Dealing with and managing chronic pain can be one of life’s most devastating and life-altering experiences. In three or more months—the official duration that defines chronic pain—your new life can seem so far removed from what you would have considered normal, even just half a year ago. Now living with chronic pain, it would seem like your entire life only revolves around hospitals, doctors, pharmacies and medicines. Dreams, hobbies, joys, and for some, even their work, can seem like such a distant memory, one from a healthy lifetime ago. Whether it’s from a severe spinal cord injury, genetic arthritis, or unknown cause, chronic pain can throw even the most resilient people for a loop.
How then, do you deal with the pain and get your life back? Here are nine tips that can help you manage chronic pain.
9 Tips for Managing Chronic Pain
Chronic Pain Tip #1 – Acceptance
Acceptance is often such a long process – and it is a process – for most people dealing with chronic pain. But accepting that you have and are dealing with chronic pain can go a long way in helping you reclaim your life. Difficult as it may be, accepting that this is your current reality can make the load of the pain much lighter. Practicing acceptance daily can also help prevent you from constantly wishing and hoping that things were different, as this can’t be ideal for your mental health long-term. Perhaps one day things will be different, but unfortunately, at this moment, they aren’t. Additionally, even though with acceptance comes sadness, at least you can now be prepared enough to tackle the health challenges before you head-on.
Chronic Pain Tip #2 – Do the hard stuff
When dealing with chronic pain, the last thing you want to do is the unpleasant, boring, mundane stuff that reminds you of just how sick you are. This can be things like: making sure you keep all your doctors’ appointments, going for all the tests and scans required, and taking all your medications as prescribed.
Instead of letting your health get out of control and have things spiral, it’s best to nip the necessities in the bud and just get them done.
Chronic Pain Tip #3 – Have a contingency plan
A contingency plan is important to have when you’re battling chronic pain. Should the pain become extremely sharp, heightened and unbearable at any time, such as in the middle of the night or when you are alone, do you have a plan?
Some questions to think about for your contingency plan can include:
- Do you have emergency cash should you need it?
- Do you have all the medications you need in the house?
- Do you know your local ambulance number?
- Do you have all your allergies listed down?
- Do you have your next of kin’s details in your wallet?
Chronic Pain Tip #4 – Take it one day at a time
One day at a time. This could probably be the universal mantra for everyone everywhere dealing with chronic pain. With chronic pain, trying not to give up on your body and yourself can be such an enormous task by itself. You never really know how you’ll wake up, how the day will go, how bad the pain will be, and for some illnesses, you never know when the pain will strike. A pragmatic strategy would be to not think too much about all the plans and goals you had for the month or year ahead. Even a week can be too much to think of sometimes, and Friday can seem so far. A day at a time. Just get through this one day. And then the next. And the next. That can be a better, more manageable goal.
Chronic Pain Tip #5 – Practice self-care
If not proactively handled, chronic pain can easily and slowly interfere with your self-care. And before you know it, you’ve forgotten all those good habits your mom taught you when you were four. It’s important to try as much as possible to take care of yourself like you did before you fell ill.
Some of the simple things you can try to do, even while struggling with chronic pain, include:
- Taking a shower
- Brushing your teeth
- Drinking water regularly
- Eating balanced meals
- Exercising (even if it’s just walking indoors or using online fitness videos)
- Getting some sunlight therapy
- Sleeping well
Chronic Pain Tip #6 – Mind your mental health
When suffering from chronic pain, it can be easy to put all your focus and energy on your physical body, so much so that you neglect your mental health. It’s imperative to always keep watch of your mental health, since most battles are won or lost in the mind.
You can help protect your mental health by:
- Practicing mindfulness and being aware of what you consume on the internet, TV and magazines
- Practicing guided meditation
- Practicing guided box breathing
- Having a health journal to help keep track of your pain, e.g., when it’s less, when it’s worse, when it’s triggered
- Having a gratitude journal and listing down every night, 5 things you’re grateful for, big or small
Chronic Pain Tip #7 – Find safe people to talk to
Navigating the world of chronic pain can be extremely overwhelming. Talking to people you trust and letting them in on your struggle can make a world of difference. Whether it’s a parent, a friend, a colleague or a partner, explaining to them what you’re going through can not only be cathartic for you, but can also get you any help or support you may need. Opening up to a professional can also be a great option, if not the best thing you can do. Whether it’s a psychologist, therapist or counsellor, with their professional experience, they are able to hear you, guide you, and give you the tools you need to deal with your chronic pain better.
The caution here, however, is to be careful who you go to for support. As you’re already vulnerable, you don’t want to go to people who will use it against you, and gossip, malign, or mock you about your pain.
Chronic Pain Tip #8 – Remember what makes you happy
With all the stress that comes with chronic pain, passions can appear unnecessary and pointless; life can seem bleak. But it’s for this very reason that you should nourish yourself with your passions and remind yourself of all the things that once made you so happy.
Whether it’s swimming, playing the guitar, painting, or listening to music, these hobbies can help rejuvenate you and make you feel alive again, in spite of your pain.
Chronic Pain Tip #9 – Be gentle with yourself
Anyone who battles a chronic illness is not only a patient, but a survivor too. The fact that you wake up every day and always try to do your best and be your best, despite the pain, is more than enough. You are enough. Remember this—even when the bad days come.
Be gentle with yourself. You got this.
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