Like so many parents today, anyone who knew me could see I was the epitome of the adage, “if you want something done, ask a busy person.” As a full-time working mom, I was devoted to ensuring my kids didn’t feel short-changed when compared to friends with homemaker moms. At the same time, I felt it essential to model an ethic of nonprofit service elbow-to-elbow with my kids.
It seemed that I was managing to cover all the bases, and I didn’t see anything that could be eliminated or simplified. There was one thing that kept nagging at me though – a dull pain in my shoulder. It took some time and thought, but I learned a lot of lessons about the mental nature of pain — and how to control it, rather than letting it control me.
I didn’t know then that I was part of a staggering national statistic — the high percentage of Americans who report they experience chronic pain. It was forty-seven percent in a 2012 Gallup-Healthways study.
I was convinced that it was the result of long hours spent in my home office. There must be something about the ergonomics of my office set-up that my shoulder wasn’t appreciating, right? Over time, I made a number of adjustments – a better chair, phone headset, computer monitor, keyboard tray, etc. None resulted in ending the pain.
Some friends with similar problems had tried different medicinal solutions, but found that they didn’t end the pain either and — in some cases — brought unhealthy side effects. I was looking for a solution that didn’t require long-term management and didn’t have strings attached.
Based on previous life experiences, I was then ready to be more honest with myself — the stress-level in my thinking had to be addressed. It hit me: I was the epitome of another adage – “shouldering too much responsibility”…or burden, both physically and mentally.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, reports: “The mind and body work together – they cannot be separated.” And, “high amounts of stress and the perception that stress impacts health are each associated with poor health and mental health.”
I began to probe my thinking and remove anything that was causing mental burdens. Throughout my life, I’ve found guidance and inspiration in The Bible. Often a pertinent idea will come to thought when I need it. This time, it was a well-known verse from Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”
This verse reminded me that I didn’t need to feel overwhelmed, overburdened, or as if I were shouldering all the responsibility alone. I could lean on the divine to give me new inspirations about how to prioritize my life, and to give me a renewed sense of grace and energy.
Perhaps most important, the fear of lingering pain could be transformed into a conviction that I didn’t need to suffer. The concept of God I’d grown up with – as being all-good and all-loving – assured me that God’s plan for me didn’t include pain. Instead, it included comfort, freedom of activity, and joy. With this more spiritual focus, the pain that had lingered so long actually disappeared quickly, and has never returned.
Ultimately, I realized that after months of looking inward – for internal strength like perseverance and organization, and looking outward – for external fixes like ergonomics and relinquishing commitments, the solution was found in looking upward – to trust in God as the source of balance, calm, vitality and health in my life.