Slow down to manage your pain

July 24, 2021

How many of you find yourself rushing around and it’s causing you stress and pain? And if you already have pain, does it add to your pain? Are you trying to accomplish a dozen things at once and don’t give your body and mind a chance to rest and recuperate?

I talk with many people every day, many of whom fall into this category, me being one of them. I think it’s important that we all think more about what we are rushing around doing all day and what it’s doing to our health, particularly if your nervous system is already in a ramped up state because of a physical health condition or if you are someone who experiences anxiety and perhaps panic attacks, and problems with impulse control (impulse control meaning not being able to stop ourselves from engaging in certain behaviors or experiencing certain emotions, such as over-eating, over-working, drinking, gambling, venting anger at inappropriate times, etc.).

Not everything has to be done at this very moment. Very few things are truly that important. Everything can wait. Click To Tweet

If you are hypervigilant about the way you live, I hope this article helps, for when we do not treat ourselves with loving kindness and care, we are being self-destructive which keeps us on the metaphoric hamster wheel of a life that can seem like constant system overload. A hypervigilant mind keeps us from remembering that not everything has to be done at this very moment. Very few things are truly that important. Everything can wait. The problem is that when we are hypervigilant, adrenaline (a stress hormone) increases. This then increases the feeling that we need to keep moving, which is really an illusion, turning into a vicious cycle where the body and mind are over-worked… meaning more pain.

The past 20 years I have lived with dystonia, a life changing, painful neurological movement disorder. I have had to dramatically change my lifestyle to help manage my symptoms, which I have learned to be pretty good at (you can learn more about this in my 2 books, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life challenges). For the past seven or so years, I have also been dealing with a problem with my ear that causes a host of uncomfortable symptoms from vertigo (not so much spinning vertigo as just mild to severe off balance) to the feeling of a butterfly flapping its wings in my ear, fullness, pain, among other things that can tend to drive me a bit crazy. I have been to many doctors and had many tests, none of which revealed anything other than nerve damage and hearing loss (not Meniere’s, nor BPPV where the crystals in the inner ear are dislodged, or inner ear infection, or anything similar). Nothing has been found to account for the other symptoms, which can actually be more debilitating and limiting than the pain from dystonia.

This is the most chronic it has been in a very long time, so I have another appointment to see a new doctor. Until then, and since my last appointment years ago that revealed nothing, I manage the symptoms on my own doing different things all day. The past few weeks have been quite miserable, which is what prompted me to write this article.

When we do not treat ourselves with loving kindness and care, we are being self-destructive Click To Tweet

Due to the nature of my symptoms, I made a concerted effort to slow down, something I ALWAYS have to do for my dystonia, but this is a new added level of slowing down on top of what I already do. I purposely spent the last week doing everything about half speed than I normally would. Half speed meaning not allowing my body to move quickly from one place to another (even if that is from one room in my house to another), I pick things up off the floor more slowly and thoughtfully (bending over is one of my dizziness, ear flapping triggers), I quieted my mind more, and I focused more on my breath and I REALLY focused more on my reaction to frustrating things. I allowed them to bounce off me rather than get irritated. I also set up some boundaries with how much time I spent communicating with others on the phone talking, texting, etc. I needed to rest my eyes, my voice, and mind.

Not only did I accomplish just as much as I usually do, my stress level was much lower and my symptoms of my ear imbalances improved. It is definitely not better and I still need to see a doctor to determine the problem, but really making a point of slowing down has made a big difference. My pain from dystonia also decreased. I had a few hours of a few days that were really rough and would come out of nowhere. In other words, I did none of the usual stuff to trigger the symptoms, but all in all, I had some better days.

Embrace what it feels like to move more slowly. Be very mindful of how you move about your day. Click To Tweet

Slowing down is not an easy thing for most of us to do, but very necessary. I have always been someone on the go, wanting to do as much as my health allows, and I often overdo it. I envision many of you nodding your head because I know this also describes you. What I know also describes many of you is that you wish to change this but don’t quite know how. First try what I mentioned above about slowing down and then what I share below.

Look for opportunities each day to practice slowing down your mind, and even move your body more slowly if need be. Become very mindful of this. The old saying, take time out to smell the roses, is something that we should apply to our lives as often as we can. For example, when you see a sunrise or a sunset, stop and take notice for a few moments…or many moments. Get lost in the sky. The next time you get caught at a traffic light or stuck in traffic, be grateful that you are going slower. Embrace what it feels like to move more slowly. Be very mindful of how you move about your day. If you go to the store, rather than rush around to get from the car to the building, go half speed. When you are getting your groceries, move about the aisles more slowly. You can practice this type of behavior in your own home as well. When scheduling your day, whenever possible, space things out more to prevent any kind of rushing, which is always an adrenaline producing stressful scenario.

One of many sunset photos I have taken. Wherever you are, take time to slow down and enjoy nature.

Life moves very quickly, but we don’t need to rush through it. Take time to enjoy the moments the best you can. Take today as the most important day in your life because today is all any of us are promised. Enjoy it, savor it, and really experience it with loving kindness for yourself, which results in us being healthier, calmer and better for those around us in our lives. When you wake up tomorrow morning, before your feet even hit the floor, say thank you for another day.

