Top 6 Recommendations for Coping with Chronic Pain Living
Living with chronic pain is challenging on the best of days and can seem impossible on the worst days. Wherever you are on that spectrum today, I understand how difficult and stressful it is to cope with the physical and mental impact of living with chronic pain. I’m Dr. Tyler Gerdin, and in this blog, I’m going to walk you through my top six recommendations for coping with chronic pain. Please feel free to reach out if you have questions or want someone to talk to about living with chronic pain.
1 – Be Mindful of Stress Levels & Negative Self-Talk
It’s well known that living with chronic pain can lead to increased levels of emotional stress as well as negative thought patterns. It’s important to become more mindful of elevated stress and negative self-talk. This increased awareness is the first step toward being able to better manage stress and negative self-talk. If you notice increased levels of stress, make a plan to do some extra relaxation activities that help you unwind. You can also plan ahead to avoid added stress by getting plenty of sleep, exercising, eating a nutrient-rich diet, and staying hydrated. Changing negative self-talk can be a lot more difficult. For many, the challenging thoughts will change once stress decreases, so taking stress-relief steps can be beneficial for addressing negative self-talk as well. Additionally, you can try to change negative self-talk. For instance, if you’re having repeated thoughts like, “I can’t manage this pain. It’s too much.” Remind yourself that you have managed pain in the past, and you will get through today too.
2 – Create a Distraction Plan
It sounds silly, but distraction can actually be an essential part of living with chronic pain. A large portion of pain response is in our brain, so if we’re able to distract our brain, we can dull some of the pain. Do any activity that you like that will keep you fully engaged. It can be especially helpful to do activities with friends and loved ones, which fights feelings of isolation that so often go hand in hand with chronic pain.
3 – Exercise & Stay Active
A healthy lifestyle can help with chronic pain, so exercise and generally being active reduces stress, distracts the mind, and helps to fight sources of chronic pain like inflammation. If you exercise by engaging in sports or activities with other people, you can also incorporate more socializing to combat isolation. It’s a win all around. As Alan Gordon writes, “motion is lotion.”
4 – Commit to Socializing & Engaging with Others
I’ve mentioned making time to combat isolation by engaging with other people a few times already because I truly believe it’s essential that people managing chronic pain do not feel alone. Make plans to spend time with friends and loved ones at least once a week. Even if you’re uncomfortable and you can’t do much, just having someone to chat with can make a big difference.
5 – Respect Your Limits
This is maybe the most important recommendation on the list. You may want to challenge yourself a little to move forward and make positive progress, but it’s still important to respect your limits. If you’re in severe pain, give yourself time to rest. If you need to take a break during your workout, do it.
6 – Build Safety
When you are feeling pretty good, or simply not having high pain levels, take some time to notice how your body feels. Focus on the areas of your body that sometimes hurt and observe them. What do they feel like now? Take a few deep breaths. Remind yourself that your body is safe. By mindfully noticing areas of your body that sometimes have pain, you build a sense of safety in your body. To successfully treat chronic pain, you need to develop a greater trust in your body and calm your body’s nervous system. I recommend obtaining Alan Gordon’s book The Way Out to learn about his comprehensive plan to reduce your chronic pain.
Bonus Recommendation – Talk to a Professional
One of the biggest frustrations for people with chronic pain is that the sources of discomfort are often invisible. That means the people in our lives may struggle to show an appropriate level of compassion and empathy because they can’t see the sources of pain. If you need someone to talk to who will recognize the difficult realities of living with chronic pain, I hope you’ll consider scheduling a therapy session with me, Dr. Tyler Gerdin, at Gerdin Psychological Services. Feel free to reach out if you have questions or you’re ready to schedule a session.