BY: Deborah Claypool
“This too shall pass” – Persian Adage
For a significant portion of my life, I’ve been grappling with persistent and unbearable pain on a daily basis. It has become difficult for me to recall what it was like to get out of bed without experiencing excruciating pain that prompts me to scream. While there may be days when the pain is relatively manageable, a sudden pain flare can knock me off my feet and make me collapse in agony – assuming I wasn’t already lying on the floor.
Living with chronic pain can be an ongoing challenge, but dealing with the unpredictable intensity of pain flares is particularly difficult. Here are some strategies for managing these intense periods of chronic pain.
When our pain intensifies, we often engage in an internal dialogue where we express our fears and anticipate a daunting experience. However, this self-talk tends to heighten our nervous system’s response, exacerbating the pain. It is crucial for us to discover methods that allow us to connect with our bodies and cultivate self-awareness without exacerbating the pain.
During times of increasing pain, rather than succumbing to fearful thoughts, explore alternative approaches to manage our discomfort. Here are a few suggestions.
Mindfulness and Meditation: Practicing mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. By focusing on our breath, bodily sensations, or the environment around us, we can create a sense of calm and redirect our attention away from the pain. Notice what you are sitting on, the wall across from you, and the sounds in the room.
Deep Breathing Exercises: Taking slow, deep breaths can help relax the nervous system and reduce tension in the body. Try inhaling deeply through your nose, filling your lungs, and exhaling slowly through your mouth. Repeat this several times, allowing your breath to be a source of comfort and grounding.
Practice Self-Compassion: Instead of focusing on fearful thoughts, speak kind and supportve words to yourself. Remind yourself that you are strong and capable of managing your pain. You have done it before, and you can do it again.
Self Talk: One of the ways I find solace during a pain flare is through self-talk, addressing both myself and the pain. I remind myself that the discomfort will eventually pass and that there will be some relief. I gently encourage the pain to ease up, reminding myself that it won’t be long until I can resume my activities without distress. Tell yourself that your current severe suffering is temporary.
Review Personal Comforts: I possess a collection of personal comforts that bring solace and help mitigate the pain. These include enveloping myself in my cherished blanket, indulging in my preferred TV show, immersing in a rejuvenating bath, occasionally engrossing in an audiobook, watching a comedian, seeking a warm embrace from a friend, embracing myself, and tenderly stroking my dog, or even using an ice pack. It is essential to consider these coping mechanisms in advance, as the experience of excruciating pain can hinder clear thinking, as I can attest.
Videos: Watching a psychology video on the internet relating to coping with trauma, PTSD, and emotional regulation. These all help remind me of my resiliency skills. Again, I have a few good ones cued onto my computer, so they are quick to click on during a pain flare.
I have some very good resiliency videos on my website, simplyresilient.org.
Remember, each person’s experience with pain is unique, and it may take time to find the techniques that work best for you. By prioritizing self-awareness and adopting practices that promote connection with your body, you can develop a healthier relationship with pain and enhance your overall well-being.
One of the most important things for me is to refrain from engaging in a cycle of negative self-dialogue that can spiral. It is crucial to recognize that our identity does not solely revolve around the pain we endure. The presence of pain does not define us; rather, it is a temporary experience we are currently going through.
Deborah, a lawyer, and homemaker in her fifties, grapples with disability due to chronic pain. Despite her challenges, she harnessed her resilience to overcome a period of depression and agony. Having battled congenital pancreatitis, she underwent the removal of her pancreas, but she still endures daily pain. However, she persists in using a positive outlook to alleviate her suffering. In order to help others with chronic pain, Deborah initiated a nonprofit blog called daj1.org. Through this platform, she aims to offer solace by sharing her personal journey and insights.