When you suffer with chronic pain, there are good days and there are bad days. On the good days, you can do what you need to do – go to work, pick up the kids, clean the house. But on the bad days it can be difficult to even get out of bed. Not only is the pain itself overwhelming, but the mental toll it takes can leave you wondering “How do I go on?” On these inevitable days when life seems bleak, there are some relatively simple things you can do to help pick yourself up and keep fighting. Here are five such methods.
- Surround yourself with supportive people.If you are the type of person who finds comfort in being around others, seek them out. Although it may be tempting to hide yourself away from friends and family, try to resist that urge. But make sure you are surrounding yourself with the right kind of people. According to behavioral health specialist Mary Papandria, “If the people in your life are demanding and not very supportive, then it could actually make things worse.” Seek out people who are patient and understanding – whether that’s friends or members of a support group.
- Breathe.Deep breathing may sound simplistic, but it’s an effective way to deal with intense pain. Dr. Papandria suggests breathing in for a count of four, then breathing out for a count of four. So why is this an effective coping mechanism? “Deep breathing helps the person go from a stress response to a relaxation response,” she says. It’s also a method of distraction; if a person is entirely focused on counting and breathing, they can’t be focused on their pain.
- Make a list of the good things in your life.One of the keys to pulling yourself out of depressive moods is overcoming your negative thought patterns. When you catch yourself thinking “It hurts so much. Nothing is working. I can’t handle this anymore,” stop and take a step back. Get a pen and piece of paper and just start writing a list of all the positive things you have in your life, whether that’s your loving family, your job, a pet or anything else. Use this to remind yourself that even though your pain may be bad right now, it won’t always be like that.
- Refocus your attention.Sometimes you just need to distract yourself from the pain. Although it might seem difficult to refocus your attention away from the pain, says Dr. Papandria, you should still try. Engage in a hobby, read, stretch or just listen to music. You can try anything that helps you refocus your attention away from the pain and onto something more enjoyable.
- Seek help from a behavioral health specialist.
Engaging a behavioral health specialist as a component of a multidisciplinary treatment plan can help you start to address and work through your negative thought patterns. Behavioral health treatment will include such techniques as cognitive reframing, by which a specialist can help you identify and challenge the irrational thoughts you may have in relation to your situation. “These techniques help the patient be less negative in their thought patterns, but also realistic,” says Dr. Papandria.
Of course an effective treatment plan can also go a long way toward preventing or reducing the number of bad days like this.