Here we have a guest post written by Keisha from The Chronic Diary. Keisha brings an amazing perspective to dealing with chronic pain as she has experienced chronic pain herself. In today’s post, she provides us with some amazing insight on how to keep a positive mindset when dealing with chronic pain.
Trying to have a positive mindset when you live with chronic pain can feel near to impossible. There are good days, bad days and in-between days, which can cause negative feelings such as anger, resentment, and feelings of hopelessness. So how on earth can you be positive when you’re in constant agony?
Chronic pain affects more than just your body; it impacts your mood, career, how you interact with others and your overall mindset. Although things such as therapy and medication are often necessary to help those living with chronic pain, it’s just as important to use your own tools and strategies to change your mindset and the way you approach your pain.
Mindset is important when you live with chronic pain
When you’re in pain, or experiencing discomfort and feel like – no one can help or you’re no longer able to do the things you love, negative thoughts can take over and they may sound like this:
“This will never get better.”
“What if I’m in pain forever?”
“No one wants to date me when I’m such a mess.”
“Why is this happening to me? I must be a bad person.”
But carrying around such negative thoughts isn’t healthy; it can cause you to feel more stressed and ultimately make your pain worse. Having such negative thoughts constantly is exhausting and adds to the long list of energy drainers that already consume our lives because of chronic pain.
Our energy is precious and often scarce, which is why we should do whatever we can to preserve it. Having a positive mindset can make such a difference.
Now, I’m not saying if you think positively about your pain it will go away, that’s unrealistic. However, changing your mindset can prompt a change in your reaction to pain and help you cope a lot better.
When we think positively or feel confident about something, our entire outlook changes, so if you were to add that same mindset towards pain, imagine how much more capable you could feel.
How to have a positive mindset when you have chronic pain
Honesty & acceptance
For a long time, I was in denial about my pain. I felt like I always had to make excuses or even lie about it. Not only to my friends and family, but also to myself.
I didn’t want to accept that pain was now a part of my life. And somehow, I thought making excuses and pretending it wasn’t there would make it disappear – it didn’t! So I had to take a hard look in the mirror, be honest with myself, and accept that the pain was real.
This may not seem like a positive action to take, but believe me, not being honest takes a toll on you. Honesty not only makes others around you aware of your circumstances, but it also frees you from feeling like you have to pretend all the time.
Be honest with yourself and accept that being truthful about your pain doesn’t mean you ‘re weak, it means you’re human.
Express how you feel in a journal
Journaling is a great way to express your thoughts and worries. It allows you to address them in a more structured way and helps take a major load off your mind. It’s also a great tool to help improve your general well-being.
You can also keep a pain journal to track your pain and document any changes or improvements. Such as –
- How your pain impacts your mental health
- Use of medication or aids
- Side effects of medication
Keeping a journal can also be useful for your doctor, as you can have a detailed account of things relating to your illness, which can be instrumental in your treatment or even in getting a diagnosis.
As weird as it may sound, laughter is medicine. Seriously, there are studies to prove it.
Laughter releases endorphins, which can also decrease your pain levels. Whether you watch a funny video clip or think of something funny, do whatever you can to make yourself laugh.
Stay connected & ask for help
The company you keep is important, particularly when you have chronic pain. It’s really important to stay connected with those you love.
When in pain, you probably want to curl up and isolate yourself from others, but this can make your pain experience worse. Stay connected, whether it be via zoom, text or in person.
Keep people around you that truly love, support and understand you and open up to them about how you’re feeling, rather than keeping everything bottled up. Not only will it be a release for you, it will also help them better understand what you’re going through and what they can do to give you the right support.
You don’t have to go through things alone; if you’re having a really hard time or just need someone to vent to, reach out to your loved ones, doctor or therapist.
So many of us living with chronic pain use avoidance to cope with pain because we don’t want to do anything that will make the pain worse. But, as a result, we miss out on doing the things that bring us joy or make us feel capable.
