I’ve found that getting immersed in something other than my disease is a good way to forget, if only for a while, that I have a chronic illness. When you focus on the pain, it tends to reinforce that pain.
Researchers at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf used an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) and discovered that mental distractions helped to inhibit the response to incoming pain signals. It was found that endogenous (naturally-produced) opoids reduced the amount of pain signals travelling to the higher-order brain regions. Study participants were given memory tests at the same time as heat was applied to their arms. As the participants devoted more attention to the problems they were given, the fMRI detected less activity in the spinal cord, which equated to the perception of less pain.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) helps people develop alternate ways of thinking and behaving in order to reduce their psychological stress. The pain study shows how CBT can play a role in pain management, as well.
There are a number of ways in which you can distract yourself:
- Learn a language.
- Take a course.
- Join a singing group.
- Learn a new skill.
- Lose yourself in an art activity.
One word of advice: Get good at listening to your body. Know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. If you take an outside course, you may wish to let the instructor know that you may have restrictions and/or that you may need more time to complete the activity/lesson.
To get you started, I have an activity that you can do on your own terms. Please see my giveaway on Auntie Stress Café for Once Upon a Piece of Paper – a collage kit that shows you how to play with paper (again). All you need are scissors, glue and your imagination to transport you into the world of creativity (and less pain). The kit comes complete with starter ideas and a packet of 100 printed pages ready for you to use. If you already use coloring books to help you be more mindful (and playful), Once Upon a Piece of Paper is billed as the next step up.
The giveaway, which is open to anyone, anywhere, closes at PT, on Friday, January 20th, 2017. Visit Giveaway: Creativity with Once Upon a Piece of Paper to find out how you can enter.