Can You Wind Down and Relax When You’re in Pain?

“You need to wind down and relax.” Has anyone ever said that to you? It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But in reality, it’s not as easy as it sounds, especially if you live with pain or a chronic illness. However, sometimes it is exactly what we need to do.

Your body is hurting. You’re stressed. Your brain feels like it might explode. You’re an emotional wreck. And when someone says, “You need to wind down and relax,” you probably feel like giving them a few choice words. How can you wind down and relax when you are living with pain every day? Is it even possible?

How Can Winding Down and Relaxing Help Pain?

It’s easy to become wound up and unable to relax properly.

You might feel that you have so much to do and are unable to do everything so guilt, frustration and anger kick in. And soon, you have a thousand thoughts racing through your mind at 100 miles an hour. Just like your pain, your mind shouts at you – “You’ve so much to do!” “You need to do more!” “You’re inadequate!” “You’re hopeless!” “You should feel guilty!” “Everything is your own fault!” “Remember to…” You start to feel overwhelmed and under pressure.

The stress soon gets on top of you and weighs you down. You try to ignore those voices but negative emotions can be so overpowering.

You know you should calm down but it’s difficult when you feel so overwhelmed. And you already know that you should ditch the guilt and all the other negative emotions but it can feel impossible to switch off from those voices. You know that negative emotions have a detrimental impact on your pain but you struggle to switch off, wind down and relax.

An overload of negative emotions or an overactive mind can cause a physical reaction within your body. You might find that your blood pressure rises or you might develop headaches, muscle tension, stomach problems or you might even feel ill with flu virus type symptoms. And of course, the pain you live with every day might become worse.

It’s so important for our well-being to wind down and relax, but it’s just not that simple, is it? When your body shouts at you to say it’s in pain, you probably try to help it by resting and you feel the effect almost right away because you’ve taken away pressure. But relaxing your mind is another matter.

Text: Can you wind down and relax when you're in pain? Image is a very dark sky, lit in the middle, showing a silhouette of low holls and a single tree which are reflecting onto water.

Can You Learn to Wind Down and Relax?

How on earth do we switch off an over-active mind? How do we switch off from those negative emotions that keep swirling around in our brains?

It’s not easy, but we can learn how to wind down. The more we practise, the easier it might become.

I have put together a few ideas which might help you. But, like everything related to our health, we have to follow our instincts and find what works best for us individually, and, most importantly, get professional help if necessary.

Stop What You’re Doing, Close Your Eyes And Breathe

Try to make a habit of doing this regularly but especially so when you feel as though things are spiralling out of control.

Take a few minutes to stop what you’re doing, sit down or lie down, close your eyes and just breathe.

There are many breathing techniques you can try, but my preference is belly breathing. Belly breathing can help to calm you and it can also help to lower pain levels, so it’s worth trying.

Sit down or lie down comfortably. Place your hand at the top of your abdomen. Breathe in, slowly and deeply. You should feel your stomach push out. Now slowly release that breath. Do this as often as you need to.

Learn About Belly Breathing

Try to Get Into a Good Sleep Routine

Have you ever lain in bed in the wee small hours getting angry with yourself because you’re awake? I have and the next day, I suffer for it. My pain is worse, but I also find that it’s more difficult to cope with life. The silly little things that normally don’t bother me can make me feel so wound up.

12 Ways to Improve the Quality of Your Sleep

Relaxation Therapies Which Can Help


Being able to zone out for ten minutes can help you to wind down and recharge your batteries. But really zoning out can often feel impossible. There are hundreds of guided meditation videos on YouTube if you can’t manage to do this on your own. I’ll share a link here to one but you might need to search until you find something that suits you. I’ve tried to watch some videos and hated the music or I really didn’t like the person’s voice but thankfully there are so many to choose from. So hopefully you’ll find something helpful.

Guided Meditation Video on YouTube


Mindfulness is about ‘staying in the moment’. It’s about being aware of yourself, your thoughts and feelings and being aware of what’s around you. You’ll find you notice things you probably don’t normally notice. It’s about using your senses to see, smell, hear, feel and even taste things differently because you really focus. Practising mindfulness can take you away from what’s going on in your life and can be very helpful. It’s worth looking into if you’ve never tried it before.

Mindfulness Video on YouTube

Other Relaxation Therapies

Yoga, Tai chi, Qigong, Palates and Reiki can be relaxing and can help with breathing and meditation. You might want to see a practitioner or attend a class to learn some simple techniques initially. However, you could also learn some of them online so you can put them into practice whenever you need to.

Make a List

When you have a busy mind because you have things you need to do, try writing a list. This is especially useful if you find you can’t sleep at night because you have too many thoughts rushing through your head.

