Chronic pain can be stressful, and that can lead to mental health issues. For example, many adults with arthritis experience anxiety and clinical depression.
Pain can lead to stress when your quality of life is affected. You tend to focus on the negative changes in your life, the things you can’t do or can’t do well. You may find you have difficulty accomplishing simple life tasks. This can cause negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, depression or frustration.
Conversely, stress can lead to pain. When you feel stressed, your muscles tense up, or may even spasm painfully. Cortisol levels increase, which can cause inflammation and pain.
You can make lifestyle changes that will help you control stress and reduce your pain.
- Distract yourself. Taking your mind off stress and pain will make you feel better. Anything that you enjoy doing can help you cope better. Perhaps coffee and a chat with a friend, a walk in nature, watching a comedy on TV or at the movies, phoning a supportive family member, or working on a hobby.
- Be active. Low-impact activity can improve your mood and reduce stiffness. Try biking, swimming, or simply taking a walk through the neighborhood or at a park. Gradually increase the time you spend on the activity so that it stays comfortable for you.
- Get adequate sleep. Good quality sleep improves both your physical and emotional health. Try to get to bed and wake up at the same time every day of the week; don’t stay up late and sleep in on weekends. Avoid drinking caffeine late in the day. Rearrange your bedroom for maximum sleep hygiene.
If these lifestyle strategies don’t improve both your pain and your stress, consult your healthcare professional. Treatment plans can be developed to address your specific medical condition and symptoms. Don’t be surprised if you are referred to a mental health provider. You can learn new coping skills that will help you manage both pain and stress.
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