Breathworks Founder, Author of Mindfulness for Health, Vidyamala Burch
There are so many ways to interpret the, perhaps surprising, title of this column.
When we were children and fell over, our parents may have said “let’s kiss it to make it better”, which is testament to the power of both touch and love. Touch infused with love and care releases Oxytocin which is a powerfully healing neurotransmitter.
But the main reason I am writing about KISS today is because it is an acronym for Keep It Simple and Straightforward. There’s a lot of wisdom in this approach and it can sometimes get lost in our struggles to manage pain over time.
How often do we reach for more and more solutions as we try to salvage something resembling a life - ending up in a quagmire of ever-increasing medication, booming and busting (over-doing it one day and crashing the next), feeling more and more despondent and desperate as time goes on. It’s a horrible situation and increasingly undermining and soul-destroying.
Or maybe you start to feel a bit better but you don’t know what is the key cause of this improvement as you are trying so many different strategies at once – a bit of physio, a bit of diet management, a bit of fiddling with your medication. It’s a random, scattergun approach which is also soul destroying and undermining as it’s so chaotic.
My recommendation is KISS. Rather than falling into the trap of complexity, strip things back and bring a more systematic, step-by-step approach to your pain management. Try one thing at a time and keep clear records of the effects and you’ll gradually get a much clearer sense of how to get back a sense of control and improve your quality of life.
Breath awareness is the foundation
My own advice is to keep awareness of the breath as the absolute primary principle. Everything else will build on that. When we are in pain we almost inevitably hold the breath and this leads to a spiral of tension and fatigue. Breathing is our most basic and life-affirming activity. Our bodies are designed to breathe and they want to breathe, so every time we tense against our pain and hold our breath we are interrupting this natural activity.
By learning to relax breath-holding each time you notice it, you will gradually come to a new relationship with your pain and body. On the basis of this you can then clearly and steadily try other strategies, one at a time, and monitor their effects. Keep doing the things that are helping and abandon or modify the things that are making your pain worse. I know that sounds simple in principle and, of course, life is rarely straight forward and untoward events will still send you into periods of chaos. But, pain management with a KISS is an excellent guiding principle and will give you something to come back to again and again in your journey to a better life.
Vidyamala Burch - Breathworks Founder & Author of Mindfulness for Health
The Mindfulness for Health Book – now endorsed by the Reading Well for Long Term Conditions Scheme (books on prescription) – www.reading-well.org.uk/