The primary reason we end up with chronic pelvic pain syndromes is surprisingly simple: our bodies are designed to respond to danger and stress with the fight-or-flight response. Two very important things happen when we experience this physiological response consistently, day in and day out. One, our muscles tighten and clench, holding chronic tension. Two, our immune systems suffer and we become susceptible to illness.
Generally, what happens is we focus on the result of this process. We study our illnesses, whether they are frequent colds and flus, infections, vulvodynia, interstitial cystitis, pelvic floor dysfunction, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, back pain, or something else. We pay lots of attention to the result when we need to be looking at the process itself. We need to be asking questions like, “Why am I living in a constant state of stress and fight-or-flight?” and “How can I stop this pattern?”
Nobody sets out to live their life with stress and constant fight-or-flight. You’re probably not waking up every morning, choosing to suppress emotions, think panic thoughts, and generally stress yourself out. All of that happens when you don’t understand how the mind and body work together, and how much power you have to create the lasting health you want.
I understand that if you’re feeling symptoms or pain, you’d like them to ease off. Yet, it’s a catch-22. In order for the symptoms to ease off, you’ll need to relax out of fight-or-flight and change the habits that are creating this reaction in your body. Which, of course, takes time. So, today I’m giving you a short, fast combination of tools that can take the pain down several notches very quickly while you’re working on the long-term changes.
It’s the combination of tools here that is effective, so do put them together. None of them take more than a couple minutes, and can be easily added to your daily life.
1) Pay attention to the muscles in the area where you have symptoms. For pelvic syndromes, this will be the pelvic floor muscles. Notice how these muscles feel. Are they tight? Do they feel like they are lifting something and are contracted upward, into your body? If you’re focusing on another area, see if you can find the specific muscle contraction. Breathe into this area of muscle tension, and mentally direct the muscles to relax. For the pelvic floor muscles, focus on dropping them downward, as though you were preparing to urinate, or like the relaxed end of a kegel exercise. Imagine your backside softening and relaxing, like Jell-o, or butter—as though it could spread outward and melt into the chair. Imagine your hips widening and relaxing. (I realize nobody wants their backside to look like Jell-o or butter—we’re talking about a feeling here.) Once you’ve relaxed the primary area of tension, see if any secondary areas need to relax. Often, you’ll find tension in more than just the area where you feel symptoms. Repeat this awareness and conscious relaxation every thirty minutes throughout the day. Keep it up and you’ll begin to notice a huge difference. By consciously relaxing your muscles, you are telling your body there’s no need for fight-or-flight. It will learn to relax consistently, allowing healing in the areas where tension prevailed.
2) Ask yourself what you are feeling, emotionally, after you’ve relaxed the muscles. The primary reason we tighten and clench muscles is to hold emotional awareness at a distance. Emotional energy flows through our bodies constantly. To stop this, you only have one option: clench a muscle. By becoming aware of what you are feeling, you release the need to hold tension, tell your body that fight or flight is not necessary, and allow healing to happen. Sure, you will now feel the discomfort of your emotions. However, you will quickly feel a lot less physical pain. And, emotions do not last forever. They come and go. Once you can learn to flow with them and just let them be there, they will leave of their own accord.
3) Breathe. Nothing fancy here. Just notice your breathing. See what it feels like to breathe in and out. Don’t try to breathe “right” or “better.” Just be aware of this natural, tension-releasing process. Enjoy it. Let your body breathe exactly as it wants to.
That’s it! Yes, it’s that simple, and yes, it works. Repeat these three steps every thirty minutes, daily, for a week, and you’ll see results fast. You’ll feel more relaxed because you are helping your body release the fight-or-flight response from all angles. You’ll begin reprogramming yourself and dropping old habits. You’ll feel that healing is possible and happening. You’ll notice breaks in the symptom intensity, or moments of no symptoms whatsoever. As usual, the only side effect is more relaxation, the possibility of happiness, and relief—both physically and emotionally.