As everyone is dealing with the changing times it is bringing higher stress levels, more anxious moments, which can lead to eating more comfort foods and less activity. For those living with chronic pain like me, it can be a period of increased pain and discomfort. Yes, rest is important and can be beneficial, but long periods of inactivity, lying around with no purpose or focus, sitting around focusing on our worries can be harmful and often exacerbates the pain.
I have adopted a few things that may help you as well. First, if my body is really tired and I did not get much sleep the night before I allow myself a day of rest knowing that maybe after a short nap that I will get up and do something small like stretch or go outdoors for some fresh air (weather permitting). It can even be as simple as sitting up in bed dangling my legs off the side and do some small leg exercises. Sometimes my Allodynia is so bad that very movement causes me pain, and, on those days, I must take extra meds and let my body rest and heal. But I do my best to get up every day, shower, brush my teeth and get dressed. Being inactive for long periods of time only makes my pain worse and maintaining a normal routine gives my day a sense of direction.
Next, I make sure I am continuing to eat healthy. If you are like me, during higher stress moments I want to reach for comfort foods, such as french fries, bread, chips, and other foods that really don’t have a lot of nutrients in them. But these foods are high in sugar, carbs, and salt which for people living with chronic pain can exacerbate your symptoms. So, as we go to the grocery store and see that the fruits, vegetables and other healthy choices are dwindling, while the candy and snack foods are abundant, Please Don’t Be Tempted. Studies have shown that pain gets worse with processed foods.
I also make sure I am staying as active as possible and I get regular exercise. When weather permits and I get outdoors and go for a walk. Because of my deficits I have to make sure I have someone to walk with me for safety reasons which makes getting out a bit harder. There are a variety of indoor activities you can do to stay active. I do Yoga with an instructor (can be done virtually) at least two times per week. By moving and getting our hearts pumping we also release endorphins which help reduce the pain.
Getting outdoors as much as possible is also important. Social distancing doesn’t mean you have to stay locked indoors. Take your dog for a walk or make yourself and your family a picnic lunch and sit outside in your backyard like I did recently. Cut some fresh flowers and bring a little bit of the outdoors in to brighten the mood. Enjoy the warmth of the sun and fresh air. It can help lift your mood instantly.
During times like this it is easy to fall into the negativity trap especially when most of what we see and hear is negative news. We all know that stress worsens pain. Do your best to destress, talk to family and friends, just knowing you are not alone helps. We may not be able to hang out with our family and/or friends right now, but we still require those connections. You can use things like Skype, Face Time, or WhatsApp or whatever works for you to keep in touch. We may not be able to reach out and hug them, but we can still see and hear them.
It is important not to become isolated because feeling alone only leads us to overdo and/or do activities that cause or exacerbate our pain. We can still assist each other with things like food runs, chores, and/or cleaning. If you know someone with deficits or with chronic pain, ask them what they might need assistance with and if you are the one that is in pain or has a deficit, please ask for help.
While it may be appealing to get everything on your to-do list done, pace yourself. Overexerting yourself will just exacerbate the pain and make it harder to cope. I know personally that when my body is over tired my pain goes up quickly and my ability to deal with the pain diminishes. Don’t attempt chores you’re not up to or know are unsafe. Getting on a ladder, mopping the floor, or lifting heavy items can wait until someone else is available to help.
We have all wished at some point that we had extra time to catch up things. Many of us have wanted the time to organize your drawers and closets, put together a photo album, mend clothes, or many other things. Maybe you have wanted to start a craft project or puzzle why not give it a try. Why not use this time to reconnect with our inner artist?
It is important for everyone to take one day at a time and to make sure you are getting enough sleep. Our body requires at least 7-9 hrs. of sleep to function better. I know firsthand that does not always happen when you live with chronic pain. For many of us each day is a struggle. Please let’s do our best to stay connected, help each other, get some rest and heal physically and emotionally. God has promised that when we seek Him with our hearts, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). He has also said what we ask for in prayer and believe we will receive (Mark 11:24). He is the greatest healer and He is with us. So, no matter what tomorrow brings, we’ll get through it together.