Is There a Connection Between Pain, Stress and Depression? What Can I Do Myself to Lower Stress?
Chronic pain disrupts your life, lessens your ability to handle stress, weakens your immune system, and can result in anxiety, anger, and depression. Depression is one of the most common problems experienced by people with chronic pain. If pain results in a loss of independence or mobility that decreases an individual’s participation in social activities, the risk of depression significantly increases. If you suspect that you may be depressed, it is very important that you discuss this with your doctor.
Your brain can send signals to your body that can affect the way you experience pain. These signals use chemicals similar to morphine (called endorphins) that naturally occur in your body. Relaxation exercises with visual imagery can help you take advantage of these endorphins to cope with your pain and the stress it causes.
Here are the steps to follow:
- See our website for a downloadable video.
- Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet room.
- Take three deep breaths. Feel the air rush in through your nose when you inhale, and then blow the air out as you exhale. Listen to the sound this makes.
- Think of a place where you felt really safe and in control of your pain. It could be the beach where you spent your last vacation or sitting by the window in your home, for example. Picture yourself there now. Imagine what it feels like to sit in that favourite spot, with the wind through your hair or the warm sun on your face.
- Keep taking deep breaths.
- Now turn your attention to your body. Pay attention to your pain. What colour is it? Is it a sharp, bright orange? A dark, cloudy grey colour? Picture where that colour is on your body.
- Now as you take slow breaths, feel how you can control that colour. See it slowly getting lighter and lighter with each breath. Feel the pain flow out little by little as you exhale. See how the colour shrinks down to a smaller size as you
breathe in and out.
- Imagine that the parts of your body that are in the least pain are spreading decreasing the intensity of your pain.
- Picture yourself in control of your pain, right here in your safe place. Take a few more deep breaths, feeling the air rush in through your nose when you inhale and the air blowing out as you exhale.
- Picture that light, soft colour that lets you know you are in control of your pain. Stay there in that safe spot for a while, listening to your breath, or open your eyes when you feel ready.
- You can repeat this exercise several times a day if you need to. It may be helpful to have someone read it to you. Try it when you can feel your pain starting up. Don’t wait until your pain gets severe. This exercise is one of the tools you can use to stay in control of your pain. The exercise becomes more powerful the more you practice it. Don’t give up if you do not get results the first few times.
Relaxation with music.
You can turn listening to music into a relaxation exercise. Use music that makes you feel good. Some people prefer music with no lyrics for these exercises. Others enjoy recordings of nature sounds. Find a quiet room and make yourself comfortable. Take three deep breaths. Feel the air rush in through your nose when you inhale, and then blow the air out as you exhale. Put on your stereo or your headphones and listen to your chosen music. You can close your eyes if you like. Try to concentrate on the music itself and block out other thoughts you are having.
You can stay like this for twenty minutes if you like, and you can make this another tool that you use daily to stay in control of your pain.