Get those thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Tell yourself that you’ll deal with them one at a time later or the next day. Doing this will hopefully stop so many things spinning around inside your head.

When you do go through your list, you might find that some of those things can be forgotten about without taking action. Remember to prioritise and pace yourself when doing necessary tasks.

Learn to Pace Yourself

Deal With Your Negative Emotions

It’s important not to ignore negative emotions. When you ignore a problem, it never actually goes away. It lurks in the background just waiting for an opportunity to make an appearance again. Instead, you need to work on those thoughts and feelings.

Take guilt, for example. Do you feel guilty because you can’t cope with housework because of your pain? Pain brings limitations to your life, but that’s not your fault. You need to rest more because of your pain. By resting, you’re doing what’s right for your body so you shouldn’t feel guilty.

How to Cope if You Feel Burdened with Guilt

Another example is anger. You might be struggling with anger because your health has changed your life dramatically. Our health can bring about so many changes, but accepting those changes can help you to move forward.

Accepting a New Normal

You have to work on all of those negative emotions to stop them from bringing you down. CBT might help and there are many free online courses you could try. If you struggle to do this on your own, it’s worth seeking help from a GP or appropriate therapist.


Take time out of your day for yourself. Everyone needs some ‘me’ time, but when you’re feeling stressed, it’s especially important.

Put some calming essential oils in a burner and breathe in that aroma. Put on your favourite music, then sit back and do those breathing exercises. Watch some crazy cat or dopey dog video clips to make you laugh. Or read a book to escape into another world. Spoil yourself. Have a soak in a bubble bath, do your nails, get a new hairdo or go for a massage.

Remember that self-care is important for your well-being. It’s a way of saying, “I love you” to yourself. It’s not being indulgent.

Nature – The Perfect Way to Wind Down and Relax

Nature is calming. If you can, go somewhere to breathe in fresh air. Spend some time in your garden if you have one or go to a park, a forest, a river or the beach. Use mindfulness techniques so you take in everything around you.


Hobbies can be a fantastic distraction and can help you to wind down and relax.

You could play online games, do jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku or crosswords. If you’re creative, perhaps you’d enjoy writing, painting, making jewellery or building models. Or you could try your hand at crocheting, quilting, wood carving or pottery.

When you find a hobby you enjoy, try not to put added pressure on yourself. A hobby might seem like a good way to earn income, but think carefully because doing that might bring you more stress and worry. That would defeat the purpose and steal the enjoyment.

Wind Down and Relax With a Cuppa

This might be a very British thing, but when all else fails, we switch on the kettle to make a cuppa. And of course, you need to have a biscuit along with it. To dunk or not to dunk that biscuit….that’s entirely your choice.

Give Yourself Permission to Wind Down and Relax

If you have a busy life or you have a long to-do list, no doubt, you might look at this post and say, but I don’t have time to do any of those things. But your health is more important than your to-do list so always give yourself permission to wind down and relax.

Be kind to yourself – you’re worth it.

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3 thoughts on “Can You Wind Down and Relax When You’re in Pain?

  1. “You’ve so much to do!” “You need to do more!” “You’re inadequate!” “You’re hopeless!” “You should feel guilty!”

    ^ Have you been nosying around in my brain, Liz?

    This has really hit home with me. I liked to think I was losing my marbles and the only one feeling like this and constantly pushing to get more done, unable to relax because of the guilt and being so stressed out. Turns out, I’m not special and sadly there will be many that nod along to this post. I hate that. I really, really hate that. As if live with pain isn’t difficult enough as it is.

    I think you’re right, we can practice to chill out and spend time focusing on calming our brains and bodies. I also write the lists you mentioned, except now I have lists for lists and reminder to look at my lists. Eugh, I think I need to minimise! But it absolutely helps because you can be so overwhelmed with stuff to do that it’s going through your head on a loop, and you find yourself unsure where to even start. Having a list gets some of that out of your head, organizes the “stuff” going around in there, and helps you get a better grip on what’s what. Sometimes, all the stuff just means you can’t see the forest for the trees and that does nothing but boost the stress even more.

    I’ve only watched the first minute of that funny cat and dog video you linked to so I’ll watch the rest of that in a second. The cat with his head in the McDonalds fries container made me snort with laughter. When you realised you haven’t laughed in a while, that means you need more funny animal videos in your life!

    Another spot on, useful & relatable post, Liz.


  2. I think many of us with illnesses or disabilities have that voice in our head telling us we are inadequate, that we must prove our worth. And so we push on, not wanting to be limited by our bodies and other peoples perceptions. Or maybe it’s just me!
    This is a great list though, and I’m really going to try some of this. I do use hobbies like crafting as distraction though. But then get a little addicted and worn out by those, trying to do my best.

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