Pain is the responsibility of your brain. Even when you cut your finger. Physical suffering is unpleasant, sometimes excruciating and from time to time unfortunately also necessary. We try to avoid getting burned by fire or being cut by the sharp edges of kitchen knives. Pain is highly emotional and it’s a signal that something is wrong.
What is the natural reaction to pain? Make it stop and run away from whatever is causing it. There are situations, however, where pain is not only necessary but also beneficial. For example, rehabilitation sessions after an injury will require you to work through the physical discomfort. The tricky thing about pain? It’s all in your head. And the best part of it? It’s all in your head! You are the only person, who has the power to control and manage it.
Emotional warning sign
Pain is a sensory and emotional reaction of your body, telling you something is not right. It is an emotional warning sign. A fascinating finding was discovered after the frontal lobe of cancer patients was removed as a part of the treatment. The patients still registered pain, but they did not seem to mind it anymore. As the frontal lobe is where our emotional pathway begins, it is within the power of our emotions to make us suffer physically.
1. EXPECTATION: We feel what we’re told we should feel
Expectation has a powerful role in pain perception. If we expect something to be painful, we do in the end perceive it as painful. Beliefs are the drivers of our reality. That's why it is more beneficial to think that while it may hurt (a bit), nothing is actually wrong. So the next time you’re about to get a unpleasant or painful procedure done, convince yourself it's no big deal and you will handle it without a problem. This will help to calm your body down in advance.
2. PREPARATION: Feeling of control
Fear makes pain worse. When you feel comfortable and in control, your anxiety levels drop together with the feeling of pain. Anxiety reducing techniques such as mediation or hypnosis have a highly positive effect on moderating pain. Unfortunately, we cannot always influence how welcoming and comforting the environment around us is going to be. Ideally before and during a painful procedure, your doctor or physician would try to distract you by talking to you about things that interest you. However, what you can do all by yourself is to think about the things you like even if you're not asked. Prepare your mind for what's to come, knowing it might be unpleasant but that you will be alright.
3. DISTRACTION: Entertain yourself
Focusing on pain only makes it worse! Have you ever had a headache and then been distracted for some time only to realise that the headache went away? Shifting your attention to something else can do wonders. For example, during certain procedures burn patients distracted with a virtual-reality video game actually report to feel significantly less pain.
The next time you find yourself in pain, these couple of tricks will definitely help:
1. Think of something pleasant
2. Count backwards from 100 to 1
3. Look around – is there something that sparks your interest? How many chairs are there in the room? How many lamps?
4. Imagine yourself as e.g. a character in a superhero film and create a story in your mind
These little mind exercises will distract you from the pain and will help you feel more relaxed!
It's not all doom and gloom with pain. Pushing your limits in the gym is not going to feel like your muscles are being licked by kittens. Once again, it's all about the mindset. Accepting pain as a natural part of life can significantly change how you go through it. If you train your mind well enough, it will not only gain the power to accept the seemingly unacceptable but will also acquire the ability to weaken physical pain. It all becomes possible only when you start believing it is possible.