How have I been sleeping?
Why is it that when we push ourselves (or are pushed) to the limit, the first thing we do is skimp on the one simple, 100 % free remedy that can help us most? Sleep is your body’s most important, efficient and effective process to detox and replenish your energy stores—but, somehow, we seem to easily find many reasons to justify missing out.
Finishing that report or that laundry at the expense of just two hours of sleep can trigger the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals called cytokines that increase pain-causing inflammation in your entire system. Losing this little sleep can also increase your blood pressure and blood sugar, both of which can also heighten inflammation, and can increase your risk for metabolic syndrome, even if you show no signs of disease. One University of Chicago study found that after just four nights of missing a few hours a night, a healthy young person’s fat cells are 30% less sensitive to insulin—in other words, you would technically become diabetic. In an interview with CNN, the researchers equated this change with metabolically aging you 10 to 20 years.
Luckily, this effect can be reversed with an equal number of solid nights of sleep. When it comes to sleep, I say quantity is quality. Try to get at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep at night, and take a 20 to 30-minute nap during the day, if at all possible.
Have I been “numbing” with drinking, drugs, shopping, eating, TV?
When we’ve spent the whole week catering to other people’s needs, we often resort to numbing ourselves to avoid thinking about what’s really causing our physical and emotional pain. The problem with numbing is that, while trying to make ourselves feel better, we end up giving ourselves even worse problems with addiction, extra pounds, unsustainable debt, and problems that can spiral out of control.
Instead of wrapping ourselves in the haze of our numbing agents, we need to nurture ourselves to move through our pain with love. Make a list of self-nurturing activities that you can turn to whenever you feel yourself reaching for a drink, a smoke, or a candy bar. I find that a 20-minute soak in a hot bath with Epsom salts, 5 drops of Young Living black pepper oil, some incense, and a cold washcloth over the eyes usually does the trick for me. (One woman on Dr. Oz who tried the salt-and-pepper baths once a day for 7 days said it “washed away her pain”—I love to hear that!).
What am I saying to myself?
When we’re on the go constantly, we sometimes don’t even stop to question the content of our own thoughts. But our self-talk has tremendous power when it comes to soothing or intensifying our pain. Our thoughts create neurochemical cascades in the brain that directly halt our pain or make it significantly worse. This effect is even more pronounced among those of us with chronic pain. In a recent study at the University of Maryland, patients with chronic pain underwent training in how to swap negative thoughts for positive thoughts. After the 11-week program, MRI scans showed that the patients who received the training showed gray matter growth in five separate areas of the brain and experienced a significant reduction in their levels of pain.
Believe it: We have the power to relieve our pain simply by changing our thoughts.
Start off every day by looking in the mirror and saying, “I trust believe in myself. I am getting stronger with every day. I feel more powerful, more positive, and pain free.” While these face-to-face “conversations” may feel awkward at first, remember that you are rewiring your brain to resist pain and to invite peace—as well as increase your confidence and your ability to say that all-important word: No.
You deserve to spend time nurturing yourself—and you should start with your thoughts. This practice alone could be the most powerful shift you make toward a pain-free life.
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 Broussard JL, et al. Impaired Insulin Signaling in Human Adipocytes After Experimental Sleep Restriction: A Randomized, Crossover Study. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2012 Oct;157(8):549-557.
 Seminowicz DA, Shpaner M, Keaser ML, Krauthamer GM, Mantegna J, Dumas JA, Newhouse PA, Filippi CG, Keefe FJ, Naylor MR. Cognitive-behavioral therapy increases prefrontal cortex gray matter in patients with chronic pain. J Pain. 2013 Dec;14(12):1573-84. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2013.07.020. Epub 2013 Oct 14. PubMed PMID: 24135432; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3874446.