Chronic pain affects an estimated 116 million people in the United States annually. For chronic pain sufferers and their families and friends, life can be filled with daily ups and downs. Levels of pain can vary greatly from day to day, and sometimes from hour to hour. Here are a few ways to help cope with chronic pain daily and to connect with friends and family members so they understand:
- Include friends and family on your good days as well as your bad days. Invite friends and family along for a walk or an errand. Let them see the struggle on the days that are tough. It is important for them to see what the tough days are like, as chronic pain is often an “invisible” illness.
- Join a support group that has functions to include family members. If you are the first in your family to suffer from a condition that causes or worsens chronic pain, connect with others in the community who are going through the same thing. This can be very helpful for children of chronic pain sufferers, as they will be able to see other kids whose parents are struggling.
- Eat a pain-healthy diet, and encourage your family and friends to join you. Pain-healthy diets avoid processed foods, including those with excessive amounts of sugar and unpronounceable ingredients. They also feature whole foods and organic produce where possible. In short, pain-healthy diets are good for everyone! Make mealtimes not only a time to break bread but also a time to help friends and family understand how the body can be supported with good nutrition.
- Be honest about what you can and cannot do, with yourself and with friends and family. Whatever you could do yesterday may not be the same as what you can do today. Don’t try to hide it or suffer through it. Let friends and family know when you are not able to participate, and do what you can later.
- Find a way to distract yourself from the pain. This is a great way to connect with others. Focusing on the pain can sometimes result in more intensity. When you can, take a break from worrying about pain, or thinking about pain, and do something you love with people you find interesting. Craft, hike, dance, go to a festival: get into the world and focus on the possibilities. Sometimes you just need a break, and finding something you can share with others is a great way to take some time off! Including your family and friends in these days off also lets them know that you appreciate their support and enjoy their company. It is important to share your best self when you can!
How do you connect with others about your chronic pain?
Image by Kevin Dooley via Flickr