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8 Steps from Pain to Progress

Everyone can relate to having bad days. Regardless of your status, position, state of mind, physical condition, or how happy people ‘seem’, EVERYONE has bad days. It is important to recognize that and let it serve as a reminder that we are not all that different from one another when it really comes down to bad days.

It is at this moment that I recall a wise and uplifting quote from a wise and uplifting grandfather figure to us all:

…and so do all who live to see such [bad] times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

– Gandalf (LOTR 2001)

Everyone struggles.

Everyone hurts.

and most importantly…


Step 1: Let It Hurt

One of the most difficult lessons I have had to learn throughout my journey of living with ulcerative colitis is to allow myself the freedom to hurt. It has always been a foreign concept to me in regards to how I felt about expressing my pain. Things always seemed to go a lot smoother for me if I just dealt with things quietly by myself and pushed tough feelings aside for a while. However, it was not until I finally let myself have bad days and express what I was feeling that I found how much more quickly healing began.

Whether it was flaring pains, uncomfortable commutes, or even the ever-embarrassing ‘CODE: BROWN’, I found a bit of salvation in telling myself that my struggle was okay to feel and express. Also, it’s totally normal to struggle and to be upset about it – the key is not to let it consume you.

Letting yourself feel without repercussions or suffocating, destructive thoughts is such a freeing and vulnerable experience unlike any other. Don’t allow thoughts such as “Oh, someone else probably has it worse” or “I should just suck it up” to overstay their welcome in your mind. They bring you no value.

Furthermore, here is a few more things you should try doing during your bad days:

Step 2: Take A Breath

Drop everything right now. Take a breath. Take a few breaths. Use the 4 – 6 – 8 method. Inhale for 4 counts, Hold for 6 counts, and exhale for 8 counts. Let the cool air fill your lungs through your nostrils and graze the top of your tongue while you exhale. Let your shoulders drop, unclench your fists, and close your eyes. Just try to be in the moment.

Focus on nothing but your breathing and your surroundings. Feel the ground beneath your feet and ground yourself (footwear optional). Is it fuzzy carpet, warm sand, tickling grass, cool tile, smooth hardwood, grainy concrete, or crumbly soil? What sounds do you hear around you? Try to hear each sound individually and give it its own attention. Breathe and let go of all of the frustration even for just this one moment.

Step 3: Unplug

Quite literally, unplug yourself. This means turn off or silence all electronics around you that you own (don’t just go shutting everyone’s laptop in the coffee shop and unplugging phone chargers at the airport). Allow yourself to take a step back and simplify your current circumstance. Texts and calls can wait a few minutes while you take this time for yourself. Unplugging also detaches you from escalating the situation further (however you are involved) as well as helps you refrain from saying things in anger you may not necessarily mean. You can never take back a stone after it is thrown.

Literally and figuratively, focus on ‘unplugging’ yourself from negative energy, people, and situations. Then, when you feel ready, you can choose to ‘plug in’ to inspiring, positive, and healing energy that is always waiting there for you.

Step 4: Assess Your Assets

On every bad day, there is always some good. It is sometimes really hard to find it but it is always there. You always have something to work with and “some POWER in your corner, now!” (Aladdin 1992). After all, you are still alive, you have people who care, and you have the power to bring about change. It is easy to forget how good we have it even though everything seems like it could not get any worse. Use a little perspective to bring about change.

FIND THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM. Write down the worst thing that can happen and assess how likely it is to actually happen. If it is likely, determine if there is something you can do about it and go from there. Large problems are much easier to tackle if you take them in small, reasonable pieces – the same argument can be made for eating cake.

Step 5: Let Go Of The Blame

The Blame Game is dangerous and has no legitimate value to you. It only contributes to the raging fire and serves as a breeding ground for hate and negative energy. So, that being said, “Shut that sh!t down, right now” (Neegan TWD 2016). Further confirmation can be found more elegantly in the kind words of the legendary MLK Jr.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

-Martin Luther King Jr.

At this point, it doesn’t matter who did what, the only thing that matters is you and how you will choose to react. You cannot begin to find a solution to a problem if you are focusing on something or someone to blame. The problem is there and the ball is now in your corner to do something about it.

The cool thing is, you always have to power to find a healthy, positive, and productive solution. Every time 🙂 Let go of that negativity. It’s heavy and you don’t need it.

Step 6: Look For The Lessons

In a very real sense, everything you experience is trying to teach you something. From the person, you sit next to in the park to the gut-wrenching tears rolling down your cheeks. There is always a lesson to learn from it and it is up to you to figure out what that is. There is an opportunity in every heartbreak, disaster, fall, and shortcoming for you to expand your awareness and gain some knowledge. In some cases, that new knowledge may be that you should not try to backflip off of a rotten tree branch.

In other cases, that knowledge may be to show you that you are stronger than you think you are. Every situation can be improved and understood if you find out what you can learn from it then let it go. Figuratively speaking, you’re already in the classroom, might as well just learn the dang lesson!

Step 7: Self Care

This is the best part! An absolute necessity for healing bad days is self-care. However, it is also the aspect of the process that is often the most overlooked. I am not talking about going out and drinking the pain away or gorging yourself on ice cream. Rather, I am talking about taking care of your mind and body by giving it exactly what it needs: Food, water, air, and shelter – although this shelter takes the form of REST. Mindful, intentional rest from the pain. In the words of my outstanding therapist:

“Transcend the bullsh!t”

That being said, grab yourself a healthy snack, fill up a water bottle, and take a walk. A short walk replenished with lots of water and a nutritious snack can decrease cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and increase levels of dopamine and serotonin (the feel-good hormones).

In addition to feeling better, your cardiovascular system will be engaged allowing more oxygen to flow to your brain cells allowing you to think more clearly, feel less sluggish, and be more focused. After your walk, maybe hop into a hot bath, put on a movie, snuggle with your pet, or crank some of your favorite music to allow yourself some space to remember what relaxation and joy feel like. Let go of feeling stressed and dive into feeling peaceful.

Step 8: Get Back Up

As the old saying goes “Fall nine times, get up ten.” It could not be more true. As a result of you being a champion, you are a fighter and victory is always possible.  By definition, it is your duty to fight until you have given your all and cannot continue in any capacity. Somehow, someway, it is essential that you get back up and back into the fight. Tackling the issue at the source with a clear, level-headed mindset will make you an unstoppable force for change. So, just wipe off your tears, throw your hair up, put on some gangsta rap, and remember how much of a bada$$ you really are!

Stay Classy, San Diego,



In my opinion, one of the most underrated songs by Linkin Park is sung beautifully by the late and great Chester Bennington. Powerful and uplifting, just an all-around great song when I am having a bad day! Here is Iridescent