How mindfulness can help you manage stress and pain
We are nearing the end of the holiday season. For many of us, the holidays mean busier schedules, longer to-do lists and added pressure. With all of the shopping, baking, entertaining, spending, decorating and traveling, we can find ourselves feeling more stressed out – physically, mentally and emotionally. We tell ourselves, ‘Just get through the holidays’, ‘I can get back on track in the New Year’, ‘I will feel better once all of this is over’. But will you?
This time of year also means that we are dealing with snow shoveling, cleaning off cars, and driving on slippery roads (or walking on icy sidewalks). The days are shorter, darker and colder. Our winter wonderland can leave us feeling tense, stressed and in pain at times.
There are many ways to cope with the stress that this time of year can have on our bodies and minds. Mindfulness is a key tool. We can all use it and we can all benefit from it. Research has proved that being mindful can help with: stress reduction, increased insight, improved sleep, better pain management, empathy, improved immune function and greater motivation.
So, what is mindfulness, and how can it help you manage stress and pain? Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.” Mindfulness-based stress reduction not only impacts stress but can help with pain management.
In order to make the most of mindfulness and use it as a tool, we have to learn to incorporate it into our daily lives. It’s ideal to set aside 5 minutes or 30 minutes daily to practice that sense of awareness and to connect with the moment. However, that kind of commitment isn’t always realistic every day of the week. Instead, we can bring mindfulness to the activities we already include in our lives. These may be brushing your teeth, taking a shower, going through your bedtime routine, preparing your breakfast or walking to work. Find moments throughout your day that have a natural quiet to them. Take this time to be present in the moment and with your thoughts. The more we incorporate mindfulness in our daily routine, the more we can draw on it in times of physical, mental or emotional stress or pain.
Mindfulness and Stress
Mindfulness not only reduces stress but also helps us build an inner strength. Future stressors have less impact on our emotional and physical well-being. Mindfulness allows us to be more aware of our thoughts. We are less reactive when we take the time to see the big picture of a situation. Mindfulness switches on our being mode, which is associated with relaxation. While on the other hand our doing mode is associated with action and the fight or flight response. With mindfulness, we can change our overall attitude towards stress. Rather than just seeing the negative consequences of feeling stressed, mindfulness offers the space to think differently about it. Responding to how the increased pressure can energize us has a positive effect on our body and mind.
Mindfulness and Pain
It has been estimated that 15 to 20 percent of people experience some form of chronic pain. Chronic pain can affect many aspects of life. It may become hard to enjoy even the simplest daily activities. More and more evidence supports the effectiveness of mindfulness for pain management, particularly chronic pain. Unlike passive pain management strategies, mindfulness places you in a position of control. It also brings a greater sense of body awareness. We may notice discomforts sooner. We can then take appropriate action to alleviate or prevent pain. When being mindful, we are in a position to feel, experience, accept and improve our pain. The many benefits of mindfulness on pain include reduced perception of pain over short and long term, as well as important analgesic effects. For those suffering from chronic pain, this can mean a significant improvement in their quality of life.
As the year comes to an end, instead of making resolutions, let’s make commitments to improve our overall health and well-being. Your healthcare team at Glebe Chiropractic + Massage Therapy Centre is here to support you into and through 2017. Take care of your body and mind with a visit to your massage therapist. Keep your spine moving well and your body functioning optimally with regular chiropractic care. And allow yourself to be mindful, to be present in the moment, no matter what that moment may be.
Happy New Year from Glebe Chiropractic + Massage Therapy Centre!