Today I want to share some things I learned from Wellness Week (see my previous post) on physical wellness with you!
What is physical wellness? One definition is the ability to maintain a healthy quality of life that allows us to get through our daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress. (https://www.studentaffairs.pitt.edu/healthyu/physical/ )
During this webinar there were two main questions from viewers: How do I deal with chronic pain? And… How do I get myself to do what I need to do to improve my physical health?
How do I deal with chronic pain?
If you can’t change the circumstance behind the pain, Jody Moore suggests changing your thoughts. When we think things like “This isn’t fair” then we add more negative emotion to the pain which makes it more intolerable. Now you’re frustrated AND in pain. Practicing good self care also helps because you are better able to manage negative thoughts and feelings when your head is in a good place.
I listened to a podcast Jody did on this topic as well and she gave 4 strategies for dealing with chronic physical pain:
- Get good at pain. She uses the thought “Ok, it’s stomach pain time” for her chronic stomach pain. I use “oh it’s headache time now”. This creates a feeling of peaceful surrender as you relax into the pain, rather than fighting it which just intensifies the pain. Ask “What self-care do I need right now?”
- Stay in the present moment. Ask “Who am I right now?” Do a body scan, take deep breaths or meditate. Use your senses to ground you in the moment instead of worrying about your pain.
- Don’t attach to thoughts about helping others. This is the time to take care of you, not worry about what else you “should” be doing.
- Allow yourself your experience. Chronic pain is hard and we can acknowledge that without letting it swallow us up.
How do I get myself to do what I need to do to improve my physical health?
The main idea Jody wanted to get across is that we can’t improve our physical health by having negative thoughts and feelings about our bodies. Our feelings fuel our actions so more useful feelings will equal more useful actions. If our thought is “I hate my body” then we are less likely to stick to the actions that improve our health vs thinking “I love my body” and feeling motivated to take care of it. Often our thoughts end up in our results. Jody suggested it might be difficult to jump from “I hate my body” to “I love my body” so trying some neutral thoughts might be a good starting place. Some examples given are “I have a body”, “This is what a human body looks like”, “My body type is more common than what the media portrays”.
And remember, changing our thoughts is not a one and done deal. We may go back and forth for a while but it will get easier to change the channel. The key is to talk to yourself intentionally about your body, we’re talking already but need to change what we’re saying. Are you “hugging a cactus”? (Holding onto negative thoughts). Try on a new thought that is motivated by love for your body and see what happens!