Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis, you’re thankful to finally put a name to why you feel the way you do. But along with that sense of relief, you’re bound to feel a sense of loss and grief as well — along with the pain. From the initial shock to eventual acceptance down the road, it’s all part of the journey. Below are ten tips to help you live well despite the pain.
- Know that it’s okay not to feel okay for awhile. Of course you’re going to grieve. The good news is that this feeling won’t last forever, but there’s no way around that initial shock. Give yourself permission to feel exactly what you’re feeling. It’s the first step in the process. Studies show that the best way to cope is to face your diagnosis head on vs. avoiding or denying it.
- Decide to become a survivor vs. a victim. This means that you take control of the situation. Commit yourself to exploring strategies to make your life easier. Begin with educating yourself on the disease so you can make informed decisions regarding the best treatments for you. Find a healthcare professional who listens to you and is knowledgeable of your particular condition.
- Reduce as much stress from your life as you can. Stress lowers your pain tolerance level. If you want to feel less stressed, decluttering your life is a good place to start. Begin discarding everything that doesn’t bring you joy, beginning with your closets and kitchen cabinets. It’s amazing how having organized closets can give you a whole new lease on life. Be careful to tackle this at your own pace, though, even if it’s just organizing one shelf per week.
Studies indicate that meditation also has a positive impact on your stress levels and pain. Creating a healthy, peaceful home environment, complete with a serene meditation space can be of great help. Here are some tips for making your home a stress-free space.
Also helpful are relaxation techniques that have been shown to alleviate chronic pain.
- Exercise. It not only produces natural endorphins, but it’s an essential aspect in the treatment of chronic pain. “Everybody can do something,” says Perry Fine, MD, a board member at the American Pain Foundation. Walking, yoga, Pilates, swimming, and tai-chi are some of your best choices.
- Don’t smoke. The short-term relief from nicotine brings long-term problems. Smoking has been shown to worsen chronic pain.
- Keep excess weight off. Studies suggest that pain complaints increase steadily as body mass index (BMI) increases.
- Eat healthy. Research shows that diet should be an integral part of a pain management program. Experts say that if you suffer from chronic pain, a diet makeover with a focus on vegetables can have a dramatic effect.
- Join a support group. Because chronic pain is basically an invisible illness, it’s easy to feel that you’re alone with it. There’s nothing like connecting with others who experience many of your same problems and frustrations. They can give you hope and offer practical suggestions. In time, you will get the satisfaction of helping them too. Ask your healthcare provider if he/she knows of a good support group in your area, or join one of the many free online support groups for your particular condition.
- Treat yourself to regular massages. Massage is a safe and effective way to relieve pain. It increases the release of endorphins and helps decrease the perception of pain, along with the accompanying stress, anxiety, and depression that are associated with it.
- Become passionate about something. Pursue anything that elicits a positive reaction inside of you, be it birdwatching or learning French. Living with chronic pain can take an emotional toll on you, and it’s up to you to seek out those things (and people) that give you an emotional lift.
By following these tips, you might find that you’re an even stronger, more patient, and compassionate person than you were before your diagnosis. You’re also about to make some new life-long friends and be adopting healthful habits that will help you in every aspect of your life. Sure, there will be ups and downs, but in time, you will learn to live well on this new road you’re on.