#150 Build a Healing Team


I really like this picture: Imagine that you are the center of your own healing team.

You have a group of people around you who can help you and aid your healing in different ways, they are like your very own support crew!

Among the people in your team you may have family members, friends, of course your doctor and specialists, your physiotherapist, counselor, alternative practitioners, a few friends from your support group and more...

Who do you want to be in your healing team? What roles should they fill?
Who can you turn to when you need practical help? Who can help you with your physical pain? Who can help you deal with everyday life and the changes your health problems have caused? Who can you just have fun and a good chat with? Take a few minutes to sketch what your healing team looks like today, and consider which positions you haven't filled yet. What sort of people would you like to compliment your existing team with? Is there anyone in your current network who might fit your wishes, or do you know someone who might help you find the right people?

#149 Design your future

My boyfriend and I are in the process of discussing our future. Like ... what kind of life do we want? Where do we want to live? What careers do we want? Marriage? Children? Joint economy? Is purple glitter really a good color for our new living room? You know, all those little questions... To make sure we are on the same page and that we understand each other, we decided to get creative today. We sat down with loads of old magazines, scissors and glue, and did a cut and paste vision board for our future life. How cool is that?

I didn't know communication and "relationship heavy talks" could be so fun!

And it somehow feels like that if we are able to show each other what we want, not just talk about it, it is much more probable that we can actually accomplish these dreams!

I have a dream of a healthy, pain-free life. 

Do you? 

What does your pain-free life look like?

Are you ready to do some cut and paste action and create a vision board of your own?

You are hereby challenged;)

#148 Cultivate Friendships

When we are young we are used to having time with friends automatically through school and studies, but as we grow up and establish our own lives many friendships get pushed to the side. It's even harder to prioritize friendships when you have serious health problems that take a lot of your time and energy. You feel guilty for not spending more time with your loved ones, but you just don't have anything more to give.

This is one of the situations where it's vital to prioritize. You may not be able to stay close with all the people you would like to. If you only have a little time and energy to spend on socializing, you should choose a handful of relationships that you really want to last for your lifetime, and place those first on your list when you have time and energy.

A good friendship needs time and tender care, just like a seedling plant. If you care for it it will grow stronger and deeper roots. With care and dedication it will become a strong shelter for tough times, it may offer you a restful and rejuvenating place... and even some yummy fruit:)

#147 Stop projecting

Have you noticed that people tend to repeat the same patterns in relationships over and over again? Could it be that many of our grudges and annoyances come not from the people around us, but from ourselves?
Maybe I'm out on a limb here, but I actually believe that most of the conflicts in our lives are entirely of our own making.

I believe we are drawn to the kind of situations and relationships that help us grow and learn. And since growth often comes from meeting challenges, many of our relationships are challenging in various ways.

I know that I have a tendency to become very irritated by people who have my own character flaws or bad habits. When I see those flaws or habits in others they just seem unbearably annoying... Cause it's like looking in a mirror. Only... I don't always recognize that it's the seeing "me" in them that is annoying me... it's easy to just point my finger and say "That person is so annoying!"

And then I remember the good old saying; "When you're pointing your finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at yourself..."

#146 Say what you need

One of the key elements in good communication, and vitally important to maintain good relationships when you suffer from chronic disease... It actually feels like all the relationships in my life made a significant improvement when I learned this simple trick:

Say what you need!

Instead of waiting or hoping for people to guess what you need, and getting annoyed and irritated when they don't anticipate your needs (and then being upset with them without saying why). Just say it out loud! Ok, maybe you don't need a megaphone to do this, just be direct and open about it. Don't take it too seriously or make it into a "You don't give me what I need!" discussion, just try to say in plain language what your needs are without forcing any guilt issues on anyone else.

"I need help with lifting the groceries/doing the laundry"
"I need you to listen to me without doing other stuff for 20 minutes"
"I need more attention"
"I need a hug"

It makes such a big difference when you can communicate that clearly.... and the reduced stress, irritation and tension is bound to help your pain level, not to mention the help you'll get once you start asking for it!

#145 Let someone be caring

There are many everyday heroes out there waiting to be discovered. Why not let one of them save the day by allowing them to care for you when you are weak or tired?

