From the Heart, A Fellow Chronic Pain Sufferer’s Advice to Reduce Stress.
It’s sometimes difficult to reduce stress. If you have suffered from chronic pain for a long time, you too have probably come to realize that a chronic condition creates a lot of stress in itself. This is because it takes a lot of extra physical and mental strength, as well as emotional toughness, to grit through the day with pain. It also takes a lot of exertion to compensate for pain in various creative, and oftentimes inconvenient, ways. This, in turn, creates anxiety, frustration, fatigue and can leave someone feeling emotionally and physically drained.
As someone who struggles with chronic pain while managing a very busy lifestyle, I have learned some vital tactics for balancing both the typical every day stressors, which are compounded with the stress that is caused by chronic pain itself.
Here are five of my top 10 things for reducing stress, (in no particular order).
- Get a Deep Tissue Massage: Massages have been proven to reduce stress by helping your body produce “feel-good” endorphins; not to mention, they work out muscle tension caused by stress. I find that getting a massage about twice a month leaves me feeling much happier, more calm and focused, and less stressed. Plus, I feel so much better physically. If you can’t afford to get a massage, create your own relaxing environment at home by dimming lights, putting on soothing music, laying down, stretching, doing yoga or asking someone you love to help work out your muscles. More economical reflexology places can be great, too. I find that just laying on my stomach with dimmed lights, aromatherapy and soothing spa music puts me in a relaxed state of mind because it reminds me of being in a spa. You can get more info on how massages can help with stress and pain conditions, with tips on what types of massages can help, here.
- Take a dip in a hot tub or pool: I have found that water therapy greatly helps my pain levels by relaxing my muscles, but warm water has a relaxing effect on the mind as well. If you don’t have a hot tub, check out your local gym’s hot tub; you may even be able to get a guest pass a few days to try it out. For more info on how and why this can help you, visit here.
- Get outside: Even just stepping into a new environment can be refreshing and help clear your mind. I find that getting outside my own little world inside my home distracts me from pain and worries. Take a walk around the block or to the park and just be in nature. Look around, take it in and take a few deep breaths, you’ll find that you’re more relaxed and may even be in a better mood when you return. If it’s too hot, then get out somewhere else like your local coffee shop, Barnes and Noble, or whatever environment soothes you. The main concept is just to take a break, step away from the moment and re-focus your thoughts on something different. This article in Prevention magazine has more to say on this subject.
- Connect with people: Studies have shown that those who have social support have an easier time coping with pain and stress. For instance, one study says that “friends make pain less painful.” Companionship was shown to have both behavioral and physiological positive effects on mice who demonstrated feeling less pain. Consequently, less pain equals less negative emotion and less stress. Just being around others and being more social not only distracts you from pain, but it can physically benefit your health and help you cope in various ways. I love to be around people who make me laugh and smile, don’t we all? Fortunately, that constitutes most of my friends, but if you don’t have a lot of people like that around, even socializing with pets can help people cope with stress.
- Try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This therapy has been found to be quite effective in the treatment of many issues such as anxiety, depression and even severe stress. CBT focuses directly on identifying and changing the behaviors and thoughts that feed into stress, anxiety and anxiety disorders. There are many techniques that can help you reduce both the mental and physical symptoms of stress and pain. Ask your doctor to recommend a cognitive behavioral therapist, or programs and resources that offer this in your area. (Arizona Pain Specialists has a cognitive behavioral therapist on site). I’ve personally tried it and felt less stressed. Check this out for more information on CBT.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – A Fellow Chronic Pain Sufferer’s Advice to Reduce Stress.