An A-to-Z of Coping Mechanisms and Positivity for a Life With Chronic Pain
I once wrote a post on The Mighty entitled “An A-to-Z of Living With Chronic Pain.” I thought I would compile another A-to-Z, but this time trying to focus on coping skills and positive thinking, despite living with chronic pain. So here it is…
Abilities: We need to focus on our abilities rather than our disabilities – think about what we can do, rather than what we can’t. It becomes easier with practice.
Breathe: We all do it. But we can practice breathing techniques which can actually help ease the pain. They can help us to relax and they can help us cope. They’re an essential tool to keep in our box of tricks.
Change: We have to accept that some things need to change. But there’s an alternative for almost everything. Instead of lunching out with friends, perhaps they could visit for a coffee? It’s more personal…and comfortable. We might not be able to trail round shopping malls, but we could trawl internet stores instead. Enjoy the shopping, without the crowds or sore feet!
Ditch the Guilt: We live with enough problems, so we should not add guilt to the list. It’s time to ditch it. Forever.
Empathy: We all hope for empathy from those around us. Sometimes we get it, sometimes we don’t. But we can lead by example. Our own health issues can help us become empathetic towards others.
Failures: We are not failures. We are ill. We are in pain…we are limited in what we can do. If we cannot do something, it does not mean we are failures. We must never think that way.
Games: Any type of game which keeps our brains busy can stop us thinking about our pain. All pain specialists would put playing games in their list of pain distraction techniques. Possibly top of the list. So we’re not really idling our days away playing online games, doing crosswords or jigsaw puzzles. We are actually doing it for the good of our health.
Happiness: Can you make yourself happy by thinking happy thoughts? Some people say we can. It’s worth trying.
Inspirational: Some famous quotes can sound a bit twee or just not suited to a person with health problems, while others can be inspirational and make perfect sense to us. But we can also make our own special quotes.
Jars: Here’s a nice little exercise. Write small notes, fold them up and put them inside a jar. Notes could be happy thoughts, memories or quotes. On a down day, we can take the notes out and read them to give us a lift.
Kindness: We hear about so many bad things happening every day, but there’s a lot of kindness too. We just don’t hear about it so often. But we can look for it. We can be it. We can pass on a kind word to an elderly neighbor. We can encourage someone. We can smile at a stranger. All simple things, but they are kind things.
Love: It makes the world go round. And we need to keep it going round! Loving other people is important, but most of all, we must learn to love ourselves. When we live with illness, disability and pain, it is very easy to dislike, or even loathe, ourselves. We have to overcome that. We live with something we can’t control. We have to learn how to accept it as part of our lives, and learn to love ourselves again.
Masks: We get days when we need them. Sometimes it’s because we want to escape from our pain. Sometimes we want to avoid talking about our lives, because if we opened up, we’d break down. So we wear masks. But we can wear them with style…and with a smile.
New: Another good distraction is to try something new. We can be adventurous. Become a writer. An artist. A potter. Learn something new – even if it’s just how to say hello in another language.
Old Life: It’s difficult leaving an old life behind, but through time, we can learn to enjoy the memories and we can learn to embrace to the new version.
Pleasures (the Small Ones): The little things matter. The family photos, the last square of chocolate, looking at daisies in the grass.
Quality Over Quantity: People and time. Do we want one loyal friend who’ll be there for us, or a huge number of friends who don’t have a clue what’s going on in our lives? And do we want to spend an enjoyable hour at a party or four hours of being in agony, then struggling more for the next four days?
Rainbows: We have to look for a rainbow in a storm. And if we can’t find one, we need to create one. Even if it means singing one!
Smile: It’s clinically proven that smiling is good for a person’s health. So we need to do it and do it often. Smile at our own reflection. Smile at people we meet. They’ll smile back. They might even smile at someone else. Smiling is contagious that way.
Tomorrows: There are always tomorrows. Our health isn’t good. We can procrastinate. We can allow ourselves the honour of putting off until tomorrow, the things we can’t do today.
Unique: Each one of us, with our own set of problems, is unique. And that means we’re special. We are, aren’t we?
Value: We have to ask ourselves what and who we value most (including ourselves), then use energy on those things or people. Our energy is limited. It’s precious. So we shouldn’t waste it.
Worthy: We are still worthy! Despite our illness, disability or pain, we are worthy. You are worthy!
E(x)tra Special: We often have a bad habit of putting ourselves down, and we must never, ever do that. It needs to stop. Some days we should look in the mirror and remind ourselves that we are special.
Yes Moments: It’s always good to high five ourselves when we achieve something. Whether it’s managing to pull on our own socks, or completing a crossword, we ought to be proud of ourselves and give ourselves a pat on the back.
Zip-a-Dee–Doo-Dah: Everyone knows that old song, and every one of us should live by it. People often think that when you live with a chronic health problem, especially chronic pain, that there are no more wonderful days. But that’s wrong. Sometimes we might need to look a little harder, but we can still have wonderful days. Perhaps we need to make this song our chronic illness feel good anthem.
Getty Image by as3d