When your mind is tense, it fouls your mood, which makes pain even more difficult to deal with. What’s more, your body follows your mind’s lead, and tense muscles translate to less mobility and greater physical discomfort. Exercise is a top stress-buster, and distraction, meditation, and imagery can help. So can the following:
1. Breathe deeply. Slow breathing that completely fills your lungs with air has been shown both to calm the mind and relax the body. To do it right, take your time (about four seconds) at every step — inhaling deeply, holding air in, and letting it out.
2. Scan your body. Tension isn’t always obvious. In this technique, you systematically pay attention to the tightness you feel in every part of your body one area at a time, consciously allowing each part to relax as you breathe deeply.
3. Tighten and release. Stepping up from the body scan, you deliberately make each part of your body tight as your mind lands on it, clarifying the degree of tension it carries and allowing an even greater level of relaxation when you release.