Many people experience that helping others is something that brings both joy and healing into their own lives. You don't always have to be the strong one. Today you can reach out accept one of those favors that has been offered to you. Pick up the phone, open up. Allow someone else to cook dinner for you or do the laundry. Or maybe just listen to you talk about your pain over a cup of tea. Whatever could help you, and lighten your load today.

Know that by accepting their care and their help, you are giving them a precious gift, because the opportunity to help and to be meaningful in someone's life is worth more than money.

(PS: pigasaurus rex is another great cartoon from Natalie Dee!)

#144 Filter your answers

If you follow the advice in yesterday's post, you are likely to come up with a list of stuff you can do that may help you to get better. Next step is to filter your answers. Most of the answers are things you already know, but maybe wouldn't have thought were important if you didn't ask the question. Some things may feel small and insignificant, while others are huge and impossible to do at the present moment.

Don't worry, change is a process, and we don't have to do everything all at once.

If you have developed severe health problems, or suffer chronic pain from sustained injury, chances are there is anything from 100 to 1000 things you can do that may improve your quality of life and help you on your way to healing. You don't need this blog or anybody else to tell you what they are, they'll come to you if you just start listening.

But what you can do is to start filtering your answers. What can you do right away that may make you feel better? Can you reorganize your schedule to make room for some rest when you need it? Can you go on an outing, or see a loved one that cheers you up? Can you help someone else, or brighten someones day? Can you call that acupuncturist or massage therapist that really helped your bad shoulder and schedule a new appointment?

Choose a couple things from your list and see which ones are possible to start doing right away.

#143 Ask yourself this question

The human mind is a wonderful thing. It tends to give us all the answers we ask for ... Only maybe not always in the way we expect.

In my experience, every step forward starts with the intention to move. And moving towards healing may require open-mindedness, willingness and patience. The mind has an uncanny way of filtering information around us, and it also has room for much more information than we can consciously process, so the end result is that there is a lot of stuff you know, that you don't know that you know.

How do we gain access to this information?

Well... we ask of course!

Once a question has been formed, the answers can start coming. Our focus shifts, and we start seeing solutions rather than problems. Whether it takes a while or they start coming immediately, the important thing is to open the door, and to ask the question. So today's pain-free tip is to ask yourself, openly and honestly...

"What can I do to get better?"


...and to listen, whole-heartedly and without judging... 

When answers start coming, write them down...

#142 Drink water

Water. It's absolutely essential for every single cell in your body. You can swim in it, wash your windows with it, shower in it, do the dishes in it and paint with it. But are you drinking it?

Many of us are constantly dehydrated without even knowing it, because we're drinking only coffee, soft drinks and other beverages that actually dry out our cells. Partial dehydration leaves you drained and tired, and has a long range of effects that may often aggravate or intensify chronic pain. Also: if you are taking medicines for your health condition on a daily basis, you need plenty of water to flush toxins from your inner organs.

As a chronic pain patient you should drink more water than the average recommended 8 x 8 oz glasses a day (2 liters). My pain specialist adviced me to drink 3 liters a day, and that seems to work really well.

#142 Start twelve stepping

Living with chronic disease and pain may place a permanent frown on your face and all this talk about "thinking positive" may just feel like a punch in the gut. Luckily, it's never too late to get help! For all of us suffering from a severe case of worry, stress and over seriousness, may I present this marvelous version of the twelve step program :


The Twelve Steps Over Serious Anonymous (OSA)

Step One - We admitted that we were powerless over seriousness - that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step Two - Came to believe that only by lightening up could we achieve a state of non-seriousness.
Step Three - Made a decision to turn our constant self-criticism over to our sense of humor and learn to "lovingly and wholeheartedly" laugh at ourselves.
Step Four - Decided to give ourselves a break once in a while, instead of constantly doing searching and fearless moral inventories of ourselves.
Step Five - Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being that our wrongs were often in our heads.
Step Six - Were entirely ready to accept that our characters were as good as anybody else's and possibly better than most.
Step Seven - Quit harping on our shortcomings.
Step Eight - Made of list of all persons we thought we had harmed and saw that they'd forgotten all the crap we'd blown out of proportion.
Step Nine - Quit making amends for breathing air and taking up a few square feet of the planet's surface.
Step Ten - Resigned ourselves to the fact we were going to criticize ourselves at times, but would try to stick to our guns when we knew we were right.
Step Eleven - Sought through prayer and meditation to calm down and realize we're not responsible for everything.
Step Twelve - Having experienced immense relief from these steps, we would try to carry this message to other over-serious people and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.

