Have you ever struggled with worrying and obsessing about your pelvic pain symptoms, or felt like they have taken over your life? Maybe you’ve spent a lot of time thinking scary thoughts about the future, searching for answers online, going to doctor appointments, and/or planning your life around your symptoms.
If so you’re not alone! Chronic pelvic pain has a way of taking over your life and your thoughts – and usually not in a positive way.
Over the years of coaching women with pelvic pain, I have identified 3 mindset shifts that play a significant role in their ability to relieve their pain. My clients who are able to make these shifts have a much easier time relieving their pain.
Because our mindset, the thoughts we are thinking and the way we approach our pain and relieving it, has an impact on our body. Our mindset can contribute to fear, anxiety, stress, and tension – and stimulate an already over sensitized nervous system, or it can wind down our nervous system response, helping our body to relax and heal.
Your mindset can create safety and hope, or perpetuate fear (which impacts the pain signals sent by your brain).
If you want your best chance at a full recovery from pelvic pain, I can’t overemphasize the importance of spending some time on your mindset.
Before we dive into the mindset shifts that can help you relieve pain, keep the following in mind:
- Changing your mindset requires practice, patience, and persistence. It is a process of phasing out unhelpful neural pathways and creating new more helpful ones. This process is similar to building a muscle. It takes time and requires practice and repetition.
- You don’t have to do it perfectly to make a lot of progress! There’s actually no way you can do this perfectly, since the change will happen in incremental shifts. If you aim for perfection you’re going to end up putting a ton of pressure on yourself (which is counterproductive) and ultimately giving up.
- You are not your thoughts and you DO have the power to observe, question, and change your thinking. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, you can train your brain. Learning how is a key to not only shifting your mindset, but also relieving pain and anxiety, and creating a joyful life. For more info on how to get started leading your mind see my previous posts, Train Your Brain and How to Think More Positively When You’re In Pain.
Here are my top 3 mindset shifts to set yourself up for success with relieving pelvic pain!
Mindset Shift #1: Make Peace With Where You Are
Of course you’re struggling against being in pain. It hurts and it may be preventing you from doing many of the things you want to do – like walk, sit, exercise, drive, play with your kids, date, have sex, wear underwear, etc. The problem is that even if it makes sense, struggling against where you are keeps you stuck there. The mindset of resisting your experience creates tension and stress, which perpetuate pain.
What you resist persists, and pain is no exception.
The most effective mindset to help you relieve your pain is to drop the struggle. Making peace with where you are, for now, allows you to drop all the tension and stress that are coming from the resistance.
Many people are afraid to let go of resistance to their symptoms because they think it means they are giving up and allowing their symptoms to “win”. Actually, the exact opposite is true!
Accepting where you are, for now, actually creates the mental and physiological conditions that make it more likely you will relieve your pain. You can get to wherever you want to go from where you are, but you need to begin from where you are.
Take a minute to consider what might change if you could take a deep breath and drop the struggle against your current experience. You’d still be where you are, just without all the fearful thoughts and frantic effort to change it. What do you notice? How do you think these changes might impact your body’s ability to heal?
Mindset Shift #2: Take your focus off of your symptoms
I cannot overemphasize the importance of getting your focus off your symptoms and onto everything else in your life. This one mindset shift makes the biggest difference by far in how quickly and easily my clients are able to identify and release the mind body issues contributing to their pain.
When you take your focus off of your symptoms, you create space for self-awareness. Suddenly you have mental energy to get curious about the deeper issues underlying your pain and how to resolve them. You have time to begin paying more attention to what brings you joy, even before you relieve the pain.
And all of that contributes to relief.
When you notice yourself focusing on your symptoms in a negative way, ask yourself, “What else is going on in my life besides this pain?”
Obviously it’s not possible or necessary to get your focus 100% off your symptoms. Of course you are going to notice them. But you can start to let go of all the other mental activity that surrounds your symptoms, like worrying, obsessing, researching, discussing and tracking.
When you notice you’re mind engaged in those activities, redirect it by asking, “What else is going on? How am I feeling emotionally? How am I treating myself? Am I putting a lot of pressure on myself? Am I being super self-critical? What do I enjoy? Am I making time for anything that feeds my soul? How can I start being nicer to myself and taking better care of myself and my emotions – even while I’m still in pain?”
I like to tell my clients to make their symptoms as much of a non-issue, for now as they can. Whatever things you need to do to care for your body or accommodate your symptoms, do them – and then give your symptoms as little additional attention as possible – at least for a while. Turn your attention to learning about everything else about yourself besides your symptoms.
Mindset Shift #3: Befriend Your Body
When you’re in pain it’s pretty easy to start thinking of your body as the enemy or to feel like it’s betraying you, a mindset that contributes to shame, guilt, fear, self-rejection, stress and tension, and one that can prevent you from accessing important information that can help you heal.
Your body is part of an intelligent and interactive mind-body-emotion-soul system – that is constantly giving you information about what it needs and what you need. It does this through sensation and other physiological changes. Maybe you’ve gotten a sense of this when you had a gut feeling about something or noticed parts of your body contract when you were doing something you didn’t want to do.
Bodies can communicate so many important things. For instance your body can let you know….
- When you’re on or off track with your soul’s purpose
- When you’re being too hard on yourself
- When you need to give more attention to your needs, your heart, or your desires
- When it’s time to speak up or make a change
- When you have old hurts or trauma that need to be addressed
- And so much more!
If you believe that your body is broken or against you, you will miss these important messages. Shifting your mindset and looking at your body as an ally, not only decreases physical and emotional stress and tension, it opens the door to understanding your body’s wisdom. Not only can that help you relieve pain, but it can also lead to you liking yourself and your body a whole lot more!
Implementing these 3 simple mindset shifts – making peace with where you are, taking your focus off your symptoms, and befriending your body – decreases emotional stress and tension, calms down your nervous system, relaxes tensed and contracted muscles, opens the door to your body’s wisdom, and allows you to start accessing your deeper emotions – all of which contribute to relieving pain.
It takes practice, patience and persistence, but in my experience it is well worth the effort!
If you’d like hands on support shifting your mindset, as well as a step by step process to relieve pelvic pain using a mind body approach, make sure to check out my program Healing Female Pain!