As someone who lives in pain every day, I’ve had to learn to refocus my energy into other areas of my life to avoid the spiral of depression that generally comes with a life of chronic pain. Here are some steps I’ve taken to reframe my situation; they have helped me embrace the blessings in my life rather than focusing on the negatives. This list is not meant to diagnose or treat your pain, but rather to show you how to best cope with chronic pain.
1. Live in the now.
When you’re entrenched in a life filled with pain, sickness, and/or depression, it can be tempting to ruminate on the past or fixate about the future. Unfortunately, neither approach will improve your present. Instead, focus on ways to be present to what’s happening now. Take deep breaths, laugh, accept where you are, and work with what you can.
2. Say no to pity parties.
Yes, your situation sucks, and I feel you. However, that’s no excuse to become a victim of your pain. Acknowledge the struggle, feel the pain, and then focus on a solution. Start releasing those painful and negative thoughts so you can make space for more important things. Some ideas: journal, paint, or talk into a recorder.
3. Acknowledge the connection between your emotions and pain.
Manage your stress and you’ll manage your pain much easier. Your body can’t tell the difference between stress from a relationship or being chased by a lion. Stress is stress! So limit contact with negative people, aggressive music, and stressful situations as much as possible. Incorporate meditating, sound therapy, acupuncture or anything that calms you and makes you feel at one with yourself.
4. Understand that it’s OK to take a break.
As an entrepreneur, my whole life depends on my work. When I don’t have the energy to coach, write, cook, or blog, it can be hard not to spiral into a hole of self-deprecation. That’s why it’s important to listen to your body when it’s telling you to rest! If you do not give in to your body, you’ll be fighting an uphill, losing battle. The body always wins, so give in, take a break, take a nap, and when you are feeling strong, you’ll zip through your work faster than you ever thought possible.
5. Build a strong support system.
You don’t need many people to help you, but you need the right people to help you. Make sure you have one or two friends who really understand your needs and are aware of your pain and limitations. Have them set up your house so that you have everything you’ll need at arm’s reach. Make sure to keep your support system involved in your day-to-day ups and downs — what went well, what didn’t, etc. The more they know, the more they can help you. Being surrounded by love will fuel your recovery faster and subdue pain dramatically.
6. State your needs.
Think about when someone you love was sick or hurt. You wanted to help, right? Of course you did! But what if you have no idea what they need? You feel helpless. So here’s a little piece of advice: let everyone know exactly what you need, and when you need it. They’ll feel useful, empowered, and loved. You have to let people help, because you can’t do it alone, despite what you might be telling yourself.
7. Show gratitude every day.
Wake up and write down three things or people for which you are grateful. Thank them in your head three times. When you go to bed, write down the three best things that happened to you today. This will force you to see the good in your day instead of focusing only on the negative. Putting out positive energy into the world is like holding a magnet that only pulls in love and support into your life. It works. Believe in the process.