Finding Comfort in the Face of Difficulties

OK, so life is wonderful. But it does bring some hard things, including diabetes. There will be pain; there will be sadness sometimes. Learning to find comfort will help us be happier and healthier.

Self-comforting involves skills we can learn. It also means accepting that we all deserve some peace and comfort. We don’t have to earn it over and over with constant doing. Instead, we can use methods like the ones I’m going to list.


Lisa Dietz founded a website about dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Dietz recommends several ways to feel better, starting with the physical senses. Nothing fancy: Look at beautiful things, listen to soothing music, smell good cooking or a scented candle or the earthy smells of the woods, take a bath, wrap yourself in a comforter and rest, get a massage or give yourself one..

As I write this, I’m feeling a bit silly about this. My partner Aisha and I have an electric massage pad we got for $100, and it definitely makes my back feel better. I hardly ever use it. I need to take my own advice.

Why don’t I use the pad? Dietz says “You may feel guilty about [it]. It may take some practice to allow yourself to experience these pleasures. These are really simple human pleasures that everyone has a right to, and that will give us some good tools to use when we are feeling bad.”

Another technique DBT recommends is distraction, such as playing a game or watching a movie or doing something creative like knitting or writing. This form of therapy also advises changing situations that cause distress. These don’t have to be big changes. How many times have you stayed in a boring conversation or kept sitting in an uncomfortable chair because you didn’t want to cause ripples or because you weren’t paying attention to how your body felt?

My belief is that self-comforting is simple. It means doing the things you know make you feel good, instead of the things that make you feel bad. Note: Not just feel good for a moment, like the first bite of a jelly donut — what will give you positive feelings that last a while?

We all know things that feel good, don’t we? If you need more ideas, Margarita Tartakovsky, MS, has a list here. Some ideas she gives:

• Physical: Do some stretches, take a shower, move in enjoyable ways, use some relaxing breathing techniques like these.

• Mental: Visualize a peaceful image like a pet, a beach, a flower. You can use a tape for visualization if you want. Talk compassionately to yourself. Don’t tell yourself about your failings in life; talk more like you would to a beloved child. “OK, you shouldn’t have bought that soda, but you were thirsty and stressed. I’m glad you liked it, but you don’t have to drink it all.”

• Spiritual: Look at a bigger picture. You may be hurting now, but it won’t last forever. You may have diabetes, but you can still have a great life. What happens to any of us as individuals will pass, and life will go on. You have value in the world as you are. Prayer or meditation might help.

Julie Hanks, LCSW, suggests handling troubling situations by asking yourself: “Will this matter in one year? In five years? When I reach the end of my life, how important will this situation be in retrospect?”

Tartakovsky also recommends gratitude as a way out of feeling overwhelmed or depressed. Remembering the good things in your life and giving thanks for them is healthier than focusing on the bad things.

Bottom line: Getting out of your comfort zone is OK, but you need ways to feel comfortable when you get there.

I’m so glad comments are back. I missed you. I would appreciate your sharing things you do to find comfort and feel better.