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The Mental Load of Chronic Pain

If you have chronic pain, you know what I am talking about. Though I am guessing that you didn't think of it that way until I mentioned it.

Try this... Now, this takes practice and isn't easy at the start, but try it. Sit and breathe. Notice the sensations in your body. Imagine you could separate the mental & emotional load that you carry from the sensations. Take a few more breaths and notice the sensations. Have they changed? If they did, that is a great start! But now what!?

The mental load that we carry with us can vary day to day and when you are experiencing persistent pain, this mental load adds to the sensations. It can even cause our pain flare ups, it is the part responsible for the exhaustion, and it can come from many different sources. An absence of emotional safety, a shortage of deep rest, isolation/disconnect from the feeling of belonging, lack of authenticity, feeling disconnected from the emotional connection of others, no sense of self or direction, and lack of nutrients/hydration. That is a heavy list!

I've talked before about how our bucket fills up and the idea that if we are overfilling our bucket each day, this can lead to daily pain sensations as well as the nervous system feeling unsafe and creating a sense of hyper vigilance. Though when we think of the bucket, we often think of things that are more physical; to do lists, schedules, work projects, dealing with conflict, etc.

What if our needs are not being met in the first place? What if you are living in a way that feels restrictive or disconnected. Tendency is to reach for things that are easiest to access: binge watching tv, unlimited social media scrolling, alcohol, drugs... I could list so many habits that lead to addictions because we are trying to connect or even disconnect from that mental load.

Now, this is a big topic, but I want to bring it back to the beginning. What if the pain sensations that you have day in and day out can start to be detached from the mental load? Yes, you'll need to acknowledge the components of your mental/emotional load and work with that, but if the start of this process helped the pain levels decrease, even just a bit. How would that make you feel? Would you be willing to invest 10 minutes of your day to lowering your pain sensations?

Where can you start? Go back to the beginning of this article. Start with your breath. Focus on your exhale for a minute, allow the exhale to connect you to a physical sense of heaviness, notice the contact you have with the ground underneath you. Whether you are sitting or laying down (recommend starting from a laying down position) you can feel that sense of foundation.

After a couple of minutes, take your awareness to your inhale. See if you can allow yourself to breathe into your belly. Imagine this connects you to a sense of lightness, a visualization that leads to an ease of movement in your body. Focus on this inhale for a few minutes.

Which part of your breath did you connect with the most?

Do note: don't try and save time by paying attention to your exhale, then inhale, then exhale, etc... this is too much cognitive work to begin with. Also, do know that there is so much more to this breathwork exercise, but let's start at the beginning and practice. Practice makes what? No, not perfection... it makes improvement!

Interested in learning more and how you can build on reducing your pain sensations while creating better habits? Check out the membership platform at Critical Movement YYC. You’ll find over 30 hours of video classes, workbooks, and learning manuals to access, as well as live Zoom ‘office’ hours to ask all your questions.

Let's chat! Message me today for a free 15 minute consult about your pain experience. Or subscribe to this newsletter and continue to learn.

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