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With the constant hysteria about the “opioid epidemic” getting treatment for chronic pain is getting more and more difficult. Often people in pain are accused of being drug seekers and told they just need to get over their pain. Of course those of us who have experienced pain know that there are no easy answers. We can’t just take a Tylenol to make the pain go away, and being in pain all the time has some serious long term side effects. There’s really no easy answer when it comes to treating chronic pain on your own, so here’s a few strategies I use when I’m really hurting and I need to distract myself from the pain. They don’t make the pain go away, but it helps to focus on something else for a while.
- A relaxing epsom salt bath
A bath can be wonderfully relaxing, especially when you are pain. Grab some Epsom salts to help out your sore muscles and lock yourself in the bathroom where no one will bother you. I like to take a book and a glass of ice water with me, and then think of nobody but myself for a whole thirty minutes. It does wonders for my mental and physical health.
2. Listen to music
There is a lot of power in music therapy. Trained music therapists use it as a means of conditioning the patient to relax and release pain and stress, and this is an effect you could produce at home. Listen to something calm to help you relax your muscles. Listen to something upbeat if your feeling depressed about your pain. Listen to something empowering if you are discouraged about your illness. Find something that makes you feel better, whatever it is.
3. Focus on breathing
Focusing on your breathing can impact your stress levels and even lower your blood pressure. Just taking a few minutes to try some breathing exercises can help you focus your mind on something else behind the pain.
4. Notice what is going on around you
Sit in a comfortable spot and observe what is going on around you. Notice the ceiling fan spinning, the sound of the neighbor’s dog barking, the hum of the air conditioning, the colors on the wall. Focus on everything but your body. You can even listen to a guided meditation if that is your preference.
Sometimes laughing is the last thing you want to do when you are hurting, but it has been shown to have some influence in the reduction of pain. For me personally, I find that talking to a friend is what makes me laugh. However, if I am by myself I often use the internet to keep my chuckling (I have a weakness for buzzfeed.com) or watch a goofy show on Netflix. I also love to curl up with a good book.
6. Enjoy the outdoors
I am an outdoor person, even though my climate doesn’t always cooperate. I have a hammock in my backyard for my bad days. I can go outside and lay there and it takes very little effort on my part. Sometimes it’s only for a few minutes because it’s too hot, but even those few minutes tend to make me feel better. If I’m not in too much pain I might take a short walk around the block just to get myself out of the house. It helps me to notice the things going on around me instead of noticing how miserable my body feels.
7. Adult coloring books
I held off doing this for a long time because I thought it was nutty, but it turns out that it is great for self care. Coloring is very therapeutic as it is a stress free activity. It helps generate quietness and mindfulness which are the same benefits from meditation. Plus, not only will you distract yourself from pain, you will have fun! There are so many different kinds of coloring books out there, from animals to swear words you can find something for you.