When you say the word “pain”, a few things come to mind. Fear; disability; good; bad. For each and every person, the term ‘pain’ can mean a different thing. It is more than just what is going on with at a biological level. There are in fact many other factors that can influence someone’s experience with and interpretation of pain.
Use the injury as a time to accept some of what has happened and to work on other areas of your body. Use it as a time for rediscovery.
As an athlete, your body is your tool. Arms, legs, torso, brain. It all makes up the wonderful being that you are but what happens if you an injury occurs?
Sustaining an injury, whether it be at work or recreationally, can feel catastrophic. It might mean that you are unable to work, unable to manage, unable to complete your leisurely exercises. This may translate into, not being able to earn money, not being able to graduate or not being able to have an expressive outlet.
All of this can impact your body and brain’s ability to process your injury and significantly impact your rehabilitation outcomes.
You might be thinking – how on earth am I supposed to get through this if being injured affects all of these things?
Being injured is so multilayered and often your experience is impacted by the who, what, how and when.
We know that stress and anxiety can increase a hormone called cortisol in our body. When we have more cortisol in our body, it can actually increase the intensity of our experience of pain. However, if we are somehow able to control or minimise our cortisol levels, then we have an improved rate of recovery and an improved outcome.
Research has shown that gratitude and mindfulness may help minimise the effects of these on the pain experience. So in other words, when you get injured, your best course of action is to remain calm and don’t stress. So much more easier said than done!
Understanding the mechanisms behind your pain can help you overcome some of the barriers to recovery. Knowledge is power. The International Association for the Study of Pain defines pain as “an aversive sensory and emotional experience typically caused by, or resembling that caused by, actual or potential tissue injury”. Essentially, this means that you do not need tissue damage/injury to experience pain.Memories of previous painful experiences, worry/stress/anxiety, and perceived threat to the body can all contribute to a painful experience.
Finding gratitude in our everyday lives is something that The Resilience Project’s Hugh Van Cuylenburg has shone a light upon.
People can recommend that you use your rehabilitation time as a new opportunity to work on the things you never get a chance to, like strengthening other areas of your body, refining your artistry, learn new audition material, finish writing the stage show you started five years ago, or relish in the moments of rest that you may be forced to have (for the first time in years!)
To help you through your rehabilitation here are four strategies that you may use
1. WRITE IT DOWN
Write down three things that you are grateful foreach day.
At either the beginning or end of each day sit quietly and take five to ten minutes to write down three things that you are grateful for. If you are not feeling grateful, keep writing until you do. This is not just ticking boxes for the things you think you should be grateful for, like a roof over your head, it is for things that you are truly grateful for. By setting yourself up with gratitude, it can alter your perspective on your current situation to see it in a more meaningful and positive way.
2. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness may be the buzz word of the moment… but research is showing that it can improve focus and outlook. There are many ways to be mindful. You can simply “be” for a few minutes and listen to your breath, or focus on the colour of the leaves in the tree. Alternatively, you could do a guided meditation. Check out The ResilienceProject’s page for user friendly mindful activities. The most important part of mindfulness is that there is no-judgement of yourself.
Each day, make the effort to speak to or text someone in your support team. Connection with others allows you to feel loved, improve your outlook and therefore increase the chance for successful outcomes.
4. CREATE AND MAINTAIN A ROUTINE
Being injured can really throw a spanner in the works of your daily routine. So maintain a routine, such as getting up at the same time every day, going to bed at a reasonable hour (as sleep is so important in rehabilitation), have specific rehab time and specific relaxation time.
Remember that even if you are experiencing an injury, your thoughts create feelings which dictate your behaviour. You are in control of how you are, by your brain. Creating thoughts to change your feelings and thus your behaviour is a skill and takes practice. Use the strategies above to help you