Home / Advice / Pain: It’s a Family Affair – Part Five: How to enjoy social events

Pain: It’s a Family Affair – Part Five: How to enjoy social events

I know from my clients that one of the real low points, if you suffer from chronic pain, is when you have to cancel or miss out on a family event.

This may be familiar to you. The anxiety rises as an event approaches and you feel tense which then worsens your pain, you worry more … and it’s a vicious circle.

Over my many years of helping clients, I have worked out some tips and tricks which may help you. At the heart of these is planning and not being afraid to say you have a problem with pain and ask for some help and support. I would advise you share these tips with your family and all discuss together how you can best enjoy those important family events.

Here are my tips, which you can remember using the acronym


Plan the whole 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 sit in your car and do some relaxing breathing exercises? If the event is at a hotel, you may even be able to book a room to retreat to when you need it. Check out what is possible.

A shorter time can be better time

If the idea of being out all day or late into the night feels too much, and is making you anxious, can you shorten the time you stay at an event? Be assertive and confident that you know what is best for you. Don’t feel you have to stay at an event longer than you can for the good of your health. It may help if you inform others and explain that you will only be able to manage a half an hour, an hour or whatever is right for you.

Choose your best time of day

We are learning more and more about how important our own personal body clocks are to how we function. We all have 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 important social event 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.

Rest is your friend

Make sure you rest the day before your important event. It is especially important that you get a good night’s sleep and 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. When you are at the event, plan for some rest breaks. If possible sort out some quiet places where you can rest. Use your rest time to really relax using one of my techniques here.

Ask for a comfortable seat

A church wedding … an outdoor opera or theatre event: for many these would conjure up romance and glamour. For you they might conjure up feelings or dread about the hard seats. 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. With increasing awareness of disability issues and inclusiveness, more venues are realising they need to provide better seating. Ask and you may be pleasantly surprised. If not, 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 and experiment with different types of cushion.

Outdoor opera, theatre or film can be painful

Outdoor opera, theatre or film can be painful

Move around

Many of my clients report that sitting still in one place makes pain worse. So, work out strategies for moving around. Make sure if you can that you are seated at the end of a row or near an exit. Find out about the venue so you can work out where you can go to stretch and relax to ease your pain. Do not feel shy about asking to make sure this happens.

I hope this helps you enjoy that special occasion.

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