As we stroll, or possibly limp, into 2019, I’d like to wish you a happy new year with better health and less pain.
It seems like no time at all since we were celebrating the start of 2018. Actually, for me, it seems like no time since we were celebrating the start of the new millennium. Where does the time go?
In the year 2000, I had already been retired through ill health for six years and had been living with chronic pain for much, much longer. I suppose I should be used to living with my pain by now. But I don’t think anyone ever really gets used to that. But you can learn to live with it.
I have picked up a lot of tips along the way which help me live with my pain. Occasionally I forget some of them, so I thought I should remind myself with the following list of the things I should do. I was going to call it my new year’s resolutions, but I don’t like that term. People make resolutions every year, but most often, they fall by the wayside before the end of January. I really intend to stick with these, so I’m calling them good intentions for the new year.
Will you be making any good intentions this new year? Perhaps you’d like to use mine?
1. Learn coping mechanisms
There is so much learning involved when we live with a chronic condition. We need to learn about the condition itself, about its treatments and what to do in an emergency situation. And very importantly, we need to learn some coping mechanisms.
Are meds helping enough? Are the side effects unbearable? If that’s the case make an appointment to see your doctor to reassess. They could make some changes to suit better.
Keep a pain diary (even if the condition isn’t new) – you might find new triggers which you can eliminate.
Learn breathing and relaxation exercises. They can help us get through those bad days. But don’t just do them on the bad days. Try to do them every day. Then on the bad days, they’ll come much more naturally to you.
It’s so easy to think that our lives are only about our health conditions. But there is so much more to us.
Ignore the pain or illness for a minute and focus on who you actually are.
Focus on the good parts of your life and hold on to those thoughts.
Focus on now. On bad days, take it one day at a time. One hour at a time. Minute by minute when necessary. Remind yourself that you’ve been here before and you’ve got through it and you will again.
Breathe and picture something happy in your life. With every breath you take, focus on that picture. Breathe that happiness into your body.
3. Be positive
We should try to find positives in any situation. But what positives can there be in living with a chronic illness or disability? Perhaps it makes us have more empathy towards others. Perhaps we’ve discovered strengths and new personality traits or talents we didn’t know we had. Perhaps we’ve met new friends within the illness/disability communities.
Positivity can make life feel better. It can motivative us. It can reduce stress and anxiety levels, and that in turn, can improve symptoms.
Try to surround yourself with positive people. Positivity breeds positivity.
Remember that no matter how bad winter is, Spring always follows on afterwards.
4. Be grateful
I know that it’s sometimes difficult to feel gratitude when we have chronic conditions, but we all have some things which we can be grateful for.
Think about the good, rather than the bad. Think about what you have in life, rather than what you don’t have. Think about what you can do, rather than what you can’t do. Think of your abilities instead of your disabilities.
Look at what’s around you – your family, friends, a home, food on your table, nature, sunshine, rain.
Try keeping a gratitude journal. Write in it every night. Write about the big things and the small things. Sometimes the small things in life are actually the big things.
If you’re having a down day, read through all your entries. It might help make you feel a bit better.
5. Be kind
We should all experience kindness in our lives. We want it to be shown to us, so we must also show it to others.
Ask someone how they are feeling. Let them know you care. Make them feel good about themselves. Give them a compliment. Tell them they’re looking well, or you like the work they’ve done. It will make them feel good about themselves. It will encourage them. And you will feel good about yourself as an added bonus.
6. Be hopeful
It’s difficult sometimes to be optimistic when we have a chronic illness. But sometimes we need to hold on to hope.
We need hope for better tomorrows, hope that the pain eases, hope for better medication. We can possibly even hope for a cure.
I believe we need to be realistic, but we can still be hopeful.
‘Realistic’ is the key word here – there are many companies online selling miracle cures. Please be very wary. As the old saying goes, “If it seems too good to be true, it usually is.”
Smiling really is good for your health and it can help reduce pain levels.
Raising a smile releases feel-good endorphins which lower blood pressure and act as a natural pain reliever.
A smile can make someone’s day. It can stop an argument in its tracks. It can stop those awkward silences. It is the common language spoken throughout the world. Smiling is contagious – more contagious than the flu. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving.
So, smile as often as you can throughout the day. You don’t even need a reason.
Smile in the mirror at your own reflection.
Smile at everyone you see – family, friends, neighbours, colleagues and strangers.
8. Treat yourself
Chocolate anyone? You can’t have too much chocolate, can you? Okay, it doesn’t need to be chocolate. But treat yourself to something you love at least once a week.
Perhaps you could buy or borrow a new book then get yourself comfy and lose yourself in it. Or just put on your favourite music and sing like no-one can hear you. Or snuggle under the duvet and watch your favourite movie with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. Or set aside some time for a favourite hobby or a pampering session.
Give yourself some ‘me’ time and treat yourself. No guilt. Just enjoy. You deserve it.
9. Ask for help
How often do you struggle and push yourself when there are people there who would be willing to help? Just ask them.
Or if they offer without even being asked, don’t say, “It’s okay, I can manage.” Instead, learn to say, “Yes, please. Thank you for offering.”
10. Love Yourself
You’re worth it. Have you forgotten that?
We often knock ourselves down when we have a chronic condition. We think we’re not worthy of self-love, and sometimes other people’s. But we are.
YOU are worth it. Please remember this.
If you can only carry through one of these good intentions, make it this one. Because if you can learn to love yourself, the others will hopefully fall into place.
Hopefully, my good intentions are keepers and won’t fall by the wayside! What do you think? Will you be making any of your own? Or will you use mine?
I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below, and click on the social media buttons to share the post.