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Living with chronic pain or chronic illness is tough. Your days can be unpredictable and hard to manage. Not only do you need to think about everything you need to do as part of day-to-day life, but you need to factor in the challenges of your pain and/or illness and the impact this can have. Understanding how you can make things easier for yourself is vital, and in this post I share some ideas to help you.
I have written this blog based on my own experiences of living with a chronic condition and all words are my own. However, this was done as a paid collaboration with CareClinic.
The first thing you need to do is get organised. I appreciate that being organised comes naturally to some people more than others. But if you want to remember when you have appointments, know when to take your medication, and remember what you need to buy when you go shopping, you need to learn to develop the organised mindset. Having chronic pain or a chronic illness also means you have to plan for the bad days, and be ready to help yourself cope better.
Being organised is a skill, but anyone can learn to do it. It can be as simple as buying a diary and scheduling in your appointments and to do lists; keeping a whiteboard on your fridge and writing down the stuff that you don’t want to forget; or setting a few reminders on your phone when you need to do things at certain times.
When planning for your bad days, you need to know where the things are that will help you. Are your medications in the right place? Is your heat pack easily accessible? Do you have somewhere quiet to lie down and rest? All this stuff sounds obvious, but when the pain or discomfort strikes, you don’t need any barriers getting in your way.
Know your limits
Everyone deals with their pain or condition in their own way, but a common feature is always peaks and troughs; the ups and downs; the ebbs and flows of an unpredictable life. Knowing your limits means you can pace yourself and not overdo things to make things worse.
As a general rule, you don’t want to be overdoing things one day, meaning the next day is cancelled. You will feel frustrated and annoyed if this happens on a regular basis. Sometimes this may not be possible, or you may chose to do something that benefits your wellbeing and you’re happy to suffer the consequences. The key thing here will always be acceptance and then doing what you need to do to take care of yourself.
Monitor and track how you’re feeling
It’s often a good idea to understand what your pain or illness looks like and how it makes you feel. You can do this by keeping a daily health diary. This can be good to help you understand more about your symptoms and how they affect you, but it can also be useful when seeing your GP or a consultant.
One common side effect of chronic pain and chronic illness is the lack of concentration and the impact this has on things such as your memory. So keeping a daily record of your symptoms, how you’re feeling, the medication you’ve taken, and the things you do that makes you worse, can be a very useful exercise.
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Open up to those around you
You can’t deal with chronic pain and illness on your own. Hiding it and how you’re feeling is mentally draining, and over time it can have serious impacts on your health. You need the understanding and support of those around you to help you help yourself.
Not everyone will get it, of course – you never really know what chronic conditions are like until you have them yourself. Telling someone you’re having a bad day or that you need a little bit of help to do something isn’t a bad thing. It can be a relief and can often lead down a more positive path. For example, if you’re open and honest at work, you can get the adjustments you need to help you do your job. If you open up to friends and family, you can get help doing the things you struggle to do at home. Of if you’re having a bad day, people are more likely to understand why you can’t join in when you’re honest about how things are affecting you.
However you choose to manage your chronic pain or illness, make sure you prioritise you. Do everything you can to help yourself, rest when you need to, say no if you have to, and give in to how you’re feeling and don’t be hard on yourself.
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What do you do to help you effectively manage your chronic pain or illness?
How do you prioritise you?
Have you found keeping a health diary useful?
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