I went grocery shopping last week and as always walked from aisle to aisle filling up the cart. One of the last things on my list was a box of band aids. So I headed to the wound care aisle. I stood in the aisle far too long staring at the shelves filled with band aids, gauze and medical tape.
In truth, it was not due to the large selection of band aids nor was it because I could not make up my mind between which box to buy. I found myself stuck in the aisle thinking about the important role that band aids play.
The actual definition of a band aid is “a makeshift, limited, or temporary aid or solution that does not satisfy the basic or long-range need”.
Band aids serve a purpose in the moment but quite honestly never heal the wound – they only aid. Band aids help to calm a child after a shot in the arm or a fall. They help to restrict and contain bleeding from a cut or scrape and in part create a protective barrier.
A band aids job is not to heal. Band aids are nothing more than a short-term coverup when there is a wound that, over time, needs to heal.
So why am I writing about band aids? Trust me when I say it is not because I have a deep interest in band aids or wound care. Well – at least not in medical terms.
I am writing about band aids because I had one of those aha moments as I stood in the wound care aisle. Staring at the boxes of band aids reminded me that we are all wounded in some way. And regardless of the wound it can be incredibly hard to heal.
Life can be incredibly difficult. It does not matter if the issue is big or small. When the tough stuff finds its way into the corners of our homes it can turn lives upside down. No one is immune to difficult times and sadly, it is easy to take a fall.
Death, illness, depression, job loss, addiction, divorce, tragedy, bullying, suicide, financial issues, homeless and broke are just a few of the many losses that any one of us might be called upon to face. Regardless of the struggle it can take even the strongest down – leaving people wounded and broken on the floor.
Unfortunately, people are desperate to feel better and instinctively reach out for anything that will stop the bleed or numb the pain.
I have been there. There was a time in my life when things were falling apart at every turn. Loss and the grief that came with it overwhelmed me and the daily pressures of life as a single parent left me feeling lost and incredibly alone. Stress took its toll. I wasn’t sleeping. I had anxiety and my heart was broken.
There were days I felt like I could not take one more thing and I was desperate to find an escape. In short – I reached for band aids to numb out and in the moment reduce the stress and pain. Partying was one of my favorite band aids. However, like most band aids it did not heal my wounds. It was nothing more than a temporary fix and it simply masked my struggles and pain.
In the end, the band aids I thought I so badly needed were pouring fuel on the fire and quite frankly made things worse.
The band aid effect is far too common. Human beings often gravitate towards things that they believe will help them to feel better. Alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, food, work, television and shopping are just a few of the many band aids that people reach for when feeling desperate and hurting.
I worked with a client that desperately wanted to lose weight. She felt embarrassed and struggled with low self-esteem. Unfortunately, she became trapped in a vicious cycle of unhealthy patterns that were hard to break. Every time something happened she would automatically turn towards food to try to stop the pain. Unfortunately, food only masked the issue and did nothing to heal her wounds. In addition, the food added to her misery because she continued to gain weight.
This is a common theme and regardless of the band aid, it is nothing but a temporary and short-term fix. As soon as the band aid falls off the pain returns and sometimes the wound is bigger than it was the day before.
The band aid effect is a real problem in society and it plays in part a huge role in keeping people stuck far longer than they need to be. There are better ways to deal with the tough stuff in life. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind if you find yourself reaching for a band aid when you are having a hard time.
- Self-awareness is key.
It is impossible to change something within ourselves if we do not first know it exists. It is normal to try to ignore things that cause us pain. However, self-awareness is the first step to healing. Pay attention to your thoughts, your habits and your patterns. Get close and personal with yourself and look deep within. It is important that you are aware of those things that you are vulnerable to and that only add to your pain.
2. Be brutally honest.
There is nothing more difficult than looking in the mirror and having to be completely honest with ourselves. Dig deep and face the tough stuff even if you are afraid of what you might find. Healing begins when we can be honest with ourselves and yes – that includes admitting that we have weaknesses and things we need to change. Stop pretending that everything is okay and recognize that you do not have to be perfect. Everyone has weaknesses and struggles with something. It is okay. Be honest and accept the things that are keeping you stuck. Acceptance is key.
3. Love ALL of yourself.
It is not always loving others that poses the biggest challenge in life but rather it is the challenge of loving ourselves that can be the difficult mountain to climb. Sadly, we all start life relatively happy, confident and believing in our abilities and who we are. But – life steps in. Constant outside influences permeate into our personal spaces and slowly start to erode the things that help to maintain self-worth and self-love.
