Australia really is a vast country and it became glaring obvious for us this September school holidays. As our friends sunned themselves in 28-degree heat on the north coast, our family was skiing down the slopes of mountains in the same state.
A skiing holiday is an oxymoron. There is nothing much “holiday” about the work involved in keeping four children appropriately dressed and dry and ensuring that the 437 pieces of equipment for each person arrives on the slopes at the same time.
Much of the sport is also skiing over the mountain of discomfort. We were lucky enough to have snow, rewarding our optimism, but our hopefulness delivered us too much. We were wet, and cold, and it was windy and rainy. Our experience was akin to jumping in Merewether baths and then going ice skating for the day, soaking wet. Not something one would necessarily choose.
And yet we did. We ignored the pain in our feet and the cold in our hands and we skied together as a family. Well the kids did, and the parents followed the distance specs down the mountain. And, despite it all, we really did have a wonderful time.
It’s interesting to consider the skills we needed to overcome the discomfort for the greater good are the same for many parts of life. Do you give in to the pain that comes with exercise and miss out on the greater good it adds to your health? Do you give in to the suffering that comes with further study, or changing jobs or do we persevere for the longer term benefits.
There is much evidence on the benefits that come with the skill of managing our urges and tolerating our distress. Those who are better at calming themselves when they are upset, soothing their emotions, surfing their urges rather than giving in to them, have better outcomes in life. Distress tolerance is the ability to manage a difficult and painful situation.
It can be using mindfulness. It can be radically accepting the situation for what it is, rather than what you want it to be. It can be using distraction or changing your thoughts or choosing to focus on what is good, despite your discomfort. Perhaps our trip away taught our children to ski like demons and to manage discomfort for the greater good in their lives.
- Tarnya Davis is a clinical and forensic psychologist and principal of NewPsych Psychologists. Her book of columns, All Things Considered, is available at theherald.com.au