Chronic Pain and Mind-Body Strategies

Those of us who are lucky enough to be Survivors of Life past the age of 50 are probably way too familiar with the kind of daily aches and pains that our doctors tell us are part and parcel of the privilege of aging.  In talking to my peers I realize that many of us cannot get out of bed in the morning without experiencing some kind of stiffness or pain. Some of you cannot stand up from a chair or even go for a walk without grimacing from the pain in your knees or lower back.  The current chapter I am working on for my book“Aging Happy: How to Knock Out The Nonsense and Make These the Best Years of Your Life”(to be released at the beginning of next year), looks at body image in older adults. This topic is particularly dear to my heart, as it completes the circle of the research I conducted as a (much) younger doctoral candidate many moons ago.  It comes as no surprise that an adversarial relationship with our body in our older adult years is just as poisonous to our happiness as it was in our youth. Body Image Dissatisfaction can still make us older adults vulnerable to eating disorders, low self-esteem, social isolation, and depression.

The bulk of body-image research on adolescents and young adults examines the influence of advertising, the cosmetic and fashion industries, and even the comparisons we make between ourselves and those we think look better than us (i.e. Leon Festinger’s Social Comparison Theory, circa 1954)—but what about the influence of chronic pain on our self image as we age?

Non-malignant chronic pain, the kind that many of us experience every day, can keep us from feeling good about about the very body that houses our heart and soul and keeps us functioning right up to our last breath.

Pain can make us feel (and look) older, and feebler, and often we perceive ourselves to look older as well when we look in the mirror.  Pain can strip us of our motivation to do the things we normally love to do. Thoughts of pain, and ways to adjust our lifestyle to avoid pain can consume our thoughts and eventually our entire existence; causing us become less social and less engaged in life—a disastrous outcome for older adults who need more than ever to be involved with meaningful social interactions.

I recently came across an article that reviewed a number of studies examining various mind-body strategies for relieving chronic NON-malignant pain in older adults. These strategies included tai chi, yoga, hypnosis, progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, guided imagery, meditation, and qi gong. The benefits of these methods are undisputed when it comes to relieving stress and its related maladies.  When dealing with chronic pain researchers are cautiously positive, but are calling for larger clinical trials to be conducted before the scientific jury can definitively weigh in. My hunch is that anything we can do to help ourselves when it comes to chronic pain will also up the happiness factor.

Let me explain.

Chronic pain commonly triggers feelings of learned helplessness especially when people have been to their doctors, tried a number of medications, modified their lifestyles to the nth degree—and still they suffer, despite reassurance from the medical professionals that there is nothing seriously wrong other than a touch of osteoarthritis in the joints that “everyone gets” sooner or later. Of particular note, however, when it comes to using mind-body strategies such as Yoga to relieve pain, is the change in attituderequired to perform these self-therapies.  It takes us from feeling helpless and defeated to actively taking control of our “rehabilitation”. Often this position of emotional strength starts a domino effect of better self-care and a more positive relationship with our body. For example: “That gentle yoga video made my joints feel better so I wonder if I will feel even better if I avoid all flour and sugar today and instead prepare a large vegetable salad for lunch (like mine, in the photo above).”  Then that leads to going out for a 15 minute walk at lunch time, then to setting your timer to get up from your couch or office chair every 20 minutes to march in place or do a few sit ups. And so on.

It’s been established that mind-body strategies are really good at relieving stress. That alone will reduce the perception of pain. But because they also require an “active” component, our sense of self-efficacy (belief in our ability to affect our situation) will also be bolstered and before you know it you may experiences longer and longer stretches of time in which the thought or fear of your chronic non-malignant pain will not even enter your mind. You can start to once again pursue the things you used to love doing, instead of avoiding them.

If you are in chronic pain have it checked out by your doctor and ask about either starting with, or using mind-body strategies as an adjunct to their recommendation. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

 

Reference:

Morone, Natalia E. & Greco, Carol M (2007). Mind-Body interventions for chronic pain in older adults: A structured review. Pain Medicinevol 8(4) pp 359-375.

© Raeleen Mautner, LLC 2018

Me? Improve My Voice? Yes, And Here’s How!

Recently I came across a research study showing that people make snap judgments about us based on just hearing our voice— without even seeing us or knowing who we are! Honestly I had never given it much thought, but then I reflected on some of the dealings I have had over the phone. There were times; I have to admit, when I formed quick judgments—right or wrong—about whether the caller was a sales scam, whether the person in customer service was engaging in a power play, whether someone was sincere, empathetic and so forth.

Let’s face it: Our voice is our calling card. It is the megaphone that tells the world who we are. It is the instrument that makes a first impression and draws people toward us or pushes them away. Those first few seconds of a telephone “hello”, depending on our tone and delivery, can make someone determine if they like you or not, whether they want to interview you or not, whether they want to date you or not, or whether hear more of what you have to say.

So why don’t we ever think of sprucing up our voice, like we do our personal appearance? When paired with the right words, our voice has the incredible power to comfort, soothe, uplift and encourage.

Here are 5 tips that can help make your voice reflect the exquisite person you are!