Remember: Life Is Too Important to be Taken Seriously

... small surprises

#141 Buy yourself flowers

"For me? Really?
aaaah, I shouldn't have..."

Why wait till some other person buys you flowers?
Get your own!

This bouquet was ony 69$ at Flowerbud, significantly less than I regularly spend on chiropractors, acupuncture, massage therapy and medication, and significantly more Joy-Inducing than any of the above:)

#140 List what makes you laugh

“Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.”
~ Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D.

(this guy has obviously figured it out)

What makes you laugh? How can you bring more joy and humor into your life?
Make a list of all things large and small that make you laugh or add humour to your life, and keep it where you can see it:)

Related 365 pain-free days posts: Laugh out Loud, Smile & Practice positive thinking

#139 Throw out old meds

I have them, you have them, we all have them... as chronic patients we have cabinets and drawers full of old medication, many of them that we don't use anymore, many we actually never used (just got because the doctor told us), many that expired years ago and some that we really do use regularly.

On our way to a pain-free life, it may be a boost to our healing self confidence to take the time to sort through and remove the pharmaceutical drugs that we don't need or don't use anymore.

Lets pretend that today is "clean out your medicine cabinet day"!

Take a plastic bag, sort through all your pill jars and bottles, and throw out the ones you don't use and the ones that are expired. Take the bag to your pharmacy and ask them to dispose of it safely - because old drugs are an environmental hazard and potentially lethal for children and animals, you should never throw medicines in the regular trash or flush them down the toilet.

#138 Spice it up

Continuing on yesterday's topic, eating chili is a great way of releasing endorphins and getting that amazing natural pain relieving effect.

An ancient natural cure, chili peppers and their effective substance capsaicin have been used in new drugs that are hailed as a breakthrough in pain-relief and may even be able to block pain at the source. They also have natural anti-inflammatory effect.

Luckily you don't need pills or cream to benefit from this, simply spice up your diet with some of the hot stuff that is chili pepper. Mix and match, buy them fresh, dried or grow your own. Here's my recipe for a home made salsa that is sure to make your taste buds pop and your endorphins kick in perfectly:
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 - 1 red jalapeno pepper, seeded (depending on preference and taste bud sensitivity..)
  • 1/2 - 1 green jalapeno pepper, seeded
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons of minced fresh cilantro
  • Juice of one lime
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
In a food processor, combine all ingredients; cover and process until chunky. Transfer to a small bowl and serve fresh.
As the strength of chilies vary a lot, a trick when cooking with them is to taste a small slice cut from the middle of the chili pepper before adding to your recipe. The tip always tastes less than the rest of the fruit, so tasting that won't give you an accurate idea of how much to use. Place it briefly on your tongue and see how much it stings, if it really stings you should only use a tiny bit, if you can bite into it without it stinging you can add the whole thing (or more).

#137 Get it on

Sex is an excellent method of pain relief, whether you have it alone or with a partner. Although it may be one of the first things to disappear when you are in constant pain, the good news is your sex drive can be kept healthy by regular ... ehem... practice. Keeping sex enjoyable also when you have daily pain takes some time, effort and creativity, but it's definitely worth it, because apart from everything else good about it, orgasm is a powerful pain-killer!

Oxytocin, a natural chemical in the body that surges before and during climax, gets some of the credit, not to mention the amount of endorphins produced. At the risk of repeating myself here: Endorphins (a neurotransmitter in the brain) as a painkiller are much more powerful than morphine. Around twenty different types of endorphins have been discovered in the nervous system to date. One of the endorphins, beta-endorphin, is 18-50 times more effective than morphine, while another, called dynorphin, is over 500 times stronger!

Besides that, there's science showing that having sex raises your pain tolerance. A study by Beverly Whipple, professor emeritus at Rutgers University and a famed sexologist and author, showed that when women had an orgasm “the pain tolerance threshold and pain detection threshold increased significantly by 74.6 percent and 106.7 percent respectively.”  

So why wait?

#136 Meditate

Almost all pain specialists recommend meditation as part of a chronic pain management program.

