As a little girl I experienced severe growing pains, particularly in my legs. I often woke in the night hurting so much I would cry out and into my room would come my father, with his soothing voice to calm me and take me in his arms to assure me everything was alright. I can still feel the exhaustion of my small body lying rigid and wracked with pain, hot wet tears forcing their way through my closed lids, dropping off the short cliff at the corners of my eyes, cascading into cold pools inside my ear cavities. My father would gently massage the calves of my legs with rubbing alcohol, all the while reminding me that everything was alright, that sometimes growing bigger can hurt, but the hurt wouldn’t last, and that my legs would be stronger in the morning.
At the time my own young daughter started experiencing growing pains of her own, she and I were living with my parents. When she cried out in the night it was my father who would go to her room, rubbing alcohol in-hand, with his soothing assurances of how okay everything was. Even after she and I moved into our own home, whenever the middle of the night pains showed up, my very little growing girl would phone her grandfather, waking him from his sleep, and he would get dressed, drive to our house (rubbing alcohol in-hand) and calmly put her back to sleep with his soothing reminders of how much stronger she would be in the morning.
I am so grateful to my dad for guiding me through the pain of physical growth and for showing me how to care for myself when I’m growing internally. What I understand today that was difficult for me to understand as a little girl in the middle of the night:
1. Massage elevates serotonin, dopamine & oxytocin levels. Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters secreted in the brain and oxytocin is a hormone — all three of which are elevated through massage and touch! Studies on the benefits of each of these have shown lots of things, but primary to our discussion here is that increased levels of these naturally-occurring goodies is a promoted sense of well-being, contentment, and decreased levels of anxiety. Get a pedicure and ask for an extra long massage on your feet and calves. Schedule a full-body or neck and shoulder massage. Get a hug. Give a hug. This doesn’t have to be difficult or cost any money.
2. Growth sometimes hurts. While pain is not a prerequisite for growth, just know that painful growth moments are very normal. Hurt is not a singular episode; it recurs and shows up when it’s least expected and is rarely, if ever, welcome. Also know that everyone experiences hurt. Everyone.
3. The hurt won’t last. I promise; it won’t be forever. If you can relax and take deeper breaths, your attention will shift away from the severe pain and you’ll soon gain the slightest distance from the epicenter of hurt. Breathe even more deeply into that space and gain more distance. Repeat.
4. You are okay. Look around. Is there someone to remind you how okay you are? Someone who understands the hurt of growth because they’ve experienced growth, too? Someone who can hold the space for you to hurt or to hold you literally while you feel it all. (It’s very important that this person not judge your hurt, or justify your hurting through validating the actions of another person as “against” you.) Find that person. For me that person is my coach.
5. Sleep makes everything better. Being tired and hurting are a bad combination. There is perspective and understanding to be gained through proper rest. But only every time.
6. You’ll be stronger tomorrow than you feel today. In my most painful moments I have always remembered that tomorrow will not only be different, but better, as long as I don’t refuse the lesson the hurt provides me.
And always always remember, I’m here. I’m holding this space for you to feel all the feelings, loving you and believing in you and knowing that you are okay. Reply to this email if you need some personal encouragement and a reminder that you are simply experiencing a growth spurt.