This year’s holiday season is bound to be different. Whether you’ll be celebrating with extended family or keeping things small, the concern around the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will certainly play a role. And that says nothing about all the usual holiday stressors! We know that stress and pain are closely linked and influence one another. When stress levels increase, we tend to notice an increase in our pain levels. When we’re in more pain, we usually feel more stressed as a result. During this holiday season, more than ever, it’s crucial to prioritize self-care strategies for stress and pain management. Here at Aivo, we’ve taken the time to think this through and have settled on a few strategies that are bound to help most.
Manage stress by taking care of yourself
These are our go-to stress and pain management strategies. We hope they will help you as well.
It sounds so simple since we do it automatically all day long, but specific breathing strategies can have a profound impact on both stress and pain. Breathing influences our nervous system, which regulates signals that contribute to pain. Here’s a great way to breath for stress and pain management:
1. Get in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair or bed. Place one or both hands on your abdomen.
2. Breathe in through your nose and slowly count to five while pushing your abdomen into your hands.
3. Breathe out through your nose and slowly count to five again while your abdomen comes back to your starting position.
Repeat this cycle 5-10 times.
You might be wondering if the local health food store carries this one on their shelves, but it’s actually all around us. N stands for nature! When it comes to stress and pain, we have good reasons to prioritize spending time in nature, even if it’s just a few minutes standing or sitting outside. Researchers who looked at hospital patients found that those with tree views outside their window had less need for pain medication and spent less time in the hospital. Another team of researchers found that jogging through a natural green setting helped people to feel less anxious and stressed compared to jogging in an urban setting.
This holiday season, prioritize spending time in nature whenever possible. If you’re feeling up for it, take a socially distanced walk outside in a park with a friend or family member to get the benefits of both nature and walking.
Positive Self Talk
Our inner voice helps to make sense of the world around us and helps us communicate with ourselves. It can also be a key factor in our management of stress and pain levels. When self talk is overly negative, our stress levels tend to increase, and we may start to feel like we can’t handle the challenges around us. Here are some ways to focus on positive self talk for stress management and increase self-esteem:
- Pay attention to your thought patterns throughout the day. As you notice yourself saying something negative, say or whisper “stop” out loud to yourself. Saying it out loud instead of internally will help you notice this pattern even better.
- Changing the words you use can help to shift your mood and mindset. Instead of negative words about your pain like “excruciating” or “grueling”, use words like “achy” or “sore”.
- Rethink and reframe your internal assumptions. If your plans are cancelled or you can’t get outside because of poor weather, see it as an opportunity to use the time that was freed up for other activities or hobbies that you enjoy.
- Change limiting phrases to questions that help you to take action. Instead of saying to yourself, “I can’t do this!” or “This is going to hurt way too much”, try saying “How can I do this while staying within my limits?” or “How can I make sure that I do this without increasing my pain?”. This can make you feel more positive and inspire you to find a solution.
Keep it Simple
Stressful periods like a holiday season during a pandemic can put a lot on our plate. When you’re focusing on managing stress and pain by prioritizing self-care, keep it simple. Small strategies can have a big impact! You might curl up with a warm blanket to watch a favorite holiday movie, light a scented candle, walk outside while listening to an audio-book, or practice 1-2 yoga poses. Whatever you choose to focus on, be proactive, do a little each day. That way stress won’t have a chance to overwhelm you.