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Everyone’s pain is different and everyone copes in different ways. I’ve had my endometriosis pain for nearly 20 years and my sitting disability and other pains for over 5 years. During that time I have had to learn ways to cope with chronic pain rather than fight it and question why I’ve got it. Below are my top 10 tips.
1. Accept your pain
The first thing to do is accept your pain. Make friends with it and change your mindset and the way you think about it. In the early days of having chronic pain, this can be tough to do. You want to question why you have the pain and what is causing it. This is especially the case if you don’t have a diagnosis, and accepting your pain can be even harder.
My mindset changed after I had my coccygectomy (surgery to remove my coccyx). I knew it was my last hope and was willing to give it a try to see if it would work. I also knew that if the surgery didn’t work, then I had to accept things for what they are and learn to find ways to cope with chronic pain.
Despite not having any other treatment options, since my mindset changed to accept my pain, I have been so much more positive. It means I am putting my energy is to the right things.
2. Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t
This is something I learnt to do when I was getting workplace adjustments put in place at work. The focus was always on what I couldn’t do (attend meetings, travel to the office every day) rather than looking at what I could do.
The same goes for activities in your personal life. You need to look at what you can do now and make changes to help you wherever possible. I love eating out at restaurants but I now have to make sure that the chairs are suitable, or even better, they have tall tables to allow me to stand up and eat.
3. Keep busy so you’re not thinking too much
There may be days when you want to think and question things; how you’re feeling, why me, how will I find ways to cope with chronic pain, I’m so fed up of being in pain etc. And you may just have to accept this denial is part of the change curve. But do it and get it out your system and then keep yourself busy. Thinking too many negative thoughts is no good for anyone.
Again, think about what you can do and keep yourself occupied. When I was recovering from my surgery for 6 months, and wondering if I’d have a job to go back to, I used to do adult colouring to keep distracted. Or puzzles on my phone lying down where I was comfy. I even signed up to Now TV and took advantage of the 3 free months of Sky Movies that was on offer at the time. These days I fill my spare time by writing and researching for my blog.
4. Do one thing at a time
This tip is highly recommended to be more productive even when you don’t have chronic pain.
“Focus on one task at a time. He who chases two rabbits catches neither” – Paul Foster, CEO and Founder of The Business Therapist
If, like me, you love writing ‘to do’ lists, or even if you don’t but you have lots of things to do, then spend a little time thinking about and planning the things you need to complete, then work your way through them one at a time. The progress might feel slower but you’re more likely to get things done quicker this way as your energy will be on doing one particular task. And as you tick things off the list, you’ll feel also feel a sense of achievement.
5. Don’t be harsh on yourself if you’re having a bad pain day
If you are having a bad pain day and you aren’t up to doing anything, then that’s fine. Don’t be harsh on yourself. Bad pain days are part and parcel of life with chronic pain. Accept it and do what you need to do to get through it. Wherever possible do tip number 3 if you can, and keep busy doing whatever you can so that you have something else to focus on. This might be reading a book or watching tv, chatting to someone on the phone, or reading my blog (ha!).
6. Don’t justify your pain to anyone
Only you know what your pain is like and how you cope with it. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Invisible disabilities and health conditions are even more challenging because people feel they have to justify themselves to other people.
You may have to explain how your pain affects you, but you don’t need to justify it. I still struggle with this from time to time, especially when my pain is bad.
7. Write down the positives
A couple of years ago I was given a happy box for Christmas. Every day I write down at least one thing that made me happy or that I was grateful for. It doesn’t seem much at the time, but at the end of the year I open my box and there are at least 365 cards with things I am happy for (some days I write down more than one).
Again this is a way to help us focus on the good stuff. It’s all too easy to focus on the bad things in life or the things that go wrong. And it can also help us remember things that have happened, a bit like keeping a diary.
8. Connect with those who understand
My partner is the person who gets me the most. She doesn’t know what my pain is like but she knows how it affects me and appreciates the things I can do and the things I struggle with. I’m extremely lucky to have her and not everyone has that someone around them.
I also wanted to connect with those who literally understand my type of chronic pain. So I joined a coccyx pain group on Facebook a few years ago and it was one of those light bulb moments in life: making that connection with people who ‘get’ my pain.
I’ve also set up a chronic pain network at I work to help connect people together so we reach out to those who understand.
And writing this blog is helping me in so many ways. One of them is connecting me with people who can relate to and understand my situation.
Think about what you can do to connect more with those who understand.
9. Go for a walk
This tip is so simple, but if your pain allows for it, then get some fresh air and go for a walk. Even a 5 minute walk can do wonders for our wellbeing.
10. Treat yourself
Last but not least, the final tip is to treat yourself. Having chronic pain is tough and we all deserve a treat from time to time. It can be as big a treat as you want and can afford. I’ll often buy myself my favourite pick ‘n’ mix sweets or some Lindt chocolate. Even Aldi’s version is good enough. Or I’ll buy myself a new notebook or something off Amazon because I love getting post.
I also always make sure I have something in my diary to look forward to – a weekend away, a dinner date, or a duvet day watching dramas and films..
How do you cope with chronic pain?
Do you agree with my suggestions? What are your ways to cope with chronic pain? What tips do you have for someone with chronic pain?