As a physician with a practice focused on comprehensive pain management, a good part of my practice is focused on the concept of building resilience. My patients come to me with a variety of conditions and issues, and what I have learned over the years is that all of us, myself included, can benefit from the very same coping mechanisms and strategies I share with my patients.
This couldn’t be more true given the incredibly stressful times we are living through with COVID-19. There is of course an end in sight, but there are many things that will never be the same.
One of the positive takeaways that we can all benefit from is taking some of those coping mechanisms we have learned to help get us through this difficult time and applying them to our daily lives.
At the risk of sounding overly spiritual, at the end of the day there are really only two things that we truly own in this world, and that is our mind and our body. This concept is really a secular notion. It has nothing to do with any belief system. But if you subscribe to this idea, and to the idea of protecting your mind and your body, it can boost immunity and all of the coping mechanisms we need to draw on throughout our lives.
Think of it like a mind/body temple. A precious gift that nature has bestowed on you and that you have full ownership and control of. With that idea in mind, keeping that temple clean can lead to an elevated life.
So many of us are experiencing emotional strains right now, mental strain, financial strain or relationship strain to name a few. And the amount of negative news can be just overwhelming. Keeping your spirits up and your moral up isn’t easy.
There are a number of strategies I like to share with my patients. One of them is viewing your lifestyle as a kind of medicine. Nutrition, exercise, proper sleep – they are all things that help us to manage stress. And they help to improve our relationships with those around us and focus more on positive thinking.
Think of it this way – your lifestyle is your medicine. These aren’t normal times. We are out of sync with our daily activities. We need to create new order, a healthy order in our lives.
Those new routines can include set times in the day to exercise, incorporating five to 10 minutes of meditation into our day – whatever we can do to bring our mind to the present moment and let go of the past and the future. And think about the things we have, not the things we don’t have. Our abilities. Not our inabilities.
And accepting that anxiety is a really just a part of everyday life. The problem arises when we elevate these feelings and convince ourselves they amount to a catastrophe. We need to accept these feelings as part of human emotions.
This is a time when we all have to come together and help each other. One in five people may suffer from chronic pain, but the lessons learned from treating those patients have universal appeal.
All of us have been there before where we have felt completely overwhelmed and we thought we might not see the other side. But we have endured. So if you are experiencing mood swings, energy fatigue, sleep issues, anxiety or depression, know these are all associated with chronic conditions, and that elevating our general level of health along with pursuing a healthy mind/body lifestyle is a great antidote.
Better mental health leads increased resilience and better immunity. It’s this intersection between chronic pain and the trials and tribulations of everyday life where there are many lessons to be gleaned.
Nothing is permanent in this world. Change is the only constant. So if you are feeling like you are experiencing a particularly challenging time in your live, know that nothing is permanent, including our challenges. Your life history is a witness to this rule. You have always been able to endure your challenges, solve them or find a way out of them.
So the next time you are feeling overwhelmed with a new challenge, like the new COVID-19 related challenges, remind yourself that nothing is permanent and these challenges will pass too. All we have to do to help ensure we safely come out of this is to believe in change, and of course follow the advice of public health officials.
There’s a great deal of medical literature that supports the idea that our physical outlook affects our body sensations, feelings and thoughts. You may find it interesting to know that researchers have shown that keeping good posture, or sitting in a dignified position, or just keeping a smile on your face, ultimately impacts the way one feels and thinks.
Feeling in control strengthens our immunity and is a great stress and anxiety buster.
A healthy mind/body temple gives us a great boost in confronting the challenges we are all experiencing with COVID-19.
Dr. Kevin Rod is the founder and director of the Toronto Poly Clinic pain management centre. He has established the website Mypain.ca for patients and health education and is using it to serve as a resource for those struggling through COVID-19.