How to Find Joy in the Middle of a Flare-up

How to Find Joy in the Middle of a Flare-up

By Jenni Grover.

You know how, when you’re in a flare-up and your pain is worse than usual, you feel like everything just sucks? Like nothing feels good? Like nobody understands?

Yeah, I thought so. We have that in common. Flare-ups are so hard.

For a long time, I thought flare-ups were the darkest times—that I could not experience any happiness during a flare-up. But I’ve learned that it’s possible find joy even when I’m struggling physically.

In no particular order, here is a list of things I do to find joy on the hardest days:

Make something: Some days this is harder than others; pain in my hands can be limiting. But when I can, I make something. Maybe I send a handwritten note to a friend, or I sew some blocks for a quilt, or cook a simple dinner. Making things helps me feel like I’m accomplishing something on days that otherwise feel worthless.

Jenni Grover

Laugh: Silliness is a balm for me, a way to distract myself from difficult emotions during flare-ups. I like to talk on the phone with faraway friends, joking about our lives. I love to make my husband crack up, which often involves me making weird body humor jokes. I keep a list of comedies queued up on Netflix, and I have some go-to Instagram accounts that make me giggle.

Play with kids: Speaking of laughter, my best friend’s kiddos crack me up all the time. It’s a privilege to get to hang out with kids (I don’t have any of my own) and I always end up being silly with them.

Meditate: When I meditate, I feel more grounded—I don’t feel as afraid of the pain I’m experiencing. So I meditate daily, and I weave mindfulness practice into my daily life. There’s a quiet joy in feeling not afraid.

Listen to music: My playlists on Spotify are curated for moods: “Get Sweaty” is for workouts, “Goddess Maximus” is about strong women, “Feeling Lustrous and Luscious” is for when I want to feel sexy, “Write the Book” is for reminding myself I can still work. (You can listen to my playlists, too! Find me on Spotify: ChronicBabe.)

Connect with others: I text a handful of friends every day, no matter what, and that reduces feelings of isolation during flare-ups. I have a few friends who will Skype with me from far away, and the occasional phone call is lovely. Pain is isolating; keeping your friends close is essential to staying joyful.

Enjoy the outdoors: If I’m able, I take a walk outside, and try to focus on observing nature. If I’m unable (either because of my pain, or because I live in Chicago and HELLO! Winter!), I sit by a window and observe the outside. The experience of seeing a flower in bloom or hearing birdsong is soothing.

Eat something delicious: If I can’t cook, I’ll order in a favorite (spicy tuna roll from my favorite sushi place). Sometimes, my husband will cook for us. And I keep healthy snacks, especially fruit, on the kitchen counter. Eating mindfully—savoring the smells, colors, and tastes—makes me so happy.

Help others: Even if most of the day is a disaster, I spend a little time on social media or blogging for my ChronicBabe website because I know it helps others. Through writing things (like this!) I’m able to make meaning out of my chronic pain and illness experience.

Bathe: Taking a bath is a lovely thing. When I’m flared-up, it can feel like a chore, but when I take a shower or bath, I always feel so much happier. Who wants to be stinky all day in addition to their pain and other symptoms? If you need to, get a shower chair. Indulge in a fizzy bath bomb or a fragrant soap. Play some music, light a candle, throw your towel over the radiator so it’s warm when you get out of the tub—make it lovely.

Jenni Grover is founder of ChronicBabe and U.S. Pain Foundation Ambassador – Illinois.

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Authored by: Jenni Grover

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10 Comments on "How to Find Joy in the Middle of a Flare-up"

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When im in a flare up, i do absolutely nothing. Years before I would push through the pain. But after 17 years of dealing with it, I just dont have the energy or the will. Plus I get depressed so I basically lay on the couch till I feel better. Wish I was stronger like I used to be.

Thank you for the information, most helpful is the activity and meditation. I can sit or lay in my chair supported. For most of the day. I have my kindle tablet, that allows me to email, read books, stream videos, play games and research pain
relief and what causes and eliminates it. Thank god my Wife still cares about how I feel, I try so hard to help her help us.
Boy, there are some snake oil remedys out there. If your like me you have tried a lot of them.
.. I live in the opoid crisis state, the politicians have scared all of our good primary care physicians with new laws,. That treat them and the cronically pained, patients as if they are the criminal. I’ve been on pain meds for 15 years, now I’m expected to stop and start all the xrays, mri’s, blood and urine test all over again. Been to doctors neurological surgeon, chyropractor, pain clinic and have danced the dance. Now I’m almost 65 and here we go again.
May God, have mercy on all of us sinners. I’ve never used illegal drugs nor any not prescribed by a Doctor for me. The powers that be just have no idea. But then again maybe they do and just don’t care. Thanks for allowing me to vent. I need to go pick up my last prescription while I can still get it. May your day and nights be free of pain and suffering.

