Chronic pain can be difficult to live with and often discouraging. The following steps can help you keep moving forward when it comes to living with chronic pain.
STEP 1: Empower Yourself
Education about pain leads to empowerment. Understand you medical condition and chronic pain problem. Work with and ask your pain specialist questions with regards to your condition and treatment options for your condition. Keep up with the latest in chronic pain news as everyday there are new developments in chronic pain and new treatments options.
STEP 2: Set Goals
With chronic pain often small steps forward can result in greater change and make a bigger difference than trying to make huge leaps and jumps forward. By setting reasonable goals one can move forward to your ultimate goal of a higher quality of life. Good goals can include starting a low impact light exercise routine, and/or visiting family & friend, engaging in daily responsibilities and rewarding activities despite experiencing mild to moderate pain. Track your pain and physical activities so you and your doctor can better understand and determine areas that need improvement.
STEP 3: Pace Yourself
Take things one step at a time. Rather than over doing yourself in activities, choose activities that are reasonable and add small amounts of rest periods between activities, so that at the end of the day your pain isn’t worse than when you started.
STEP 4: Healthy Relationships
Having a strong support network can make a big difference when it comes to living with pain. Maintain a healthy relationship with family and friends through strong bonds and good communications.
STEP 5: Healthy Balance in Life
Maintain a healthy balance in life which includes medical, emotional, social, spiritual, psychological, nutritional and physical health. Seek out laughter, joy, love and peace in your life.
STEP 6: Manage Stress
Often we experience significant stressors in our lives that are unrelated to ones chronic pain condition, however these stressors tend to have a large impact on ones chronic pain. Do not ignore these stressors, rather address them. Managing the stress in your life will aid to the improved quality of your life with regards to living with your chronic medical condition. Relaxation techniques, massages and biofeedback can often be helpful here. Awareness of stress is helpful, for example, note or track thoughts, feelings, and activities that tend to exacerbate both emotional and physical stress or pain. This can be done in a pain diary, or on a simple piece of paper. Awareness of stress and stress triggers, allows you to make changes in your daily life to reduce such identified stressors, therefore (or with the goal in mind of) reducing your physical and emotional.
STEP 7: Attitude Makes a Difference
Be Optimistic! This may be the most difficult of the steps as depression and negative thoughts often overwhelm one who suffers from chronic pain. However, you much look at the glass half full and not half empty. Distraction, continuing to engage in valued activities despite pain, creating a life and identity separate from the pain, can often be used to take focus away from negative thoughts and feelings with regards to your chronic condition. Pain may make one feel helpless or “out of control”, one’s attitude is something that someone always has personal control over, regardless of how severe their pain or physical handicaps are. So attitude can also contribute to empowerment.
STEP 8: Acceptance
An important step in moving forward is to accept your medical condition rather than denying you have a problem. Acceptance does not mean blame and is not an act of losing hope or giving up. Rather it is an acceptance of a chronic problem and the understanding that you have the right to be treated with humanity and respect. Through acceptance one actually gains more control over his/her life through letting go of constantly fighting against one’s pain, trying to control it, or change it. Acceptance is a continuous process and it takes time and consistent effort to truly work toward acceptance of one’s condition. Some days you may feel more willing to accept your pain than other days, this is normal and that is okay. The goal is to continually work toward an accepting attitude about yourself and your pain condition.
STEP 9: Avoid Feeling Guilty, Self Blame, or Hopelessness
Do not blame yourself or feel guilty with regards to having a chronic problem. You will never be able to move forward if you paralyze yourself with guilt, self-blame or hopelessness.
STEP 10: Be Proactive
Try to be as function as possible. If your pain doesn’t allow you to do your current job, look to work in jobs that are accommodating to your limitations and medical condition. Consider volunteer work as helping other human beings and animals can bring great self reward and a higher quality of life.
STEP 11: Health Lifestyle
Maintain balance in your live with regards to exercise, diet and sleep. Minimize smoking and alcohol as well. These topics are covered in more detail further in the tutorial.
STEP 12: Share
Reach out to others and share your story. Not only will this help you, but you will also be able to help others. Support groups can often be very valuable.