When you live with chronic pain, you never know what each day will bring. You may have a great day today, and tomorrow, the pain may be so unbearable that you cannot get out of bed. Those moments when the pain can be incredibly overwhelming are the hardest. What do you do in these moments? Here’s what to do when your chronic pain is too much.
What to Do When Chronic Pain Becomes Too Much
When chronic pain becomes too much, try these tips. They may help take the edge off and may even reduce your pain enough to make the day a little more bearable.
When the pain becomes unbearable, it’s easy to fall into a state of panic or despair. Practicing deep breathing exercises can help bring you into the present moment, slow your heart rate, disrupt your negative thought patterns and potentially reduce your pain.
The simple act of stopping what you’re doing and focusing on your breath can do wonders for your mental health in the moment and bring you back down to earth.
To practice deep breathing:
- Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your belly to fill up with air.
- Breathe out slowly through your nose, allowing your belly to fall.
While practicing this exercise, place one hand on your chest and one on your belly. Notice how your hands move as you breathe. The hand on your belly should be moving more than the one on your chest.
Do this deep breathing exercise anytime that you feel consumed by pain and it becomes overbearing. This is a simple practice that you can do anytime, anywhere, and you don’t need any special tools to perform it.
Use Hot and Cold Therapy
Alternating between hot and cold therapy can help bring some temporary relief by interrupting pain signals.
- Cold helps ease inflammation.
- Heat helps soothe the pain by opening blood vessels and improving blood flow.
You can use cold packs or even a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel for cold therapy. In addition, a hot water bottle or heating pad can generate pain-relieving heat.
A relaxing, therapeutic massage may help bring some relief. You don’t necessarily need to see a massage therapist. A friend or loved one can give you a gentle massage if they feel comfortable doing so. You can also use a massager device or chair.
Try Mindfulness Meditation
Pain can be distressing. You may be feeling afraid in the moment, and that’s perfectly normal. But a bit of mindfulness can help bring you back into the present, help you feel calmer, and ground yourself.
Try listening to a guided meditation while resting in bed or in a chair. Don’t worry if you fall asleep. It may even do you some good to get some rest.
Guided meditations are great for these moments because the sound of a calm, comforting voice can help you feel better. Even if you don’t follow along perfectly, just knowing that you’re doing something to try and help your pain can bring some comfort.
If you’d rather not sit through meditation, you can use mindfulness skills to help you feel grounded and calmer. Here are some tips:
- Focus on the environment around you.
- What do you see?
- What do you smell?
- What do you hear?
- Pick a color and count the number of objects in the room of that color.
Find a Distraction
When the pain becomes really intense, it’s hard to imagine that anything can distract you from it. But do your best to find a distraction – something to take your mind off the pain.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Listen to music
- Watch a movie or your favorite TV show
- Do some arts and crafts
- Talk to a friend or loved one
- Listen to audiobooks
- Go for a short walk
Anything that takes your mind off of the pain can help make it less intense.
Imagine Leaving Your Pain Behind
The mind is a powerful thing, and visualization can help you achieve some impressive things. When the pain becomes too much, imagining that you’re leaving it all behind may help you find some relief.
- Walking, running, or swimming away from the pain.
- Gathering your pain, balling it up, and throwing it off a cliff.
- Turning down the volume on your pain.
If you're interested in learning more about the power of positive thinking, check out the blog post here!
Make Yourself Laugh
Laughter is powerful medicine. It can help you feel a little bit better in the moment and distract you from your pain.
How can you make yourself laugh?
- Make up a silly joke
- Watch funny animal videos on YouTube
- Watch a comedy film or TV show
- Spend time with pets – they can do silly things that may make you giggle
Use Numbers and Math
Counting or doing simple math problems in your head can help distract you and take your mind off of your pain.
- Try counting backward from 100
- Go through the times' table in your head
- Do simple math problems
Using numbers and math can help break negative thought patterns and take your mind off of the pain, even for just a moment.
The unpredictability of chronic pain can make it challenging to manage, but these tips can help when it all becomes too overwhelming.
While it can be difficult to find comfort in words when you’re in terrible pain, take a moment to remind yourself that this too will pass. You won’t feel this way forever (even if this moment feels like forever).
When you're in pain, you need relief as soon as possible. You don't want to wait hours for over-the-counter options to kick in and the negative side effects that come with them.
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