Managing Difficult Life Challenges
Challenging times are an inevitable part of life and are often tied to major life events, such as transitioning from teenage years to young adulthood, becoming parents, working on career advancements, etc. We are a group of highly trained independent psychotherapists, counsellors and coaches in Ottawa, who are invested in providing evidence-based support (Cognitive Behavioural and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) to our clients. Our area of expertise includes the treatment of mental health (anxiety, depression), neurodevelopmental disorders (ASD, ADHD, Learning Disabilities), and life challenges such as burnout, university/college related stress, life dissatisfaction, parenting stress, or chronic pain or menopausal symptoms management.
Cause of Distress
There are many causes for distress, but there are two primary factors that increase negative emotions and reactions:
- We (humans) do not like uncertainty, yet uncertainty is the main element of any change, and change is an inevitable part of life. To eliminate uncertainty, we put great effort into stabilizing our life and making plans for the future. As long as life is unfolding according to our master plan we will thrive, but when we encounter the unexpected and resist it, we begin to experience difficulties.
- Research also indicates that we (humans) are not good at forecasting how we will react in certain situations. Sometimes what we anticipate to be easy is challenging, and what we expect to be overwhelming, we handle with grace and confidence. Because our tendency is to err on the side of caution, we tend to anticipate catastrophic outcomes without the ability to meet demands.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy suggests that the cause of distress is psychological inflexibility. Inflexibility means that we are rigidly adhering to some idea (expectations for life, ability to deal with challenges) about how life should or will be. When we do not want what we have, we begin to resist it – yet resistance, without exception, increases suffering and interferes with creative problem solving.
While going through change and experiencing pain is an inevitable part of life, how much we suffer along the way can be minimized. By becoming aware of the present moment rather than grieving the past or fearing the future, accepting (acknowledging and not resigning to) what is already here rather than resisting or avoiding it, and choosing to focus on our values in the face of adversity, we can reduce our suffering and engage with life challenges in a more encouraging and productive manner.