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More Mental stuff, to help anxiety and pain

Last blog I went over why I advocate using mindfulness and meditation for chronic pain, anxiety and health, but there are lots of techniques that help with mental framework, coping, stress management, self development and relaxation. We all need to keep trying and find our right opportunity. Keeping in that spirit, with this blog I would like to make you aware of a few more opportunities that in my experience, improve pain and anxiety.

Let your choices reflect hope, not fears and regretsSo let’s get going on this quick review.

Guided imagery or visualization is a very helpful experience in which you focus on images that make you feel better. This is your own virtual reality, a dream that you’re the director, distracting you from pain and anxiety. I like to think sitting in around a park in spring, while listening to the birds and smelling the flowers.
Guided Imagery requires you to use your senses, to Gestalt the experience where you feel at peace, free to let go of tension and anxiety. This experience can be done on your own, with a therapist or a recorded guide.

Another technique that I’ve utilized in my clinical practice with the help of psychologists is neurofeedback/biofeedback .These techniques use your mind to control your body functions such as muscle contraction, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing or even brain waves. It is a feedback therapy using an electronic device to monitor specific body functions, then the device uses sound, light or computer cues to tell you about changes occurring. For example you would get feedback cues when your heart rate is slowing, muscles relaxing or EEG changes. Working with these feedback systems can really help in relieving pain and anxiety. This can be pretty expensive if you go to a therapist, but you can also learn the techniques and utilize them at home.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy {CBT}, this requires some professional help and CBT depends on how hard you are willing to work the program. It is also very therapist dependent, so you will need a good one. CBT can also be expensive. You can do it through therapists, courses or programs. You and the therapist identify cognitive problems and try to change maladaptive/dysfunctional belief systems and behaivor. CBT can really help you become aware of your thoughts, emotions and resulting behaviors. The therapists work with you on correcting cognitive errors like:

  • Catastrophic thinking – If I do poorly on this I’ll never have pain control.
  • All or nothing thinking – If I can’t stick to my diet I am a failure.
  • Overgeneralization -I didn’t get a prom date, so I’m destined to be lonely.
  • Personalizing – People say unkind things to me, so I guess I’m not a good person.
  • Mind-reading – My therapist didn’t smile at what I said; he thinks I’m an idiot.

Therapists typically do testing and give homework consisting of keeping a journal of thoughts and then the therapist reviews this info to help you. There is a vast body of literature that demonstrates efficacy of CBT, especially for things like anxiety and panic disorder.

Music therapy is listening to music, playing an instrument or singing. It can be alone, with friends or with a trained music therapist. We all know that music can change your mood, help you let go or dance inside. So it’s something to certainly consider as a primary or adjunctive relaxation technique. Music can heal.

While I still have a little time left and hopefully your attention, let me review some more ideas that can make a big difference; using positive thinking, pacing and acceptance as your responses to pain and suffering. These are especially very important when you have break through pain, which is often an indication that you extended too far. Remain positive; attitude is everything, if you feel defeated you are defeated. Take lessons from relapses, pace better and have a positive attitude towards the future. Acceptance is also important, accept your current self, take what is given and have gratitude for what you have, do the best you can with what you have … “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need ” … heard that somewhere. Remember acceptance is not adopting an attitude of complacency or giving up. Acceptance is an attitude of letting resistance go and being who you are.

Lastly, remember to laugh and smile every day. Sometimes you just want to escape the pain/suffering. So watch a funny film. I am a big advocate of Minions and the Red series. Watch a comedian, get on You Tube, anything to make you laugh and smile. Laughter stimulates the brain’s production of endorphins and smiling has been shown to be calming and reduce pain signals.

Take care

Dr. Kent

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