Have you recognized the power of your perspective? Do you realize the difference that your outlook on life or your perception of a particular situation can make? I have heard this concept discussed many times, and I have believed it on a general level for most of my life. But, it hasn’t been until more recently that I’ve begun to realize just how powerful our perspective can be.
Let me share a very recent example of my own experience of perspective. I have been feeling very overwhelmed these past few weeks, inundated with life stuff, both good and bad. I feel exhausted, wondering why I always seem to end up in the middle of everything, and just wanting a nice long break. Without even realizing it, I have let negative thoughts take over my mind. And not necessarily the obviously negative self-criticism or ‘doom and gloom’ thoughts, just generally negative. Concerns about a friend’s difficult situation and what specific steps she needs to take to get back on track, if only she could see it. Worries about this year’s goals at work and how big and overwhelming they seem. So many constant thoughts that are unconstructive and discouraging, filling my mind so there is no room left for the positive. No wonder I have been feeling so tired and overwhelmed!
Once I realized what I had been doing, I was able to make a conscious effort to flip those negative thoughts through a positive perspective. My friend’s actions are out of my control and I am not accomplishing anything by continuously playing over her poor choices in my mind, except to bring my own attitude down. There are so many positive things in my life I can fill my thoughts with instead. And with a positive perspective I can focus on the opportunity rather than the problem. I have a great team at work and maybe we won’t accomplish all of our goals this year, but maybe we will, and how amazing that will be! Now instead of feeling tired, I feel excited. Instead of feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, I feel the fullness of my life, blessed, and eager to see all that this year will bring.
“But I’m not worried about a deadline at work,” you may be thinking, “I am overwhelmed with a life of pain.” I know where you’re coming from—I’ve been there, and I still go there from time to time as well. Pelvic pain can take over your life and painful sex can take away your identity as a woman (or a man). Yet the power of your perspective governs your physical body just as much as your mental approach to life’s challenges. I recently read a post from another patient blogger that was entitled Hope Sucks. Just reading that title made my spirits sink, and the first thought I had when reading her post was “if only you could see the power of your perspective.” When your mind is filled with negative thoughts and your perspective is marred by hopelessness, your body responds and worsens the cycle of pain. Worry and stress have a very real physical effect on your body. For those of us with hypertonic pelvic floor muscles in particular, the effect of a worrisome thought is truly instantaneous as we tense up our pelvic floor and perpetuate the pain cycle.
A positive perspective, on the other hand, can have a profound effect on your body’s healing process and pain levels. I want to go into this more in future posts, because there is so much research on how hope and positive thinking has a measurable physical effect on our bodies. In the meantime, you can check out this blog post, Placebo Nocebo, for a bit of an introduction to the topic.* And if you’re thinking that there’s nothing positive you can focus on, I beg to differ. Are you still searching for a diagnosis and just finished another test or trial treatment with no success? Well, that’s one more checked off the list of possibilities and one step closer to the correct one. Are you in the middle of your healing journey, feeling like treatment will go on forever? Take time to focus on the small improvements—you may be taking two steps forward and one step back, but that’s still one step closer to your goal. Maybe you need to focus on the stories of other people’s successes. You can have hope because others have gone before you and have made it to the other side. And most importantly, take time to envision what the other side of your healing looks like; visualize that next healing step.
I challenge you to test it out. Take the next week to intentionally use the power of your perspective to positively influence your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and actions, and see how your body reacts. When you feel those negative thoughts creeping back in, make an effort to flip them around. Instead of stressing about how you have to squeeze in another physical therapy appointment in the midst of your busy schedule, savor the opportunity to take a break, relax and treat your body well. When you feel like you can’t flip your negative thought around, instead shift your focus to something positive. Listen to your favorite music or gaze at the beauty of nature (even a picture of a beautiful sunset can have a powerful effect). Most of all I encourage you to never forget that when sex hurts there is hope!
*Sara Sauder is a physical therapist blogger that I follow (check out the link to her site, Blog About Pelvic Pain, on the main sidebar). She has great content and certainly keeps it interesting with her humor and spunk!