We've all been there - pinned underneath relentless pain, frustration and sadness. We start thinking all-or-nothing thoughts like "nothing is going right", which quickly spirals into a vicious cycle of making us feel worse, thinking more negative thoughts, making us feel worse still, etc. This is an easy hurdle to stumble on when you are living with chronic pain.
Over the years I've learned some strategies to prevent chronic pain from keeping me down.
Strategy #1: Get rid of the toxic people in your life. These are the people who bring you down. They can take on many different forms. We all have them in our lives. Maybe they are super negative and always disagreeable. Maybe they think you are faking or exaggerating your pain. Maybe they are bullies. Maybe they just suck the energy right out of you. Whatever they are doing, they are not good for you.
We have enough to overcome without toxic people raising our hurdles even higher.
-A good place to start is by unfriending or blocking people on facebook (depending on the nature of your relationship with them. For example, I unfriend the super negative friends on facebook but I block posts from family members. It's a personal preference. I just refuse to allow facebook to become a stressful place because I love how it allows me to connect with all my far away friends and family. It does take some effort but it's totally worth it.
-You may need to break-up with a friend who you feel has become toxic in your life. Again, the nature of the relationship will help guide you to the approach. With a more casual acquaintance you may be able to just stop making plans. With a closer friendship you may need to have the super uncomfortable break-up conversation. Kindness and honesty should lead such conversations. A toxic person may never see it that way, but you can only do what you can do.
-When the toxic person is a close family member you may not want to rid your life of them. But that doesn't mean you have to allow their toxicity to poison you. In such cases setting some clear boundaries and communicating that with the toxic family member can help. You may want to have a therapist assist you with planning and preparing for an endeavor so fraught.
Strategy #2: Add in positive people. With limited energy, I find that spending it on people who are positive actually extends my energy and encourages my own efforts to lighten up. These people are the opposite of the toxic people. They are accepting and supportive. They don't pressure you to do things you can't do or aren't comfortable doing. They can see you as more than your limitations. Hold on. Invest in them.
Strategy #3: Still do things you love doing. Finding the time to just have fun can be hard when you feel like you don't even have the energy to keep up with basic household tasks. Over the years I've learned the benefit of having fun to my mental and emotional well being is great enough that it needs to be a priority when my pain is at a reasonable level. Having fun improves my mood and lifts my spirits, which in turn helps me to cope with the times when the pain and other symptoms are more intense. We need to have fun. We need to have moments that allow us to forget about our pain and problems.
Strategy #4: Spend time each day focusing on your blessings. This is easier once you get rid of the toxic people in your life. I've found that if I dedicate a time each day to recognize and feel gratitude for the many wonderful things in my life that my overall attitude is better. The better my attitude, the better my experiences are throughout the day.
Strategy #5: Allow yourself to experience the inevitable negative emotions but don't allow yourself to dwell in it. This is a big one for me. I don't believe we should ever devalue, ignore or suppress the negative emotions that we experience. Feeling sad, frustrated, angry, disappointed, etc. is a very natural human reaction to the shit we have to go through. It's okay to feel them. In doing so I believe I am honoring my experience and my reaction to it. If I allow myself to feel and process what I'm feeling then I can set it aside and move forward into a more positive space.
I need to be in this positive space to cope with my chronic migraines and fibromyalgia.