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3 Ways to Manage Chronic Pain During Times of Celebration

As temperatures drop, you probably find yourself thinking about the upcoming holidays such as Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas. For most, this time of year is full of decadent sweets, colorful decorations and comforting traditions.

But for those dealing with chronic pain or illness, however, it can feel like a slap in the face at the most inopportune time. The last thing you want to do is dampen the mood or disrupt the joyous feelings of your friends and family, but when it feels like you are unraveling at the seams, it can be hard to remain cheerful and optimistic.

Focusing on the pain, however, will only make the pain worse. Instead, try engaging in the three activities listed below. Doing so may temporarily distract you from the pain, allowing you to participate in the joyfulness surrounding you instead.

1. Focus on the present (No, not the presents, although that might help also.)

Rely on your five senses to help guide you through this step. When you feel yourself starting to go to a dark place or your pain starts to consume your every thought, refocus your attention on anything you can smell, touch, taste, hear or see.

• Which person has the lowest voice in the room? The highest pitch? Who has the most distinct laugh?

• Close your eyes and try to identify every single smell in the room. Which is your favorite?

• Choose a color and name all the things you see in the room with that color.

• Who has the firmest hand shake? Who has the tightest hug? 

2. Lend a helping hand.

Whether you sort canned goods at your local shelter, peel potatoes in the kitchen with your great aunt or wrap presents for your nieces and nephews with your sister, helping others feels good.

According to The Huffington Post, helping others not only increases self-esteem and decreases symptoms of depression, but it may also release “happy hormones,” such as serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins and dopamine.

• Offer to help a child assemble his or her new toy.

• Rally a crew to help cleanup after the meal is over.

• Assist the cook in prepping the meal or divvying out leftovers.

3. Put on a feel-good playlist.

If you don’t have the option to take charge of the music in the room (or if you think it might be rude to impose your taste on the rest of the party), take some time out for yourself. Either go for a walk around the block (with your iPod and earbuds in tow) or slink away to an empty room in the house and put on a feel-good playlist.

According to ScienceNordic, patients with fibromyalgia reported less pain intensity after they listened to music that they knew and liked. If you aren’t sure which music to choose, feel free to take my 20-minute “Cheers” playlist out for a spin.

To put it bluntly, chronic pain sucks. Although it may feel like you are alone in your fight, you may be surprised to hear 100 million Americans have some kind of chronic pain, according to an Institute of Medicine report.

Luckily, there are natural ways to manage chronic pain, so you can still participate in the happiness swirling around this upcoming festive holiday season.

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Image via Thinkstock