Managing pain begins with inward focus

Are you in pain? Are you okay? Pain – whether short term, chronic pain, or intermittent pain can be one of the toughest symptoms we have to manage in life.

Pain can be all-consuming. Millions of people experience significant pain every day.

What is the true definition of each of the numbers on the pain scale? 

Learn more about the pain scale here.

Dr. Beth Darnall, in Stanford Health Improvement Program’s “Pain psychology: Harnessing the power of the mind for pain relief,” said “In the US alone, 100 million Americans are living with ongoing pain.”

Darnall explained that pain “is a product of the nervous system. The brain and the spinal cord. And pain is produced in the brain and spinal cord regardless of where [you] feel the pain in [your] body.”

As most of us have witnessed firsthand, whether it’s an uncle or a grandmother, pain erodes quality of life and causes suffering, but it doesn’t affect just the individual experiencing it – also their nearest and dearest. I can say that watching loved ones suffer has been emotionally difficult for me. Until eleven years ago when my grandmother passed, I didn’t know such painful emotions existed and had the ability to rip the roots out me like they did.

I have faith in our bodies, abilities, and science that we can minimize our pain, or at least manage it better. I’ve watched members of my immediate family battle pain, friends struggle with postpartum depression, and strangers break down due to pain.

Beth Darnall’s analogy, “Our emotions and pain essentially share real estate in the brain,” resonates even more now.

It is a fact that pain can be isolating, unbearable, and take you to the floor. Pain also can bring friends closer, strangers to become acquaintances, and make you stronger. I believe the more tips and tools we have at our disposal can and will have a positive impact on individual health.

When dealing with pain and myriad other challenges in life, we must focus inward and stay connected with our feelings. Whether you are scrambling eggs, washing your hair, or watering your garden – these are all perfect opportunities to check in with yourself. I have found it’s the small moments of time that allow me to make me a priority.

Life can feel like sprints, spilled coffee, or sweeter than pumpkin pie. All combined – we’re busy folks. A 24-hour time period has its fair share of smiles, questions, sighs, and peace.

When you need time to recharge, allow yourself that time. At times, I turn the music off in my car. Sometimes it’s good just to be alone with my thoughts. I remove the background noise and roll down the windows. That allows me to rewind to my childhood days with three dogs in the back of an El Camino with my hair flipping in the wind and having those three sweet four-legged companions ecstatic to have me by their side and in their space. It’s important to create a space that you find peace and serenity in.

Part of focusing inward at times is almost like creating a checks and balances system for yourself. For me, checking in with myself has shown me how I’ve rebuilt my life, where I am at, and where I’m working towards being.

Life, relationships, deaths, weddings, new babies, holiday gatherings, road trips – each day, person, occasion, experience that brought ear-to-ear smiles, great sadness, and more, shapes us. Long-term pain can also shape us. How do we really want to look? Are we finding solutions to help mitigate the damage that pain can do to our mental wellbeing?

You are the author of your own book. Sometimes people or circumstances can make you feel like you are a passenger in your own life or that you are just in the credits of a movie about your life. Can you ascertain why that is? And, if that is the case, is it okay with you?

Understand how you are letting moments shape you. Are you going to let pain win? Fight back by asking your doctor for fresh solutions, new therapies, and helpful exercises.

“Pain is highly individual,” said Darnall. Remember the 1-10 pain scale? Revisit it. Talk with your doctor about where you stand in experiencing pain.

If the pain you’re holding onto is from a bad relationship, jealousy from a friend’s happy news, frustration at being passed over for a promotion, or sadness from the passing of a friend or relative, it’s time to release the negativity. Find compassion. Turn negative thoughts into positive action! Be your friend’s, brother’s or cousin’s cheerleader.

Life is so precious. We have to learn from our experiences. Focus on rebuilding yourself and your life after the tough times to showcase positive growth. You have so much more control than you may realize.

Remember to check in with yourself! And after that, take a few minutes to make a phone call to a friend or family member who has not been feeling well lately and ask how they are doing. It is self-healing to make a thoughtful, positive impact on someone else’s day.

Coming next:  The test that “best measures fatigue”

Please consider sharing this article with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers.  Let’s help each other reach optimal health.  

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