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Tag: Mindful

A Roadblock to Success – Chronic Pain

Posted in: June 12, 2024 By: Bernadette Marie Wilson
Success at work

When you suffer from chronic pain, you may be unaware of how it can negatively impact your success, including your communication with others and your work performance. Chronic pain can affect every aspect of your life, including your work. It’s possible to learn methods to reduce chronic pain symptoms that may be holding you back at work. When you are dealing with chronic pain, you might not realize how it can negatively affect your success, including your interactions with others and your job performance.  You can learn how to alleviate chronic pain symptoms that limit your success at work.

You may have tried to reduce chronic aches by buying an ergonomic chair or desk, taking aspirin, or following a prescribed medical routine. It’s likely that you unconsciously block the aches and pains from your awareness throughout the day. The problem is that through daily repetition, you are strengthening neurological connections that can impact the perception of pain. The downfall is that by doing so, through daily repetition, you are building stronger neuro-connections that can influence the perception of pain. 

One way to understand this phenomenon is to recognize that nerve cells send messages to the brain when we have an injury. The brain’s innate response to our survival and protection triggers mental stress and tension, helping us to be alert and muscles to contract and prepare for escape (the flight or fight response). This stress and tension syndrome (causing muscle contractions, stiffness, emotional responses, etc.) is directly related to chronic pain. In contrast, acute pain from an injury is a natural biological threat to the body’s systems for survival.

A 2017 study in collaboration with Duke University Medical Center effectively summarizes this concept:

Whereas acute pain can bring attention to the body of possible injuries and is normally a protective sensation, chronic pain does not convey useful information and has no biological benefits. It only gives people a feeling of discomfort but does not play an active role in wound healing. Chronic pain can persist for months to years, even after the primary injury or inflammation has healed.[i]

So, how can you lessen chronic pain symptoms to improve work performance?

Perhaps you suffer from ongoing back pain, headaches, tingling legs, carpal tunnel, or one or another type of chronic pain diagnosis.  You have faithfully followed the advice of your physician or other medical professional and have seen some results. Still, due to chronic pain’s disruptive symptoms, you find yourself stuck in a cycle of low performance during the workday. This frustrating scenario makes it challenging to get through your day, let alone perform at your peak level.  

If this situation rings true for you or a co-worker, you are not alone. Nearly 30% of the world’s population – and over a hundred million Americans – have chronic pain.[ii] Research has found chronic pain was significantly associated with reduced performance at work (but not with missed work hours). The average reported reduction in work productivity ranged from 2.4 hours (±5.6) per week for adults with joint chronic pain to 9.8 hours (±11.1) per week for adults with multisite chronic pain.[iii]  (See Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine for an in-depth perspective of Chronic Pain) 

The data reveals that suffering from chronic pain can significantly impair your ability to achieve peak performance. Chronic pain can lead to losing more than a day of high performance. Mental fatigue, which is also linked to chronic pain, can further restrict peak performance. Low energy and depression are overall barriers to success.

Learn how to reduce chronic pain work

The good news is that It is possible to lower pain symptoms at work within a few moments. A recent study reported in the Pain Journal found that pain acceptance was associated with lower pain intensity, less anxiety, depression, and pain avoidance. Simple, easy-to-learn techniques you can do almost anywhere and anytime can get you back on track to perform more quickly and successfully. 

Try Pain Releasing Mindful Exercises to Relieve Chronic Pain Symptoms at Work

The quick, easy-to-use techniques I present here are based on my teaching of Cognitive Performance mindfulness in the workplace. Mindfulness is the nonjudgmental awareness of any thought, feeling, memory, or sensory experience happening in the present moment. Another plus is that most mindful techniques can be added to most prescribed treatments, which help alleviate chronic pain symptoms.

Mindfulness-based meditation is effective in reducing pain in randomized studies of chronic pain patients and models of experimentally induced pain in healthy participants. A Cleveland Clinic study found that brain images of participants who received mindfulness as a treatment showed less activation in the parts of their brains that manage pain messages. [iv]

Moreover, in a relaxed state, if you move in small, super-slow ways, gently exploring the non-painful sensations – and notice any painful perception that arises without judgment– your brain appears to have a more remarkable ability to send a relaxation signal to those areas where you are experiencing tension or aches. In doing so, you are beginning to alleviate chronic pain symptoms. The more you stay physically and mentally relaxed as you move, the faster your sensory-motor cortex and cerebellum can retrain your body to move more efficiently and painlessly. Similar effects often occur when doing yoga, tai chi, qigong, and other “mindful movement” exercises.  Staying relaxed and aware is essential, and if you have moderate to strong pain sensations, stop and breathe – reframe from forceful movements and actions – gentle, slow, mindful motion is key.  

