During this frenetic Holiday Season I believe it is very important to develop effective stress management protocols into your daily living to improve the quality of the season. But if you’re experiencing a chronic pain management situation like I am, it’s even more crucial because increased stress leads to increased pain. Often stressors are unavoidable but you can learn to be proactive and take effective action to improve your quality of life and chronic pain management.
Today I want to give you six simple steps for managing stress that could significantly improve your Holidays and any chronic pain management plan: Understanding Stress; Positive Self-Talk and Affirmations; Emotional Management; Breath Work; Muscle Relaxation; and 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 and Positive Affirmations
The premise here is if you change the way you think you will automatically start changing the way you feel. For example if you’re under high stress the thought might be “I can’t stand this… I need to escape.” This in turn could lead to, fear, anger, anxiety, or even cravings to use self-defeating behaviors or even inappropriate pain medication for stress relief. You really can talk yourself into feeling better no matter what’s happening around you or to you.
Step Three Emotional Management
People undergoing chronic pain management often experience many types of uncomfortable emotions such as fear, anger, shame, frustration etc. Emotional management starts with learning to identify which emotions you are feeling and be able to rate them on a 0 to 10 intensity scale. The next step is to develop early awareness of and then learn how to take immediate action to cope with any uncomfortable feelings before they lead to self-defeating urges. Developing healthy feeling management skills is very important. Learning to share with trustworthy people is one way to deal with uncomfortable emotions. If the feelings are too intense or overwhelming, counseling or therapy may be necessary.
Step Four 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 Five 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. This can also be a very good exercise to practice right before going to sleep at night to help you have a more restful experience.
Step Six 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 six 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 go to our website and on the articles page archive click on my article The Stress Pain Connection, that you can download for free on our Ariticles page. This article also shows you how to rate your stress using the Gorski-CENAPS® Stress Thermometer.
You can learn more about the Addiction-Free Pain Management® System at our website www.addiction-free.com. If you or a loved one is undergoing chronic pain management, especially if you’re in recovery or believe you may have a medication or other mental health problem and you want to learn more effective chronic pain management tools, please go to our Publications page and check out my books; especially the Addiction-Free Pain Management® Recovery Guide: Managing Pain and Medication in Recovery. To purchase this book please Click Here.
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