There are plenty of scientific articles and studies out there on the most effective ways to help people with chronic illnesses manage their pain levels. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to figure out how to actually apply that advice in the real world.
Not to sound all woo-woo, but this one can be seriously helpful. Guided meditation apps like Headspace have made mindfulness so much more accessible and easy to do these days. You don’t have to focus on your pain or all parts of your body during meditation like you might have seen on TV or in movies. Instead, maybe just concentrate on breathing deeply, or how a part of your body that’s neutral feels.
There’s a ton of research out there on the effectiveness of mindfulness on everything from productivity to pain to the quality of sleep. And speaking of sleep…
Get Enough Sleep
Yes, this is one you’ve probably heard on repeat a thousand times. But poor sleep habits don’t just make you feel tired and groggy all day, they make you more stressed and unable to focus which in turn makes it more difficult to keep your mind off the chronic pain.
As much as we all love that glass of wine at the end of the night, alcohol can really hurt the quality of your sleep — even if you’re still technically sleeping longer. The things that do help? Establishing habits that make your sleeping space a little bit sacred, eating foods that don’t cause stomach issues, and getting some form of exercise in.
Not everyone can afford them regularly, but if you can get in for a targeted or medical massage they can work wonders. Some places offer partner classes on massage techniques, which could be the gift that keeps on giving! And if you’re more of an at-home DIY type, schedule those bath and face mask nights into your calendar and stick to them. Waiting until you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck to finally slow down for a second isn’t doing you or anyone else any favors.
Know Your Triggers
If you know exactly what triggers your migraines, joint pain, foot swelling or extreme fatigue, it’s time to make sure you’re planning ahead for them. And if you don’t, think about starting a pain diary to nail those things down. Oh, and quit being a people-pleaser! You don’t have to say yes to outings that will leave you curled up with a heating pad under the cover for days afterward. Remember to be kind to yourself first.