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Live Whole Health #213: Doing the best we can

Veterans in the “coping with pain” class I teach are often frustrated.

Many were frustrated with their families for not being supportive enough, with their employers for not being understanding, and with their health care teams for not being able to cure their pain.

I noticed these Veterans’ strongest frustration was usually with themselves and their bodies. As one Veteran told us, “I always knew I’d get old, I just didn’t know it’d happen this early.” Chronic pain makes it hard to do the simplest tasks—getting dressed in the morning, walking the dog, buying groceries—and we become angry at ourselves and our bodies for our “weakness.”

In dealing with frustration, it is helpful to believe people are doing the best they can with the knowledge, skills and abilities they have. While I know this isn’t always true, it offers a way forward with someone who is frustrating me. If I tell myself the person is trying their best but doesn’t know a better way, or hasn’t learned the right skills, or has been taught the wrong information, I can partner with them and try to improve the situation.

Giving ourselves some grace

The hardest person to do this with is myself. I usually believe I should do better than I am doing. Offering myself the same grace I give others turns my focus away from frustration and toward compassion. This is an important shift because frustration very rarely leads to growth, while compassion usually does.

If you’re interested in what self-compassion looks like, try this 11-minute “Loving Kindness Practice” led by Dr. Christiane Wolf. You’ll be asked to offer positive thoughts for a loved one and, hard as it may be, for yourself. Maybe the practice will show you a new path forward—for your loved ones and for yourself.

Learn how Loving Kindness has proven effective in treating PTSD. You can consult your local Whole Health Facility Contact to get more information about Whole Health clinics, programs, and services available at your VA.

Welcome to your local American Legion! We will no longer be open for dinner on Mondays and Tuesdays.