I've benefited from many different types of meditation, but the basis of all of them is the same; stilling the mind by focusing inwards and ignoring the thoughts that come and go. You can have a specific goal with your meditation, then visualization can be the way to go, otherwise just focusing on the breath, either by repeating a mantra or counting your breaths is a good basic meditation.

This is a simple all-round healing meditation formula:

Find a quiet location, a comfortable body position, and bring your attention to your body, focusing on a spot just below your navel. Breathe into that spot, filling your abdomen with air. Let the air fill you from the abdomen up, gradually filling your entire stomach and chest all the way up to your shoulders, then let it out, like deflating a balloon.

As you breathe in, visualize filling your entire being with light an healing, and as you breathe out, imagine pain leaving your body as gray mist that evaporates. You may accompany this meditation with a healing mantra or affirmation, like "I am light", "I am healing" or something else that speaks to you especially.

Sit or lie this way for 10-15 minutes. When thoughts come just let them pass through and gently bring our focus back to your breath. Don't judge yourself for becoming distracted - just continue bringing your focus back, even a moments full concentration on healing can help relieve hours of distracted anguish.  It may help to have a CD of meditation music in the background, and if you always use the same music this creates a kind of conditioning, making it easier to concentrate for every time you use it.

#135 Sleep soundly

“People in pain don’t sleep, and people who sleep have less pain,” 
- Michael Breus, PhD, clinical director of the sleep division, Arrowhead Health

 Two thirds of chronic pain patients also suffer from disturbed sleep, and there is a vicious cycle between sleep disturbance and chronic pain, with one aggravating the other. Some diagnosis, like fibromyalgia, also have disturbed sleep as one of the main symptoms. The most widespread sleep disturbance among pain patients is not staying in deep sleep for long enough at a time, which means you may be able to fall asleep but you keep half waking up in the middle of the night and in the morning you are even more tired than you were when you went to bed.

Many pain patients find out that if they manage to solve the sleep problem, they are able to dramatically lower their daily pain level, so whatever you can do here is going to be a great help. Talk to your doctor and get professional advice if necessary, remember that sleep medication is only going to help for a short while, and if you have a chronic condition you need to find long term solutions.

That means that living with a condition that causes chronic pain is a good reason to take preemptive measures to secure as much deep sleep as you possibly can. Some of the steps you can take include:

1. Make your bedroom a safe and serene environment for resting
2. Keep the TV out of the bedroom
3. Exchange coffee with herbal tea after 3 PM
4. Eat a light meal at night
5. Get some exercise and fresh air every day
6. Get up at the same time every morning
7. Have a good mattress that relieves your pain-areas
8. Maintain a good temperature in the bedroom
9. Build good routines around bedtime
10. Relax in the evening before going to bed, without computers or TV

For more (quite similar) helpful hints check out the National Sleep Foundation's sleep guide.

Other related 365 pain-free days blog posts include these two about Tempurpedic and  feng shui,
and personally I've found that taking a hot bath at night and relaxing with some herbal tea, candles and a book before going to bed really helps. If my pain is too high for me to fall asleep I lay on my yantra mat for a while first which releases a bunch of naturally relaxing dopamine.

#134 Cool down

On the other side of the scale... cooling things down also have a good pain relieving effect, especially on muscular inflammation which is common both with whiplash, rheumatism and fibromyalgia.

Ice reduces swelling and increases blood circulation, while providing temporary pain relief by numbing the local tissue.

I have found that ice packs or simply (and more cheaply) just a bag of frozen peas can work wonders on my whiplash pain and prevent migraines if used early enough. Sometimes if my back is acting up at the same time, I need to sit with a heating pack or hot water bottle on my back and an ice pack on my neck simultaneously. That does make me look rather silly, but it really works, so hey, who cares? Both heat and cold can trick the sensory signal system and break a pain-spasm cycle, providing a simple and effective natural pain cure for many types of muscular pain.

#133 Heat it up

It's one of those folk remedies that really works, it's also scientifically proven and relatively easy to explain.

When localized, heat opens up blood vessels, increases metabolism and aids relaxation, and it has good relieving effect on many aches and pains.

“The heat doesn’t just provide comfort and have a placebo effect – it actually deactivates the pain at a molecular level in much the same way as pharmaceutical painkillers work.” says Dr. King at UCL department of Physiology.

