Anxiety is a major cause of increased pain. Anxiety can be thought of as low-level fear. It can be defined as distressing uneasiness, nervousness, or worry felt in response to any situation you anticipate to be threatening. It is usually accompanied by self doubt about your capacity to cope with it. Some of the physical symptoms of anxiety are sweaty palms, increased heart rate, muscle tension, breaking out in cold sweats, inability to sit still, and/or a feeling of being uncomfortable in your own skin. A large percentage of people who have chronic pain report experiencing high levels of anxiety. They cite numerous reasons for this, including all of the issues linked to the fears commonly associated with chronic pain. It is common for people to take medications to alleviate fear and anxiety, in addition to the pain. The combination of imbalance, chronic pain, and medications is a fertile mix that anxiety thrives on. An effective way to decrease anxiety is by learning and practicing relaxation and self calming skills such as meditation, intentional deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, self-hypnosis, and even quiet downtime. Balanced individuals experience manageable levels of appropriate anxiety. A holistic approach will be most effective in helping you develop healthy habits to continue practicing in order to establish the emotional balance that will enhance your pain recovery. Some things you can do to decrease anxiety:
- Reduce/limit caffeine consumption (definitely none after 4:00 pm).
- Pay attention to nutrition/limit sugar intake.
- Focus on the present/work on staying in the moment.
- Learn to meditate and practice diligently.
- Read recovery-related materials.
- Exercise as regularly as possible.
- Develop trust in the process of recovery to the best of your ability.
- Pay attention to spirituality—faith in something greater than yourself.
- Practice yoga.
- Practice Chi Kung.
- Explore reiki.
This blog post is an excerpt from Pain Recovery – How to Find Balance and Reduce Suffering from Chronic Pain by Mel Pohl, MD, FASAM, Frank Szabo, LADC, Daniel Shiode, PhD, Robert Hunter, PhD; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).