One of the hardest things to accept with chronic pain is that you can no longer do all of the things you used to do . Some days just taking a shower is too much. Forget about going to the mall or cleaning your house in one day. What used to take me an hour now takes more like 10.
One of the things that people do when they first develop chronic pain is we try to push through it, when that doesn’t work we lay down because that reduces the pain. The problem with this approach is that it makes you weaker, deconditioned, and everything becomes harder to do.
We have good days and bad days – we tend to take advantage of the good days and do as much as we can – then we burn out and end up in severe pain, unable to do much of anything. This is a vicious cycle because we feel guilty for laying down and resting, recovering. Once we feel better we rush to get everything done because we don’t know when the next good day will be. The cycle repeats.
I have recently learned another way to address this. It’s called pacing and it goes like this: work – rest – work – rest – repeat. In my case I can only stand for a certain amount of time before the pain skyrockets, so I work for 10-15 minutes, maybe loading the dishwasher, or wiping the counters then I rest for 20-30 minutes until my pain level gets to a tolerable point. Then I repeat.
Since I have started doing this I have gotten more done with a decreased pain level overall as I’m no longer pushing myself past my safe point on the days I feel better.
I make a list of the top 3 things that I need to get done during the day, and I do those first. I also use my bullet journal to map out my ideal day and track the things that are important for me to do every day. I use kitchen timers or the timer on my phone to keep me on track.
At the bottom of this monthly calendar I have my goal tracking for the month. With chronic pain sometimes it’s the simple things that get left out. Making the bed in the morning makes it less likely that I’ll just go lay back down in it. Cleaning the kitchen after dinner means that I start the morning without that hanging over my head. Even something as simple as showering can be a challenge when you are exhausted at the end of the day and just want to go to bed. I have set a goal to cook dinner 4 nights a week – this week it hasn’t happened due to increased pain levels and that’s OK.
My suggestion for others with chronic pain is to accept your limitations, don’t push yourself too far, and most importantly write it down! Chronic pain does something to your brain and makes it so much harder to remember things, write down what you need to do, prioritize and give yourself grace if you can’t get to everything on your list.
Thank you for being here
- Julie the Nurse