And it's another way of tricking your sensory system to block pain signals. Science Daily writes: "If heat over 40 degrees Celsius is applied to the skin near to where internal pain is felt, it switches on heat receptors located at the site of injury. These heat receptors in turn block the effect of chemical messengers that cause pain to be detected by the body. (read more here)"
Pain reducing heat treatment can be done in many different ways, from electric blankets and steamed towels to heating packs and hot water bottles... its hard to not feel better if you have something like this hand made cozy (from lalaloops shop on etsy.com)

But be careful using heat if you suffer RSD/CPRS, or have active muscular inflammation, heat might make it temporarily worse! On the other hand, a very safe heating device is to wear wool, or place a warm purring cat on the site of your pain...

#132 Sing out loud

Music therapy has a wide range of positive effects, and has recently been recognized as very effective in pain management.

Differentiating between active and passive music therapy; passive music therapy is listening to music, active music therapy means singing, humming or playing music yourself, which you actually don't need a therapist to do... Just put on some favorite tunes and sing along, hum a soothing tune to yourself, sing in the shower or why not join a choir?

According to Ayurvedic medicine, your own voice has the perfect vibration to balance and heal your cells, that's why singing or chanting mantras is a big part if this healing system.

#131 Cut sugar

 “Let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food.”
-- Hippocrates
Because refined sugar increases stress hormones, fuels inflammation and depletes uptake of certain minerals, it's one of the chronic pain bad guys. Try eliminating sugar from your diet completely for a few weeks and you may be amazed at the results!
I've read this and heard this so many times, so I just had to try it. I had great effect after 2 weeks, and if I hadn't forgotten what it was like living with chronic daily pain after two pain-free months (my memory isn't as good as it used to be;) I'd probably be on it still. But I gradually slipped back, and you know what? My pain did too. 
I hope that you, my dear reader, have better memory and better self discipline than I do!

#130 Eat anti-inflammatory foods

There is growing evidence that out of control inflammation in the body is causing a lot of serious health problems, and many doctors advice their patients to follow an anti-inflammatory diet.

An anti-inflammatory diet is probably quite close to a Mediterranean diet, the basics are generally:
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or fish oil supplements and walnuts.
  • Avoid sugar and sweetened foods
  • Watch your intake of refined carbohydrates such as pasta and white rice.
  • Eat plenty of whole grains such as brown rice and bulgur wheat.
  • Eat lean protein sources such as chicken; cut back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods.
  • Avoid refined foods and processed foods.
  • Minimize saturated and trans fats.
  • Spice it up. Ginger, curry, and other spices can have an anti-inflammatory effect.
What I like about this diet plan is that it doesn't have to be all or nothing. You can gradually reduce your intake of food that provokes inflammation without having to make any huge lifestyle changes.

If you are interested in this you can check out a wide range of books on the subject. Pain Pathways magazine wrote about this earlier this year, and they recommend Dr. McIlwain's Diet for a pain-free life which investigates the "overweight-inflammation-chronic pain connection". Dr. Vijay Vad was featured in the New York Times earlier this year with his book "Stop Pain" which has lots of great advice for this lifestyle.

#129 Choose your input

Bad news have a way of getting you down. Tragedy, even if it's other people's tragedy, leaves a strong emotional imprint. That's one of the reasons why its important to filter what information you feed your brain. Are you reading papers and watching programs that leave you shocked, disgusted and dismayed?


If you're trying to improve your health you must actively choose your input. When searching for new information and selecting entertainment and input in the form of books, magazines, movies, music, games or TV programs you can ask yourself: "Is this bringing joy, hope and inspiration into my life?" ... and if not, why spend time on it?

#128 Don't fight it

Some fights are important, and some fights are...well... not so important. When it comes to health, I actually believe we win the most by NOT fighting. We often use the metaphor of battle when we are talking about health. We are "fighting the disease", a patient is meant to be a strong survivor and a brave warrior who never gives up in the face of adversity.

Why can't we focus on healing instead?

I don't want to fight against arthritis and chronic pain my entire life, because that means my body will be a battleground. The disease is there, and when I focus on fighting it, it just seems to grow stronger and take more and more space and energy. By making a sustained and committed effort to promote my own health, well being, balance and healing I am achieving much more in the way of a healthy and happy pain-free life than my "fight against disease" ever did.

