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Ideas for Self-Care When Chronic Pain Has You in a 'Funk'

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I am in a funk — which can happen from too much pain, fatigue, or just from a mood drop. I just get in a spot where I am tired of being tired. Tired of the pain. Tired of thinking about the pain. And it isn’t a good cycle to get into. I used to think I should just ignore it, push through it, don’t think about it… push, push, push. But then I just burn through my reserve of energy, burn right out, and get sicker.

No — when things are getting bad, we actually need to take care of ourselves. We matter. Self-care matters. We need some self-care stat in a funk. I am an introvert and it reminds me a lot of when I used to go out to someplace really busy and hectic and it would make me feel drained. All the excitement and the people. And I would need some serious downtime. Some alone time. Just me time.

Chronic illness is a lot like being a super introvert. We have some serious reserves of energy and we need some serious downtime. We also really need to take care of ourselves because it helps manage our mood. And our mood can take a real hit from the pain and stress. So I narrow my focus when I am in a funk to focus on things that will make me feel better in any way, shape, or form.

Meditation: If I have skipped on my meditation I will make sure I make the time for it. Self-care is about making the time for ourselves. And meditation really clears my head of all that thinking about thinking. It de-stresses me a great deal. I know there are so many benefits for it, but it just centers me and soothes me… and that is good enough. I choose mindful meditation that is guided — guided because then I don’t get easily distracted. I also choose the ones based on breathing because I can really tune into my breathing, so much that I tune out all else. It is the only meditation that has worked for me. I tried others and they are just not a right fit; sometimes we just have to find what relaxes us and what does not.

Taking Bath: Usually I have an epsom salt bath, but I am out of salts so a nice, soothing, hot bath will have to do. Ease all those fibromyalgia aches that have been so prevalent of late. There are so many ways to make this more relaxing, of course. My preference is just to chill with some music. You can also use magnesium oil in a bath.

Reading: One thing that never fails to relax me and de-stress me is just getting lost in a really good book for a few hours.

Hobbies: Hobbies like coloring, video games, knitting, and so many more… in my case writing fiction. (I suppose reading would be in here too, but since I consider that to practically be a food group, I put it separately.) I will spend some quality time with my me-ness and my hobby as this just makes me feel good. Mood booster for sure.

General Self-Care: I do certain things when I am in a funk, like make sure I don’t spend all day in my pajamas, because it makes me feel mentally better to get dressed for the day. It is a thing I learned for depression and motivation: preparing for the day. So I do it when I am in a bit of a funk to ensure I don’t encourage any habits that could contribute to depression, like sleeping all day. Part of my self-care is always mood maintenance. So I have things on my list like getting up on time, getting dressed, eating, and writing in my gratitude journal.

Journaling: When I am feeling particularly unwell and feel like the pain is getting to me and affecting my mood, I make an extra effort to work on my mood journaling. My depression had me thinking some seriously negative thoughts. Well, these need to be worked out on paper so I can logically work through them. It basically goes something like this: put down the situation in which the thought occurred. The thought itself. Feelings that came with it. The type of cognitive distortion it is. (Magnification, disqualifying the positive, jumping to conclusions, and so forth.) The more realistic thought. And what the new feelings are now that you think about that new thought.

Self-care for me means taking that time for myself to recharge and do things I know will de-stress me. And doing things that are part of my health routine like meditation that I also know will help me relax. In the pain clinic class I took we actually were told to write down things we should do on bad pain days. Our self-care routine. Something to go to and enact on specific days to help us get through. Say for an extremely bad migraine attack: take medication, meditate, use ice therapy, rest, put on a migraine balm. Do a gentle distraction activity. Maybe Netflix. Possibly some coloring if I am up to it. Possibly reading if I am capable of it. And I would write this down a keep it handy so in that situation, I would do those things to manage the stress caused by the pain. So it is a good idea to think of what works or does not work for your self-care.

It also means decreasing outside stress factors during this time. Saying no to other things in order to get that downtime I need. When we are flaring, really fatigued, or in a negative mood, this is not the time to be active and push ourselves. We need to hunker down, rest, and take some care.

It also means not feeling guilty that instead of doing the laundry you are meditating. No guilt allowed! None! So you didn’t go to that family event or to your friend’s BBQ this time — but there is next time. So you didn’t mow the lawn today — there is tomorrow. Just let that feeling that you must be productive every moment slide, that for some odd reason you ought to feel guilty for not doing something other than taking care of yourself.

Getty image by Anastasia Molotkova

Originally published: February 17, 2017
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