As an AbleTo behavioral coach, I regularly support people coping with chronic pain. But I’ve also been living with it for more than a decade. If, like me, you’re someone who deals with ongoing pain, you know how hard it can be and how it can impact the way you function day to day.
We’re often so busy focusing on the physical challenges chronic pain brings that we forget about the emotional and mental toll it can also take.
I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been easy for me. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy managing my pain throughout the years. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned is the importance of listening to my body, as opposed to letting the pain rule me.
How do I do that exactly? I’ve broken it down into helpful strategies so that you too can learn to listen to your body, put your emotional well-being first, and understand that you’re not alone on this journey.
Pick up on the signs your body is giving you
Your body can be a wealth of knowledge. Often it tells you, in real-time, what it needs. Pause throughout the day and allow yourself the space to listen. Does your body need rest? Nourishment? Movement?
If you can’t give your body what it needs in the moment, aim for some bite-size self care. For instance, If you need exercise but can’t go outside for a walk, do a lap around your house or office. Every little bit helps.
Identify calming strategies
Tools like meditation, deep breathing, mantras, and positive visualizations can help make your pain feel more manageable. They’re also powerful ways to bring yourself back to the present moment. If you need some guidance, the AbleTo app has guided meditations that can walk you through these practices. The Ease Your Pain meditation would be a great place to get started.
Reframe unhelpful thoughts
When your mind is telling you things like, “This pain is going to control my life forever,” say, “Whoa, hold up.” Then seek out a more helpful perspective. I like to remind myself that the pain and related limitations are present, but that doesn’t mean they’re allowed to control my day.
If you could use some help catching and reframing unhelpful thoughts, give the 3Cs Journal in the AbleTo app a shot.
Seek out joyful activities
Find things in life that bring you a sense of happiness and then try incorporating them into your weekly routine. This may include going for a walk, diving into a book, or picking up a new hobby, such as painting. Whatever works for you!
Take time to stretch
Stress can make chronic pain worse. For many, stretching is a great way to relax the body and work out any tension that’s present. Personally, this one is a regular go-to coping tool that makes a big difference for me.
Reach out for support
This may sound like a no-brainer, but hear me out. You likely have a medical care team, but outside of that, who can you confide in when things get tough? Who can be there to participate in the joyful activities I mentioned earlier?
Pinpoint your people and do your best to communicate your needs. I’ve found that it’s helpful to lead with honesty and be specific. Setting boundaries can also help minimize the stress we sometimes feel when asking for support.
I know you’ve heard this one, but that’s because it actually works. Choosing to focus on what you’re grateful for, even if it’s as small as the sun shining outside, can make a world of difference. Try making a short list each morning, evening, or anytime you’re feeling stuck. You can use the Freewrite Journal in the AbleTo app or put pen to paper. Whatever works for you.
You are not your pain
Letting chronic pain rule your body is easy to do. But learning to retrain your mind can give you back your power.
I know it can be so hard, but I encourage you to spend your days the way you want, to the best of your ability, even when you’re hurting. Reach out for support, nurture yourself, and remember that you deserve a full and beautiful life.
By Kristina Danielson, AbleTo Coach Lead
Kristina believes that finding balance in your health and well-being is an ever-evolving journey. As a coach, she supports clients in an empathetic way while being an active listener. When she’s not seeing clients, Kristina loves to read and enjoys spending sunny days outdoors with her husband and son.
Clinically reviewed by Sarah Dolling, LPC, Clinical Content Producer at AbleTo.
Photo by Conscious Design/Unsplash. Individuals in photographs do not represent AbleTo participants nor providers.