Transitioning to Fall: How to Embrace Change and Reduce Your Chronic Pain
As leaves start to change color and the air cools, it’s a good time for us to transition as well. Kids are in gear and back to school (whether from home or in classrooms). For some, this may be adjusting routines to a new schedule. For others, this fresh start and perspective can also give us an opportunity to embrace change and implement new habits. While this fall is very different from those in the past, we can still take advantage of new beginnings to change our habits and help reduce our chronic back and joint pain.
6 tips for embracing change this fall
In nature, rhythms are shifting. Days are shorter. Naturally, our body rhythms are changing too. As you transition to a new season, here are 6 tips for you and your members to embrace new habits this fall and help reduce your chronic back and joint pain.
1. Adopt a change mindset. First, it’s important to start with a “change mindset” or being open to change, learning, and constant feedback. It’s not always easy to create new habits as sometimes change is met with ambivalence or resistance, even if the change would be considered beneficial. The first step is to change your perspective and be open to thinking or approaching things in a new way. Read How to Change Your Perspective to Reduce Chronic Pain.
2. Fit some movement into your day. Employees said lack of movement was one of their top challenges with working from home during COVID-19, according to our Hinge Health report “New Health Risks in the Remote Workplace.” Without your daily commute, whether it was walking to work or public transit, you’ll need to build in daily movement into your life. Even if it’s just five minutes, this will help you set up your day for success. Take the dog for a short walk before work. Stretch or do a few minutes of yoga right after you get out of bed. Read 5 Ways to Incorporate Movement While Working from Home.
3. Focus on the positive. Stress and your mental health play a huge role in worsening your chronic back and joint pain. According to research, stress and mental health issues are common underlying drivers of chronic back and joint pain.To help relieve your back and joint pain, it’s important to also relieve your stress and anxiety. Focusing on the positive can help you avoid getting unnecessarily stressed or anxious. A lot of things this fall are different than in previous years. It’s too easy to focus on all the distressing news. Make a point of thinking of something every day that you’re grateful for. Focusing on gratitude will help your overall mental health.
4. Try reducing your stress with yoga or meditation. In addition, you can also reduce your stress and alleviate back and joint pain by adopting something new in your routine like yoga or meditation. Studies show incorporating meditation techniques as part of the treatment of chronic back and joint conditions helps decrease pain over the long-term. Yoga is also an effective practice for improving your strength, flexibility, and mobility, all the while fostering a greater sense of mindfulness. According to research published in 2020, 74% of individuals who practice yoga experience less lower back and neck pain. Read 6 Meditation Tips to Reduce Your Stress and Chronic Pain or Read 4 Beginner Yoga Poses to Relieve Back Pain.
5. Change your diet. When embracing change and starting new habits, it may be a good time to adopt a new, healthier diet such as cutting back on sugar. Sugar, sugar-sweetened beverages, and refined carbs (like white bread) can cause inflammation in the body and lead to higher joint pain. Read 4 Ways to Reduce Sugar in Your Diet and Lose Weight.
6. Get outside. Finally, if you live in a warm climate, fall weather is a sweet relief from sweltering heat. If you live in a temperate climate, the leaves are changing color so there’s even more to appreciate about nature; just throw on a sweater. Getting outside helps regulate your circadian rhythm—your body’s internal clock. Natural light can help your body regulate hormones and sleep better at night! Try drinking your morning coffee outside or going for a short walk as a break from work or school. It’s also important to get fresh air and take a break from screen time, especially during remote work.
Shea’s story: Making shifts to decrease chronic joint pain
When Shea began her Hinge Health journey, she had been suffering from crippling back pain for several years. She signed up for the program because it had gotten to the point where she couldn’t sit still long enough at her desk to do simple work tasks without getting distracted by constant, sharp pain.
Shea started Hinge Health in the summer, and from the beginning, she was committed to working through her exercise therapy all seven days a week in the mornings before her kids woke up. The months of June, July and August offered more flexibility and a sense of ease to her schedule, and provided for a more relaxed rhythm.
However, once the fall hit, a shift in priorities took hold. As the school year kicked into full-swing, Shea’s three kids were now her first priority in the morning. “I had to get them up early, feed them all breakfast, and help them set up their stations for their virtual learning.” She admits, “I felt like a failure because I stopped doing my Hinge workouts in the morning. I’m an ‘all-or-nothing’ type of person, so once I missed a few sessions, I just stopped altogether.”
As Shea’s health coach, I helped her brainstorm some new habits and action steps that could get her back on track. Since the Hinge Health program is flexible and can be done anywhere and anytime, we adjusted to an afternoon routine. Shea started taking her lunch break as her time to do her exercise therapy, and even included the kids.
In addition, we dug deeper into her “all-or-nothing” mentality and explored more helpful ways of seeing her situation in a different light: “It took someone else telling me that I was too hard on myself. I finally accepted the fact that five days a week was going to work best for the Fall season, not seven, and I realized that the world didn’t end if I took a break on the weekends. Those ideas I had of being a ‘failure’ were false, and now I’m content to say that I’m someone who works really hard on my Hinge program Monday through Friday. As long as I keep moving and give myself grace, I’ll be OK.”
New Season, New Possibilities
Shea’s story shows us that being open to change and fully embracing it may feel uncomfortable at first, but we can actually wind up healthier and happier when we take transitions head-on. Whether we are sorting out new schedules, adopting new habits, swapping out unproductive thought patterns, changing routines, balancing out different priorities, or even shifting our perspectives to see things from a different lens, we can begin to move forward in a more positive direction and ultimately come out better on the other side. In this case, we celebrated the success of no longer being burdened by chronic pain.
If you’re an employer or health plan and would like to learn more about Hinge Health’s clinical care model and more holistic approach to resolving chronic pain, you can request a demo below. If you’re an employee, ask your employer or health plan about Hinge Health.
Liz Greenlaw is a Certified Health Coach at Hinge Health, as well as a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher, ACE-Certified Group Fitness Instructor and RRCA Level 1 Certified Running Coach. Liz graduated from the University of Virginia with a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce (Marketing/Management) and has been living with her husband in the Washington, DC area for the past 10 years. When Liz isn’t busy coaching or teaching, she loves doing anything active in the great outdoors, whether it be running, biking, kayaking, hiking, or practicing yoga on the National Mall. She’s on a mission to visit every U.S. state and as many National & State Parks as humanly possible!