A chronic pain diagnosis can sneak up from nowhere, throwing our lives into a whirlwind. You might feel overwhelmed, depressed or even terrified. Perhaps you’re uncertain of where to turn for help coping with your symptoms.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Hundreds of millions of people live with chronic pain. In the United States alone, tens of millions of individuals suffer from fibromyalgia – just one of many conditions which can cause long-term pain. If you have fibromyalgia, chronic pain or any associated conditions, keep reading for some ideas for how to improve your quality of life.
Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the simplest – yet quickest – ways to manage chronic pain and other troubling symptoms of fibromyalgia. Simply put, when you feed your body wholesome, nutritious foods, you’re giving it the fuel it needs for healthy organ function, fighting off illness, and even healing. Enhancing your diet with a few select superfoods can help with fibromyalgia pain, and you probably already have many of them in your kitchen! Red grapes have a compound called resveratrol that helps keep muscle tissue strong, ginger and cherries have natural pain-fighting properties, and fish rich in omega-3s gives your brain the boost it needs to send relief to tender spots when they send pain signals. Similarly, there are lots of foods that have anti-inflammatory properties – like whole grains, leafy greens, tomatoes and olive oil – which should replace all or most of the processed foods consumed by fibromyalgia sufferers. That’s because the additives in processed foods may increase pain sensitivity, making physical discomfort feel even worse. If you’re enduring chronic pain, it’s critical that you take a look at your diet, and choose nutritious, natural foods over unhealthy, high-processed foods as often as you can.
Despite our best efforts to take care of ourselves, when your health starts to feel out of control, you might find yourself frustrated with your physical body and your life. During these difficult times, experts say it can be helpful to refocus your mind.
Author and transformational coach Sean Meshorer recommends redefining the things that make us happy. Meshorer can speak to the power of the bliss method from his own personal experiences living with chronic pain. This allowed him to develop “the bliss method” which completely focuses on finding happiness, contentment and peace – all without depending upon external factors.
By refocusing our minds to search for happiness within ourselves, we can better cope with our chronic pain. These techniques also help ease the depression, anxiety and fear that can come with our diagnosis, and help keep us from practicing harmful coping methods – like turning to our prescription pain pills – for comfort. In fact, you may be able to ease up some of your pain naturally via vitamins B, C, and D. If you aren’t already taking a vitamin supplement, it is worth looking into. There are several trusted brands, such as Ceregumil Vitamix Plus, which are great for joint pain.
Dr. Joseph Christiano, ND, CNC, agrees. “Refocusing the brain, using mental imagery, and practicing [breathwork],” he says, “are a few of the many techniques used for managing chronic pain in order to thrive while moving closer to pain-free living.”
Once you begin shifting your attention to the positive aspects of your life, you’ll find it easier to tap into your own potential for happiness. This is a skill that can be learned. Start by getting a piece of paper and a pencil, and creating a list of all the enjoyable things you can still do despite your chronic pain diagnosis.
Your personal reasons to stay positive might include having a warm, loving relationship or finding creative, new ways to serve humanity. Write down your favorite show to binge on Netflix. Be sure to include relaxing in bed with high thread count sheets, if that’s your ideal day. Whatever it is that brings you joy, write it down – and don’t be afraid to get creative. These are the things that will give you hope each day.
Many people also find a sense of calm, purpose and well-being by helping others. For some of us, that could mean blogging about our illness, with the underlying hope that others with chronic pain will realize they’re not alone. If you’re not a writer, you can still help others by donating to your favorite charity or finding other ways to help those in need.
Why are these techniques so powerful? The answer might have something to do with cortisol, the stress hormone. Many doctors now screen chronic pain patients for cortisol levels. Cortisol levels can be naturally reduced through lowering environmental stress factors. Activities such as yoga, meditation and massage also help by stimulating a calming neurotransmitter in the brain.
As you can see, there are various ways to cultivate hope and happiness, even with a chronic pain diagnosis. From yoga to bodywork, from acupuncture to meditation, try a variety of practices until you find something that works for you. As always, check with your doctor before trying any new activity or holistic treatment method. You’ll want to make sure it is safe for your personal condition, and that it won’t contribute to further pain or illness.
If you have a chronic pain diagnosis, you can still live a blissful life. Don’t give up; use the tips above to train your brain. Keep searching for things that bring you joy. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
Henry Moore is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both.