Two days ago, I threw out my back in the shower of all places. I think it was related to a jolt I took a few days earlier while jumping on a trampoline. If you tweak something and then just turn the wrong way, you can really put yourself out of commission. The last two days I have been taking it easy, resting a lot, using lots of IcyHot and a hot water bottle as well as taking Advil.
As I was planing this week’s article I thought why not talk about what’s going on in my life right now. Now I do not have chronic pain as this back issue is not chronic, but it is bringing some server pain and so I thought I’d share how I dealt with it today more mindfully and try to dig in a bit to try to help those with temporary pain and also with chronic pain. So let’s jump in…
Living with chronic pain (or even non-chronic pain) can affect your emotions as well as your body. Prolonged discomfort can make you feel sad and irritable, and those feelings can make the pain worse. Breaking the cycle is challenging, but it will enhance your quality of life and honestly that is what I am trying to offer here at Hellagood Life.
Your daily choices can help you manage your symptoms and feel more joyful.
Try these tips for keeping your spirits up.
Choosing the Way You Think:
1. Adjust your expectations
Are you trying to do too much? Accepting your condition is the first step in adapting to your current abilities, so you can avoid becoming overwhelmed and fatigued.
I often say suffering is caused by our unrealistic expectations. If we change our expectations, we can change our suffering and even pain in some situations. When my back went out, I was washing my leg and was then starting to stand up when I was struck by shooting pain.
I was scared I wasn’t going to be able to stand up or even get out of the shower. I wash off the soap as best I could and shut off the shower. I grabbed my towel and tried to dry off as best I could. I watch my kids as well as work from home and so I was worried how I’d get my daily activities done when I could barely move.
The first thing I did was accepted this was bad and that I really needed to NOT push myself. Then I started setting new expectations for the day. I wasn’t going to be overactive-fun dad. I wasn’t going to be able to take my kids to the trampoline park or even drive. I am lucky that my work is pretty flexible and I am able to do some work fairly easily and so I pushed out a few posts on social media and checked in on clients. Then I called it a day and rested my back.
Have the last two days gone as I would have liked? No! Is my back getting better? Yes!
Now I know this may be different with chronic pain situations, but is it possible you have good days and bad days and could readjusting your expectations change your outcome or even your pain? Potentially.
2. Let go of judgments
It’s natural to grieve when you’re diagnosed with a chronic condition. However, the sooner you stop blaming yourself or resenting others, the faster you can move on.
The funny thing about Judgments is I am teaching about Judgments this week. Did this event happen as a way to practice letting go of judgments? Doubtful, but can I use it as I teach about this stuff? You bet!
I meditate daily and being that I am teaching an 8-week mindfulness class right now, I typically like to do the daily exercises that I am instructing the group of students to use/do, but this morning I said… you know what instead of doing the standard daily meditation exercise what if you find one on dealing with pain. This was helpful.
I let go of judging myself for not being aligned with students, but I also let go of judgments of the practice. I still got my daily meditation in, but in all honesty my mind was everywhere and my body as fidgety. That’s okay. Not every session needs to be perfect. So I didn’t judge this less-than perfect session. In all honesty I was happy to be alive this morning even thought the pain was strong this morning.
3. Resist comparisons
Maximize your own potential, instead of trying to measure up to others. Focus on your strengths and give yourself credit for making an effort. Comparing only causes more pain.
If possible, we should only compare ourselves to who we were yesterday. Hopefully this only helps us work towards bettering ourselves and or situations or how we cope or deal with our pain instead of beating ourselves up thinking someone else is doing better or making better progress or coping better. None of that is our business. When in pain we need to just focus on ourselves and how we are doing.
4. Cultivate gratitude
Being thankful is even more important when you’re going through a difficult time. Appreciate small pleasures and reflect on how overcoming hardships may help you to grow.
Wednesday when this pain first hit, I was out of commission pretty much all day. Thursday, I found an upright chair with strong arms that would give me good support, but also allow me to get out of it. I’m thank for for that.
Then, as a way to get my son off his tablet, I told my boys we were going to have a movie hour and so we watched a movie together. My 2-year old mostly played, but the chair in the living room allowed me to spend some time with my older son watching the movie while watching my youngest play. I was thankful for that quality time with my oldest son and giving my youngest safe play time with dad and brother.
From there I took my youngest to bed for nap time. I changed his diaper which is no easy task when your back is out of whack and turning and lifting are very limited. Anyhow, I read him 3-4 kids books and he settled down and fell asleep. These are precious times and I was really thankful that although my last two days were pretty painful these two moments were really wonderful.
I will also say that gratitude is a skillset that can be learned. I am much better at finding gratitude today that I would have been 5-10 years ago. I practice at least once a week but often multiple times a week. This is sort of a game changer in tough times.
5. Build your confidence
You are still capable of accomplishing great things and leading a meaningful life. Set new goals that will motivate you to strive for success. As with any skillset, you can build your confidence.
In my training I share a story about a guy who was born with no legs and no arms. This guy is a motivational speaker. It is just one example of how we can do amazing work and even make a huge impact in the world even when we were dealt a bad hand of cards. You are amazing and have a lot to offer the world. Trust in that because it is true!
