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Mindset is a bit of a buzz word at the moment. The Google definition of mindset is the established set of attitudes held by someone. I believe that this is a big part of learning to cope with chronic pain. In this post I talk about some of the ways that you can have a chronic pain mindset.
Look out for Part 2 next week, where I talk about focusing on your strengths, accepting the bad days as well as the good, and the importance of not comparing yourself to others.
Like in previous posts, I’m not saying getting the right mindset will be easy. It won’t be. Change is always hard and it takes time to learn to think differently and adapt our ways of doing things. But understanding what a chronic pain mindset look like is the starting point.
I’ve listed below some of the attitudes and things that I think we all need to cope better with our chronic pain. As always, something that works for me might not work for you. It’s about being open to different options, seeing things differently, and finding those few thing that you can do to help yourself.
Be as positive as you can
I say as you can, because even people without chronic pain are never positive 100% of the time.
Of course, chronic pain isn’t a good thing – it causes our bodies and minds to struggle on a daily basis; it causes anger, frustration, and at times hopelessness and isolation; it causes us to change over time and become different people to who we were before the pain began.
When we change our mindset, accept that we have our chronic pain, and think about our pain differently, we can start to see things in a more optimistic way and pick out the positives.
When you have a positive mindset, it makes the whole process much easier, and this means it is easier to move forward – to focus on the future and not the past.
Negativity breeds negativity, and positivity breeds positivity; it’s that simple. Putting it in to practice isn’t so simple, but doing this, and following some of the ideas below and you will certainly be on the right track.
Don’t justify your pain to anyone
This is a hard one and I still struggle not justifying my pain to my friends and work colleagues. You feel like you have to explain yourself and justify why you can or cannot do something because of your pain. And the more you try not to do it, the more you do it.
I’ve found it has got easier over time, but I think personality has a big influence on whether you can do this fully not. If you can’t, then just accept it and do what you can.
Sometimes people feel better when they explain and justify things. Again, this is down to personality, and if it works for you and you’re ok with that, then that is ok.
Learning to be grateful can really change our mindset, our outlook on life, and improve our overall wellbeing. People with chronic pain often have long journeys to get a diagnosis, or take a while to learn to adapt and cope with their pain. If you start to pick out the things that make you feel happy or that you are grateful for, you soon see that all these things add up and create more positivity in your life – a lot more than what you realise.
I learned to be grateful for the morning sunlight; the way my dogs make me smile; reading my Kindle in the garden. And much much more.
Don’t know where to start? Write down 3 things you are grateful for right now. Do this daily, make it a habit, and start to see how your outlook changes. And share your experiences in the comments below.
Appreciate the little things
This is closely linked to being grateful. Learning to appreciate the small stuff, the little things in life, goes such a long way.
What might be little to you, could be big to someone else; and vice versa. I’m learning to appreciate being in nature a lot more – simply going for a walk in the countryside does wonders for my wellbeing and helps me cope better with my pain, stress and anxiety.
A great book to read is The Little Big Things by Henry Fraser – his story of a new life after a tragic accident will inspire you.
Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t
Again, it’s all about the positives – the stuff you can do!
I learned a lot about this when I was getting reasonable adjustments put in place at work. The focus was always on what I couldn’t do (attend face-to-face meetings, travel to the office every day) rather than looking at what I could do. It all felt very negative, and it was hard to cope.
Instead, we changed the conversations to focus on the things I could do (attend meetings via teleconference, work from home) and I started to get the spark back in work and felt good about myself again.
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.
If you spend a lot more time in bed because of your pain, what can you do to help yourself keep distracted?
If you can’t walk as much, how can you still get outside and enjoy some fresh air?
If you need to physically rest a lot more, how can you keep your mind busy?
Do one thing at a time
More people should do this, not just if you have chronic pain. It keeps you focused, ensures the task gets done, and you feel much more in control.
“Focus on one task at a time. He who chases two rabbits catches neither”– Paul Foster, CEO and Founder of The Business Therapist
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.
Get organised – make things easier and better for you
Being organised will make you cope better with the everyday things that you need to do. And if you can master this, it will help you cope better with what life throws at you in terms of your pain. It is a skill, and you can learn how to do it.
I’m lucky, I love being organised – writing lists, planning ahead, using my stationery to make it fun – but I understand that being organised isn’t for everyone.
If this really isn’t for you, then simple things like writing things down so you don’t forget, or planning two or three tasks and chores that need doing each week, will help you feel focussed, enable you to set some goals, and will make your mind feel less busy as it doesn’t have to remember everything.
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Does this post make sense to you?
Do you think you have a chronic pain mindset?
Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts?
Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts.