Chronic pain not only affects your physical health but also impacts your mental health, emotional thought process as well as your social life. To effectively deal with pain you need a mind body approach.
Therefore it becomes very important to manage the psychological part that your chronic illness brings. Here are some techniques that can help you in your chronic illness journey.
1. An empathic doctor- if you are dealing with an illness that can be life-long ,you definitely needs a doctor who understands the social, emotional and physical impact of your pain. It’s very important that you have an empathetic doctor who listens carefully and genuinely works toward the betterment of your life.
2. Cognitive behaviour therapy- CBT is a great tool to help the chronic patients. Your physical pain is affected by your thought processes and the perception of pain. People suffering from chronic pain lives with the fear of unknown- what may happen to them, how they will cope up and often catastrophise the pain- thoughts like I will never get better, I am burden etc. In such situations it becomes necessary to check the thoughts and catch the distortions. CBT is a great tool to reflect upon your thought processes.
3. Progressive muscle relaxation- it involves tensing and relaxing your major muscle groups. It’s very useful for people with myofascial pain. Generally when we perceive and live with the anxiety of pain, we may tense up our muscles unknowingly. It helps to release them.
4. Mindfulness- it’s the art of living in present and involving all your sensations. When you are in pain for few minutes practice mindfulness, involve all your sensations in whatever you are doing and observe the thoughts non- judgementally. Just observe the thoughts and let them go.
5. Distraction- it may not decrease your pain but may lead to you a place where the pain isn’t your prominent thought.
Find any activity that gives you pleasure and satisfaction. It can be watching videos, colouring, writing, walking, cuddling with your pets etc. This really helps to relax on bad days when you feel nothing is working and the mind as well as body becomes exhausted fighting the pain.
6 . Guided imagery- create a safe space in your head. It can be anything that gives you comfort and calms you down. It can be an imaginary place like beach or garden or something real like your room. Now when you are feeling low try to imagine you are at the place. You need to add as many visuals as you can. Whenever you are overwhelmed try to reach that place.
You can also imagine a container and any thought that is overwhelming you , place it in the container for time being and move with your normal routine. Return to the thought and solve the problem when you have calmed down. This imaginary container is your go to source whenever things have gone out of your hand and needs to be catered upon later when you are more stable emotionally to deal with them.
7. Journal – it can help you to keep a look over the progress you are making. Also you can add gratitude lists, pretty stickers, motivational quotes, positive affirmations, doodles etc. On high pain days going through your journal can be a positive help.
And always remember it is okay to feel bad, angry and emotional about the pain. But everything you feel isn’t fact. However your feelings are valid and you need not to supress them. Accept them and move with your thought processes.