It is normal to have difficult thoughts and feelings associated with pain. For people with chronic pain, the thoughts and feelings that come along when they are in pain can become overwhelming.
They can get in the way of living a full life and affect the choices they make. Having a strategy to manage this can help people move forward and live a fuller life despite their ongoing pain.
Mindfulness means being in the here and now, fully aware of our experience, instead of being lost in our thoughts. Being mindful is the opposite of being absent-minded or on autopilot.
Mindfulness can help us to make decisions about how we respond to our experience, (for example whether to change a particular behaviour or carry on).
By being able to mentally step back from our thoughts we are able to manage our experience rather than being overwhelmed by them. People with chronic pain say this does not change their pain but can mean they are not so afraid of being in pain. They also say that whilst they may be sad about living with pain, this sadness no longer stops them moving on and finding other positive things in life.
Mindfulness is not a set technique. There are as many ways of practicing mindfulness as there are people! BUT there are some common techniques which have been developed over the years.
A simple place to start is to pause for a moment and notice three things you can see. Then notice three things you can hear. Then notice three things you can feel in contact with your body (the clothes against your skin, your feet on the floor). Then do all of these at the same time.
You can find mindfulness apps on line. Alternatively, some free mindfulness resources can be found on the ACTMindfully website.
Relaxation is a little different from mindfulness.
When we feel anxious or stressed, our breathing rate increases, as does blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, sweating, state of mental arousal and adrenaline flow. Relaxation helps to decrease all of these things.
Relaxation can help reduce stress and muscle tension. It can be helpful if you have difficulty getting off to sleep.
Relaxation is a skill that can be learnt. If you practice relaxation regularly it can make it easier to do when you are stressed.
There are many ways to practice relaxation, many of which are available as apps or online resources.