Community Q: How Do I Cope Emotionally With The Pain?
A few weeks ago, I asked my Facebook community what their burning health questions were (If you haven't joined us yet, you can join here. It's free!). We got some great questions, including this one:
Coping with chronic pain is challenging (understatement of the year!).
Some days you may feel a renewed sense of hope that you've figured it all out and finally, something will work.
Then other days when the pain is agonizing, it feels like the carpet is being ripped out from under you and you have to start all over again.
This emotional rollercoaster is difficult to ride.
Having an emotional response to how you're feeling physically is appropriate and allowed.
You're allowed to feel upset when your body is not cooperating with your plan. You're allowed to grieve what your life used to look like. You're allowed to feel angry that you have to cope with this.
But there are strategies you can use to help you cope with these emotions, so they don't consume you all the time.
1. Honour How You Feel.
Allowing yourself to feel the upset, anger, sadness, and grief in the moment will help you to work through these emotions and the difficult physical symptoms. Suppressing these emotions can lead to more physical symptoms, which is not what you want.
Finding ways to honour these emotions can look different for everyone. When you're angry, you may feel like punching a pillow or kicking a cardboard box around. When you're sad, you may feel like crying or eating some comfort food. When you're grieving, it may be helpful to hold an informal ceremony for yourself, similar to how you'd grieve a loved one. Consider what you can do to honour how you're feeling in the moment.
2. Shift Your Perspective.
This is a tough one with fibromyalgia because it often feels like your body is against you. In reality, your body's number 1 job is to protect you and keep you alive. The ways in which your body does that are uncomfortable when your body is trying to communicate to you that something isn't functioning well.
Shifting your perspective from the endless fight of you against your body to acknowledging that your body is communicating with you can be helpful in coping with the pain. When you're in more pain, feeling more exhausted, or feeling more foggy, consider inquiring what your body may be trying to communicate with you.
Your body may be trying to say "hey, I need you to slow down and rest more. I'm trying to do a lot of healing and when you're not sleeping, eating, and you're constantly stressed, I have a really hard time doing what I need to internally" OR "That food generates a lot of inflammation and I think we should stop eating it. The only way I have to tell you that is by making you hurt all over. I'm sorry..".
Showing your body a bit of love and letting it know your listening will help to prevent your body from having to scream at you. Instead, your body will start to communicate with whispers and you will feel much better physically.
3. Remind Yourself of the Positive.
This is not to say you should pretend life is all rainbows and butterflies when you're not feeling well physically, but it can be helpful to remind yourself of all the great things you're doing for your body and remind yourself that bad days don't last forever when you're working towards healing.
If you're having more bad days than good, it means you haven't cracked the code on what your body needs to heal and thrive. It does NOT mean you will never get better.
Consider incorporating daily positive affirmations, gratitude journaling, and regular forgiveness exercises to help shift your thoughts to more positive ones. A negative mindset can be as inflammatory (as painful) as any physical inflammation-generator.
4. Seek Support.
Support can come from a group of others who have fibromyalgia (again, if you haven't joined us in Living Well With Fibromyalgia, what are you waiting for?!), from an understanding and supportive friend/loved one, or from a mental health professional.
Getting support for your mental and emotional state when you're coping with the physical realities of fibromyalgia is a must. It does not mean it's all in your head or that you're making all of your physical symptoms up. It allows someone else to help shoulder the burden of living with a complicated health condition so you don't have to carry it alone.
5. Incorporate More Self-Care.
This goes along with #2. Do something that makes you feel good. Whether it's a hot bath, reading a book, taking a nap, talking to a friend, getting outside, just taking some quiet time for yourself, buying yourself something new, or something else entirely, make it a priority when you're struggling physically. This is the action part of telling your body that you're listening to what it's trying to tell you.
More physical symptoms often come up when stress is high, your health routine has been pushed aside, and life gets in the way of what you know you should be doing. That doesn't mean you can't control it, but it does take change and effort on your part to get those symptoms under control. You can do this and it is possible to gain control of your fibromyalgia symptoms. I know it and I hope you know it too.
Do you have health questions of your own? Join us in Living Well With Fibromyalgia, my free Facebook group. I share TONS of info there and I'd love the opportunity to answer your health questions!