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Who isn’t feeling a bit anxious lately? Between the political landscape worldwide and the ever-distressing weather, amongst other things, there is plenty to be anxious about. (BTW if you live in Brisbane and are feeling a little whingy about our day-after-day unrelenting heat and humidity, then take a moment to check out Birdsville’s temperature- yes it is 9 pm at night and yes it is 39 degrees centigrade!!!)
We have learnt over many blogs that anxiety can ramp up chronic pain. The stress hormones that are released when you are anxious charge up the nervous system and intensify many negative sensations and feelings.
If you have chronic pain and have no strategies to help you manage and overcome it, the constancy of your situation and the gradual de-conditioning that comes with exercising less and socialising less, has many distressing effects on your mood and how good you are feeling. One of my deep desires when I established Studio194 at my old rooms, was to start a Pain Relaxation class to teach clients how to manage pain and anxiety, how to reduce muscle tension and most importantly provide them with a safe zone to allow them to escape from the hurley burley of life.
I took over from the wonderful Lori in May when she had to leave and took the class at 6.15pm every Monday night from May to December. Having attended Lori’s class since inception, mostly because I loved the ability to actively relax without feeling guilty for doing nothing for 45 minutes, I had felt I wanted to introduce a little bit of education at the beginning of the class. And as you all know, I am in love (figuratively speaking) with the fantastic Lorimer Moseley and Dave Butler, of Explain Pain fame so I decided to name these little snippets of education Nuggets (in their honour).
Every week I write a page or two on something to do with pain or anxiety management. It’s a wonderful way to keep discovering more about pain and anxiety management strategies and after rather a difficult year, there were many days when I was actually researching strategies for myself. In fact, my secretary Jose, who has taken the role of typing these nuggets up every week for me, commented the other day on how (ridiculously) quickly Mondays come around…“Really Sue it’s Monday Nuggets Day again?!?!?”
Luckily Martine now runs my Pain Relaxation class on a Monday night – she is a Physiotherapist and a Pilates instructor so is very skilled in teaching the stretches we use, many based on the wonderful work of Sandy Hilton, co-author of a great pain book called “Why Pain Hurts”. Much of what we do is down-training muscles, learning to let go, relax muscles rather than tightening them. My greatest joy when I took the class was when people commented on how beautifully they slept the night of the class and how great they felt when they woke up the next morning. Refreshed!
I have decided to put these as entries in my blog, because these days I hand these Nuggets out to many patients and it could save a few forests by having the information accessible online for my patients. The following one is on Mindfulness – a little explanation and the information was sourced from Linda Turner’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction as a Strategy in Reducing Pain which can be heard in it’s entirety on You Tube.
Mindfulness based stress reduction as a strategy in reducing pain
Mindfulness practice allows you to know what is right with you and your body, not what is wrong. A study in 2003 showed with 8 weeks of mindfulness training, participants saw an associated change in brain activity with:

  • A decrease in trait anxiety
  • An increase in positive affect (mood)
  • An enhancement of immune function (increased antibodies in the blood stream)

The participants had no previous experience with meditation or mindfulness, and in just 8 weeks had this positive response.
Mindfulness is about awareness.
The triangle of awareness:

  • Body sensations (hot, cold, breath awareness, discomfort/comfort, tension, muscles – are there tight areas that you are holding ?)
  • Thoughts
  • Emotion

We need to bring attention to our awareness, as much of the day we are on autopilot.  Attending to the body/breath brings us into the present moment – immediately.
Mindfulness begins with attention
Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as attention that is:

  • Intentional
  • Moment-to-moment
  • Non-judgemental

Take home message

  • Just start noticing
  • Be present in the moment
  • Breath is always with us. Come back to your breath always.
  • Increase your power of concentration to being in the moment
  • And as one of my favourite things is to save memes on my phone when I come across them (and I am sure for many people memes can be one of the more annoying things about the internet) here are a couple to finish with. I hope you will pursue more information on mindfulness and use it to cope with anxiety (and pain) in these trying times.
  • As these are memes saved in a microsecond on my phone over many years, unfortunately I am unable to reference them. I apologise to those who created them and thank you for your inventiveness!
  • (Bulletpoints have a mind of their own sometimes……..)