10 Tips for Dealing with Physical Pain

Pain is uncomfortable and challenging. But for those of us coping with chronic physical pain, it’s also a daily reality. Here’s 10 tips to help make living with pain an easier process.

1) Breath intentionally. When pain peaks, holding our breath can be a natural response. Pain can literally take our breath away. Don’t let it. Don’t compound your issues. Instead, give your body exactly what it needs: oxygen. Breath in deep and breath out slowly. Close your eyes if it helps or find a point of focus to look at. Concentrate on how it feels to breath. Feel your chest fill like a balloon, then gently fall as you breathe out.

2) Don’t let pain scare you. It may not always feel like it, but you can experience physical pain without letting it control or overtake you. When the pain threatens to do so, remember this: The pain may be out of your control, but you can always control your response. This can be as big seeking medical help or as small as shifting your focus to something else to take your mind off the pain as best you can.

3) Don’t ignore your pain. Pain is a physical experience. It’s real. So, denial is completely futile. You don’t have to like pain but do try to accept it. Acceptance can lead to a healthy—and helpful—sense of control. Instead of trying to fight against it, when we accept pain as part of our experience, we can work constructively to build a better reality. We can’t deal with what we first don’t accept. So, call it like it is. It may suck, but it is what it is.

4) Focus on improving not fixing. Change your internal dialogue from “What will take the pain away?” to “What will help me feel better?” In other words, we may never be able to take physical pain away completely. But that does not mean that we can’t help ourselves feel better in the midst of it. Never underestimate the power of even a small “win.” These often help us manage and deal with pain better.

5) Live in the ebbs and flows. Even chronic physical pain varies in degrees. When pain peaks, remind yourself that things weren’t always this bad—and they won’t be this bad forever. Purpose to remember that things were better before, and they’ll be better again. It may just take time, so purpose to allow that space without getting too down in the meantime.

6) Don’t let pain define you. You are more than the physical pain you experience. Focus on this whenever your body threatens to tell your mind otherwise. Even if physically you’ve lost the ability to do certain tasks or hobbies you’ve loved before, purpose to think about all that you can still do—and strive to learn how to do new things, too. Consider the fact that being physically stuck may actually be an opportunity to learn new ways of doing things.

7) Capitalize on distractions. Intentionally rely on things you enjoy to get through tougher times. The harder your struggle—the more pain you feel—the more important this tactic can be. Consider making a list of things in advance that you can do and try when pain starts to peak. This way, you’ll be ready to act and won’t have to think when pain threatens your ability to do so.

8) Flip your focus to something you can do. It’s easy to slip down the rabbit hole of counting all the things you can no longer do. Recognize the signs of this starting to happen, so that you can stop the journey before it gets too far. Take an inventory of all the things you can still do and enjoy. Celebrate ways you’ve successfully made adaptations in your life and environment. All of this is proof that you’re not just a survivor. You’re a thriver. Way to grow!

9) Refuse to let present pain negatively paint your future. It doesn’t matter what medical experts have said. It doesn’t matter what your diagnosis is. No one knows what the future holds. All you know is how you feel now. But don’t let your today paint your tomorrow in broad stokes of (negative) assumptions. Yes, pain may be a long-term and even constant companion, but refuse to let it be all that you see in your future. Be purposeful about creating things to look forward to. Set achievable goals for yourself. Then, celebrate when you accomplish them. Take up a new hobby. Learn a new skill. Read a book from a genre you’ve never tried before. In other words, don’t leave your future up to chance—or pain—create it!

10) Seek out and create clever and helpful hacks. It’s true. Pain often limits our physical abilities. But this needn’t equate to defeat. It may just mean we have to find a new route and way to get to where we’re going. Your pain is an opportunity to get creative. Start to invent new solutions. Consider brand new ways of doing things. Then, share what works with others. The story of your success may well be the key that unlocks the prison someone else is trapped in.

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