When you know firsthand what it’s like to be in constant pain, you have likely adopted an array of practices to help you manage everyday life. The physical pain, the emotional toll and the exhaustion that comes from not feeling understood work together to create a force that can make it seem impossible to battle. Improving your anxiety while battling chronic pain is an important step in finding short-term and long-term solutions to managing that pain. Feelings of anxiety and depression often overlap with chronic pain disorders, as “pain shares some biological mechanisms with anxiety and depression.”
Let’s look at 5 strategies to improve your feelings of anxiety and outlook on life while you battle chronic pain:
Examine and adjust your belief system
What do you believe is possible? Why do you believe this? Were you encouraged to think for yourself and develop your own belief systems throughout your childhood? If not, now is the perfect time to start doing so.
Does your current way of thinking support your healing/health/quality of life? If not, take small steps to shift your way of thinking. Focus on uplifting thoughts, projects and ways to spend your time. It’s easier said than done, but improving your anxiety while battling chronic pain can help you interact with the world less challenging.
Build a strong support system
It can be difficult to find your way out of feelings of despair and hopelessness. If you feel stuck, you may need a helping hand (or many of them) to help you out of the darkness. Find a well-trained and knowledgeable health/pain relief coach, counselor, spiritual leader and/or healthcare provider. Such experts can:
- guide you toward helpful solutions
- help you change what’s not working
- work with you to identify what is worth your precious focus
Friends, family members, coworkers, and support groups focusing on chronic pain can also be helpful when you are working to manage and improve your anxiety. Without a team to rally behind you – no more how small that team may be – you may feel lonely and isolated. Those feelings can “increase stress and tighten up muscles, causing additional pain and anxiety. Once you’ve found a group of people to connect with, you may find your body relaxing as the tension of loneliness eases away.”
As much as possible, surround yourself with people who care. It’s important to receive respect and love from others and from yourself. Love feeds hope.
Take pleasure in the here and now
No matter what your situation, look for something to enjoy with the senses that you have. Find the joy in simple pleasures such as watching funny YouTube videos, reading books, listening to music, watching your pets at play, sitting on your porch watching the sun go down or enjoying an evening stroll. Improving your anxiety while battling chronic pain involves claiming small victories.
Give to others
Living with pain makes loneliness even more painful. One of the best ways to decrease loneliness can be to give to others. You can seek out volunteer opportunities in your local community. If it’s challenging for you to leave the house, find a volunteer gig where you phone those in need such as an elderly person or a veteran. Or write sympathy cards for hospice patients and their families.
A volunteer vacation is another way to experience the healing benefits of giving to others and experiencing fantastic places at the same time. When you give of yourself, you are connecting with a those in need as well as coordinators and other volunteers. Those connections are vital to your emotional well-being.
Giving, however small it may seem, can make a difference for someone else, and you will receive the gift of connection.
Break the downward spiral
Pain is frequently experienced through a number of symptoms: impaired functioning, low energy, poor sleep, stressful relationships and/or feelings of anxiety and loneliness. At some point, you are forced to concede to that pain, and that requires you to rest more. You may feel a bit better afterward. You may even feel energized and looking for way to quickly catch up on all the things you have missed: errands, time with family and friends, work projects, your hobbies, etc. It’s at this point that you may also overdo it, resetting that dangerous downward spiral. But that spiral can be broken.
The key is to stay in front of the pain. What can you do on a bad day? Start there, and very slowly build your activity, always stopping before the pain is aggravated. Go by your personal history and your instincts. It’s different for each person and each activity. If unexpected things come up or you need to slow down, build in time for that. Improving your anxiety while battling chronic pain should include pacing yourself. Trying to accomplish too much and not allowing time to pace yourself can increase stress levels and can easily aggravate pain.
How do you improve your anxiety while battling chronic pain? We want to hear your tips! Share them in the comments section below.
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