Pacing is a more structured approach to coping with pain. Rather than reacting to pain, you can change your mindset and create a strategy to help conserve your energy whilst still getting things done.
If you break activities into bite-sized pieces and rest in between, it’s less daunting and easier to finish (even if it takes a little longer). For example, rather than doing all of your housework in one go, clean one room at a time, with a 15 minute break after each room. It may take a little longer this way, but it will preserve your energy and help you feel more hopeful about getting things done going forward.
Celebrate your accomplishments
Whether it’s washing the dishes, meeting a friend for dinner or taking a shower, be proud!
It’s easy to feel guilty about the things we can’t do because of chronic pain. Instead, give yourself a pat on the back for achieving things you may not do every day, no matter how small.
Get into nature & move your body
I’m not a huge outdoors person, however, I’ve found that getting outside helps me shift my focus to something other than pain.
I try to get out of the house even if just for a few minutes. It may just be a walk to the shops or a walk up and down my garden, but I’ve found it really helps.
Exercise is also an effective tool to manage chronic pain. It helps to not only keep you active and in shape, but also releases endorphins which can help reduce levels of pain.
You don’t have to do anything too strenuous either. Instead, start with a few minutes of light exercise such as yoga, walking or anything you feel comfortable doing. Be sure to talk to your doctor first to ensure you are engaging in exercise that won’t trigger or worsen your pain.
Getting a good night’s sleep when you have chronic pain can be an absolute nightmare and according to specialists, people with chronic pain are more likely to have a sleep disorder or disturbed sleep.
A lack of sleep can trigger anxiety, depression and can worsen your pain, so try your best to get enough sleep to stay healthy, reduce stress and improve your mood. Sleep can be a tool to help manage the effects of pain, so try your best to get a decent night’s sleep.
Stress can also have a major impact on your pain level. Finding some healthy ways to cope with stress is a great way to help you better manage your pain. You can try yoga, meditation or breath work to help ease your mind and release any tension in your body.
It’s very common for chronic pain patients to be prescribed opioids, antidepressants or other strong medications to help manage their pain. Although they can be helpful, they can also have unwanted side effects such as low mood, weight gain and anxiety which can also make your pain worse.
Being on medication that doesn’t help can also have a negative impact on your mindset, as it can cause many to feel like nothing will ever help. If you’ve felt this way, it’s worth speaking with your doctor so they can review your medication.
Make a note of:
- The medication and dosage
- How long you’ve been taking your medication
- What side effects it’s causing (physical and mental)
It may turn out that you need to change your dosage or your doctor might suggest an alternative. With chronic pain, a lot of things, especially medication, are trial and error. It may take a while testing different things but it’s worth it in the long run to find what actually helps.
Make sure to never change or just stop your medication on your own, as this can cause side effects and other issues. Always consult with your doctor regarding changes to medication.
Be kind to yourself!
When you live with chronic pain, it can be hard to look on the bright side when everything feels like a constant battle. But it’s important to be kind to yourself and focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. It can be hard to be your usual happy self when you’re in constant pain and that’s okay.
Your pain is not self-inflicted, nor is it your fault!
The next time those negative thoughts try to creep in, practice self-compassion instead. Use these tips to help you get through the hardest days and maintain a positive outlook.
Tell yourself every day – you’re strong, you’re worthy and you’re doing your best!
Disclaimer: The information provided in my posts is strictly from my own experiences and not intended to replace medical or professional advice. Do not disregard any medical advice you have received after reading this post.
About the author:
Keisha is the author of The Chronic Diary, a chronic pain blog helping people understand chronic pain, ways to cope with pain and still lead a happy life.
She is passionate about bringing more awareness to chronic pain and provides helpful tips to help others who have chronic pain. She writes openly and honestly about what life can look like when you have a chronic illness such as chasing diagnosis, pain management and how pain affects your mental health.
Keisha has chronic pelvic pain and suspected endometriosis and nerve damage. Her posts are inspired by her pain diary and her own experiences with chronic pain.