De-Stress + Relieve Pain: 3 New (Old) Ways
De-Stress + Relieve Pain: 3 New (Old) Ways
Stress and pain too often go hand-in-hand. In fact, one of the most common symptoms of stress is muscle pain! Conversely, debilitating pain can often create feelings of hopelessness and mental distress. This mind/body interrelationship can be quite complex; however, not to worry - there’s no need to tackle the “what came first, the chicken or the egg” dilemma! Let’s keep it simple. In a nutshell (or egg-shell, if you will), when we address one, we address the other— we’ll address stress and pain simultaneously!
We like to encourage folks to explore new approaches to health and healing, and while the techniques on our list aren’t truly new, many of us aren’t embracing them today. When possible, take a break from standard methods (a.k.a. technology, medication, etc.) and bring back the wisdom of our ancestors with these techniques to combat stress and ease your pains.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
What’s that, you say? Yes, Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)! Although many of us are unfamiliar with PMR, it’s been around since the 1920’s and for several decades, it was the sole prescribed relaxation technique practiced in the U.S.! Today, some doctors, psychologists, and other healthcare professionals continue to engage variations of PMR, using the technique to aid with conditions such as stress, anxiety, muscle tension, and headaches.
Well, what is it?! PMR is a relaxation technique that involves systematically contracting and relaxing muscle groups to decrease muscle tension. By learning to contract and release, you enhance muscle awareness, gaining the ability to discriminate the sensations provided by tensing and relaxing. The technique allows you to substantially diminish muscle tension, promoting mental tranquility. Awareness is bliss!
I like what I hear, what next? Ask the docs for a list of healthcare professionals trained in PMR, or you can partake in the practice on your own! We like to do PMR in the evening to wind down after a hard day’s work, or in the morning to set the tone for the day! There is an abundance of YouTube videos online to guide you, or you can view our tips and script here.
Fun fact: The words “stress” and “relaxation” were not heard in the American vocabulary prior to WWI. It was actually Dr. Edmund Jacobson, the creator of Progressive Muscle Relaxation, who made them household words! This guy was the real deal!
What’s the story? Ancient history reveals that mental imagery was used as a healing technique on every continent. The Australian Aborigines, American Indians, Siberian Shamans, Hindu Yogis, Ancient Greeks, and African Tribes all used some form of imagery! As modern psychology evolved, imagery reemerged in the 20th century and was (and still is) used to help people cure or cope with their ailments.
Tell me more. There are many different variations of mental imagery. Some might prefer a more self-directed approach, which involves consciously creating images for healing, relaxation and/or success. Others may choose a more guided route that follows a series of suggestions -either via a recording or with the help of an instructor or counselor- to help enhance imagination, access inner wisdom and promote self-care.
Sign me up! For a quick mental break at work -in a quiet room or even at your desk- opt for the self-guided route. Begin with breathing deeply: Imagine with your inhale that you are breathing in peace and ease, allowing for it to move throughout your body, muscles, tissues, and cells. With your out breath, picture releasing tension and stress, letting the pain melt away. Continue to wherever your imagination takes you! For example, some individual may imagine themselves on a warm beach or floating in a sea of healing substance. There is no right or wrong way, truly make it your own! Or for guided imagery, work with an instructor or use a recording to prompt inspiration!
What’s the scoop? Tai Chi, a.k.a. “shadow boxing” or “meditation in motion” originated in China and has been practiced in the East for centuries. In recent years, it has gained popularity in the West and is often pursued as a means for reducing stress, relieving pain and promoting overall well-being.
Please elaborate. Referred to as in internal martial art, Tai Chi is a technique that incorporates elements of mindful movement and meditation. It’s a self-paced, constant movement that consists of slow, focused, circular movements and body balance postures accompanied by deep breathing. The meditative aspects of the practice initiate relaxation and promote calmness. The postures encourage movement of the spine and muscles, improving flexibility and fending off tension. Furthermore, the exercise encourages better posture, ultimately resulting in less pain due to slouching. The practice is great for those who experience conditions such as chronic pain, arthritis or fibromyalgia, or for anyone who would like to reduce stress and/or improve overall well-being. (In other words, Tai Chi is great for everyone!)
Oh yes, is that what I see…? Indeed, that’s what you likely observe taking place in the early a.m. at your local park! Before you dive into your busy workday, master the art of slowing down— join the park crowd or visit your local YMCA or martial arts center for a Tai Chi class. Or if you prefer, do Tai Chi in the comfort of your home or backyard (no need to lug around your work attire). Here’s an example introductory video to guide you: Tai Chi for Beginners
One more fact: Tai Chi translates to “supreme ultimate.” While the practice may be very gentle, don’t underestimate the healing power of its grace. The name “Tai Chi” is certainly quite fitting!
What about movement at work? Check out the helpful stretches below when just adjusting your work station isn't enough!
The information and reference guides in this website are intended solely for the general information for the reader. The contents of this web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice, diagnose health problems or for treatment purposes. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your health care provider for any advice on any exercise, medication, nutrition, or supplementation.