectively deal with the discomfort that would be involved with taking the initial steps to change.

This conversation got me thinking about how we can motivate ourselves to experience discomfort or pain in the service of achieving a long term positive outcome.

Early in my career, my research investigated the effectiveness of various strategies for coping with chronic pain. I found that both avoidance and catastrophising were not only ineffective in reducing pain but was also associated with greater levels of depression. In contrast, more effective strategies such as re-evaluation and even distraction helped people become more active and subsequently reduce their discomfort.

More recent neuroscience is uncovering the complexities of neurobehavioral response. Likewise, these new studies are providing clues for how people can better manage their emotion and behaviour when facing discomfort/pain.

Questioning long-held beliefs, testing assumption, consciously re-setting expectation and ‘thought priming’ are among the strategies that can help people ‘choose’ to engage with their discomfort and ultimately make changes that result in better outcomes for themselves and others.

We discuss these strategies and others in our weekly 30-minute webinar STRONGER THROUGH CHANGE (Tuesday’s 10:00 AEDT)  If you would like to join the discussion register for free online.

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