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Try this: One day a week, or even one day a month, set your phone alarm to go off each hour that you're awake. When you hear it buzz or ring, close your eyes for a few seconds, take a deep breath and exhale. Do it just once, or repeat for 5-10 breaths, which should only take a few seconds of your time. Then, move on with your day. You may find that the simple habit of stopping and checking in--even though it can seem like an annoyance--helps you reset and feel more present in your day.
Even the simplest habits, like a hot shower after a hard day, five minutes of sitting quietly or practicing a progressive relaxation exercise (imagine yourself relaxing piece-by-piece, from head to toe) can be hugely effective. Whether or not you feel immediate relief, you’re building a mindset of habitual relaxation that can ease pain over time.
You probably don’t need a research study to tell you that it’s important to get enough sleep and that sleeping poorly can make you more susceptible to pain and a host of other health woes. But did you know that a negative mood can also contribute to sleeplessness?
If you only have a few minutes to yourself each day, try scheduling them right before bed so that you slip between the sheets with a smile and a positive outlook. Also, try to stick to the same bedtime and wake-up time each day, so that your brain and your body are ready for sleep.
Yoga and Stretching
As a part of your exercise routine, yoga and stretching can contribute to both physical fitness and relaxation, especially when combined with breathing exercises. A qualitative study of yoga and chronic pain found that Hatha postures in particular created a sense of acceptance and body awareness for pain clinic patients.
Try a local Hatha or gentle yoga class or use online exercise videos to carefully attempt a few basic poses. It’s best to enlist the help of a qualified and certified teacher to make sure you’re practicing the exercises correctly, especially if you have physical limitations, chronic injury or pain issues.
If pain is out of control--limiting your ability to sleep, contribute meaningfully to your social circle or be productive at work--it may be time for a heart-to-heart with a physician you trust. If you’re not established with a pain specialist, try a primary care provider first.