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Building a buffer against pain

6 min. reading time

How do you build up resistance to pain? Do you make sure that setbacks do not upset your balance? How do you prevent relapse? 

To explain this, I use the principle of the 'pain buffer'. A buffer is something to absorb a setback, a kind of 'reserve' or 'stock'. For example, someone may have a money buffer for unforeseen expenses (your car suddenly stops, for example, and you have to buy a new one).

The pain buffer works similarly. When you build up a pain buffer, negative events and stress are less likely to lead to (chronic) pain. By doing so, you protect yourself against setbacks and the pain that goes with them. You become better at absorbing blows.

What does a pain buffer look like?

There are a number of components that are actually part of everyone's pain buffer. Those are:

  • Activity: Enough exercise is important. The English also say 'motion is lotion'. Movement is necessary to maintain your condition, muscles and nervous system
  • Sleep: More and more research shows that a lack of sleep can cause many problems, from pain to depression.\
  • Fun: Your nervous system loves fun and your brain will produce substances that act as a buffer to pain. Having fun in a creative way (e.g. learning to play an instrument) is even more effective!
  • Relaxation: Can you really relax? Do you want to alternate activities and movement with rest, in which you really don't have to do anything (from yourself)? Alternating effort with relaxation is an important strategy to fill your pain buffer. 
  • Mindset: Positive thoughts and learning from setbacks make you progress faster and let go of setbacks more easily.

There are different strategies to work on the components of your buffer. For example, you can work on your mindset by doing mindfulness, but you can also do various thought exercises that you can find on the blog. Everyone's buffer, and the way you fill your buffer, is unique. 

Take some time to think about what number you give your buffer for each part. Which part scores the lowest, and how can you make progress in that? Which exercises do you know, or can you find on the blog, that can help you?

Building a buffer against pain

More guidance on how to decrease your pain