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May 30, 2017

Five Ways to Feel Better with Chronic Pain & Illness.

 

A constant thing I hear from all of my clients is how nice it is to deal with someone who understands their situation.

Living with chronic pain and illness can be truly intimidating. Especially for those who don’t know what it is like to be dealing with it.

No matter how much a professional, family member, or friend wants to understand or help you—they just do not get it. There are not enough words in the English language to explain the pain you are feeling, or how the aches have changed from yesterday to today.

You want very much to describe it, and try many times to do so, but the blank look in their sympathetic eyes is a constant reminder that you are talking in circles and getting nowhere with your confession. This leaves you feeling alone and empty. I promise you that you are not.

Here are a few tips that my clients and I (because after all, I am one of you) find helpful:

1. Smile Behind the Pain:

Let’s face it, even though I really don’t feel like it, a smile goes a long way. You know the saying: Fake it till you make it? It’s true! Feel-good hormones are released through laughter regardless of whether you fake a laugh or if you are actually laughing.

So when I force myself to “buck it up buttercup” and fake out a smile, twitter like a bird, honkey like a donkey, or do whatever else I can possibly muster to get those happy hormones flowing, the truest form of “feel better” begins.

2. Don’t be such a Negative Nancy:

Positivity is hard to come by when I am feeling all achy and down in the dumps. It is ever so easy to breed negativity from a low place. That is exactly what I continue to cause, more harm than good. The more negativity that I allow in my space, the more I invite in. There is a need to make a conscious effort to not only locate but also flip the switch of positive thinking.

I can literally feel my brain make the decision that enough is enough. I choose to recognize when my brain is materializing a negative thought. I stop it, grasp on to it, see it for what it is, then let it go.

For example: Brushing my teeth. I start brushing, and then I start doing “the once over.” You know, where you look yourself up and down from head to toe and analyze everything wrong with you? The second I get a negative thought about myself, I pause, realize what I have done, and say, “Ah, that is rather a negative thought.” Then, I let it go. Allowing myself to be positively charged lets the universe reward me.

3. Give Yourself Something to Look Forward To:

When my whole world only consists of pain and illness, there really is no wonder it’s a complete and utter downer. Giving myself something to look forward to is a great way to break the cycle. It really doesn’t have to be a humongous ordeal. I start small, maybe a snack or a special gift, nothing too big. Then when I am feeling up to it, I work toward something wonderfully larger. The bigger the better—no goal is to big.

However, I find that the key to setting a goal is making sure that it is attainable. Giving myself little wins everyday allows me to feel like I am kicking the crap out of this invisible force that is trying to conquer me. This thing that needs to be defeated with every breath. So every victory really helps.

4. Get Moving!:

Beneficial movement is the key to success when trying to feel better when dealing with chronic pain and illness. Note: I am not saying a specific sequence or type of movement. There is no such thing as a magical cure. So I utilize as much as I can as frequently as I can. Everyday is different, and no matter what state I am in I know that if I don’t move, tomorrow will be even harder than today.

Is there some movement that is better for me than others? Absolutely! I seek out professional help to guide me to the right movement practice. Yoga is a fabulous outlet, especially with a dedicated instructor. The essential thing to understand is that no matter what I do, it must be modified to the needs of the day.

5. Get Some Rest and Relaxation:

Being in pain and being sick is extremely tiring. My body needs rest and relaxation as much as it needs everything else on this list. Unplugging from the world is a great way to do this—but really unplugging from the world. No cellphone, or computer, or television. I have to give myself some alone time that isn’t just for sleep. Of course, getting some sleep is important too, but having time to connect with my body when there is nothing but my body and brain there to create awareness, is actually fantastic.

It is harder than you might think, and I have found that taking time to practice makes it easier. I can feel my heart beating in my chest, hands, and feet. I envision what my  breath looks like as it travels throughout my body. It usually represents itself as a flowing light that drifts calmly while I close my eyes and imagine it. I love to listen and feel all the sensations and reactions that naturally occur to the silence.

Relief is just a few thoughts away.

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Author: Angel Holba
Image: Unsplash/Kalen Emsley
Editor: Travis May

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