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Life can be stressful for anyone, especially when coping with daily pain. It can add more frustration and annoyance on top of the daily challenges that we already face, and even more so during the current pandemic. I must admit, I can soon get quite stressed with stuff. I often need a reminder to help me stay calm, focus on what I can control, and see more of the good stuff. I thought this post would be a good reminder for anyone else that needs it too, and hopefully we can help ourselves have a less stressful day.
The impacts of stress
Stress is unavoidable in the modern world. We live at a faster pace, work longer hours, easily neglect our health and wellbeing, and things around us seem to be constantly changing; it can feel hard to keep up at times.
Our bodies react to stressful events (real or perceived) and this is known as the fight or flight response. Evolutionary, this helped us survive when we were faced with life-threatening situations. Today, we don’t often face such life-threatening dilemmas, but our body’s still react in the same way.
Short bursts of stress don’t really harm us – stress can actually be a good thing at the right time as it can help us prioritise what is important. It can also help develop us by pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones – those feelings of self-achievement can do wonders for our confidence and mental wellbeing,
But long-term and chronic stress isn’t good for us at all, and this is where our health can suffer. I’m not a medical expert on stress in any shape or form, but I understand that when stress is always present, our body constantly feels like it is under attack. Our body reacts to everything in our mind – negativity affects your mood and it can also affect your immunity. As well as potentially affecting our health, stress can also make it more difficult to recover from other illnesses such as colds and flu.
So what can we do about it?
We are unlikely to eliminate all aspects of stress. But what we can do is make some minor changes across different areas of our life. These minor changes will all add up and help us cope better and have a less stressful day.
Improve your sleep
There’s lots of evidence suggesting that sleep is vital for our overall health. Not getting the right amount of quality sleep can have so many knock-on effects to our stress levels, to our gut health, and to our energy levels throughout the day.
Sleep repairs our body and helps protect us from different types of illness, increased inflammation and helps restore our energy.
We should be aiming to get at least 7 hours a sleep a night, and it is the quality of sleep that matters. Good sleeping habits (also known as sleep hygiene) include:
- Get in to a good sleeping routine – go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
- Limiting screen use before bed
- Get some natural light outdoors, preferably before midday
- Keep the bedroom cool – this is more natural and helps sleep better
- Nap if you need to
I’m not suggesting you commit to doing 3 sessions a week at the gym or anything like that; this is not practical for many with chronic pain or illness. Moving more is simply that – move more.
This can be hard when you’re in pain, lacking energy, and then feel even more exhausted when you do find you have some energy, so you feel de-motivated for the next time. Simply start slow and build it up. You may be surprised at the impact it has on your energy as well as your mood and wellbeing.
You can read more about this in my blog posts:
- How to start exercising again with chronic pain
- 5 easy steps to doing exercise when you have chronic pain
Try mindfulness or meditation
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is learning to pay more attention to the world around you: the present moment, the physical senses, and your thoughts and feelings to better understand how you are feeling physically and mentally.
What is meditation?
According to the Headspace website, meditation “is about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.”
There is evidence to suggest that mind/body therapies such as meditation and mindfulness help lower your heart rate and blood pressure, which helps you relax, therefore you learn to cope with stress much better.
I’ve tried both these before and do find them hard and frustrating – sometimes they’ve even caused me to be more stressed. But the key parts are accepting the annoying thoughts that can often appear, and sticking with it by making it a daily practice.
Take some deep breaths
Focused breathing is a very practical tool that can help shut off the flight or fight response. Simple deep breathing can therefore help you relax your mind and body, ease muscle tension, and divert your thoughts away from your chronic pain and other stressful perceptions.
Learn more about breathing and my other tips to cope with daily pain, in my book:
Available on Amazon.
How do you help yourself have a less stressful day?
What do you think to my suggestions in this post?
I’d love to know your thoughts so feel free to comment below, and have a wonderful day.
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