Living With Chronic Pain—The Practical Side
Chronic pain is often described as any pain that lasts for 3-6 months or more. It can even last years. Chronic pain can take a toll on not only your physical health, but your mental health as well. If you suffer with chronic pain of any sort it is important to continually talk to your doctor about how you are feeling and what your treatment options may be (as sometimes there are multiple ways to treat a single condition).
You may also benefit from talking to a licensed professional counselor so that you can process your feelings, identify and implement coping skills to help you manage both physical symptoms and emotions associated with your condition and find overall support in an empathic, trained clinician who offers unconditional positive regard. Depending upon your condition, there may also be groups you can attend to find support. Years ago a close friend of mine had a lung transplant and she attended a support group with other people who had organ transplants. She found hope and camaraderie spending time with others experiencing the same life and health issues.
If you are experiencing chronic pain, you should know that it can make you feel angry, depressed or anxious. Your self-esteem may also suffer as you may not be able to do things you once did. You may feel frustrated and misunderstood—especially if those closest to you (your significant other, family members, etc.) have never experienced chronic pain. All of these feelings are normal, but it is vital that you recognize them and learn to manage them with positive coping skills. The mind and body are like a married couple walking hand in hand. One affects the other.
If you are struggling with depression, it can negatively impact your physical healing process. In the same vein, living with chronic pain in your physical body can also trigger feelings of depression in your mind. Speaking with a seasoned psychotherapist empowers you to see the relationship between your mind and body and find ways to promote a healing cycle where the mind and body work together instead of getting stuck in a negative cycle. Of course, regularly talking with your doctor is imperative too as s/he also helps you with the “body side” of the mind/body connection.
For now, here are some practical tips for living with chronic pain:
1) See your doctor regularly to discuss your symptoms and treatment
2) See a psychotherapist to process your feelings, identify coping skills and discover practical ways you can feel supported and find hope during this time
3) Join a support group
4) Journal about your feelings or share them with a trusted family member or friend
5) Research, talk to your doctor and consider a myriad of treatments which may include: relaxation therapy, learning and using deep breathing and/or meditation, massage therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture and/or biofeedback
6) Reduce stress in your life as stress exacerbates pain
7) Exercise if possible while following doctor’s orders
8) Limit alcohol, high fat and high sugar foods. Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
9) Engage in activities that can distract you from your pain
10) Go easy on yourself and take it one day at a time
If you are living with chronic pain and in need of support, please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to speak to a licensed mental health professional. She can provide a safe and empathic space in which you can share your feelings and find support. Don’t wait. Call today.