We are in the midst of incredibly crazy and shifting times. With it comes increased stress, anxiety, comfort eating and inactivity; all enemies to chronic pain. For many, having to stay at home, while financially costly, may actually sound like a benefit- it’ll gives us an opportunity to rest. But there needs to be a balance. Lying in bed with no purpose to the day, focusing on concerns and worries can be devastating and serves to exacerbate the pain.
Here are a few ideas to implement that may help:
Keep up your routine: Get up everyday at the same time to shower, brush your teeth, read the paper, and drink your morning cup of joe. Maintaining a sense of normalcy and ritual is imperative. Set up the day just as you normally would with specific times for specific activities. Keeping to a schedule gives purpose and direction to the day.
Take advantage of the downtime: We’ve all wished we had that extra time to catch up on paperwork, hem those pants, and organize our drawers and closets. Maybe it’s a craft project or puzzle you’ve been meaning to try. A book you’ve had you’re eye on. Now is the time to get started.
Eat healthy: With stress comes comfort eating. Especially as we see fruits, vegetables and healthy foods dwindling in the grocery stores, but candy and chips remain plentiful in their wake. Don’t be tempted. Study after study shows pain gets worse with processed foods.
Get outdoors: Smell the fresh air and move. Social distancing is important but that doesn’t mean we can’t go outside. If you have a dog, walk it the same time every day. Especially now, wander through the neighborhood really looking at and enjoying the beauty all around. Make a picnic and eat it in your own backyard.
Get active indoors: Set up a time, or times, each day to exercise and stretch. Nothing helps our minds and bodies more than surging life energizing oxygen to all parts. It’ll stimulate the brain and muscles, helping us to feel better emotionally and physically. Plus-we get the added benefit of all those endorphins to help the pain.
Don’t over do: While it may be tempting to get everything on that to-do list done, pace yourself. Overdoing will just exacerbate the pain and make it harder to cope. Don’t tackle chores you’re not up to. Getting on a ladder or lifting heavy items can wait until someone else is available to help.
Get out of bed: Staying inactive for long stretches of time only worsens pain. Inactivity is not our friend. Binge watching a favorite show may sound wonderful, but hours later your muscles will pay the price.
Get sleep: Sleeping is imperative and often the most impacted by our pain. Getting 7-9 hours helps our entire body to function better. That’s another reason why staying in bed all day is a poor idea. Keep busy and active throughout the day, stay out of bed until it’s time to sleep, that way the body knows when it’s meant to shut down. We all desperately need this time to recover- physically and emotionally.
Don’t isolate: We may not be congregating in restaurants or parties anymore but we still require those connections to loved ones and friends. We all need to feel we’re not alone. Skype, Face Time, whatever works for you. Keep those connections. We may not be able to give them a hug but we can still look each other in the eye and share.
Ask for help: Feeling alone only leads us to do activities that cause or exacerbate pain. We can still help each other out when needed for food runs, chores, or cleaning. If you know someone in pain or limited in what they can do, ask what they need during these difficult times. If you’re the one in pain, ask for help.
Deal with stress: We all know stress worsens pain, so these uncertain times can’t be helping. Talk to friends and family. Just knowing you’re not alone helps. Using the techniques above can also reduce stress and give a sense of control. But if you need more intervention call your healthcare provider.
Talk to your provider: These are unique times that may require different interventions. Make sure to keep seeing your healthcare provider and let them know how you’re feeling and issues you’re dealing with. Maintain all other healthcare needs since they can impact pain as well.
Take each day one at a time. Whatever tomorrow brings, we’ll get through it together.