Chronic Pain and the Brain [v]

Physical pain resulting from an injury will be perceived by deep structures in your brain, like the thalamus, that relay the information to many other areas, especially the somatosensory cortex (near the top of your skull) and the amygdala (threat perception). A few seconds after your brain has reacted to pain, the information is sent to your prefrontal lobes (above your eyes), where you become consciously aware of the pain. But if you then worry about that pain or worry that you might experience more pain if you move (also a prefrontal/imagination process), that information is sent to the amygdala via the anterior cingulate and insula, the same circuit that is involved with empathy (perceiving the pain in someone else) and which can be regulated and stimulated by meditation and the practice of mindfulness. Your worry triggers both the memory of the real pain, and you’ll probably tense up, stimulating real pain.

Keep in mind the following: The actual physical pain experienced by your brain and body is completely different from the pain you consciously feel or expect to happen again. The pain you consciously feel is a recreation in the imagination centers of your prefrontal lobes. By consciously relaxing, moving very slowly, and increasing nonjudgmental awareness, you can reduce or even eliminate pain symptoms. Experiencing less conscious pain and learning to move in ways that are free from pain may significantly reduce pain caused by injury, inflammation, or conditions like fibromyalgia, and with heightened nonjudgmental awareness, pain symptoms can be reduced or even eliminated. Less conscious pain and the newly learned ability to move in pain-free ways may be enough to dramatically reduce pain caused by injury, inflammation, or diseases like fibromyalgia.

3-Minute Mindful Exercise to Alleviate Chronic Pain Symptoms: 

Begin gently moving a tight, tense, or achy body part. Start by making one slow revolution of your head while counting from 1 to 60. You will notice that the slower you move, the more aches and pains you may feel. Alternatively, slowly twist your torso, taking 15 seconds to turn to your left, 15 seconds to return to the center, 15 seconds to turn to your right, and 15 seconds to return to the center. After moving any part of your body, take another 60 seconds to become aware of your body. If you are walking in pain, try slowing down and finding a way to move without pain. Rest and mindfully observe your body, then move again. 

This easy-to-use mindful technique can be incorporated throughout your workday. Notice how you experience less body pain, begin to relax, and see improvement in your cognitive performance and interactions with others.


[i] Neuroinflammation, Bone Marrow Stem Cells, and Chronic Pain.




[v] Ref: Mark Waldman, NeuroWisdom, 2022

Mindfulness Benefit at Work and in Life

Posted in: September 27, 2021 By: Bernadette Marie Wilson
Mindfulness at Work and in Life

Mindfulness practice, in business and in life, is the application of mindfulness in how we approach our job, colleagues, customers, employer, and family over the course of our day. When we bring mindfulness to whatever we are doing, we begin to learn how to integrate a positive behavioral mindset into our daily life. We act in a mindful state and engage in “compassionate communication.”

Neuroscience-enabled, contemplative mindfulness practice over time leads to dispositional mindfulness – which is a way to be constantly mindful, at least to some extent.
Mindfulness in practice
Neuroscience has discovered that—as with physical exercise—very short bouts of mindfulness practices, repeated throughout the day, provide the same (or even greater) benefits as long sessions. There truly is no mandate that you must meditate for more than 20 minutes at a time. You can achieve comparable results by purposefully bringing mindfulness to activities throughout your workday.
To put this into practice, I recommend integrating “seconds of mindfulness” throughout the day. Even ten seconds of mindful awareness will make a difference. Taking a mindful moment at any time of day lets us take a breather, come out of our worrying mind, and reconnect with what’s real within and around us.
How can we create the tenacity to adopt a mindful mind and instill new behavior?

The simplest way to apply mindfulness is to deliver full moment-to-moment attention to a task with a nonjudgmental mind, and every time our attention wanders away, gently bring it back. It is similar to the sitting meditation, with one change: the focus of our energy is on the task at hand rather than the breath or a mantra.

3 Easy Mindfulness Techniques

1. Have a mindfulness collaborator

Exercising alone is hard enough. Choose an accountability partner and have at least one conversation weekly to check in. Mindfully review the following questions:When do I practice mindfulness most effectively during my day?How have I integrated mindfulness into my daily work life?What effect do I have on others whilst practicing mindfulness?

2. Do less than you can

If 5 minutes of mindfulness feels like a burden, then only do it for 3 or 4 minutes. If every twenty minutes is too much, then do it every sixty or ninety minutes. The aim is to find a practice that feels pleasurable.

3. Take one mindful breath every hour

Commit to conscious breathing at least once an hour; everything else is a bonus. Preserve the momentum of your practice. When you feel you are ready for implement this breathing methodology you can do so with more ease each time you practice. The practice encourages you to generate an intention to do be centered and opens up our mind to simple acts of self-care.
Implement these 3 mindful and compassionate leadership principles to throughout your day to enhance your performance and find greater fulfillment at work – and at home.
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