Pack up your pain and prepare to party!
This month I am going to offer some no-nonsense, easy-to-follow advice. This is because Christmas is coming! I hope you are looking forward to it, but you might also be worrying a bit. There is nothing worse than feeling you are spoiling everything because you are in pain. And of course, if you are anxious this can make the pain seem worse.
What I am going to do in this post is pass on some of the advice I give in two of my books: Managing Chronic Pain in the Family https://www.amazon.co.uk/Managing-Chronic-Pain-Family- family/dp/1999867122/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1543931148&sr=8-4&keywords=sue+peacock and Break the Pain Cycle in 28 Days. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Break-Pain-Cycle-days-Techniques/dp/0995459975/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543931148&sr=8-1&keywords=sue+peacock
It is all about taking things steadily, doing what you can and enjoying that. I hope these few simple techniques can help you sail through and enjoy the next few weeks.
You are likely to be chasing around and very busy as the big day approaches. You may find yourself in stressful situations where you cannot fully determine what happens, at the office party for example. So, it is important to stay in control. If you feel things are running away from you, try to break the cycle of stress and anxiety leading to pain.
Of course, at Christmas time this is not completely possible. So, focus on what you know helps you to control your pain. You will know what daily activities, and that includes daily rest, you must do to keep as well as you can. Start making a plan now to protect those over the next few weeks.
In the run up to Christmas make sure you have some days which are quieter. If you know a certain type of exercise, perhaps walking, swimming or yoga eases your pain try to keep those up.
Learning to breathe properly is one of the most important things you can do to control your pain. And it is easy and unobtrusive. Once you have practised and mastered a technique you can use it anywhere. Here is one I featured in my book, 28 Days to Manage Your Pain
TRIANGLE BREATHING – draw a triangle, on outer left side, write I, outer right side write E, centre line, write P. I=inhale, E=exhale, P=pause. Use this tool daily. Take a deep breath in and then blow out. INHALE slowly whilst saying, inhale silently. EXHALE slowly whilst saying, exhale silently. PAUSE 1,2,3,4, then start again.
Another technique I mention in this book, and one I encourage all my clients to use, is visualisation.
I bet you can think of a time when you were so engaged you forgot about your pain. You can use this natural ability to train yourself in distraction techniques. Visualisation is a good distraction. However, it needs practise. You still have time before Christmas ramps up.
Try this. If you are experiencing an increase in pain, think about your favourite place. Think about absolutely everything about it: colours, smells, textures, noises, etc. Take your time and go through the image until you have absolutely everything in place. Then practise making the experience even stronger, go through all the senses and work to increase the good feelings your picture produces. Then fix the image and give it a name. Practise this several times a day every day. Very soon just recalling the name will bring back the good feelings. Calling these up can push the experience of pain to the back of your mind.
In my book Managing Chronic Pain as a Family, I spoke about a system I developed called PACRAM. The purpose of this is to help my clients deal with special occasions. Here I have adapted it for the Christmas period. I want to share it with you here as it will help.
P – Plan
Plan the whole Christmas day
Being in a busy, hot or noisy environment for many hours may make your pain worse. Make a plan for the whole day which includes some quiet time or some time out. Can you take time away and go for a short gentle walk? Can you go somewhere slightly quieter and do relaxing breathing and visualisation exercises, such as the ones above? If you are going to someone else’s house over the Christmas period is there a quiet space where you can retreat if everything gets too much?
A -A shorter time can be better time
Often Christmas events can drag on and on. Be honest with yourself. If spending from 11am right through to late in the evening at a relative’s house is too much, then say so. Be assertive and confident. You know what is best for you and you deserve to look after your own health. Don’t feel you have to stay at an event longer than is safe for your own wellbeing. It may help if you inform others and explain that you will only be able to manage to the afternoon, or that you will come later, whatever is right for you.
C – Choose your best time of day
We are learning more and more about the importance of our personal body clocks to our general health. We all have the best times of our day, and these are pretty much hard-wired. If you are the sort of person who is best in the morning, or if you blossom late at night accept this. It is part of your make up and is more or less fixed, so work with it rather than trying to change it. If it is possible, choose to attend that part of the Christmas celebrations which are at the best time of day for you. You will know if you are best early in the day or late at night. Choose your best time if you can.
R- Rest is your friend
Make sure you rest the day before your busiest day over Christmas. It is especially important that you get a good night’s sleep, this can be a challenge if you are feeling excited. You can find out more about good sleep routines in my book Sleeping with Pain. During Christmas day, plan for some rest breaks. If possible, sort out some quiet places where you can rest. Use your rest time to really relax.
A -Ask for a comfortable seat
The Christmas meal is traditionally the longest meal of the year. And sitting in one seat for several hours can get a bit much for anyone, let alone for someone in chronic pain. Many types of chronic pain are made worse by sitting in an uncomfortable seat. Do not be afraid to ask if there is a more comfortable alternative. A cushion can be your friend. As with so many things, plan and prepare. Find a seat at home the most similar to the one you will be expected to sit on for the Christmas meal and experiment with different types of cushion.
M – Move around
And remember, change your posture every few minutes and get up at least every half an hour. Getting stiff by sitting too long will almost certainly increase your pain.
There are more tips on managing your pain at Christmas on my facebook page https://facebook.com/apaininthemind/
I hope these tips and those on my facebook page will help you pack up your pain and prepare to party and help you enjoy every moment of Christmas.