Can you see the difference?

Is it possible to make peace with your disease, lay down your weapons and see how you can increase your well being and health instead of fighting?

#127 Listen to your body

If your body could talk, what would it say?

Is there a chance that it's trying to tell you stuff, but you aren't listening? How loud does your body have to talk to you before you are willing to listen? Is it enough with several bouts of a serious cold, or do you have to have a heart attack before you are willing to adjust your pace and start taking better care of your physical temple?

This is the trick: No-one else can do it for you, it's something you have to learn to do for yourself.

#126 List your priorities

Following Tuesday's post on pie-charts and life-wheels, the next natural step in this process is to list your priorities. (If you haven't done a life-wheel yet you can take 2 minutes and do a quick one now)

As we all know: your time is valuable! After seeing visually how important different things in your life are to you, it's natural to want to make some alterations... especially if pain and health problems take a big chunk of your time & energy.

I did the life-wheel exercise in a workshop a few days ago and as we rounded up class, one girl said: "Ok, I have to go and change my life now..." She meant that she had to change her priorities, after seeing that the things most important to her were the things she was spending the least time or energy on.

So today's pain-free tip is to right now make a list of your top ten priorities!

#125 Draw your pain

Continuing the topic of visual imagery, to draw you pain may help you understand it better.
What does your pain look like? Is it sharp, blunt or crushing? Is it a throbbing and fiery orange or an icy crisp blue? Where in your body is it, how big is it, and how does it impact the rest of your body?
Drawing your pain can help you express it in a way that is more descriptive than words. I have sketches in my diaries from all the years since I broke my back, it's interesting to look at them now. This is a sketch of my pain last time I was in hospital;

On a slightly bigger scale, pain has been a powerful inspiration for art through all times. When nothing else works, we may find inspiration and solace from looking at art. This is how Frida Kahlo visualized her fractured spine in the famous painting "the broken column":

(I hardly dared to look at pictures painted by Kahlo after I learned that we had similar injuries, her descriptions were so graphic that it scared me...)

As with everything creative, don't bother comparing what you draw with how you think it's "supposed" to look, or how anyone else might draw... just let it out. If the lines are all wobbly and shaky, that's part of the expression.

#124 Pie chart your life

A handy little life assessment tool that gives you a really interesting perspective, this pie chart can change the way you look at your life.

The theory is simple, you draw a circle, and then divide it into different segments to visualize: "What is most important in my life?"

The segments may be named things like; work, career, love, friends, family, money, home, alone time, spiritual practice, health, training, hobbies, etc. Whatever comes up that feels important to you.

I just took a post-it and sketched one really fast, but had to redo it a couple times because the result was so surprising. I had a hard time fitting everything I wanted into the circle, and realized - again - that maybe I'm trying to do too much? I can't spend max time both on family, work, health and love and two-three hobbies.... It just doesn't work.

It's just interesting to see it visually like that, and realize that yes, I only have so much time and so much energy... what I'm spending it on ought to be a well-reflected decision...

#123 Pace yourself

Following yesterdays topic & post #64 Keep moving, this is an article written by Dr. Michel Gargan for CT Pain Foundation, and I find it extremely helpful.

A common pattern that I see in my pain patients is a burst of activity on a good day followed by several days of increased pain and immobility. As much as I preach consistently moderate activity, my patients habitually try to get everything done when they feel good. But when they do this, they get nothing at all done in the following two or three days. A prudent and effective pattern to follow is to do the approximately the same amount of physical activity each day. On “bad” pain days, you will have to push yourself, while on “good” days you will have to hold yourself back. If you do this, you will see that you get the same amount done as when you do a burst on Monday and nothing on Tuesday and Wednesday. If you do a little each day, you will get the same amount done without misery on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The following are some suggested techniques you can use to maximize your functioning:

  • Keep an activity log for a two-week period. Write down everything you do including quantity (how many dishes you washed) and how long you spent at it. You will probably be surprised at how much you do accomplish even though it feels to you as if you are doing little or nothing. Keeping this type of log will make you more aware of your patterns as well as help you set reasonable expectations. Challenge the artificial deadlines you set for yourself. What does it matter if the whole task is completed in one hour or one day, or in three hours or three days? How perfect does the work have to be? Learn to say, “That’s good enough.” 

