Anticipation of Pain

I’m due to make a long trip and find myself tensing up. The regular pain worsens as a result of that, but my daily routine hasn’t changed. That means the only real reason for the increased pain is the anticipation of being in severe pain as a result of the trip.

I know it’s counterproductive, even silly, but it’s no good berating myself. I know what might happen, know I’ll have to manage the trip and aftermath carefully, and know how to deal with the repurcussions if anything goes wrong.

The point is, I’ve been burnt too many times on long trips with others not being able to appreciate the problems. It doesn’t help that several events coalesced into one week to bombard my diary so rest times will be a problem all over the next seven days. Yes, I know a purist might say ‘then why let them happen?’ but, in this case, cancelling one means never having that opportunity again (and I mean never) whilst cancelling the others means letting down a lot of people.

Hence the concern. As ever, severe, chronic pain dominates the thoughts.

Or, in this case, the anticipation of severe pain dominates my thoughts. I’ll have to accept being out of action.

One way to minimise the impact is to work harder to manage it now. Right now I have to deal with my own body’s reaction to the concern, so I have deliberately relax anything that might be tense, have to be more aware of what my body is unconsciously doing that causes pain. The conscious components of that process are currently:

  • Focusing more on pacing (it’s easy to let it slip);
  • Intersperse normal pacing times with halts to do simple relaxation-deep breathing exercises (always close your eyes when doing this: try gently claspin gyour hands together, breath in deeply and slowly before breathing out slowly, imagining the pain and tension leaving you rbody through the breath – this can be done almost anywhere);
  • Ensuring the distraction is continuous and heavy (hence this post!) – focus on something outside the body really helps (just focusing on others gets your mind away from what’s going on in your own body);
  • Much deeper breathing as I do normal tasks;

Throughout, I have to set up an ‘overwatch’ mind that monitors and consciously relaxing those taught muscles and misplaced arm positions that cause the pain. This overwatch has to kick in whenever I stop or pause as the enforced relaxation is key.

Sure, some of this is elements of standard relaxation and mindfulness, but it also contains elements of a waking trance. It can be wearying as you are concentrating all the time and I’ll have to set apart some proper rest (remember, long-term rest doesn’t often help; short-term, positively focused rest often can).

Another tip is that when stopping or pausing I frequently imagine the pain streaming away into the aether from my fingertips (I have hand and arm pain). It may not be a standard part of pain-management imagery, but it works for me.


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