It is super important to learn to forgive your past if that is holding you back and to let go of regrets. Those two things do not define you unless you allow them to. Push out negative thoughts and start to replace them with positive ones. Practice self-love and be gentle with your own heart. Treat yourself like you would others. Make positive affirmations a part of your daily rituals. If you can learn to love yourself and all that comes with you it becomes easier to push through the tough stuff and avoid the potholes.
4. Live in gratitude.
It is difficult to see the light in life when everything looks and feels so dark. And it is equally as hard to have the strength to avoid some of the band aids we seek out when we feel like there is nothing good in our lives. While that is true for many it is critical that you are able to keep your eyes wide open so that you can see ALL that is in front of you. There are always good things in life even when we are laying face down in the ditch covered in dirt. If you are feeling awful and struggling to feel better I would challenge you to take a look around and take inventory of all the good versus focusing on everything bad.
Incorporate a gratitude journal into your daily routine. Write at least three things down that you are grateful for every single day. If you look you will find them. It might be something as simple as you had hot water for a shower, a cup of coffee and your faithful loving dog. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you start to seek out and focus on things that you are grateful for. It makes a difference when life feels hard.
5. Get up and show up.
A friend of mine once told me that it doesn’t matter how bad you are feeling or how tired you are. It is important that you get up and show up. I work out of my home and sometimes it is tempting to stay in my pajamas without a shower and hide all day long. Not a good idea when life has turned upside down. It is important that you get up out of bed. Take a shower. And as Rachel Hollis says, Girl Wash Your Face.
It is important to move every day. Take a walk. Meet a friend. Do something you love and enjoy. It doesn’t have to be much and some days it might be a struggle to do much of anything BUT do something.
6. Change your environment.
When life is hard and it gets you down it is far easier to feel desperate and fall into the potholes that can swallow us whole. The band aids do nothing but make things worse. If you are hanging around people who are bad influences on you or are stuck in an environment that is filled with temptations to fall into the potholes you need to avoid – change your environment. Make sure you are removing those things from your life that weaken you and in the end add to your pain. Surround yourself with people and things that lift you up and that help you to heal. Band aids will keep you stuck and delay long-term healing or worse yet rip the wounds wide open.
7. Remove the cork.
Unfortunately, society is often uncomfortable with loss, grief and the tough stuff life hands out. In turn, we then learn to keep everything inside and stuff our feelings instead of facing them and working to heal in a healthy way. It is imperative that you learn to face your feelings and talk about them as you try to heal your wounds. If you continue to stuff everything deep down inside you will eventually blow. Similar to a steam kettle filled with water, a high flame burning below and a cork jammed into the spout.
The Grief Recovery Handbook addresses the importance of removing the cork so that you can effectively deal with all of your emotions stuffed inside versus using temporary band aids that do not work in the long-term. You need to get to the root of the problem and remove it versus using those vices that provide nothing more than the temporary illusion of relief.
8. Life will throw curveballs.
Life is unfair sometimes and yes it will throw curveballs. The question is not if but when. It is impossible to be completely prepared and unfortunately many of the things that happen in life are out of our control. However, remember that it is not always what happens to you but what you choose to do about it when the curveballs get thrown.
It might feel like you will never feel better. You might feel like you are not strong enough to get through it or do what it takes. But you are stronger than you think and the human spirit is incredibly resilient. You can do it and sometimes you have to truly focus on one step at a time. It is not a sprint but a marathon. Keep going. Band aids are not the answer in the long-term. Find those things that will make a difference and heal you; not mask the wounds.
9. Ask for help.
In the end, healing from loss, grief or a wound sometimes proves to be far more difficult and it is beyond the scope of what we can do on our own. Depression, panic attacks and anxiety can set in and it is difficult to maintain clarity and far easier to fall prey to unhealthy coping mechanisms. The band aids can become a dangerous ally to our desperation and quite frankly, lead to dangerous consequences that make the problems worse. It is okay to ask for help. In fact – it is a good thing to lean on others and get the help you may need.
It is important to remember that you are not alone. There are others that are, in this very moment, fighting similar battles. There is always someone out there that will understand, listen and can offer help. Don’t isolate and become so desperate and fall so low that you start to believe you cannot get back up. There is help out there. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.
I know that life can feel incredibly overwhelming and while I have not walked in your shoes I have been in tough places more than once. I have heard countless stories of loss, pain and resilience. But I have also seen people rise above the pain and come out stronger and happier on the other side. So can you.
There are better days ahead and while it might feel overwhelming you can do it. The first step is believing that you can.
You deserve to live a happy and fulfilled life. You matter. And regardless of how hard life might be it is possible to feel better and things can turn around. It will take work but love yourself to believe that it is worth it because you are worth it.
In Love and In Peace-
I would love to hear from you. Please let me know what some of your band aids have been or healthier ways you have learned to heal.