Stress can make chronic pain worse. Whether you suffer from headaches, arthritis, abdominal pain, temporomandibular disorder, or any other chronic pain condition you may benefit from identifying methods to reduce the stress in your life. One approach to stress management is to create a “soothing space” – a retreat where you can calm your body, quiet your mind, focus on your strengths, and remind yourself of what matters. You need not go there frequently or stay long to recover from stress. Even five or ten minutes in the morning and evening can be very helpful.
The features of a soothing space include:
• Methods of relaxation. Examples include relaxation videos, breathing exercises, calming photographs, relaxing music, or space for gentle stretching. (If you have subscribed to the Chronic Pain Management Program, use the relaxation sessions on our site.)
• A soothing mindset. Allow yourself to slow down, turn inward, and simply be with yourself, without judgment.
• Encouraging thoughts. Imagine your strongest self waiting at the door to your soothing space. What kind, supportive, and encouraging words can you say to yourself? If you find it difficult to imagine what you might say to yourself, imagine that a close friend needed your support, what would you say to him or her?
• Comfort. A comfortable space should be clean, quiet, and private. It should offer a soft, cozy place for you to sit and maybe even put your feet up. It should smell nice and have warm lighting. Note that comfort doesn’t have to be expensive.
I hope you can create your own soothing space. Over time, you will be able to carry what you feel there with you out into the world.
About the Author. Dr. Linda Ruehlman is a social/health psychologist and researcher, co-founder of Goalistics, and director of the Chronic Pain Management Program, an interactive site that helps people with chronic pain to manage their pain and live richer, more effective lives as well as Think Clearly about Depression, a self-management program for depression.
PainPathways is the first, only and ultimate pain magazine. First published in spring 2008, PainPathways is the culmination of the vision of Richard L. Rauck, MD, to provide a shared resource for people living with and caring for others in pain. This quarterly resource not only provides in-depth information on current treatments, therapies and research studies but also connects people who live with pain, both personally and professionally.