We all know how important it is to manage stress. But if you’re living with chronic pain like I am, it’s crucial because increased stress leads to increased pain. In this article I want to give you these five simple steps for managing stress associated with chronic pain: Understanding Stress; Using Positive Affirmations; Breath Work; Muscle Relaxation; & Meditation.
Step One Understanding Stress:
It’s important to learn about stress and understand the stress scale. It’s essential to recognize that stress can either be a positive influence or make your life overly difficult. When looking at stress on a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 meaning you are very relaxed and 10 meaning you can’t function or you shut down, the danger zone begins at level 7 —stress overload! From levels seven to ten you will experience disruptive symptoms. It depends on how you interpret this distress whether you face the situation with confidence or helplessness. At this point, you could shift into survival mode—fight, flight or freeze. Any of those three modes will amplify your pain levels. The fight mode leads to anger and attacking others; the flight mode leads to fear and hiding; and the freeze mode leads to depression and immobilization.
Step Two Stress-Reducing Self Talk or Positive Affirmations:
The premise here is if you change the way you think you will automatically start changing the way you feel. You really can talk yourself into feeling better no matter what’s happening around you or to you.
Step Three Autogenic Breathing or Breath Self-Regulation:
This is a systematic daily practice of breathing sessions that last around 15 minutes, usually in the morning, at lunch time, and in the evening. One simple exercise is to breath in deeply to the count of five hold for seven counts and slowly exhale starting from nine to zero. You might consider adding this breath exercise to the next stress tip and practice both three times a day.
Step Four Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
One way to do this is to start by taking slow deep breaths then hold your breath while tensing up one muscle group at a time and when you exhale let the muscle group relax. Then add the next group and keep going until you are tensing and releasing all the muscle groups in your body.
Step Five Meditation:
There are literally hundreds if not thousands of types of meditation. One way to start is to select a consistent time and a quiet place, either early morning and/or evening. Wear loose comfortable fitting clothing and a comfortable position that you can stay in for at least 30 minutes. Do deep breathing for a minute or two to help relax the body. Close your eyes and then focus on the point between your eyebrows to help increase your concentration. If your mind wanders be gentle with yourself and just refocus. When you first start; meditate for 5-7 minutes then slowly increase your time.
These five steps are just a starting point and I encourage you to learn as many stress management tools as you can. If you want more information on stress and chronic pain management please check out my article The Stess Pain Connection that you can download for free on our Article page.
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