The hardest thing to deal with when you are in a flare up or in chronic discomfort is to function as well as you are able, and some days you just aren’t able. Instead of getting angry about it though, the best thing we can do to help us through is to be first of all, patient with ourselves!
Here are some MYTHS about chronic pain:
- If the cause cannot be found, you are making it up
- If you look healthy you cannot be in pain
- Treatment should be effective within a short period of time
- You should expect your pain will be completely cured one day
- If you tried to control your pain in the past you will likely fail now if you try again
- Chronic pain is the only reason for all of the problems you have
- Pain reduced through stress management techniques means it was imaginary pain
- Your pain will improve if you remain inactive and avoid all activity
- To consider yourself worthwhile you must be able to function in the same way you did before your pain
- You must have complete control over everything in your life
Here are a few quick guidelines on methods I have used to reduce that number above
1) The first step is to learn to BREATHE-deeply. Learn breathwork as this is key to calming down the nervous system and reducing pain flares. When you have pain, your default and automatic programming needs to turn back to deep breathing. Chronic pain/illness patients hold their breath in pain and have shallow breathing patterns, which perpetuates more tension in the system, creating anxiety, depression, anger, pain intensification, etc. This occurs as a result of the fight/flight/freeze response. Seems easy because we all breathe automatically, but it’s quite challenging to implement because we do not get enough oxygen in our daily breath. Use a free breathwork app to focus on if necessary. I enjoyed the curable app which is also available on the computer at https://www.curablehealth.com/
2) Affirmations/Self-talk: Find your unique mantra to get you through the pain while it happens. For me for example, I would inhale through the nose and think “My body knows how to heal” exhale through the mouth and think, “thank you for my healing” this is now a habit for me so has contributed to significant reduction in pain.
I also used the ho ponopono prayer once I learned about it while breathing. If you aren’t familiar with it, it goes like this:
Every thought needs to be re-framed around your body in a positive way to focus on healing and what we want. Stop using the word “pain” to describe your discomfort…that word will always be associated to reinforcing a dysfunctional neural pathway, and you need to change the old one to a positive one. So describe without fear by trying to be an observer of your bodily sensations.
For example, I used to reframe my self talk to, “Oh, that’s an unexpected and random shooting impulse down my leg” or ” my foot tickles me with pins and needles”. You need to learn to detach from the fear of the communication of your bodily syptoms. Think of them as neither good nor bad, they just ARE there for you to listen to.
Start loving what your body DOES do, the sensations are a gift, reminding you to take time for yourself. Your body does all kinds of things for you without you telling it to (breathing, sweating, pumps your heart, allows you to walk or move your arms, etc).
3) Gratitude/Inspiration/Laughter: Find things that make you feel good, this will extinguish the intensity of the old neural pathways. Look up people you admire, for me it is a lot of people, but for example my favorites of the moment are Jay Shetty and Byron Katie or other people who have healed themselves. Motivational speakers like Tony Robbins for me as well, whatever inspires you. I remember thinking if Steven Hawking can survive with his ALS for decades (average life of ALS is 4 years), I can survive and overcome my issue for many years too! This will give back your hope of healing. Watch “medical miracle” stories, especially the ones that align with healing your biggest fears, etc (cancer being a big one, there are healing miracle stories everywhere!). Watch comedies laughter is a huge and potent cure because it also releases feel good chemicals in the brain.
4) Keep moving! Do not stop living your life because of the discomfort, learn how to do the things you can IN SPITE of the pain, start with small achievable goals and move towards increasing it and be grateful for each accomplishment and goal you achieve. My 5000 steps a day is now at 15000 steps a day. Our bodies are designed to be active, our ancestors used to be healthy when they were active for 4 hours a day, society now seems to have a challenge with 20 minutes a day. Exercise is also crucial to increasing telomeres which are cells that have become shortened in our bodies over time and with chronic dis-ease. High intensity interval training is best way to increase them, but it will take chronic patients time to work up to that, if that was their lifestyle before or if they want that in their life, it all takes work, but it’s all achievable. Use S.M.A.R.T goal guidelines.
5) Find a way to release the difficult emotions that come up for you. Some journal, some use EFT (tapping techniques on pressure points, there are many free guiding resources online you can find) I personally hit a punching bag and do intense activity as a release, sometimes even cleaning the house or cleaning the yard. Cry, get angry, scream into your pillow or outside, face all those “ugly, negative” emotions in a safe outlet. Remember, there are no wrong emotions, there are just emotions – energy in motion, so keep it flowing.
6) Meditation: this is proven to change the neuroplasticity in the brain and strengthens the brain, especially the unconscious signals, which is a major missing component in modern medicine. I would do a monk meditation in the morning, and autogenic training self hypnosis at night to get messaging to my unconscious quickly.
7) PLAY/Creativity: Play harder than you work, play more than your sensations keep you from it. Dance, sing, color, paint, play music, jump in puddles with your kids, whatever it is, get in touch with your creative and fun side. Your inner child needs that, we are in a world that only focuses on work and responsbility and struggle. We have to change our programming to be curious, excited and hopeful just like when we were little. We have been taught OUT of those ways of being.
8) Relapses: not just for addictions. Expect your brain to intensify the distraction as you progress forward. The old neural pathways need to be extinguished and it takes time, they get easier each time you have these relapses or flare ups, and when you do have them you will know you are on the right path because you will begin to recognize the stress signals sooner over time with practice of these steps! The relapses will be difficult and you may feel like this new method isn’t working, but believe me you are at a breakthrough when you have these relapses, it means you are actually breaking through the cycle!
We all resist making changes in our life and have been conditioned for so long that allopathic practice is the only way to heal, but it often makes things worse with chronic issues. It is designed mostly to deal with acute issues, anything over 3 months is considered chronic and needs a different method of managing.
Human nature is to try to take the easiest way to do things which is why I have worked to develop this method to now not just help myself, but to help others in the most simplistic ways possible.
We all have the power, we just need to know how to tap into it and truly be taught. We also lose faith in the medical system because they do not give us a holistic approach, and they focus on illness and symptoms, instead of wellness and recovery on a holistic level.