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A Survival Guide for the Difficult Days, From a Chronic Pain Warrior

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I was diagnosed with central sensitization this year, after two years of searching for a diagnosis, and I have my fair share of bad/difficult days due to my chronic pain and many sensitivities. So, I feel I am experienced enough in tough situations to provide you with some tips that I use on my difficult days.

1. Bad day box. For my “bad day box’ I put some Pinch Me Therapy Dough, which is like a therapeutic Play Doh scented which essential oils. Some stickers, a fidget, candy, cards and handwritten letters from friends and family, basically anything that will make me smile!

2. Exercise. Daily exercise is good for everybody, but especially important for people with chronic conditions. Exercise helps manage pain and symptoms, also it releases endorphins that will make you feel better overall.

3. Snack and hydrate. For those out there who have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), salty snacks and extra hydration will help you feel far better. For everyone else, snacks and hydration are good for keeping your metabolism in check and will keep your energy and momentum going all day.

4. Good sleep pattern. Try to implement a strict sleep schedule in your life. As someone with a chronic condition, I can tell you how much better you’re likely to feel when you’re getting the proper amount of sleep. For me, eight to nine hours of sleep is ideal.

5. Listen to music. I usually choose something soothing, such as nature sounds or light instrumental music. Pandora has a few good relaxing playlist options.

6. Deep Breathe. Diaphragmatic breathing is key to getting through a difficult day. It increases your lung capacity, decreases stress, helps you relax, and it makes you feel good.

7. Take a bath. Add some epsom salt to help with muscle tension, or add some essential oils for an added relaxing scent.

8. Journal. I journal regularly in my daily life. I love to write and reflect on my days and experiences, so this one is a no-brainer for me. I even have a journal specifically for difficult days. It’s actually a sketchbook, but I either choose to draw or write in it, or both, on my difficult days.

9. Call a friend or a family member. Socializing on difficult days is very good for your mental health. I think the worst thing you can do on a difficult day is isolate yourself. In my experience, when I isolate myself on difficult days, I find my depression slinking in and before I know it it’s suffocating me, and it’s time for me to ask for help.

9. Look up inspirational quotes. Pinterest is full of positive and inspirational quotes. I have even printed some of my favorite inspirational quotes and hung them in my room, put them in my planner, written them down in my notebooks, just to have extra positivity wherever I may need it.

10. Perspective. Remember the big picture. Many times I get get myself and others through difficult moments by reminding myself or them of the bigger picture. Asking what we want to do with our lives, determining if the issues that are challenging us at the time are really worth the stress.

11. Moderate and modify. Take it easy on yourself. You’re only human just like the rest of us, and you can only do the best that you can. If that means lessening your workload that day to something more manageable, then do that. If it means taking more frequent breaks and modifying the work you do so that it is less challenging, then do that too. Don’t push yourself too hard, just take care of yourself and everything else will fall into place.

Remember that everyone has bad days. Each second that you make it through a difficult day is a day that you’re not letting your condition take over you. You are the face of strength, courage, and power!

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Originally published: April 24, 2017
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