Take today as the most important day in your life because today is all any of us are promised. Click To Tweet

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Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey (2015) and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges (2021. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers NetworkThe MightyPatient Worthy, and The Wellness Universe. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.

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18 responses to “Slow down to manage your pain”

  1. Karen Bancroft says:

    Hi Tom, thank you for your informative words of wisdom! My life, pre-Dystonia, was busy, full and fast. Your are so correct with the slowing down.
    The stress of rushing through my daily life shows my Dystonic neck tremor off beautifully which in turn ramps up the pain!
    Trying to remain guilt free as I ‘chill out’ is one of the hardest things, a small issue in the grand scale of accepting Dystonia is here to stay.
    Thanks Tom!

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Hi Karen- Thanks for everything you shared. I could see myself in so much of it. Pre-dystonia was just the same for me, so slowing down without a choice because of dystonia was hard, but actually easier when I began to get my symptoms under better control because I want to revert to the me pre-dystonia, which my body always reminds me to STOP. SLOW DOWN. TAKE YOUR TIME. REST. RELAX. ENJOY. When I listen, life is so much better 🙂

  2. Brian Langwerowski says:

    Great insightful article as usual, Tom! I’ve been pondering with the same thoughts lately. You really put it in perspective and I now have a plan to slow down. The truth is that I’m only preventing myself from getting better from rushing from one thing or place to another. The paradox is that I think I’m getting more done or helping my Dystonia by rushing and doing more, but it’s doing the opposite. Moving slower from room to room is a great suggestion along with the other ones. So much more that I can say on this, but I’ll leave that for another time. All the best to you, and thank you for helping me and many others.

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Thanks very much Brian and good to hear from you! I think you and are similar in many respects, so slowing down is a challenge for us, but very necessary to learn how to do. What you said about the paradox… I think the same way! When I feel well I am really good at doing too much, thinking I can have more time for other things later or the next day. Buuut, what often happens is I get a kickback of symptoms, just like you said. I am going to keep practicing slowing down and hope you can do the same, both of us being better for it!

  3. nycgurl says:

    Had almost all of the same symptoms. Went down substantially after I had heart surgery for a faulty valve that was finally fully analyzed after I insisted on an ECG. Now back to the same old dystonia symptoms. Hang in there!

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Thank you for the information. I’m sorry you had to go through this also, but so happy it got better. I wonder if I might have a circulatory issue. So many possibilities… Thank you!

  4. Victoria says:

    I find myself rushing around also and I have thought about that maybe I should slow down and didn’t realize that it can be adrenaline producing and I wonder that is a cause of the condition that I was just diagnosed with called PPPD. For me it’s sort of makes me feel like I’m just off a boat all the time. Not so much dizzy but unbalanced. So anyway I found your article very interesting. Thank you

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Hi Victoria- Thanks for sharing that. My symptoms sound very similar with the off the boat feeling and not spinning vertigo. I wonder if the 2 are related in your case as well. I think any health condition is amplified by stress/adrenaline production. Please let me know if you feel any different from slowing down. Thank you and all the best for better days ahead.

  5. Anita T. Baker says:

    I have slowed down a lot due to fear of injury. I used to be very dedicated to exercise and going to the gym. Now I only walk for exercise. I have learned that injury is possible with cervical dystonia and obviously that is more pain. I wish I could be in better condition with more cardio vascular exercise but I know the consequences of overdoing it at the gym. Dystonia changes our lives forever. Thank you for your helpful and informative article. I a going to start being more aware of adrenaline producing events. That is really good advice,

  6. VEE WEST says:

    Great article. I find the pandemic and lockdowns have tended to slow everything down so the problem with alot of us now is deconditioning.

  7. Judy Hill Draper says:

    I had shingles twice in 2017-very mild cases because I had the first vaccine. In 2018 I developed a noise in my left ear similar to a small fan motor. Long story short version I saw Dr. Brian Rodgers at the Dallas Ear Institute who diagnosed me with nerve damage in my ear from the shingles virus. Best Wishes that you find answers and someone to help.

    • Tom Seaman says:

      I am very sorry you have to experience this as well. Did your doctor ever suggest any ideas for how to alleviate the symptoms? Thanks!

  8. Lynne W Yur says:

    Dear Tom: Thank you once again for a very helpful and encouraging article. I was always rushing from one thing to another, but after this diagnosis I have been forced to learn to relax more ,even if that means I accomplish less .Very insightful blog and I truly appreciate your advice and thank you.

  9. Janis says:

    Such wonderful words and wise advice! Even after 25 years with Dystonia I still rush around getting things done so when I ‘crash’ in pain I won’t worry. It’s a pointless cycle. Your advice to go at half speed is a smarter alternative. I’ll start today!

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Thank you Janis- Sometimes I do the same thing. I feel as though I should push myself hard enough to warrant all of the resting I do with ice and heat and massage machines, but I know that is not the best way to approach it. I’m still trying to find that balance and getting better at it, but still one day at a time….

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