How we can hold space for ourselves to reduce pain

June 13, 2024

In this article I am going to talk about how we can hold space for ourselves for the benefit of being more at peace and more at ease. This helps with burnout and an increase in symptoms if you are dealing with a health condition. I have a health condition called dystonia (a neurological movement disorder) along with chronic neck and back pain. The information I am going to share is absolutely vital to my daily living. I hope you find it helpful as well.

When I refer to creating space or holding space for ourselves, it is about setting aside time to tune into our needs and become more self-aware. It means that we are giving ourselves space to listen to our mind and body and support ourselves the best way we can, in this very moment. To quote Jon Kabat-Zinn, this means “paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, as if your life depended upon it.”

I am also referring to mentally and physically preparing ourselves prior to and after an activity. For example, when I know that I have to exert myself physically (exercise, work in the yard/garden, travel, go to a social function, etc.), I prepare myself prior by resting my body in its most comfortable position. I also prepare my mind by doing various relaxation activities which might be mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, visualization, etc. You can learn more detailed strategies in my 2 books, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges.

Holding space or making time prior to and after any event or activity and then rest and recovery is tip number one. The next part is equally important.

When you have accomplished something you set out to do, create space to celebrate yourself and practice gratitude for what you accomplished. Reflect on what you experienced. Even if you didn’t feel well or at your best doing it, you still did it! This is important to honor. In addition to reflecting on what you accomplished, reflect upon your experience and perhaps things that you might have learned from it.

After you spend time socializing, create space for yourself to decompress and process some of the interactions you had. If a certain interaction is lingering, think about what you might have been able to say or do differently which you can put into practice the next time you are in a similar situation so you can reduce the ruminating afterwards. Then let go of the interaction that is now over. Picture it floating away in a bubble and wave goodbye.

If you are reading an article or book, or watching a movie or television show, create a little time and space for yourself before moving to the next thing. Think about what your takeaway was from this experience, and maybe even how you can integrate it into your life.

SLOW DOWN– When you live with a condition that causes pain and other similar symptoms, it tends to increase adrenaline and we often have a small window where we feel well enough to do certain activities. Because of this, we tend to rush around. I encourage you to start doing things half speed and see if that slows down your racing mind and slows down your body’s attempt to try and keep up with all of the rushing around that you do.

When I began to consciously slow myself down in all my movements in all activities, I began to notice that I was more comfortable and confident. My body didn’t feel in control over me as much as I felt over my body. Interestingly, I found myself accomplishing more even though I was moving more slowly. That’s because burnout didn’t happen faster because I wasn’t overburdening myself. Perhaps this phrase might help – “do less, accomplish more.”

Be present with yourself in whatever situation it might be. Notice the sensations of this moment. It might be sounds, light, taste, smells or felt touch. Just notice whatever you notice, without judgment (meaning there are no “good” or “bad” smells, sounds, feelings or tastes). Just experience it for what it is without commentary, because our mind loves to label and judge. We especially do this with pain, which I know for a lot of you reading this you might be experiencing, which is why I mention it.

For all of these things, especially pain which is probably going to be the most difficult, relax into the experience, just as it is. Don’t think of it as good or bad. It’s just an experience. We don’t have to do anything about it. It doesn’t need to be changed. Don’t run from it. Just let it be without emotional interference or resistance. The goal for all of this is to give a sense of more calm, focus, peace, and joy to your mind and body.

As an example, if you have a problem with your neck, there’s no reason to call it stupid. It’s the only neck you have. It’s listening to you. Be kind to it. It’s not stupid. It’s a great neck that might just need some extra love and attention because it is damaged or troubled in some way. It needs your help. Shift your anger towards love and see if that makes a difference in your level of stress and anxiety about that particular pain. I know this may sound trite and perhaps a little bit new age, but the words we use can have a powerful impact on our feelings and our perception of pain.

Our mind is like a movie that’s playing all the time, but with subtitles and commentary. I’m sure we can all remember watching a TV show or movie when somebody was talking the entire time and you couldn’t focus on what was happening on the screen. This is what the mind is doing all the time. It is all over the place and we never really get to fully see the movie. That movie of course being a metaphor for our lives.

Our mind is miraculous in its ability to work for us or against us. For many of us, we have a mind that has constant commentary often filled with judgment, labeling, worry about the belief in others’ opinions of us, depressing thoughts, anxious thoughts, etc. These do nothing but keep us angry, frustrated, sad, worried, and anxious. Imagine what it would it be like if we had better control over our internal commentary and just experienced the movie of our life just as it is. Don’t judge. Just live it. Life is too short for anything else.

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 and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges. 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 NetworkThe Mighty, and Patient Worthy. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram. 



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