How To Change When It Feels Impossible
As a mental health and pain management coach, I spend a lot of time talking to my clients about managing chronic pain, chronic illness, and mental health struggles like depression, anxiety, grief, ADHD, bipolar disorder, etc.
In the process, I often hear, "I want to change Christina, but I just can't." My response is always, "well…you get to decide that." I'm often met with a confused look—and rightfully so. How can anyone decide that they can change their anxiety? Depression? Grief?
For most of us, mental and physical health issues aren't our fault—they just happened to us. We may feel it's luck, chance, fate, or even karma but scientifically speaking, biology/genetics, environmental factors, and learned behaviors are all to blame. Whatever the ingredients, we typically feel frustrated and helpless- victims of our body and mind. So how then do you change something that you have no control over? How do you change when it feels so impossible?
Here are three of my best tips and tricks for changing when you don't feel you're strong enough:
1. Implement Radical Acceptance
It's important to understand that we can change anything outside of other people and death. Bold statement, eh? Let me clarify. Most times, we can't change our situation…but we can change how we perceive our situation. I am not suggesting that we adopt a fictional, false, delusional reality. In fact, it's quite the opposite. We need to be grounded in reality—prepared to put aside the excuses that help deceive us—and truly face our reality—good, bad, or really ugly.
Radical acceptance is a concept from D.B.T. (dialectical behavioral therapy). Radical acceptance postulates that we need to accept difficult situations in our life just as they are, without judgment—we need to accept things that are outside of our control—and, by doing so, we can reduce our suffering. Let me explain…because I know it sounds…radical.
It's imperative to understand that the acceptance component of 'radical acceptance’ does not mean you’re in agreement. Acceptance simply means that you stop fighting reality—you acknowledge what has happened as it really happened.
When we judge a situation, we often say things like, "this isn't fair!" Or "why is this happening to me?!" Or "what did I do to deserve this?!" While anger, grief, sadness, and disbelief are completely normal, constantly wishing that "it" never happened, blaming ourselves (and others), or refusing to see reality for what it is…will keep us stuck.
Radical acceptance doesn't mean that the pain disappears—it means the suffering does—and once the suffering stops, you will be better equipped to find solutions for the things you can change.
2. Be Clear on WHY You Want to Change
To change, we must come to terms with the fact that the way we're living in our current reality just isn't working. We must be willing to change--we might not know how, but we must possess a desire to find a better way to cope with what we're struggling with. The real question to ask yourself: "is the pain of staying the same greater than the pain of change?" If you answer yes, you can and will change. If the answer is no… you're just not ready to change…yet.
Understanding the reason why you want to change is a crucial first step. Why? Because that reason will be tested every time you want to give up...every time you want to take the path of least resistance...and every time you fail and don't feel strong enough to get back up again. So, if that reason is not strong enough or clear enough, it will never stand a chance against the negativity that will inevitably ensue.
Furthermore, it's essential to understand why you're changing because if it's for someone else…you may be able to change in the short term, but you won't be able to find lasting change. People only change when they want to.
3. Set Clear Bite-sized Goals
Whenever we want to change anything, having clear goals to achieve is one of the first steps to success. SMART goals were designed to help us take our "big picture" goals and break them down into bite-sized, actionable steps.
SMART is an acronym which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. By setting SMART goals, you can clarify your ideas, focus your efforts, productively use your time and resources, and increase your chances of achieving what you want in life.
To find out how to set smart goals, please click here.
Changing any thinking pattern or behavior is hard work. We must be ready, willing, and able to be persistent and consistent--and even then, we will fail! In fact, it's important to remind yourself that failure is part of the algorithm of success.
Thomas Edison said it best— "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
So, you have to ask yourself, is the pain of staying the same greater than the pain of change? I don't know…you tell me.
To learn more about Christina H Chororos or Kairos Chronic Pain Coaching, please visit kairoschronicpain.com or call 908.370.5713 or 908.322.0112