  • Breathe while you move. Be aware of using your breath to support physical exertion instead of holding your breath against pain. Also be aware of the amount of energy you are using to accomplish a task as well as the quality of your movement. Replace short, quick, intense movements with longer, slower, lighter movements. Elongate the muscles when dusting, scouring, or reaching, and slow down to allow a full range of motion.

  • Take frequent breaks. Every twenty minutes or so, change positions, change activity, or just rest. It may take you longer to do what you used to do in the blink of an eye. So what? It is important to learn to pace yourself.

  • Schedule a rest period in the middle of the morning and the middle of the afternoon. A half-hour is usually effective, but some people take an hour or longer. If you have to nap, go ahead. But many people find that just relaxing, listening to music, taking a bath, daydreaming, or meditating is effective in extending their ability to function throughout the day. Go back to your activity log and find the natural breaks where you can insert rest periods. If you think there is no time to rest, you are trying to accomplish too much.

  • Make conscious transitions between tasks. For example, if you are cooking dinner, take a few seconds to breathe and stretch between peeling the potatoes and molding the meat loaf. This allows you to release muscle tension and adjust your posture as well as tune into your physical effort in order to maintain a steady, easy pace.

  • Put some type of regular physical exercise into your life. Don’t deprive your whole body of exercise and fitness because part of you is in pain. Yoga is excellent for persons with pain because it increases flexibility and strength while focusing on breathing to support movement. Most yoga instructors will modify the poses to fit your needs. Walking and swimming are also good activities to keep the whole body healthy.

  • Explore new recreational activities. If you used to play soccer or go skydiving for fun, you have to find new pursuits. Music, painting, gardening, creative writing, and handicrafts do not offer the same physical thrills, but they are relaxing and rewarding. Make time for fun even if you have not completed all the chores that need to be done.

If you have a chronic pain condition, you have to accept that much of your life has changed permanently. This does not mean your life is over. It just means that you can’t do things the way you used to before the pain set in. If you set realistic goals, learn to pace yourself, maintain a moderate level of daily activity, and engage in pleasurable pursuits, you will be able to have a full life.

Michele Gargan, Psyd

#122 Go slow and Steady

I'm sure you've heard the old fable about the race between the hare and the tortoise? Sometimes I wonder if there isn't something to that when it comes to living with chronic pain...

When I am having a low pain day, I try to get as much done as possible. This is a natural reaction after having had to stay indoors for long periods of time because of strong chronic pain, once you get a good day you're going; "Yiihaw!!!" Time to catch up on those 101 things you missed out on ... right?

Earlier, when I had low pain days, I tended to become really intensely active, because I knew they were just a temporary relief and I wanted to get the most out of them. So I´d buzz around like a busy bee trying to fix all those chores and commitments that had been on the back burner, and then, surprise surprise, afterwards I'd have several really bad pain days where I was flat out and couldn't do anything. Come next week I'd be a little weaker, a little more depressed and my pain treshold was a little lower.

This is called the "crash and burn" strategy, and though very normal among pain patients, it is not very helpful in the long run.

Today I'm practicing the "slow and steady" approach instead, kind of like the tortoise, except... the only one I'm racing is myself.

#121 Be honest to yourself and others

When I had severe daily pain I often agreed to plans or said yes to things I actually knew I wouldn't be able to do, just because I didn't have the courage to say no or set boundaries. Years later I was confronted with this, and I realized that what I hadn't wanted to say out loud or truly accept was "I can't do this, I'm too sick".

While at other times, having a chronic diagnosis could be an excuse for not having to explain yourself when cancelling plans. When everybody knows that you have serious health problems, maybe it feels like saying "I can't come, I'm having a bad day" is nicer to the other person than saying "I don't want to come, I want to do other stuff." I've definetely done that alot too, it just seems less brutal...

As my health improved, I realized that the people close to me had grown used to my evasion and didn't expect that I would keep my appointments anymore, because they were used to me backing out too often. It took a long time to regain their trust and confidence.

Today I am learning to practice rigorous honesty, even if it's painful, and rather ask for time to consider before saying yes to something so that I don't make promises I can't keep later. My honesty = my integrity, and is vitally important for my own self-esteem, and to keep my close relationships strong and healthy.