When you are affected by chronic pain every day, it’s hard to even get out of bed let alone carry on a typical day filled with family, work, and household responsibilities.
While there is no miracle drug or solution that can take away your pain completely, there are some strategies that you can explore that may help you cope with chronic pain in your daily life.
Explore your strengths, abilities, and things you are grateful for
This can be very challenging to do, especially when your mind is absorbed with the pain you are feeling in your body. It can be useful though to keep in mind what you are able to do, what is going well, and what is in your life that makes you happy.
Shifting the focus to a positive outlook can possibly help you ever so slightly to redirect your attention to other things, even if they are fleeting moments throughout the day.
Pace yourself, prioritize your to-do list, and break tasks into smaller pieces
Keep in mind that you may have more energy at specific times of day, you may need to take frequent breaks, and you may have to prioritize some tasks over others because you only have so much energy and time in the day before your body and your pain levels force you to stop.
Carefully mapping out your day, and knowing that you understand yourself and your needs better than anyone else, can help you maximize your daily function.
Try out relaxation techniques
Try deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness, yoga, or using your senses to relax you (sight – getting out in nature, making art, imagining scenes and memories that make you happy); smell – scented candles, essential oils, listening to music); touch/sensation – feeling a soft blanket or pillow, having a warm bath, using ice or heat pad, stretching); etc.
There are many other options out there. Test out ideas to find out what works well for you.
Get a massage
If you enjoy massages and feel comfortable with accessing these services, book a massage regularly as per your schedule and finances. Having a massage can help ease tight, painful muscles and give you some intermittent relief.
Exercise regularly based on what is physically possible for you
In a similar way, regular physical exercise – in whatever way you can and in whatever method you enjoy- can help you feel good and ease your stress at the same time.
If possible, consider booking an assessment or services with a personal trainer who is experienced with your type of needs. They can give you some strategies or develop an exercise program that works for you. You can pursue sessions with a trainer or take what you’ve learned and use it when you exercise on your own time.
Optimize your pain medication with support from your family doctor (if you are using pain medication)
It can be hard to find a way to balance using medication so that you can cope with the pain while also not feeling too sedated, or foggy. Let your doctor know if you are having any unusual symptoms and they will do their best to figure out the best dosage for you. Keeping the line of communication open with your doctor can help you find a good balance. Not everyone uses pain medication, but this may be helpful to consider if you are.
Reduce substance use (if you are using substances)
Sometimes, people use substances, such as alcohol, smoking, marijuana, or other drugs as an escape or a way to avoid the pain. However, using substances can significantly impact your daily function, sleep, and ability to navigate all of the important areas of your life. Substances mask the pain but don’t eliminate it.
Taking a harm reduction approach, speaking with your doctor, exploring addiction services (such as the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), and replacing substance use with more adaptive coping strategies can help you as you strive toward optimizing your health.
Access support groups
Connect with others who are going through similar experiences for a sense of belonging, building meaningful relationships, sharing personal experiences, and learning from peers who may have gone through or are currently going through similar hurdles as you.
If you can, try to focus on things other than your pain. In doing so, it will help you feel that there is more to life than your pain, keeps your mind and body occupied, and enables you to not be so consumed, absorbed, and overwhelmed by your pain.
This is easier said than done but is definitely worth trying even for a few minutes or an hour at a time.
Start to slowly adjust to your diagnosis while you work toward your goals
You may have heard this saying before: it’s a marathon- not a sprint.
Taking time to clearly understand your diagnosis that is causing your chronic pain and beginning to adjust to it doesn’t mean you are giving up or have no hope. It means you are discovering a way to deal with the challenges you are facing right now while also holding hope for the future as you continue trying different coping strategies, working with your health care team, and living your life in the best way you can based on your current circumstances.