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Living with chronic / persistent pain: Managing change


Living with chronic /persistent pain can be difficult as often it requires us to change. There is an expression used to describe the reality of living with chronic / persistent pain, it is the ‘new normal’. Life may change, it may be more limited in many ways, but it is still life and a ‘normal’ can be established. New routines, new choices, new challenges and opportunities will be there. There will still be a richness.

Choices are like clearings in a forest. We cannot determine when we will come across a clearing, we cannot determine what it will be, but we can determine whether or not to enter the clearing and experience what it has to offer.

We often cannot change what has happened to us, and that can cause feelings of anger and powerlessness. Remember, however, that you have not lost all control, even though in the bad times it may feel like this. You always have some degree of choice. This may be limited, it may feel like the choices are not good but they will be there. 

So, I want to help you make the best choice when choices are limited. 

First thing to say it, trust yourself. You know you and your circumstances. You know what you want out of life and how what energy you have is best used. Whatever happens you will make the best choices for you. But I think there is something even more important about choice. And that is choice implies control. And control is power.

Again, the amount of control you have might feel very limited indeed. After all, you have a condition which you did not ask for and which proceeds at a speed and in a direction which just happens. There is a lot which feels out of your control, but ignore that for a time, while you think about areas which are important to you and still in your control. 

Make a list of the areas where you still have control. This might be what music you listen to, what you like to eat, where you choose to visit, who you choose to spend time with. 

Put yourself first. This might be very unusual for you, so be prepared to practise at it. Firstly, put aside time, let yourself get familiar with what you like and what makes you feel good. You need to protect your health and wellbeing so think about what a good balance of exercise, eating well and looking after yourself are for you. Take advice from your medical team. Also look after your mental health. No-one is pretending that chronic / persistent pain can be a downer. You will be worried and there will be days when you dwell on the negatives and become anxious. 

One trusted technique you might want to try, comes from the famous psychologist Martin Seligman, it is often called the 3 blessings or 3 good things. 

Every night write down 3 good things which have happened to you that day. They do not have to be big things, a waggy-tailed dog or a lovely sunset are good things too. Even a bad day will contain some good things and getting your mind to focus on these as a regular habit can encourage a good positive attitude.

You may often experience pain, and feel that dominates everything. I work a lot with people who experience chronic pain and I know that relaxation, control and trying out different things is the key, different techniques work for different people.

When you have time and energy how is that best used? How much do you need for yourself and how much can you give to your loved ones? 

Again, this involves making good choices for you, if you go to my website you can find some of the options open to you.


If you are feeling worried and if you are in pain on top of that, sleeping can become a problem. 

You can find more details on how to get good sleep most of the time in my book Sleeping with Pain, (http://ow.ly/wS7F3085kVc)  but in a nutshell, many of the ways to get good sleep are similar to the ways you can cultivate the best life which is possible for you. Be reflective, you know how you feel and allow yourself the space to get really familiar with your own feelings and thoughts. Be prepared to give yourself time to plan so you have the best chance of getting what you want. Within your capabilities, keeping active will be good for your physical and your mental health. Value the best times. Sweet dreams and good days. 

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