What does finding the power of meaning have to do with chronic pain, lack of energy and sensory sensitivity? Chronic health conditions can feel like a game of dominoes; they effects every part of your life. Your career, participation in society, finances, relationships, physical and mental health, personal growth, hopes and dreams.
When you’re not feeling well, tired, sensorily overstimulated or in pain it’s only natural to do less of the things you usually enjoy. And yet, keeping a sense of purpose in life matters. It positively influences your sense of health, empowerment and happiness.
Not to mention the negative effect of not listening to your true longings has on your health. If work, social activities, life duties and other’s expectations don’t align with your true values and longings, you’ll increasingly experience more stress. So listening to your heart’s calling is not a luxury in this perspective, but an essential part of any healing journey.
When we are in pain or feel overwhelmed however, it’s hard to remain inspired. You might drop all things that used to give you pleasure, because you simply don’t have the energy to do these things anymore.
What if you could to the things you love doing again?
When you feel tired, overwhelmed or in pain you’re under the natural assumption that you should become complaint free and energized before you can get more active again.
You put your life on hold and try to find out what’s causing your complaints. You keep searching and analyzing. First weeks, than months even years perhaps. You try every kind of therapy you can get your hands on. Hope kicks in quickly followed up by desperation when I doesn’t turn out the way you’ve hoped. If feels like you’re fighting a battle and life as it was can only continue until you’ve found the solution to your problem.
What if I told you that you could start living your life despite your complaints?
Now I hear you thinking: ‘Come on, I actually have more complaints when I undertake too much. I really am tired, in pain and overwhelmed, do you think I like to feel like this?’
I got you. And I feel you. I really do. I’ve been there and I know how deeply frustrating it is if you want to do the things you love but you’re simply not able to.
That’s why firstly understanding the workings of your chronic pain is key to any progress. Please read this post about chronic pain before reading any further.
What does Acceptance and Commitment Therapy do for chronic pain and lack of energy?
Now that you have a clear sense of understanding the origin of your pain. And have distinguished whether you’re indeed experiencing chronic pain with a nervous system in an overprotective mode. We can move on to the fundamental concepts of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, in short: ACT.
ACT helps you to accept the aspects of pain you cannot change. That includes sensations, thoughts and other experiences. At the same time ACT stimulates us to consciously choose directions in life that are close to our heart’s longings. So called value driven action.
Struggling, resisting and avoiding pain takes up a lot of energy. And it reinforces the overprotective mode of your already sensitive nervous system. I’ve personally experienced that when I actively allow any physical or mental pain and simultaneously do the things I value, it opens up a whole new range of possibilities.
Now, there is a certain technique for building up physical activities in a gradual way. Since the nervous system only adjusts by a slow & steady pace. Just like training for a marathon involves a training schedule. A good physical therapist with training in pain science will teach you how to plan your workouts.
Practising Yoga, Somatics and ACT can be of great value while retraining your overprotective nervous system. They perfectly fit within any rehabilitation program.
Learning to trust your pain and lack of energy
By getting more active you’ll learn to trust the waves of pain and disease. Slowly but certainly you’ll start to feel that experiencing pain doesn’t neccessarily mean something is off.
You get more confident and start to feel it’s safe to move even when you’re in pain or feel tired.
The more you practice with allowing pain to be part of your life, the more comfortable you’ll feel to choose how you actually want to live. So you won’t be dictated by your pain anymore.
Now this may sound like a simple enough concept, but it’s not. As you’ve probably already realised.
I’m guessing that you have a strong personality and have already tried to push through your pain, exhaustion, insecurities, stress or fear. And experienced that this totally backfires.
That’s because learning to follow your passions with your pain as a loyal companion takes real time. It helps to think of your recovery path as a journey, a long-term project. Rushing your nervous system into a new mode only works counterproductive: you only stress out your already sensitized nervous system.
You need to learn how to communicate to your sensitive nervous system by taking small steps. Being brave, patient, perseverent and kind to yourself is a big part of that journey.
Changing your life like this takes encouragement and support and I would love to be part of your supporting team. Either on- or off line.
Re- training your nervous system
The key takeaway here is this: how we think about our pain, lack of energy and symptoms directly influences our nervous system and pain experience. And that is wonderful news, since this means we can actually re- train our pain system.
Everything we repeat often will be remembered by our brain and nervous system. This is true for many things, but especially for activities that create pain. Making fast and automatic decisions has proven to be crucial for survival. After all there is no use in pottering around when you’re being chased by a lion.
Remember our brains are basically not designed to make us happy. They are designed to make us survive. So the more your nervous system has experienced pain, the more it has had a good practice at becoming really good at firing pain signals.
Avoidance becomes our biggest survival strategy. If movement or any other activity for that matter has been painful in the past, that’s what your nervous system remembers.
Practising ACT teaches you that it’s not necessary to avoid life’s challenges including moving your body. But you’ll learn how to retrain your system to cope with them in a much more effective way.
And you can start living the truly valuable & rich life you’re secretly longing to live.