13 Dos & Don'ts For Coping With Chronic Pain

When a condition doesn’t respond to treatment within the expected time frame, it's considered chronic. The change in labeling from acute to chronic signals an important distinction to healthcare providers, but more importantly to the person with the condition and his or her loved ones.

In the acute phase, there is an expectation that the issue will heal. But with a chronic condition, the expectation changes to one of management—of pain, discomfort, further deterioration, and emotional wellbeing in light of coping with the condition.

Coping with a chronic condition is extremely difficult. It changes one’s life in a deep and profound way. It also affects the lives of those around you. While addressing the needs of a chronic condition is best approached with a multi-faceted and interdisciplinary approach, there are things you can do to keep your sense of control and autonomy in your life and the management of your health.

DON'T

Don’t assume all practitioners are the same—they’re not. Continue looking until you find one that resonates with you.

Don’t expect others to understand, especially if your outer appearance is “normal.” People think that someone who is unwell should look a certain way. Someone dealing with a chronic condition can and should take pride in his or her appearance—this is very important to psychological wellbeing. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead others to judge harshly and incorrectly.

Don’t be impatient or get angry with your body for its lack of progress. Healing takes time! Don’t ever give up. There are answers and you will find them.

Don’t make too many changes at once. Especially in regards to diet and exercise, only make one or two changes at a time so you can evaluate effectively what is legitimately helping you. Changing too many variables at once could make it difficult to evaluate what's working.

DO

Remove inflammatory foods. Steer clear of common allergens such as dairy, corn, wheat, eggs, and soy.

Remove acidifying foods including processed foods and coffee. Add in anti-inflammatory foods, including lots of vegetables and fruit. Add protein that your body can digest well.

Consult your health care provider. Consider IGg testing to determine any food allergies or intolerance you may have. Consider doing a cleanse and colon hydrotherapy.

Establish a sleep routine that signals to your body that it is time to sleep. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time daily as much as possible. Begin winding down at least 1 hour before bed. Complete all of your consumption of food before 7pm. Take a bath and read, while eliminating distractions like electronics, disturbing news, conversations that require a lot of attention or concentration—those things can wait until morning.

Develop practices that help you manage stress. Uncontrolled or prolonged stress will exacerbate chronic conditions, making it much more difficult for the body. There are many ways to quiet the mind! Experiment and find the one that works best for you. A few suggestions include prayer, meditation, mantras and mala beads, visualizations, being in nature, keeping a gratitude journal, deep breathing and yoga.

Commit to your self-care practice. Contrary to the beliefs of so many people, particularly women, self-care is not selfish at all, but absolutely essential if we are to be in a place where we can offer the best of ourselves to the world. Once you understand the things you need to nurture and care for yourself (for example: daily time alone, time to engage in your spiritual practice on a regular basis, or time for a daily candle-lit bath), commit to it and guard it. No compromises, as this is what you need to be well.

Communicate openly with family and friends. When someone is at the beginning stages of a chronic condition (and sometimes even as the condition evolves), they are in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight as their nervous system is overloaded and their body is trying to cope. It's difficult for their loved ones to see this happening and to often feel at a loss at to how to help.

Help your family cope and support you by communicating your needs. Tell them what you can and can’t do, or what you don’t want to do any longer. Tell them about your commitment to your self-care so you won’t feel guilty for taking the time to yourself.

Set boundaries around what you can and cannot deal with physically and emotionally. Perhaps you can’t travel to visit extended family over the holidays—communicate that without guilt and expect that people will understand and support you.

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