  1. Seek Feedback. Rarely are we aware of how our voice comes across to others—unless we get feedback. Ask the people closest to you what impressions they would get from your voice alone if they didn’t know you. We may not realize that our voice is cacophonous, or if we have fallen into the habits of “vocal-fry” or “up-talking”. Ending every sentence as if it were a question is annoying; and dropping your vocal register as low as possible with a loose glottal closure only makes you sound—well like a frog (rivet!).
  2. I know this might hurt—but RECORD YOUR SPEAKING VOICE. This will give you a baseline upon which to make improvements. Don’t worry that the sound you hear from the recording is not what you hear when you are producing sound. That has to do with tiny bones in the inner ear that produce a depth of sound you can’t get from a recording, where the sound you hear is external. Read a page of a book into the recorder and listen back as objectively as possible. Is your voice too high pitched? Nasal? Squeaky? Go back and reread, practicing various pitches, volumes, tones, and inflections. Your voice—up to a point—can be molded to your desire. Have fun with it.
  3. Practice vocal exercises to correct your breathing (breathing powers the voice) and strengthen your vocal chords. Take a singing lesson or two, or try some of the vocal lessons available for free on You Tube. Make your voice tell the story you want it to tell.
  4. Practice good vocal aesthetics. Enunciate your words clearly. Make sure you don’t speak so fast that no one understands you. Try to eliminate hesitation by knowing what you want to say. Vary your pitch to make your voice interesting. Eliminate “fillers”, such as uh, uhm, etc.
  5. Take Care of Your Voice. When my throat feels a little scratchy I immediately go for the warm water and salt gargle. I found some great natural lozenges and soothing throat sprays, which I use when I have to give a presentation or a singing performance. Some people swear by hot tea and honey or lemon when they feel some vocal strain. I have also learned, from my years in radio, that I should never strain my voice by yelling, screaming, or over-enthusiastic cheering (well maybe, but only on occasion); that is if I want to have a voice to convey my message.

Finally, now that your voice confident and attractive, make sure that the words you use create positivity. Cicero in De Oratore wrote about the ideal orator as a moral guide. He believed that good speaking goes beyond learned technique and that words are equally important. Unscrupulous speakers, he posed, could endanger an entire community. You, on the other hand, can be the pillar.

How do you feel about your voice? How often have you even given it a thought? Share your comments below–I love to hear from my readers!

Reference

McAleer, P., Todorov, A., & Belin, P. (2014). How do you say ‘Hello’? Personality impressions from brief novel voices. PLOS ONE, vol 1(3).

©Raeleen Mautner, LLC

 

The Secret to Getting More Resilient With Time

If you don’t care whether or not you are able to get back up on your feet in the aftermath of life’s blows, then maybe you don’t need to read this article. But the majority of us know that life is a lot happier when we deal with our challenges, then put them behind and turn our focus to what is good about our life NOW.

If you’ve survived past the half-century mark, my guess is that you are no stranger to emotional and physical setbacks. The traumas we go through, as older human beings can make us feel defeated. You may be dealing with weight issues, relationship changes, loss of a loved one, temporary or progressive disease—you name it, we’ve been through it.  It seems we are required to pay a price for the gift of staying on our earthly journey; a journey, which those who are no longer here, would love to still be part of. But that is not to say our challenges are always easy. In fact, many are traumatic. Sure, we can wallow in self-pity and defeat. We can tell our story over and over again and with each telling, re-traumatize ourselves by re-living it. Or we can learn how to build our emotional strength so that we can experience more happiness overall, despite the down times.

One way to do that is what social scientist Albert Bandura called “self-efficacy”. Self-efficacy pertains to how confident you in your capability of affecting the outcome of your challenges. In other words, if you feel confident you can “get through” what ever you are going through, it will affect how motivated you are to succeed, how persistent you are in the face of difficulty, and how resilient you are in the face of setbacks. A strong sense of self-efficacy will increase your confidence, your level of happiness, your sense of accomplishment—and above all, it will help you to be more resilient in the face of these darn age-related challenges. In my opinion self-efficacy is one of the keys to aging happy, as we grow older.

Okay, so how to we acquire this resilience skill?

Lucky for us, Dr. Bandura gave us four ways to build self-efficacy:

  1. Your Mastery Experiences. That means look back on the difficulties you have faced and successfully dealt with in the past. Remind yourself of these and this will give you the confidence to know you can succeed at the challenge at hand.
  2. Vicarious experiences of “social models”. Consider people who know who have faced similar crises, and have come through them stronger than ever. If you don’t know any personally, read inspiring stories of people who have made meaning and derived courage from challenges just like yours.
  3. Social Persuasion. It’s amazing what we can do when we have the right people around us. As it turns out, when the people we surround ourselves with encourage us, and tell us they know we can do it, this revs up our motivation level and we tend to live up to their belief in us.
  4. Keep your Mood Positive. Interpret your emotional and physical signals as energizing, not debilitating, when you face a challenge. Imaging your inner resources gathered together to help you overcome and resolve what you are facing and then take a moment to acknowledge how well you are doing.

If you have a moment I would love it if you would “like” or share this article and also comment below. Let me know what your biggest age-related challenges are, so and what you’d like to read about in future articles. Thank you in advance, and may you continue to grow in happiness!

 

Reference:

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998).

 

 

© Raeleen Mautner 2018