This weekend I experienced 3 different forms of pain. Emotional pain from the mourning of a loved one who recently passed; anger and frustration when a dear friend of mine was a victim of a hate-crime; and physical pain from standing too long at the Pride parade. I know that I am not alone in having pain and it is important to know how to handle pain as it shows up in various forms throughout our lives. So how do we deal with all these kinds of pain?
The first step is to identify the pain. Once you know that you are feeling anger because you were wronged, or depression because you were hurt or physical pain because you moved your body incorrectly (or haven’t moved at all) you can begin to take action.
Once you have identified the source of the pain you can begin by sitting or lying in a comfortable position. If you are like me and have a major injury, that comfortable position may be difficult to find, but try sitting or lying on pillows and cushions to support your posture and allow your muscles to relax. It doesn’t matter what you look like. Then close your eyes.
Take a deep inhale through your nose open your mouth and sigh. Repeat this a few times. Then close your mouth and try to inhale and exhale through your nose deepening each inhale and exhale. This method of elongating the breath helps to calm the mind, and according to Mind Body Green, helps signal your brain to turn up the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls your rest, relaxation and digestion response, while turning down your sympathetic nervous system, which controls your fight or flight responses which increase your stress hormones, heart rate, and breathing. So practicing slow, controlled breathing, or pranayama in yoga, is helpful to teach your brain to be calm.
Once you have established a center of calm and relaxation you can begin to think about the cause of the pain. This is easier when it is emotional. Recall your feelings of sadness, hurt and/or anger. Then as you continue to breathe deeply, breathe in positivity and light (or anything else that makes you feel good inside) and breathe out the pain you feel inside. Repeat this until the pain begins to subside and you are left feeling “lighter”.
Rest and relaxation are great to calm the mind, but what if that is just not enough? There are other things you can do. You can try letting out your frustration with exercise (a nice hike, bike ride, swim or kickboxing if you really feel the need to “punch” something). I find that being “one” with nature helps greatly. Going to the ocean, forest or vast field helps me feel like I am small in the universe and that things happen for a reason.
Maybe physical activity is too much to handle and you need to retreat and read a good book, or be creative and paint or even just cry. Sometimes we need to cry and feel our emotions to their fullest extent. If you are like me and suffer from physical pain, sometimes we have to have various movements and postural exercises (see my other post on posture) a part of our daily life to feel less of that pain. And that can be extremely difficult and exhausting when physical pain is present for long periods of time, but you have to keep moving. Movement allows blood to circulate, muscles to stay strong, joints to stay healthy and organs to move correctly.
In addition, during times of pain we may back away from a normal healthy diet. Do your best to stay healthy and hydrated so that you can aid in your pain subsiding. We may want the immediate satisfaction of that fried chicken or ice-cream sandwich, but it won’t make your internal body feel better. Or we may stray away from eating anything at all because we don’t “feel” hungry. It is important to keep on eating good-for-us fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and meats that give us the energy and nutrition we need to overcome our pain. If you really need your “comfort food”, try making your favorites paleo, google recipes or check out my favorite paleo blogger Juli Bauer who makes some amazing sweet treats. You will feel better and get your craving cured without harming your body further with processed foods, toxins and chemical additives.
It is important to find balance in life. Balancing inactivity with too much activity; stress with carelessness; rest with work. Finding a balance is the most difficult part but once you find it you will find that it is easier to live and handle day-to-day pain that comes into our lives in any form. Life needs to be worth living and some of us have to live with the loss of a dear one, the frustrations of an unjust world or the physical pain that makes it difficult to walk to the bathroom. Being able to work through the pain mentally and physically will help us all live better, healthier lives.