As you all know, I live with chronic pain due to intractable low back secondary to failed back surgery and also an unresolved SI joint injury. For the rest of my life, I will never have a pain free day. In the beginning, for about the first 6 years, my pain level remained between 8 and 10, 10 being the most extreme pain. After years of learning ways to help decrease my pain level, it remains between 7 to 9 on a daily basis. I’m on medications but they can only do so much to help. I’ve learned through trial and error that less is more for me. I have an adverse reaction to most pain medications and they make my pain worse. So it’s taken a long time to find any medicine that helps even a little. A high dose of Motrin works better for me than anything else.
There are simple little things I’ve found that help me destress which is important to anyone living with pain. Pain causes stress, stress causes an increase in pain. It’s a never ending cycle and it takes never ending work to make it through each and every day.
Below is a small list of the numerous things that I’ve found work for me and if you’re experiencing chronic pain, I hope you will have the same results. If not, at least you will get an idea of things to try for yourself. You won’t find these suggestions in a book. They’re not scientific. But sometimes, people who are actually experiencing a tragedy are more qualified to give suggestions that have worked exceptionally well. My simple suggestions are just that, but again, less is more.
- 1. Drink lemonade.
I’m not sure what it is about lemons that make us happy but I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact that lemons hydrate and oxygenates us which in turn helps us feel revitalized, energized and as refreshed as a cool glass of lemonade tastes. It’s a mood booster.
- 2. Light candles during your meals.
Even if you’re enjoying a meal alone, dim the lights and light candles. After 10+ years of lighting candles with my meals, I can honestly say that candlelight is calming. The soft illumination helps us relax and that in turn helps our pain relax. It’s safe to say that candlelight helps both emotionally and physically.
- 3. Learn to make homemade biscuits.
I’ve often found that baking things I grew up on, helps me relax. I have the best memories of watching my mom make biscuits day after day after day. It was relaxing to watch her make it look so effortless and it’s even more relaxing, making them myself. If you aren’t a fan of biscuits, try a secret family recipe instead; pies, cakes, cookies, etc.
- 4. Buy something that you have to take care of.
People with chronic pain really need something else to focus on every single day. My suggestion is to get something that you wouldn’t have normally bought before pain, such as a bird, a guinea pig, a turtle, a ferret, a tank of fish, etc. Alternately, if you’re worried about taking care of a live animal and the costs related to owning one, plants are a great alternative. Stay away from succulents and cactuses and buy tropical and exotic plants that need a lot more watering.
- 5. Start a YouTube channel.
By starting a YouTube channel you’ll learn something new and that in itself will help take your mind off of your pain, and you’ll gain a following that is specific to what your channel is about and they’ll soon become your inspiration. A lot of YouTubers focus on living with chronic pain but that doesn’t have to be what your channel is about. It can be anything from a how-to channel to a vlog of your daily life. I’ve often thought about filming my daily life (from searching for the right handicap apartment, the easiest way to make a bed for someone living with disabilities and chronic pain, to the difficulties of shopping and putting away groceries, etc, see why I haven’t started a new one yet? lol). But it’s on the back burner and may just become a reality yet. For now, I’m getting practice with my little YouTube channel.
- 6. Travel monthly.
I realize that if you have chronic pain, you more than likely have a limited budget. I know I do. But it’s so important to get out of the house and be around other people. You don’t have to go to a luxury hotel, you don’t even have to stay overnight, but get in your car if you have one and travel. If you don’t have one, make arrangements for someone to take you on an outing. My go to places are state parks in my area. I take my camera and I get out and enjoy the freedom of being at peace with nature. I generally take a book, a thermos of lemonade or iced tea, a small picnic lunch, a lounge chair (bug repellant because gnats here are the worst, lol), and I find some shade and just live in the moment.
- 7. Sleep when you need to.
If you’re like me, by 4 or 5 pm, pain has reached it’s highest and it’s time for me to go to bed. So I do. Just like that. When you live with pain, sleep is a must. It’s an escape from pain. I generally wake up around midnight and stay up 5 hours or so, and pass the time by watching funny Netflix movies, or hilarious YouTube channels then I go back to bed. I get up when I get up. It’s okay to ditch the traditional 7-8 hours of sleep a day and create sleep habits that are more centered around your needs. Life will go on, I promise you that. For more information about how to get a better nights sleep, here’s a guide from Counting Sheep Research.
- 8. Music is your friend.
There are many times during my day when I have to drag out my turntable or CD player and play music that makes me relax. I buy music that doesn’t hype me up but instead makes me calm down. I used to be a fan of loud, booming, banging, music, but upbeat music does not work for me for my pain control. You’ll have to experiment to find what works for you.
- 9. Habits matter.
I can’t stress this enough but having a habit helps to bring calmness. After years and years of trying to learn to make it through my day, it’s the little things that I’ve learned not to overlook. It can be anything from sitting down to enjoy your first cup of coffee in the morning, with your morning newspaper, to having tea and scones in the afternoon, to sitting outdoors in the early morning hours before everyone in your neighborhood gets started for the day. Work towards having more habits throughout the day. Start with one.
- 10. Choose how your day will go.
I wake up every day, stretch, and tell myself, out loud, that “today’s going to be a great day.” I choose peace in my life and to have that, I have to make up my mind to make it happen. This isn’t going to happen overnight. It might take years, as it did for me. But I steer my mind away from waking up and thinking that my pain is as bad as it is. Instead, I focus on mind over matter.
Pain can take over our lives if we let it but we can vow not to let it. Above all, don’t neglect your family or friends and DON’T be the complainer everyone wants to avoid. Unless someone is living with chronic pain, they don’t understand it the way we do. We just have to make up our minds to learn to live with it the best way we can and LIVE is the key word here. If you need someone to talk to about what you’re feeling and dealing with, there are professionals who are better equipped to help you get through this difficult time in your life. Ask your physician to recommend someone, ESPECIALLY if you’re feeling depressed.