A mindfulness technique to find peace from stress and pain
The other day I was speaking with a client of mine who suffers with a chronic health condition called dystonia, which is accompanied by chronic pain. I also live with dystonia and chronic pain, which I have had since 2001, so I am very much able to relate. He was sharing with me a situation he was in where he was feeling stress, anxiety, and pain, and then how he mindfully focused on taking one deep breath and how much that one breath helped to calm him down in that moment. This reminded me so much of the research and work that I have done in the area of trauma, stress and stress management, the power of breathing, and how it all relates to our health, so I feel compelled to write a little more about it. There are much more expansive topics about all this in my book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey.
After our conversation, one of the main thoughts that came to mind is how many of us live our lives with a sense of urgency. In other words, many of us have a hard time sitting with ourselves or sitting with our pain or sitting with anything. What I mean by “sitting with” is not running from or mentally/emotionally reacting to or fighting things that we may or may not like about our situation in life. When we run or emotionally react, we initiate the fight or flight response which keeps stress levels high, which then negatively impacts the symptoms of whatever health condition we are suffering. For me, as I mentioned, it is dystonia and chronic pain.
For people with anxiety, even when they are at rest, their mind is always going. I know this from personal experience, as someone who once suffered from severe anxiety and panic attacks. My mind was constantly racing. It still does at times. To try and make it easier for me and others to find a sense of peace in the moment, I came up with a very quick and easy way to get into a better head space when we feel urgency, anxiety, and the need to rush around. As a side note, there was a time when my anxiety was so constantly ramped up that I literally could not sit for a few minutes without feeling this unbelievable urge to move around. The problem was that because of my pain and horrible symptoms of dystonia at the time, I was not able to move around, so I was caught between a rock and a hard place.
I realized that I had to learn to sit with my discomfort. I had to learn to be okay with what I viewed as not okay. You can click here to read my other article on this topic. By practicing various mindfulness techniques daily for many months and years (still to this day), I have switched my mind out of the chronic fight or flight space. By doing so, it helped ease some of the symptoms of dystonia, so I am able to move around more comfortably and do the things I need to for my condition. But the first thing I had to do was learn to put my mind in a pause mode to calm the adrenaline running through my body.
When I feel like the train is running off the track, so to speak, I say to myself, PAUSE. BREATHE. RESET. It stops me in the moment to keep me from running further off the track. It sounds so simple, and it really is. That’s why I like to use it when I don’t have time to meditate, do breathing exercises, and mindfulness activities. It’s amazing how just that 5 second PAUSE, BREATHE, RESET practice can totally change how I’m feeling in the moment. I encourage you to try it and see how it makes you feel. You can do it anywhere at all that you feel the need to pull back. You can be at a traffic light or traffic jam, stuck in a long line at the store, running around doing 10 things at once, when having a racing mind even at rest in the comfort of your home when you feel a sense of urgency, in pain, feeling sadness, anger, or remorse. We can often find our emotions getting the best of us, raising stress levels. This is why I love this tool because it is so easy and quick, and great for the “in the moment” anxiety.
The power of the pause is such that it can literally change your day and put you into a totally different mindset. The power of the breath is too long to go into here, but suffice to say, breathing has health benefits such as detoxification, it releases tension, relieves emotional problems, relaxes the body and mind, massages organs, strengthens the immune system, improves posture, improves digestion, balances the nervous system, boosts energy, improves cellular regeneration, and elevates moods, to name just a few.
Many people I speak with wake up in the morning with a sense of urgency and anxiety. This is a great time to PAUSE. BREATHE. RESET, and then begin your day. We have all heard the saying, “I got up on the wrong side of the bed today,” as a way to describe why they or someone else is having a bad day. There is some truth to this because the way we start our day can often determine the kind of day we will have. It is probably best to start the day in a place of peace, so allow yourself that extra time, if you have it, to go into that place of peace. For some it is easy and for others it is a challenge. As with anything, it takes practice, so please practice with this mindfulness technique, or others, if you are challenged in this area. It can have profound health benefits.
So, the question we should all be asking ourselves at this point is, “how often do I pause during the day, whether it be a moment, a minute, a half hour, an hour, and so on?” Most of us probably don’t do it near as much as we should. Our lives can often feel like we are on a hamster wheel or always trying to catch up. Just waiting a few minutes for something to warm up in the microwave can feel like hours to some of us. Tell yourself to PAUSE. BREATHE. RESET whenever you feel out of control. It literally takes less than 10 seconds to do, but the benefit can last hours when practiced on a regular basis.
Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey (2015) and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges (2021. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, The Mighty, Patient Worthy, and The Wellness Universe. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.