Let's face it; life is not easy. Quite frankly, it's stressful, and when you add being a modern-day superwoman/man to the mix, life goes from 0 to 60 in a matter of seconds. Between climbing the corporate ladder, chauffeuring and raising well-adjusted kids, and being the partner every lifestyle magazine says you should be, life skips over stressful and becomes downright hard.
These daily, external assaults drain you physically and mentally, creating fissures for emotional and chronic pain to set up shop and wreak havoc on your entire being.
Chronic Pain Manifestation is any discomfort lasting for greater than six months. More specifically, it is a physiological response to something abnormal in the body. Unlike acute pain, which will usually dissipate, allowing for a reasonable quality of life, chronic pain lingers and can continue long after injury or illness has been remedied (Cleveland Clinic, n.d.).
Chronic pain conditions range from headaches associated with migraines and stress to neuropathy, fibromyalgia, cancer, and back pain, to name a few. These conditions are painful. They can also be expensive to manage. Many of those with chronic pain employ prescription and over the counter medications, while never really experiencing sustained relief.
Implications of chronic pain over time can lead to secondary conditions creating a burden for individuals suffering its impacts. If not addressed, chronic pain can be insidious. Eventually, it will find its way into your emotional state and quality of life, potentially resulting in depression, anxiety, sleep disruptions, dietary changes, low energy and widespread pain beyond the primary points of the chronic pain (Dahan, Velzen, & Niesters, 2014).
As a result, you may find yourself operating on a thread, with only enough energy to ensure your family has some semblance of normalcy. At the same time, you may also inadvertently pull away from your family and social circle. Or, perhaps, find yourself even underperforming at work. Countering the toll of chronic pain, up to 85% of patients with chronic pain are affected by severe depression (Bair, Robinson, Katon, & Kroenke, 2003). Studies also demonstrate investing in self-care can limit the negative emotional and mental impact chronic pain can have (Sheng, Liu, Wang, Cui, & Zhang, 2017).
By incorporating the following three self-care principles, you can create a personalized plan to manage your stress and protect your emotional and mental well-being.
Safeguard Your Mental Health: Take note of triggers that bring about stressors in your life and meet them head-on. Tense muscles, usually in the upper and lower back and neck, nervous bowel (diarrhea caused by stress) and lack of sleep are only a few signs that stress is creeping in. Incorporating relaxation techniques such as intentional diaphragmatic breathing, massage, and meditation can support you in managing your mental state.
Own Your Physical Being: Your physical body plays a vital role in overall health, and managing this aspect of self-care is critical to protecting your well-being. Ensuring a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate activity at least 3- 5 days per week, getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of water are all steps toward an improved mental and emotional state.
Lead with Positive Intent: Positive intent means not buying into your negative self-talk or negative feelings and talk placed on you by others. Each day, start and end with positive affirmations, such as "I have pain but pain does not have me" or "I managed my stress and made a difference at work today." You can do this with sticky notes on the fridge, a lip liner or dry erase marker message to yourself on the bathroom mirror or by writing a message to yourself as you leave, so you see it upon your return.
If that's a bit much, try making yourself a gratitude jar. Write something down each day that you're grateful for, and at the end of the week, during your "me" time, read the messages. Gratitude, though underrated, offers tremendous emotional and mental benefits to those who practice it, including improving happiness and overall health (Harvard Health Publishing, n.d.).
By taking the time to recharge and invest in you, you set yourself up to be the best version of yourself today and for years to come.
References: Bair, M. J., Robinson, R. L., Katon, W., & Kroenke, K. (2003). Depression and Pain Comorbidity. Archives of Internal Medicine, 163(20), 2433. doi:10.1001/archinte.163.20.2433 Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Acute Pain vs. Chronic Pain: What it is & Differences. Retrieved July 06, 2020, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12051-acute-vs-chronic-pain Dahan, A., Velzen, M. V., & Niesters, M. (2014). Comorbidities and the Complexities of Chronic Pain. Anesthesiology, 121(4), 675- 677. doi:10.1097/aln.0000000000000402 Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Giving thanks can make you happier. Retrieved July 07, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can- make-you-happier Improving Chronic Illness Care. (n.d.). The Chronic Care Model. Retrieved July 06, 2020, from http://www.improvingchroniccare.org/index.php?p=Self-Management_Support Sheng, J., Liu, S., Wang, Y., Cui, R., & Zhang, X. (2017). The Link between Depression and Chronic Pain: Neural Mechanisms in the Brain. Neural Plasticity, 2017, 1-10. doi:10.1155/2017/9724371