Learning to Tolerate Distress

106669667_1074075026323165_4007067944658877740_n (1)By Donna Shea & Nadine Briggs

I (Donna) recently had an outdoor (physically distant but felt so awesomely normal) coffee with a new friend of mine who I met through presenting local professional development workshops.

I believe that friends come (or go) in our lives for a reason. It’s nice to feel a “click” when you meet someone. Even us grown-ups have room in our lives for new friends, new experiences, and new points of view.

I’m writing about her because she gave me a gift that I (kind of desperately) needed due to so many things going on in not only my life but in the lives of those around me and in our greater life together as human beings. That gift was these words: tolerate distress.

I don’t tolerate stress and anxiety as well as I would like to when it becomes too much. I’m really good at being on top of the day-to-day problems that pop up and teaching children how to manage kid-sized anxiety and stress. But when it’s really big, and it goes on without a foreseeable resolution, and I can’t make a plan, and I can’t solve it? Whelp. My personality doesn’t deal with that very well. And there are multiple big things going on all at once.

Tolerate distress. Her words became a mantra for me over these last few weeks. Anytime I feel myself falling into the anxiety pit or spinning my brain around looking or solutions that may or may not be there, I whisper those words. Because if we can tolerate distress, we can build our coping and resilience skills at any age. Human distress takes many forms. I have friends that are undergoing things that force me to put my own stuff in perspective.

As the meme says, life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again.

And amidst the awful, a friend comes along and teaches you to tolerate that awful, because it will eventually be amazing again.