This is a comprehensive guide to Stress Illness. It will talk about chronic pain, stress-related illnesses, illnesses caused by stress and anxiety, but its primary purpose is to inform the reader about Stress Illness (SI), which is also known as Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) or Psychophysiological Disorder (PPD).
In this series of articles, Stress Illness: The Complete Guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about Stress Illness/Psychophysiological Disorder/Mindbody Syndrome. Each article addresses a different aspect, the principles of recovery, physical symptoms, emotional aspects, the cognitive elements, the behaviours of those suffering, the losses they face, and the remedies and therapies that are gaining research backing as effective treatment choices. The articles build into a useful reference for those wishing to understand more about the complexities of Chronic Pain and Stress Illnesses.
As an Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist, Mindfulness Teacher, and Stress Illness Recovery Expert, I believe that there is ‘no pain without the brain’. I empower business owners and professionals to nurture their minds, tame chronic pain, and reduce stress, using my unique PETAL Plan, so they can grow their business success, because until I did it, I never thought it was possible either!
This article is the 9th of the series and will focus on The PETAL Plan and some of the treatment options available to resolve Stress Illness and chronic pain.
Complexities of Chronic Pain and Stress Illness
When we experience symptoms on a long-term basis, they start to affect all areas of our life; social life, relationships, work/education/volunteering, leisure pursuits. Therefore, any treatment needs to address all these areas too. Stress illness and chronic pain aren't simple things. They are multifaceted. They not only comprise Physical symptoms, but Emotional, Cognitive, Behavioural, and Spiritual.
Physical sensations such as pain, burning, itching, fatigue, and other stressful symptoms such as IBS, Migraine, TMJD, and Tinnitus can all be present at various times when dealing with Stress Illness/Chronic Pain.
These symptoms have all been produced by the brain, however many treatments will only address the physical symptoms, effectively using a sticking plaster, that won’t last long.
There is a huge emotional element to stress illness and chronic pain. From trying to regulate emotions, to experiencing extreme anxiety or depression at different times, chronic pain and stress illness clients travel a wild emotional ride.
Unfortunately, many people these days have not been taught to recognise their own emotions, or how to process them successfully. This can lead to additional pain and symptoms in the body.
Changes in stress, mood, and anxiety levels can cause changes in thought processes. Cognition can become skewed or biased. Memory for details, and recent events can become difficult with the onset of brain fog. This also affects concentration. The combination of these then further impact anxiety and mood. And can increase pain due to the additional cortisol released into the system when in fight or flight, adding to the inflammation in the body.
Many erroneous beliefs may be present also. These could have been picked up in childhood or learned along life’s journey, but they can interfere with chronic pain recovery if they are not challenged.
Thoughts such as all pain is a result of bodily damage. Or that chronic pain is for life, can seriously compromise healing.
Chronic pain and stress illness always affect behaviour too. I often speak to clients about the places, people, or activities they avoid. Due to the pain or the fear of pain.
Sometimes people also do things they wouldn't normally do because the pain or fear of it. They may seek extra reassurance or plan things more thoroughly to take account of the chronic pain and stress symptoms. Although helpful in the short-term, these actions can often keep symptoms active long term.
More than this. There's also huge amount of loss involved in chronic pain and stress illness. This leads to grief which isn't always processed. Therefore, people with chronic pain often become depressed, anxious, more stressed, more frustrated.
People in chronic pain and suffering other stress illnesses find it difficult to be compassionate towards themselves. They are often highly self-critical and perfectionist. They struggle to ask for or accept help. They are often those that cover up just how hard they find things and strive to continue to keep up appearances, despite the overwhelming discomfort and anxiety.
They can often find it just as difficult to be compassionate toward others at time too. Especially when the symptoms are bad, and they are tired, scared, or frustrated.
This reduction of compassion obviously causes additional pressures that then adversely impact pain and symptoms.
As chronic pain and stress illness symptoms are so varied and dynamic, any treatment must also be holistic, to address the many elements.
The PETAL Plan offers a comprehensive, versatile, individualised approach that has seen some brilliant results. This unique chronic pain recovery plan explains why you have developed the symptoms, what can be done to resolve them, and how to stay well in the future.
It encompasses tools, techniques, and theories from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, Compassion Focused Therapy, the SIRPA approach, Evolutionary Theory, and Cognitive Neuroscience.
This radical and unique approach tackles each of the symptom elements discussed above.
The program starts with a full explanation of how the body and brain responds to physical pain. Understanding exactly what’s actually going on in your brain and body helps to alleviate some of the fear. It also teaches participants how to calm some of the symptoms using specific techniques.
Understanding how the physical body represents our emotional state helps to reduce fear. Having Stress Illness can affect your emotional state in more ways than one. If you want to reduce your stress and resolve your pain, you need to deal with your symptoms at an emotional level too.
Identifying and discovering where certain beliefs came from, helps us to find the root cause of your symptoms. It enables you to learn how to challenge those thoughts easier and prevent them from interfering in recovery.
Learning how certain behaviours either help or hinder recovery, you can then choose what to continue doing and what to change. Clients are taught individualised, scientifically proven techniques to address worry, avoidance, and/or approach behaviours as necessary.
There’s a lot of loss involved in having a Stress Illness. After practicing the techniques, you will decide whether clients are fully supported, and taught techniques how, to grieve their losses.
As self-compassion is so very difficult for chronic pain and stress illness clients, they are also taught a variety of techniques and principles from Compassion Focused Therapy to enable then to evolve into the pain-free person they want to be. This then paves the way for the business success they deserve.
Chronic Pain and stress illness are extremely complex. They comprise of a multitude of inter-related elements. Any of the treatment aspects discussed above may help to improve some symptoms, However, when used in combination, they provide a robust and thorough plan that has proven to be life changing in several cases to-date.
To find out if this is the way out of chronic pain and anxiety for you, DM me the word PETAL.