Thank you Jenni for giving us some good suggestions. It is so very easy to “get stuck” during a flare up, which I am in, as we speak. Argh… During those periods, it can be easy for us to lose sight or focus.
Many chronic pain sufferers are also caregivers, as I am for my 85 year old mother, and was for my father who passed away last year from complications due to Alzheimer’s, a relentlessly cruel disease I might add.
In many cases, there are no other family members who are 1) available to step in, or 2) not willing to do so. During the two year period my father resided in the care center, I would travel 20 miles every other day, to pick up my mother, so we could spend time with my father and help care for his needs. It was not easy, especially as a chronic pain sufferer, but I did it out of love for my parents. The time we had together was invaluable. I learned many things about caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. I am currently in the midst of writing a book, to help other Alzheimer caregivers with the knowledge I acquired. I love to write, but it is hard to concentrate and sit at a computer during a flare up.
So… we over did it while running my mother’s errands the other day. We have a lot of fun together, enjoy each other’s company, and have a few laughs. Laughter is very good for you, as Jenni stated, and I recently read that laughter is healing to the body, and helps with pain.
I love showers and find they are very therapeutic to the mind and body. That is a great time to meditate and connect with the spirit in prayer. Some of my most brilliant ideas come while in the shower.
Flare-ups are part of what the chronic pain cycle is all about. It is difficult at times to find joy, but we must never let pain win!

I completely know where your coming from. I’m in the full blown flare up and I’m sure my see rate is high.i have hla-b27 ankylosing spondylitis and due to my l5 and s1 fusing on its own which started my neurothopy and my nerve from my AS my right knee down to my toes swell up my big toe and the ball of my foot feels like a knife sticking in them. Plus I’m on antibiotics cause of an ulcer on the ball of my foot. I feel like a criminal if they prescribe pain meds. I’ve been in pain magement before and took Norco 10/325 and when I had stop them I didn’t get addicted or go through many withdrawal symptoms. What is killing and destroying people where I live is Crystal Meth.

Hi Jenni, good for you. All good tips. I like listening to Podcasts. They take my mind off pain and I learn something interesting, often they soothe me into a nap and then my muscles relax and the pain improves. If you love baths, I have discovered the best bath oil in the world. It is German brand called Spitzner. It is made with real essential oils, and there are about 9 “flavours” including lavender, rosemary, thyme and Melissa (Melissa is very calming and very rare as it is diffucult to extract the oil from the plant), the oils colour the water (green for Thyme, blue for Lavender etc). There are no chemical nasties and no bubbles. Each bottle costs about £6 and lasts for 15-20 baths, so I think it’s good value. You can get them from Amazon. Kneipp are also a good brand, but Spitzner are the best, they fragrance the house all day. Happy bathing!

I agree with the last writer – “Go To Jesus”, no matter how I feel or how much pain I am in, Jesus died for me, on a tree, One day, either at the rapture or when I die, no more suffering or pain. AMEN!

This is the nest and most useful post I have seen. Thank you for sharing!

You struck a chord with me. All your suggestions are really helpful.
It took me a long time to learn that listening to guided meditations can bring me out of the fear cyclone and reduce my anxiety. (I look up guided meditations on YouTube.) I’ve taken to watching late-night comedy shows at all times of the day. I recently started creating homemade cards for people out of old scraps of decorative paper and cloth.
Thank you for your perspective and camaraderie.

Oh, how I wish I could do those things when my migraine is full speed! If I could laugh, talk on the phone, cook, eat, play with grandchildren or even quietly knit, I would not consider that a flare up. I would just call that life.

I always go to Jesus. He is my first choice. And all your choices are perfect!!!
Thankyou!!! I’m so thankful there is something, someone much bigger than my pain, that soon, it will all be gone (pain), and I will be forever with the Lord! We all need hope! Without hope, our fight to live dies. When we have someone, something to look forward to, then we can fight the pain.
I believe we chronics are the strongest people in the world, not the weakest. The Bible says:
“For when I am weak, then I am strong”.
So there you have it. And I believe it.
God bless you!