By Ellen Lenox Smith.
“When Life Gives you a Hundred Reasons to Cry,
Show Life that you have a Thousand Reasons to Smile”
- Author unknown
We all live with various levels of stress. Stress creates the perfect breeding ground for intense emotional anxiety. Stress cannot be eliminated from our lives but to a degree stress can be managed in a manner which serves to reduce anxiety. Anxiety can be brought on in so many ways in our everyday lives whether brought on when you are stuck in traffic and late for an important appointment, when you lock yourself out of your car or house, accidently bump into another car, have a sick loved one, waiting for a booked surgery, a house fire, house flooding, etc. So many things in life are just out of our control so we have to learn how to “go with the flow” and move past the stress brought on by so many unforeseen events seemingly beyond our control. This sounds easy, but we all know it is a challenge to take on. For those of us living with chronic pain our natural capacity to confront and deal with stress may be compromised. For those of us experiencing pain on a daily basis, a conscious effort must be made to develop techniques and lifestyles which can contribute to a reduction in our stress levels and thus minimize the resulting anxiety.
So, what can we do to try to reduce stress in our daily lives? Can we identify individuals or situations which create stress in our lives? Are we able to develop methods and techniques to manage our lives in order to avoid stress producing situations?
- Avoid judgmental people whenever possible, even when it happens to be your family members. You must stay as healthy as possible and the stress others can bring into our lives is harmful to your health. If someone is ranting on and miserable, then find a way to step away. Seek the company of those individuals not consumed by anger and frustration. There is a difference between those pain patients who periodically need to vent and those that are attempting to find happiness in new and perhaps creative ways despite the challenges their physical condition presents. Seek out these individuals.
- Find passion in life that you are able to achieve, despite your condition, passion can lead to a sense of purpose. We all experience losses living with chronic pain and have to learn to leave behind those things no longer possible and discover those things that we can achieve new accomplishments no matter how small can produce a sense of happiness and new meaning in your life.
- Try to stay active - move your body and try not be sedentary, if possible. I have found on those days that I wonder why I am even attempting to work out, that in time, I realize I am feeling more positive and happy by doing just that. I grew up with a mom that believed a regular exercise routine was not necessary since she cleaned the house and considered that her exercise. Although that is moving the body, it is not as helpful as it is to set up a routine of manageable physical exercise dedicated to supporting your body and your mind.
- Eat as well as you can and stay away from any food sensitivities, when you can. By working on avoiding processed foods, too much sugar and carbs, you will actually find you will get more energy to enjoy your day with this healthy nutrition. Fresh food is priceless to add to life, free of pesticides and eaten soon after harvesting. Maybe you could even enjoy a garden for an activity that would produce healthy food.
- Identify and avoid medications you are not able to metabolize - this can be determined by a DNA drug sensitivity test. Many do not realize that just because a doctor ordered you new medication, it may not be compatible with your particular body chemistry. Notice how you feel taking it and if you notice negative changes, then talk with them about this and consider an alternative.
- Remember that rest is key - if you are not sleeping well at night, the next day will feel overwhelming. There are various ways to achieve this, so have that conversation with your doctor to see if you can find an effective remedy for your sleep issues.
- Take a moment each day to run through your mind what you are grateful for, despite your pain and losses. There are still things that can make you smile, people that still care along with reminding ourselves that not all is lost in our lives. I have learned to take a moment each morning to look out the window and run through what I do have that I am grateful for. The emotional trauma of loss and the challenge of daily pain can prove overwhelming at times but it is critical for individuals afflicted with chronic conditions to work on finding the good in our lives placing as much energy as possible in focusing on the positive aspects of our live.
- Mourn your losses, for losing the strength and ability to do what you could once do before is heartbreaking. Also, it is a daily reminder that life took a turn you had not asked for, expected, or wanted. But after you give yourself time to accept and try to learn to accept these changes, you need to then move forward and live life as this new person.
- Try to redefine the new you as you live this life differently than before. We need to like who we are and search for that redefined you despite the losses you are having. Life will not return to what it was before but this is the only life you get, so you want to find a way to accept the changes and move on.
- Surround yourself with as much beauty as you can. If we aren’t growing flowers, then I try to buy some to have in the house to cheer me up and remind me of the beauty of life around me. So, what makes you smile? Flowers, a bright color in a room, quiet music?
- Try to avoid negative news. When teaching, I use to challenge my students to go out in the world and report on the good that is around us. So many articles, TV news and radio stations relate to the negative in life. Why do we set ourselves up like this? My favorite part of the news is called “Making a Difference” where they share one positive story. Imagine if we had a news station that only dedicated their reports to positive things people are doing in life, all the time? That would help us all feel better about life around us and in time, others would want to emulate the good to get the attention, instead of the negative reports that seem to encourage others in the wrong direction.
- Try to get on top of your pain. When you are in pain, the stress levels can get out of control. Our bodies metabolize differently so try to find medication that is compatible to you! You will find that if you are able to wake up from a decent sleep, whatever the next day brings will be tackled with more calm and clear thinking.
Life is not easy for anyone. We easily tend to look at someone else and think they are so much luckier than we are, but are they? We all have to face issues in life and it is not always easy to compare or even know what others are also trying to cope with. All people face emotional trauma in their lives. The only difference is in the degree and intensity of the trauma. How we chose to handle our personal and unique challenges seems to be a key in helping us unlock ways to achieve less stress and discover more happiness. Adding the challenge of living with a chronic condition certainly makes this even more of an issue and adds complications no one wants to have to deal with. Whatever you are learning to live with, see if you can identify and possibly relieve stress that is possibly in your control. And for all the things that come our way that we can’t control, I wish you strength learning to address the issues to cope with your life.
Life is Like a Camera
Focus on what’s important
Capture the good times
Develop from the negatives
And if things don’t work out,
Take another shot
Author: Ziad K Abdelnar; from Economic Warfare Secrets of Wealth
Creation in the Age of Welfare Politics
May life be kind to you,
Ellen Lenox Smith
Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical cannabis advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation, along with Ellen on the board and they both also serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. For more information about medical cannabis visit their website. https://ellenandstuartsmith.squarespace.com/
Author of: It Hurts Like Hell!: I Live With Pain- And Have a Good Life, Anyway, and My Life as a Service Dog!
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report.