Pain is a danger signal created by the nervous system when it feels unsafe.
Sometimes, the danger is physical — like a broken bone.
But when pain is chronic, it’s likely that the danger signal has been triggered by emotional stress.
Below is a list of 7 types of emotional stress that can trigger chronic pain — and how to use these triggers as opportunities for healing.
1. Fear of Pain Itself
To de-escalate this fear, read up on the science of neuroplastic pain and practice somatic tracking as described in the book The Way Out by Alan Gordon.
👉 the book Unlearn Your Pain by Howard Schubiner is a great read on neuroplastic pain
👉 the Curable app teaches you about neuroplastic pain and somatic tracking as well.
👉here’s a handy flip-through infographic with some tips for reducing fear of pain.
2. Conditioned Association
When the nervous system codes something benign (like sitting or rainy weather) as “dangerous,” it becomes a pain trigger. We need to reassure our nervous system that sitting and rain are not dangerous.
👉 the resources listed above are great for this too.
3. Stressful Situation
To de-escalate this fear, address the stress! Assert healthy boundaries with people, places and things that create stress in your life.
👉 the book Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg offers helpful strategies to effectively navigate conflict and set boundaries.
4. Past Trauma
When present day triggers bring up body memories of past stress and trauma, we need to uncouple the present from the past. Therapy can be helpful!
👉 check out the book The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk and consider enlisting the support of a therapist.
5. Emotional Invalidation
When our stresses and traumas are not acknowledged and empathized with by our community, we need to seek out people or groups that can and will acknowledge and empathize.
👉 support groups and books that reflect your own experience can offer wonderful opportunities for healing.
👉here’s a handy flip-through infographic on understanding and healing from emotional invalidation.
6. Negative Self-Talk
Self-criticism puts our nervous system on edge. Replace self-rejection with loving self-talk. Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life offers how-to guidance.
👉 the book The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden
👉 the book You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
👉here’s a handy flip-through infographic on the effects of negative self-talk and its antidote, self-love.
7. Bottled-Up Emotions
Our nervous system gets overwhelmed by bottled-up emotions. We need to let them out regularly, like going to the bathroom! Emotionally expressive journaling is one great way to do this.
👉 My online course, Writing to Release Chronic Pain, will show you how to release tension and pain from your body and reconnect with your authentic self through expressive writing.
👉 Nicole Sachs, who created the JournalSpeak method of expressive writing, has many wonderful resources on her website.
👉 here’s a handy infographic on the relationship between bottled-up emotions and chronic pain.
👉 When I get a twinge or a flare, I ask myself which of these 7 triggers might be at play (here’s a flip-through infographic to remind you) and what I can do to ease my fear.
👉If I can’t figure it out right away, I STOP trying to figure it out. And I ask myself this instead: “What’s the kindest thing I can do for my body right now?” Almost always, the answer is: “slow down.” 💖
Sending warmth, support and encouragement your way,
➡️ If you need support with chronic pain and anxiety, 𝗱𝗼𝘄𝗻𝗹𝗼𝗮𝗱 this FREE resource I created for you: 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲’𝘀 𝗚𝘂𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗶𝗰 𝗣𝗮𝗶𝗻 𝗥𝗲𝗰𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆.
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