Managing stress with a chronic pain condition

Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Pain Management, Stress

You’re in pain. You’re stressed because you’re in pain. You’re in more pain because you’re stressed.

Sound familiar?

The pain-stress cycle is a vicious creature with a bad case of can’t live with one another, can’t live without. The two come skipping hand in hand, hell-bent on making life a struggle.

If you’re living with a chronic pain condition, you’ll know exactly what I mean. One aggravates the other, and you’re left struggling to manage day-to-day life from all angles.

Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to help manage your stress and, in turn, your chronic pain condition. But first, let’s look into why the two are linked.

Understanding the Pain and Stress Cycle 

Now, the pain and stress cycle can get a bit complicated if you start thinking about nociceptors and noxious stimuli, so we’ll keep it simple.

In basic terms, stress exists to protect the organism (that’s you!). It’s the body’s natural reaction to a challenging situation – it prepares you for dealing with whatever is hurtling your way. Like pain, for example.

The only issue is when you have a chronic pain condition, your body gets confused and stays in this constant state of stress. High stress levels cause tense muscles and inflammation and, well, you know the rest.

Breaking this pain-stress cycle is essential for getting your chronic pain condition under control. Here’s how I like to do it:

Managing Stress with a Chronic Pain Condition

  1. Understand your pain Sometimes excessive stress is caused by your condition itself and the worry the pain you’re feeling can cause. Take some time to understand your pain and what’s happening to your body so the uncertainty doesn’t become unnecessary stress.
  2. Manage Expectations We often feel stressed because we’ve overloaded our mental to-do lists. In this instance, it’s important to put your chronic pain condition first. Reduce your to-do list and focus on the things you can get done rather than worrying about the things you can’t. Managing your expectations and not overfilling your mental plate will keep stress levels low.
  3. Practice Mindfulness When your stress and pain feel overwhelming, take a break. Practice mindfulness or partake in some light meditation and breathing exercises to relax your mind. Your body will follow suit, and you’ll find that your stress and pain levels become more manageable.
  4. Reach Out Feeling stressed while you’re in pain can become overwhelming very quickly. If you feel like you’re stuck in the cycle, reach out to support groups, friends or family to talk about how you’re feeling. A problem shared is a problem halved, and you’ll feel the weight lift from your shoulders, physically and mentally.

The pain and stress cycle is a difficult one to break but believe me, it is possible. Take a step back, refocus your mind and allow yourself to break free from the cycle you’ve found yourself locked in.

If you’re struggling to manage your chronic pain condition and would like some advice on therapies and techniques (or just a good old chat), please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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