Pain affects every aspect of your life. It can challenge or change the activities you choose to do, the thoughts you have and even the sleep you get. This is because, in addition to your physical discomfort, pain can affect your mental and emotional health — increasing your stress and frustration, sapping your motivation and activity levels, and contributing to fatigue.
In turn, your day-to-day life plays a key role in managing pain. In fact, there are several positive lifestyle changes you can make to help manage your pain. Two starting points are to eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight. The following suggestions are other things you can do every day to be your healthiest, most comfortable self.
Pain and stress feed off one another. Pain is a source of stress. And when you feel stress, you may react in ways — such as tensing your muscles and gritting your teeth — that increase your pain. You can prevent this cycle by better managing your stress.
Start by recognizing your stress triggers. Write down the things that cause your stress, considering each part of your life, including work, relationships, home, poor health habits, and perfectionism or negative thinking. Then take a hard look at the list and think about ways you can minimize or even eliminate those triggers. For example, if you feel rushed when you get ready for work in the morning, think about how you might better prepare the evening before to make the morning go more smoothly. Or if you're stressed because you have too many obligations on your schedule, decide which ones you can remove. Learn to say no.
Practicing relaxation skills also helps you better manage stress. Breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, visual imagery, meditation and mindfulness are some of the techniques that can help you center yourself and approach your day from a calmer, more balanced and less stressful place.
Oct. 28, 2017
- Bruce BK, et al., eds. Caring for yourself. In: Mayo Clinic Guide to Pain Relief. 2nd ed. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2013.
- Mariano ER. Management of acute preoperative pain. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Oct. 25, 2017.
- 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://health.gov/paguidelines/. Accessed Oct. 25, 2017.