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How Socializing Affects Chronic Pain

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

As humans, we were made to commune with each other. We have survived as a species because of our innate ability to connect to ourselves, others, and nature. Scientifically, the social connection does wonders for our health. Healthy socializing strengthens the immune system, decreases stress, reduces negative thinking and feelings of isolation, and develops a sense of security. So, how can the benefits of social connection be used to heal chronic pain?

In this blog, you will discover:

  1. How Positive Social Connection Affects Chronic Pain

  2. Dealing with Social Anxiety and Chronic Pain

  3. How to decipher between a connected and disconnected state of presence.

  4. Tips to reconnect to yourself, others, and nature.

How Positive Social Connection Affects Chronic Pain

Scientific research studies tell us that "[high quality, positive social support] can enhance resilience to stress [and] decrease the functional consequences of trauma-induced disorders." So if most chronic pain cases are stress-related or trauma-induced, then positive social support could be an effective tool to increase stress resilience and reduce pain.

In the mind-body approach, making positive social connections is one of the critical ingredients to neuroplastic healing pain and chronic pain syndrome or TMS. Doing things you enjoy can increase feelings of safety in the mind and body, distract the brain from symptoms that decrease hyper-vigilance to symptoms, and boost mood to down-regulate a nervous system stuck in fight/flight or freeze mode.

However, healing chronic pain syndrome and mind-body symptoms are more complex than simply socializing. For example, when a person with chronic pain develops a fear of their symptoms or pain anxiety, socializing can be a difficult task to engage in.

Dealing with Social Anxiety and Chronic Pain

Most people with chronic pain deal with feelings of anxiety and depression due to the uncertainty of their symptoms and overall well-being. Anyone who's ever dealt with anxiety would say that socializing is the last thing on their to-do list when trying to reclaim a sense of safety. The experience of stress can make one feel out of control, unsafe, uneasy, and too distracted to connect with others. Furthermore, the combination of anxiety plus chronic pain makes coping with everyday stressors, routines, and interactions even ten times harder to socialize- which then gets many people stuck in the Pain-Fear Cycle.

To break the Pain-Fear cycle and begin socializing to boost resilience to pain and stress, one must first figure out ways to soothe and reset the nervous system. Feelings of unsafely cause the nervous system to sense danger, with triggers more physical, emotional, and mental pain. Try disconnecting yourself from the trigger or thought that has made you feel anxious by doing the following:

  • Walk outside in nature.

  • Go to a safe and quiet room to practice a mindfulness technique like orienting.

  • Lastly, spend time with someone that makes you feel safe.

Shifting from a Disconnected State to a Connected State

If you feel highly sensitive to conversations or noises around you, feel hyper-vigilant about thoughts or physical sensations, or have trouble maintaining focus, this is a sign that your nervous system is dysregulated.

Often this happens when we internalize a problem and shift focus to how that problem reflects our worthiness of love, respect, kindness, and so on.

When you think about the worst-case scenario more than fixing the problem, you have shifted to a hyper-vigilant, fearful, and disconnected state. When you notice this happening, take a deep breath in and try your best to place these repetitive, negative thoughts to the side. Then, take a break, and when you feel calmer, write down the exact problem you are facing, the outcome you would like, and what steps you can take to get there.

Reconnecting with Yourself and Others

Before making meaningful connections with other people, you must first be able to make a meaningful connection with yourself. The best way to do this is by checking in on your internal state every now and then throughout the day. Observe your thoughts and emotions and how they affect your physical well-being. Then, practice a mind-body technique like somatic tracking or breathwork to regulate the nervous system. Finally, remember that taking a break from your troubles and worries is okay. No self-judgment is necessary. When you can look at your problem from a lens of safety and control, you bring security to the nervous system. As a result, the memory and decision-making centers of the brain will function better, and you ultimately will be able to think yourself out of the Pain-Fear Cycle.

Once you can connect with yourself and reclaim safety, reward yourself by making meaningful connections with people, places, or things that bring you joy.

To learn more about breaking the Pain-Fear cycle, and reversing chronic pain syndrome, download my free guide. And don't forget to schedule your free chronic pain consultation!

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