Choosing the Way You Act:
6. Continue learning
How much do you know about your condition? Researching the subject and keeping up with the latest research could help you to feel calmer and more in control.
I’m a huge proponent for lifetime learning. You never know what cutting edge technology is right around the corner. Get connected to groups and organizations and schools and thought leaders in your space. In all honesty, beyond cutting edge stuff I might recommend old practices and ideas as well. I teach mindfulness and study Buddhism. Buddhist philosophy is some 2500 years old, but very applicable today. You could look at this stuff as mind training because your mindset can ease a lot of pain. You can practice these ideas without being Buddhist or even religious at all. Anything that build the mind is good in my book.
7. Eat healthy
8. Work out regularly
Ask your doctor about what exercises are safe for you. Even a gentle daily walk may boost your mood and help reduce stress.
I started adding yoga and exercise programs to the offerings here, but I will say that I have struggled to implement these programs full time and I do think that is one of my own problems. Raising a 2 almost 3-year old through the pandemic has kept me busy and so there are lots of excuses I could make for why, but that doesn’t help anyone.
Come August I hope to get back into a routine and also in a group exercising together. I do about 1 brief yoga type exercise a week and that just isn’t enough in my opinion. How can you add a fun and exciting program to your weekly life?
Could it be biking or walking in the neighborhood? Maybe doing jumping jacks or jump roping 3 days a week. Stay tuned in the fall as I talk more about what I am putting in place for myself and other suggestions and ideas I’ll share as I find my own regular and more consistent routine.
9. Sleep well
Chronic pain often disrupts sleep. Increase your chances of staying well rested by sticking to a consistent bedtime and keeping your bedroom dark and quiet. If you take medication that makes you drowsy, maybe you can schedule a dose for late in the evening.
I know for sure that I NEED complete darkness for a good night’s sleep. Over the summer we did a family camp event and the cabin was just not dark. I struggled all night. All weekend actually.
When it comes to pain though, I know that I do better when I do the regular “healthy” practice suggestions like getting good sleep and I might add enough rest depending on the type of pain. For me with my back pain, the previous two days were mostly filled with lots of rest as to not stir up any more inflammation or irritation. Today, day three, things are feeling much better. I am at least getting around and sitting better and getting up from my chair much easier. I have had pretty good sleep the last few nights and have been very intentional. Again, just take care of yourself as best you can. I know some of this might seem basic, but it all works together.
10. Seek support
Isolation is another risk to watch out for. Stay connected by hanging out with family and friends. Let them know how they can help you. Join a support group in your local community or online.
I think this is really important. In my youth, I would just try to power through. As I age I let go of my pride a bit more and just ask for help. In my current situation I’ve asked my son to help me multiple times instead of trying to power through or push myself as I once did.
If I had a chronic issue though I would seek out a local group and some Facebook groups about the pain I was dealing with. There are some amazing groups online that offer a ton of support. If we feel alone and in pain it is easy to go down a bad emotional path that just makes things worse. It’s okay to ask for help and I highly recommend finding a support group.
11. Share your feelings
Disturbing thoughts and uncomfortable emotions are easier to bear when you talk about them with someone you trust. Your loved ones may not have the same symptoms as you, but they probably have their own misfortunes that will help them to relate. If they don’t then you may need to look outside your family.
I know this will not be comfortable for everyone. Society doesn’t do a good job teaching us how to do this. This is where a support group might help. If you struggle sharing your feelings maybe you join a support group and just show up and watch/listen for a while. If it is a good group there will me lots of people leading by example. This will allow you to see how people share their feelings and hopefully how the group responds positively and in a supportive way. This can help make things feel more comfortable for those that struggle in this area.
12. Keep a journal
13. Practice visualization
Soothe yourself with guided imagery. Shift your attention away from your pain and onto something pleasant, like grassy fields or cool breezes. Invent your own scripts or find free videos on YouTube or at your neighborhood library.
I have a few visualization meditations I use and have created, not specifically for pain or chronic pain per se, but they do take you to another place. Give it a try, it’s really amazing what the mind can do. Here is a sample visualization meditation I offer in some of my daily meditation courses. Take a few minutes to try it and see if it relieves pain, even momentarily.
14. Help others
Being generous is one of the most effective options for taking your mind off your troubles. It helps build your self-esteem too. Do volunteer work in your community. Listen to a friend who wants to talk about their recent divorce or their new baby. Just offer yourself to others and you’ll be surprised how well this removes your focus on your pain or your suffering. I recommend this often for many way to live our best life.
15. Work with a counselor
Make your life more fulfilling by staying cheerful and engaged. I know this may not be easy all the time, but that’s what I’m trying to build here at Hellagood Life – ideas and resources to do just that.
Positive thinking, social support, and some of these other ideas can often help you triumph over chronic pain. I wish you well on your journey and hope one or two of these ideas really helps ease your pain.
Want to try adding mindfulness to your self-care routine to over come those tough times? Click below to get details about our mindfulness course.