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Body Pain, Heart Pain

When Chronic Pain Triggers the Stress-Pain Loop

Superheroes help each other hold their hearts.  When your body is in pain, you may need some heart-holding help.

I have a friend who was a world champion athlete. In fact, no one to this day has surpassed her mad athletic skills in her sport. The only thing that could have stopped her — because she was unstoppable — was a career-ending injury. Decades later she is now undergoing a series of surgeries related to a knee replacement gone wrong. Her pain is chronic and high. The championship she is now fighting for is a pain-free, healthy knee.

Long term can pain shift even the most heroic among us from a state of power to despair. Then, to make matters worse, a state of hopelessness, anxiety, and/or depression can increase our pain levels. Those of us who love our dear champion friend can see when the loop is triggered, starting with pain or despair and then triggering the other. Negative feelings and thoughts increase our pain. It doesn’t matter which is first, the chicken or the egg, the heart, mind and body are all triggering each other.

We need to stop and hold our hearts, deal with our fears, frustrations and anger, and tap into the love we have available to us – from within and from others.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

· Tap into your Inner Superhero – We all have a superhero inside of us. We have all had the experience of being able to jump, weave and leap over that which tries to thwart us. Tap into that superhero inside you, and let him/her be in charge of your healing time. If we don’t give the superhero control we can slip into victim mode, which will increase the stress with negative thinking.

· Let it Out! — Do a thought and feeling dump! Either write it on a piece of paper, type it on your computer or even record it on your phone. Just let that anger, frustration, fear, sadness out. Let it rip, dump it all out! After you are done, ask yourself “Anything else?” When there is nothing else, then close your eyes and focus on your heart and repeat “I am loved. I am loved exactly as I am and exactly as I am not. I am loved.” You may need to do this regularly until you are out of pain. So, have fun with it so you want to do it. Maybe give yourself some music to open your heart a little more.

· Send in the Clouds – Thich Nat Hanh, renowned Buddhist monk and teacher tells us to look at feelings like clouds. No matter how justified or concrete they may feel, notice how feelings move in and out of our consciousness as swiftly and seamlessly as clouds in the sky. If you can practice watching them – and yes, it’s a practice — they won’t take as deep a hold and trigger the loop.

· MeditationMeditation decreases stress. Anything that decreases stress is a good idea when you are in pain. Meditation could also help you see your feelings as clouds, as it encourages us to become less attached to thoughts and feelings.

· Phone a FriendYou may need to have different kinds of help from both friends and professionals to help you come up with a plan to help you hold that heart, de-stress your life, and de-clutter your mind of repetitive thinking. You may even need professional pain management help. You don’t have to do it all alone. I know you have to be vulnerable to allow help in. It’s worth it, I promise.

Injuries and illnesses can be blessings in disguise as they teach us lessons we may not even recognize. If one result of your lessons is that you have an increased awareness of the stressors in your life, and how your thoughts affect your body, I say bow to that blessing, because that will serve you for the rest of your life. If another result is allowing yourself to be vulnerable and receive help, bow to that. If you start meditating for the first time in your life as a result, a deep bow may be in order. Finally, if you start holding your heart in a new way, taking care of your fears, anger and anxiety in a new way, that is superhero work.

My champion friend is kicking ass, learning lessons every day, stretching her heart, mind and body. You can too.

I wish you luck, Superhero!

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