Some people probably assume that when you have chronic pain, you can’t go on holiday. It can be difficult stepping outside your comfort zone and your safe environment of home, but there are often things that you can do to help make it easier.
Here are my top tips for going on holiday to help manage your pain. And if going away for several days or a week is too much, then the same tips can be used or adapted for getting out for the day.
My attitude towards coping with my pain took a real turn for the better and more positive after reading the book Beyond Pain: Conquer Your Pain, Reclaim Your Life by Angelo Ratnachandra. It taught me that I need to carry on doing the things that I enjoy and why this is so important for managing chronic pain. The two key things that I learnt were:
- When we do things that make us happy, our body releases endorphins which are considered to be feel-good chemicals and act as a natural painkiller.
- I’d rather be in pain doing something I enjoy than be in pain doing nothing.
Sometimes we have to listen to our bodies and simply do nothing; we all need to rest and relax from time to time, even those who don’t have chronic pain. But the key thing is that doing the things we enjoy is important for our mind and mental wellbeing and helps us feel better within ourselves – which leads to us being able to manage our pain better.
My recent holiday to Rhodes
My partner and I planned an all-inclusive holiday to Rhodes where we wanted to do very little. I often struggle with this type of holiday, as too much sitting and lying down aggravates my pain. I could’ve easily said I didn’t want to go – which wouldn’t have been good for me or my relationship. But if you’ve read my blog post I’m back from my blogging break – so much has happened, then you’ll know that I was well and truly ready for a holiday and I was so excited and looking forward to going. This in itself realeased a huge amount of endorphins!
I knew that the sunshine, blue skies and seas, the all inclusive food (which we didn’t have to prepare and cook!), some distraction and escapism with my favourite genre of book (non-fiction), and some quality time with my better half was exactly what I needed. I just needed to make sure that I could manage my pain at the same time. And I did! In fact, despite my recent stresses in life (stress always makes my pain worse), I had a week of very little pain. We purposely booked the hotel we went to because it had a swim up room and cushions on the loungers. Without these cushions I would have been in a lot of pain.
While we were away it was my partner’s birthday and we wanted to do something a little different. We decided to hire a car and drive round the whole of the island. Now, normally, driving and traveling are painful and I struggle, so I could’ve easily, again, said no, but I knew it was something my partner really wanted to do. And in all honesty, so did I. I absolutely love driving and I wanted to achieve certain goals:
- Drive abroad for the first time
- Drive a convertible
- Drive an automatic car
I ticked off all these goals and the sense of achievement and happiness I felt that day was amazing; especially as I was extremely nervous about doing it and also how I’d cope all day in a car. I reckon my endorphins were on fire that day!
I look back and I think how I would’ve felt if I had said no to hiring that car. I would’ve been miserable, felt like I would have let my partner down, and would’ve have been annoyed that I had let my pain dictate my life. Through this blog I am hoping to share and inspire my readers to life the life they want despite having chronic pain.
My top tips
My tips are based on my own pain and the things I need to do. They may not all be useful for you, but may get you thinking about what you can and can’t do to help you manage your own pain.
Book flights around the time that is best for you
My pain is always worse later on in the day, so the last thing I want is a late night flight when I know I will be in so much pain. I prefer early flights so that I can sit for longer when my pain isn’t as bad.
Do whatever you can to help you relax
I’m not a huge fan of flying. The more I’ve done it the easier it has become, but I always take a Oxazepam tablet before every flight. They help with anxiety, so this helps me relax to get through the flight, but it also helps my muscles relax, which naturally reduces my pain. It also sends me to sleep (literally every time I take one) so this helps me get through the flight much better.
DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO MAKE THE JOURNEY COMFORTABLE
I use my coccyx cut-out cushion in a car or on a plane. It isn’t perfect and doesn’t stop my pain completely, but it makes things more manageable. I also use a neck cushion on a plane to help keep my neck in a better position so as not to aggravate my pain more than necessary. I’m also extremely lucky when flying that my parter is so kind that she stands up and lets me lie across the seats. I struggle to stand up when I’m so tired from my Oxazepam tablets!
Plan your days around your pain and rest
What you do on your holiday or days out will depend on your pain and how much rest you need. As much as you want to do things that make you happy and that you enjoy, it is important not to over do it. You need to be able to manage your pain the next day. Or if you do end up doing too much, make sure you have the time the next day to recover. My pain is quite different to a lot of people’s as too much rest makes things worse for me. I like to, and have to, keep moving about whenever I can.
Eat at times to suit you
The great thing about all-inclusive holidays is that there is food available pretty much all day. From my research into diet, eating, and fitness, as well as learning from Matt Cho, who I wrote about in my previous blog post, meal times are irrelevant. And it is no different when on holiday. Even when not going all-inclusive, there will be food available somewhere so don’t pressure yourself to eat if you aren’t hungry, or if you are struggling with your pain.
Be comfy in what you wear
I’m not a fan of bikinis, formal clothing, or anything that doesn’t make me comfy or feel good. Although my holiday to Rhodes was a sun holiday, being comfy in what I wore was a huge priority, so I chose loose shorts, tops and even a bikini top that I felt ok in. We found out some rules about the dinner dress-code when we got there, which was a little annoying, but I was still able to be comfy at dinner in what I wore. And because we literally ate our food and went back to the room (we binged-watched Seven Seconds on Netflix) I could soon get in to my PJs and get comfy on the bed.
Keep your mind busy
Even when relaxing, you can keep your mind busy and distracted to help cope with your pain. I like to read non-fiction books, or do my blog work. Books provide an escape from reality, and depending on what you read, they can be a good source of happiness, motivation, or even inspiration.
Manage your overall wellbeing and not just your pain
I find that when I manage my overall wellbeing then I can manage my pain a lot better. This can be applied in all areas of your life. For example, on my holiday in Rhodes:
- At meal times I didn’t overeat – this meant I felt better in myself.
- I did 10,000 steps a day and went to the gym – this meant I had a sense of achievement, was moving more and felt good about being active on holiday.
- When I was up to it, we sat amongst other holiday makers in the bar area or on the terrace – although not strictly socialising, it was good to be around other people.
What tips do you have for going on holiday when you have chronic pain?
Feel free to comment below or get in touch. Everyone is different so what works for you may or may not work for someone else, but it is good to share to help others learn and be inspired.
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