How to Start Seeing Your Struggles as Breakthroughs: Science-Backed Strategies for When You Feel Like Giving Up

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Have you ever felt like happiness was out of reach?

You tell yourself you'll be happy when this or that happens, but that thing you're waiting for feels so out of reach. You feel too much in pain, too overwhelmed to take the step that will get you closer, and every day, you feel further away from your dream.

It happened to me too, especially in the earlier stages of my pelvic pain healing, when I didn't know if anything was ever going to be OK again.

Yet over the years, I've seen powerful things happen and crazy wild dreams come true when, in that moment that seems like your darkest hour, you dare to keep a little bit of hope that there is a queen within you… and you dare to take the action you need to awaken her.

It's how you show up, it turns out – it's your mindset – that opens the door to happiness and making the world your own.

But how do you do start?

 

Start With Your “Why”

The first step to awakening the queen within you when everything just feels hard is to remember why it's worth it to you to take another step forward.

You can create a list or a vision board or a Pinterest account – whatever works for you. But either way, focus on why all your effort matters:

Are you tired of the doctor road show? Are you tired of the looks you get from your spouse because they don't get your lady problems, and expect things to go on as usual? Are you fed up with overworking yourself and feeling like you can't function?

Is this keeping you from doing something you love, like dancing, or starting a side hustle, because who has the energy or physical ability to pull any of that off?

Imagine what life could be like if you could pull that off.

Visualize what it could be like and how you would feel. Write it down or record it, then go back to it every single day, so your brain knows to focus on it more than on your pain of pelvic dysfunction. Specifically, you want the reticular activating system – or RAS – of your brain to learn what to focus on.

According to Entrepreneur, RAS “is basically a filter for the roughly eight million bits of information (subconsciously) flowing through our brain… It eliminates the white noise. When a message gets past the RAS filter, it enters the cerebrum and is then converted into conscious thoughts, emotions or even both.”

“As Ruben Gonzalez, author of The Courage to Succeed, explains, “Even though the cerebrum is the center of thought, it will not respond to a message unless the RAS allows it. The RAS is like Google. There are millions of websites out there, but you filter out the ones you are not interested in simply by typing a keyword,” reports Entrepreneur.

The more you consistently focus on what you're working toward – virtually type it into your RAS every day by saying it out loud, writing it down or reviewing your list – the more that message will find its way past the RAS and your brain will be all in to help you claim and keep your crown.

 

My masterclass replay is available for a limited time… “5 Simple Steps to Happier “Lady Parts” – How to Say Goodbye to Leaking, Pressure, and Pain Without Setting Foot in a Doctor’s Office”

Examine How You Talk to Yourself

If you consistently tell your RAS that you can't do something – because of down there problems, because of exhaustion, because you're a mom, because you're not a mom, or because you're too old or too young, or because you're not good enough – that's the message your RAS will pass on to your brain, and before you know it, it'll become your reality.

When I was in the trenches, trying to heal my pelvic floor, I had to examine my thoughts every single hour of every single day. Because it was that hard to stay empowering toward myself.

A book that helped me was Loving What Is by Byron Katie. In the book, she recommends challenging thoughts you take for granted.

Ask yourself, “Is my thought true?” Are you really incapable? Do you really don't have the time? Do you have 100% scientific evidence it will always be this way?

And if you think your thought is true, she recommends looking at how that makes you feel.

Then, she recommends turning the thought around, even just for a moment, long enough for you to tell yourself “I do have the time” or “I am capable,” and see how that feels.

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Be Willing to Change the Story You Tell Yourself

One of the reasons I had to examine how I spoke to myself every hour is because, when I was in the trenches of my healing journey, I had catastrophic thinking – something that's very common for people dealing with chronic medical challenges.

According to Scientific American, “brain imaging research has shown a negative pain mindset (ruminating on how awful pain is and expecting it to worsen) actually amplifies pain processing in the brain.”

But when people suffering from long term pain receive cognitive behavioral therapy, it affects their pain levels. In one study, patients in a therapy group were asked to replace “‘catastrophic' patterns of thought – such as, ‘my pain is awful and there's nothing I can do about it'” – with empowering thoughts, “such as, ‘this pain flare is temporary. I'm going to focus on good self care,'” reports Scientific American.

For 11 weeks, the group practiced “daily relaxation of mind and body [and] cultivated a sense of safety that counteracts the ingrained danger signals of chronic pain” that were previously sent to the brain, it reports.

They patients ended up with “less pain, greater control over their experiences, less catastrophic thinking about pain and, importantly, increased volume in the regions of the brain associated with brain control,” Scientific American adds.

They actually changed their brain's structure.

And if you can do it with pain, you can do it with discomfort, and you can do it with self-perceptions. Start telling your brain how great and capable you are, remind it of all the wonderful things you've already accomplished, and eventually, your RAS will let the message sink in.

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Practice How You Show Up With Others

I was a people pleaser for a long time. I knew that saying “no” to some things gave me the opportunity to say “yes” to what resonated with me most, but I still felt really uncomfortable doing so.

I know I'm not the only one. According to Medical Daily, those who have people pleasing tendencies “find disagreement more uncomfortable at the neurological level than others,” to the point of heightened brain activity, “mental stress and discomfort.”

I don't want you to feel stressed and uncomfortable when you say no. I don't want you to worry about ending up with no friends or job promotions, because that's often not how it works in the long run. Instead, you'll attract the friends and bosses who want you for YOU and what you have to offer.

Of course, it's easier said than done. Personally, I practiced saying “no” with a smile in front of the mirror for a very long time, because it was really challenging for me to say it in person. Another option is to start rewiring your brain at low risk situations, like saying, “I don't want to go see that movie, I prefer to see this one.”

Say Hell, Yeah to Your Inner Queen

Awakening the queen within you is possible, and you do have what it takes to make it happen.

Now, you “just” need to make the time.

You need to make it a priority, to make a meeting with yourself – an actual meeting you put on your calendar – and make sure everyone around you knows you're not available during that time.

I encourage you to take action this week. Today even, if you can. Take one step forward. Because the more you practice, the easier it will become to change your mindset, and the more likely your tiara is to stay where it belongs – on your head.

 

My masterclass replay is available for a limited time… “5 Simple Steps to Happier “Lady Parts” – How to Say Goodbye to Leaking, Pressure, and Pain Without Setting Foot in a Doctor’s Office”

About the Author

ISA HERRERA, MSPT, CSCS

Isa Herrera, MSPT, CSCS is a New York City-based holistic women’s pelvic floor specialist, author of 5 books on pelvic health, including the 2017 international best seller Female Pelvic Alchemy and the ground-breaking self-help book, Ending Female Pain, A Woman's Manual. She has dedicated her career to advancing awareness of pelvic floor conditions so that more people can find relief from this silent epidemic that affects over 30 million people in the US alone. Ms. Herrera holds a BA in Psychology and Biology from Fordham University and also a Masters in Physical Therapy from Hunter College. Click here for a complete bio.