In the last newsletter we took a look at neuroscience facts about pain and created our Pain Management plan of action. Today, lets poke at pain-induced fear.
Pain can rob us of our ability to live mindfully and fearlessly.
Some of us become so frustrated by daily pain, we recklessly push through it, agitating our nervous system further and further, worsening our pain in the process. Others live held in the vice-grip of fear: they contort and brace themselves to move around the pain, and sometimes stop moving all together, creating a devastating effect on both physiological and neurological levels.
Worse yet, pain grinds in never-ending, gripping, exhausting fear of what if: what if it doesn’t go away, what if it gets worse, what if it comes back, what if, what if, what if… Pain creates alienation, as though our minds and our bodies are sitting on the opposite sides of the fence.
So how do we even begin to challenge this status quo?
If you’ve been reading Satori love letters (aka blog posts and monthly news), you know that I am an avid hiker. BUT! I didn’t just magically fall into hiking: like any worthwhile trail, my journey to healing (and to hiking) has been a rocky climb, with its own setbacks, switchbacks, frustrations and disappointments. And even now, as I plan the next adventure, my inner fear – residue of being sick for decades – tells me that my body cannot handle this. As always, I listen to the message with gratitude – after all, this is my very own protection mechanism. And then I take my first step…
1. Listen carefully and identify the voice of your inner fear: what is it telling you?
For many of us who has lived with chronic illness or persistent pain for several years (or decades), the fear of “ What if it gets worse? What if it doesn’t go away? What if I re-injure myself?” is very real.
2. Take your first step by noticing and labeling your inner fears. Journaling is a great way to document and keep track of repetitive thought + fear patterns.
3. Use the “STOP. BREATHE. REASSESS” technique:
STOP! Stop when you notice fear.
BREATHE! Use a breathing practice to calm your nervous system.
REASSESS! Is this fear – thought a repetitive one: check your journal, have you heard its voice in your head before? Does it speak in an anxious tone? Does it make definite pronouncements about the situation? Does it seem rational?
4. Compassionately see your fear-thought motives (most likely protection); then take a mindful next step.