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Learn & Practice

Tuesday Tip: Lean into Discomfort

By The Healthy Minds Team

This week’s Tuesday Well-Being Tip is to get curious about discomfort when you’re in an uncomfortable situation.

Photo by Inside Weather on Unsplash

There is a fine line between self care and avoidance of uncomfortable or challenging situations. In many cases, especially during the sustained levels of anxiety during 7+ months of Covid-19, a divisive and rhetorically amped up election process, and the general stress of work, parenting and people in general at the end of their rope – avoidance can bring the sweet, comforting relief of a comforter and a cup of tea.

But there’s a balance. If your instinct is to always fight the source of discomfort or avoid it as a form of self care, it usually does not work out that well in the long run.

Discomfort comes in lots of packages. Maybe it’s a difficult conversation waiting for you at work, maybe it’s the unpleasantness of relationships with certain acquaintances, friends or family members with whom you disagree or debate with regularly, maybe it’s the news, or facing up to the recognition of your own internal biases or other times you have not been your best self.

This week’s Tuesday tip is to get curious about discomfort when you’re in an uncomfortable situation.

Today, try leaning into this discomfort, by doing the following practice (from the Healthy Minds Program app).
  • Take a moment to think of an upcoming situation that might be a little unpleasant or challenging. It could be the pain of working out, or maybe you know you’re going to have to wait for something in the next day or two, or perhaps you’re about to have a difficult conversation – or something like that. Really take the time to zero in on this particular upcoming situation.
    • Now, our normal response to discomfort is either to fight its source or avoid it. In other words, we try to resist the discomfort. Unfortunately, resisting discomfort does not work out all that well.
    • More importantly, resistance creates tension…and even more discomfort. It can even drive us to engage in unhealthy behaviors. 
  • But, this time, when this upcoming uncomfortable situation arises, try a different approach. See if you can view the pain or discomfort as an opportunity, as a chance to learn about the difference between pain and suffering; as a chance to observe your own impulse to resist.
  • Instead of resisting the discomfort, explore it. Ask yourself a number of probing questions to get at its root:
    • What does the discomfort feel like? 
    • How bad is it really? 
    • What happens when you acknowledge the resistance, and then bring some curiosity and openness to the experience? 
  • You can find your own line of inquiry – really whatever is helpful – but in general, the key is to open up to the things you normally resist. So pick a specific situation over the next day and give it a try.

If you are looking for a more traditional guided meditation through this process, take ten minutes to explore your likes and dislikes in this practice from the Healthy Minds Program app.

Get more practices and tips by downloading the Healthy Minds Program App, freely available thanks to the generosity of our donors wherever you get your apps.

Healthy Minds Program App Tuesday Tips Well-Being Tips