7 Activities I Can Still Do When My Pain Level Is High

My chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS) has a habit of flaring up on days I’ve made plans to do fun things that rejuvenate my soul. Snuggled up under my duvet, I visualize the landscape before me trotting along on my horse. I rearrange flower beds, trim branches and try out that great idea from a book. Coffee in hand, I catch up with a friend at the local bakery. It’s all before me and I’m ready to go…until I step out of bed.

The nausea rises, the room rotates slowly to the left, a throbbing fills the joints of my hand and a bone-deep fatigue makes the walk to the couch a challenge. A whole day’s plan goes out the window, it’s just not possible. One of the biggest lessons CPRS has taught me is to take each day on its merits and work out, based on how I’m feeling, what can I do today. I still feel the disappointment, particularly about seeing my horse, but working out what I can do has helped make those long days bearable and mostly still fun.

So, here are the seven things I can do when I’m in too much pain to leave the house – but not so much that I’m bedridden:

1. Take a garden gander. Still in my PJs, I pull on my gum boots (they are bright pink and clash beautifully with my outfit – quite the sight for the neighbors) and follow my two exuberant German shepherds out the front door. My mom has made me my favorite brew and we breathe in the fresh air and the beauty around us. The garden is full of small changes, tiny incremental shifts which I find so encouraging. Spotting that centimeter of new growth, the bright shine to a new leaf or a bud about to bloom but not quite yet, makes it a gentle adventure. Dancing about chasing bugs and following birds, Bessie and Teddy always make me chuckle. Some days, at the end of the front garden tour, I’m too tired to continue so, cuddled up on my verandah chair, I just sit and listen to the sounds of croaking frogs and birds in song.

2. Bake a sweet treat. I read research that said just the smell of freshly baked goods eases pain and I’m all for that, though consuming it is a favorite part too. I have several simple recipes that don’t take long or take much work and that, combined with a Kenwood mixer and my mom, make it possible. Today was a chocolate cake: all the ingredients in a bowl, mix, bake, scoff!

3. Read a great novel. Well-crafted books pull me into a new world, surrounding me with new friends and take me on adventures – all from the comfort of my couch (hot water bottle and blankie required). One of the reasons my blog focuses on books is because of the immense joy they bring me when I’m in pain. I’ve come to appreciate so many different genres as I’ve read more and now enjoy a good Christian romance as much as a historic who-dun-it. Some days the migraines or the tired eyes take exception to reading so then I rely on audible books and now even prefer them for some of my stories. Barbara Rosenblat reading Amelia Peabody’s adventures is a treat, and you can’t go wrong with Juliet Stevenson and a classic like Austen.

4. Connect with friends. Being confined to home can feel isolating but the world we live in allows us to reach out. On tough days, a conversation via WhatsApp with a friend, a chat on a Facebook post or sharing an article from Twitter allows me to be a part of their day and it breaks up mine.

5. Exercise. I’m not talking about the sweat-breaking, heart racing type, but rather the slow movements that release muscles, relieve aches and fight inflammation. I asked my biokineticist for a routine of migraine and neck pain relief exercises, which takes five minutes to complete, but regularly prevents me from needing to take more pain medication.

6. Rewatch a great series. Whether it’s “Downton Abbey,” “Miss Fisher’s Mysteries” or “Emma,” certain TV shows just feel like home and make me sigh with comfort. Familiar scenes and favorite lines relax and engage my mind for a few hours. I like movies but they always leave me trying to think what to watch next, whereas a series promises hours and hours of endless diversion.

7. Prayer and meditation. When the lows of the day hit, when the pain peaks or distraction fails, quiet time with God soothes my soul best. I have a 20 minute guided meditation on my phone and Summer Gross’ videos on YouTube are great too. Headphones in, I focus on the words. Sometimes, the silence and darkness is just right too.

When these days happen, for those of you who struggle with chronic pain, I hope this inspires you! For those of you who don’t, but read this, I hope this explains a little about our rough days and where you can help.

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