Living With Chronic Pain

14 Ways To Honor Yourself

Last week we talked about why honoring yourself is so important. Now, let’s talk about specific ways to make that a reality.

Meet later. When I don’t have to be somewhere at a specific time I schedule everything later in the day. That way I can sleep in (even an extra hour or two can make a huge difference), take a longer bath, eat breakfast, get in my morning stretches, and not feel pressured to get ready and out the door.

Exercise regularly. This is paramount to lessening my pain. Start slow, even a few minutes a couple of times a day is great. Then build on them. And on those rare days my body makes it clear after a few minutes of trying- not today- I listen. It’s our body’s way of saying we’ve pushed enough so we don’t overdo and suffer the consequences. If it continues, cut your exercise in half for a week or two. Still an issue? See your healthcare provider.

Keep things light. I carry as little as possible. Everything I lift, hold, and carry impacts my pain. It’s whittled down to what I absolutely need. And don’t forget those coats and jackets come off indoors. Keep them light as well. Accompanied by a friend or loved one? Let them carry the water bottle, snacks, and packages. My ex-husband used to carry my purse when even that was too much to carry.

Need just a little extra help? Add a cane for stability and support. I always keep one in my car and a collapsible one in my luggage when traveling. For extended outings, when someone is available, don’t let your ego stop you from getting into a wheelchair. Being able to sit in long ride lines made the difference between a couple of hours and one ride, to and an entire day and multiple rides in the theme parks. Memories I’ll always cherish.

Plan ahead. Schedule what you can to accommodate your needs. When I visited Kartchner Caverns with friends we didn’t want to miss a thing, or have to make several trips to see it all, so we booked both tours on the same day. That meant long hours of driving to the destination then home again, walking the caverns and related areas. Having an hour in between to sit, hydrate, snack and use the restroom made it possible.

Spending the night? For me a bathtub is essential. Instead of leaving it up to fate, I make sure it’s arranged ahead of time. Bring ice/ hot packs, topical creams, extra pillows or blankets. Whatever you may need to ensure comfort. Then the nights are worry free. I know I’ll have what I require to relax and recover for another busy day.

Let someone else drive. When possible, let someone else take the wheel. That way you can stretch and maneuver to ease the tension and stress driving causes. You can even lie down in the back seat. Buy ice and/or hot packs that can be activated when needed to ease inflamed muscles and joints on long trips. Use a lumbar or neck roll to provide additional support.

Give yourself extra time. That way you don’t feel stressed and pressured if unexpected issues occur. Set the alarm earlier than everyone else to allow for a relaxing bath. When driving, add an hour or two to the trip so you can stop regularly to get out, walk, hydrate, and move. It’s not just a physical release but an emotional one as well after being stuck in a car for awhile.

Sleep is essential. I’ve already discussed how a mattress, bed, pillow, and blanket can impact this essential need. Find those that work for you and encourage a better, lasting sleep. For me positioning is important too. Finding a way to alleviate the specific pressure points makes a huge difference in how well I sleep through the night.

Don’t be afraid to move. Too often I felt embarrassed when I had to constantly change positions or take a hot bath in the middle of the night, afraid I’d awaken others. Later I learned they either never heard the commotion or didn’t care because they immediately fell back to sleep. My ability to do more the next day was always worth the few minutes of interrupted sleep my movements caused.

Stay warm. If you’re like me cold makes everything hurt more. That’s why I keep lightweight gloves and socks by the bed for those nights my blankets don’t do the job. I also keep them in my car or purse when traveling. Layers are always best. They can easily be stripped or added to. But make sure each one is lightweight, easy to remove, and carry. I forgot that last requirement when I had to cart around pounds of wool coats for me and my little girl.

Speak up. No one can read your mind. When you need help, time, comfort, a respite… ask for it. Those who care want us happy, healthy and enjoying the day. And those who don’t will quickly make clear who they are when the time comes.

Learn to say no. It’s hard to say no to others in the best of times. Saying no when you’re hurting can seem impossible. But setting appropriate limits is a necessary tool to dealing with and diminishing pain. “No, one more ride is too much.” “No, I can’t help you move and then unpack your new apartment.” “No, I can’t move that potted tree to the other side of the room!” No can be a powerful protector.

Learn to say yes to your needs. Staying healthy and safe not only helps you but everyone in your life. Relationships from work to family to friends will improve when you make sure your needs are met and honored. Less pain means less irritability, frustration and fatigue. Honoring who you are, what you require and how you feel can make all the difference in suffering with pain or learning to live with it.

If you don’t honor yourself, who will?

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