Pain and stress are significantly related, and our everyday stressors have a much greater impact on our bodies than we often realize. When we experience stress, our brain reacts by putting our bodies into a fight or flight mentality, which can over time rewire the brain itself. In fight or flight mentality, our body is moving into survival mode. This means that the brain’s only concern is safety. When the body is in this survival mode for too long, it creates strain on the brain and the body. It is trying to signal to you that something is wrong and oftentimes cause physical pain such as headaches, stomach aches, or digestion issues. Left unchecked for too long, this physical pain mentioned can become severe and even chronic.
So how do we move our brain from survival mode to relational mode? How do we decrease this stress? Several years ago, the Cleveland Clinic provided an article which outlined ten major ways to address and get rid of stress. Their top ten tips for stress-relief are listed below.
- Eat and drink sensibly. Alcohol and food abuse may seem to reduce stress, but it actually adds to it.
- Assert yourself. You do not have to meet others’ expectations or demands. It’s okay to say “No.” Remember, being assertive allows you to stand up for your rights and beliefs while respecting those of others.
- Stop smoking or other bad habits. Aside from the obvious health risks of cigarettes, nicotine acts as a stimulant and brings on more stress symptoms. Give yourself the gift of dropping unhealthy habits.
- Exercise regularly. Choose non-competitive exercise and set reasonable goals. Aerobic exercise has been shown to release endorphins (natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude).
- Study and practice relaxation techniques. Relax every day. Choose from a variety of different techniques. Combine opposites; a time for deep relaxation and a time for aerobic exercise is a sure way to protect your body from the effects of stress.
- Take responsibility. Control what you can and leave behind what you cannot control.
- Reduce stressors (cause of stress). Many people find that life is filled with too many demands and too little time. For the most part, these demands are ones we have chosen. Effective time-management skills involve asking for help when appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself, and taking time out for yourself.
- Examine your values and live by them. The more your actions reflect your beliefs, the better you will feel, no matter how busy your life is. Use your values when choosing your activities.
- Set realistic goals and expectations. It’s okay, and healthy, to realize you cannot be 100% successful at everything at once.
- Sell yourself to yourself. When you are feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of what you do well. Have a healthy sense of self-esteem.
Along with these, research has provided many solutions for curbing stress, such as writing in a journal, furthering education, meditation, visualization, biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, and cognitive behavioral therapy. These—and many more therapeutic attentions—can help the brain put a stop to a reoccurring pain cycle.
If you feel you have experienced stress in relation to chronic pain, we encourage you to talk with your doctor and consider applying some of the above suggestions. No matter who you are or what phase of life you may be in, negative stress can take a toll on your body.
Here at Aspire Home Health and Hospice, we are committed to the healing process and treat the individual as a whole. Connect with us using the consultation form below to schedule a call with one of our Patient Care Advocates today.
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