Dealing with chronic pain can be one of life’s most devastating and life-altering experiences. After three or more months—the official duration that defines chronic pain—your new life can seem so far removed from what you would have considered normal even just half a year ago. Now living with chronic pain, it would seem like your entire life only revolves around hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, and medicines. Dreams, hobbies, joys, and for some even work, can seem like such a distant memory—one from a healthy lifetime ago. Whether it’s from a severe spinal cord injury, genetic arthritis, or an unknown cause, chronic pain can throw even the most resilient people for a loop. How, then, do you deal with the pain and get your life back? Here are 9 tips that can help you manage chronic pain: 1. Acceptance Acceptance is often such a long process—and it is a process—for most people dealing with chronic pain, but accepting that you have and are dealing with chronic pain can go a long way towards helping you reclaim your life. Difficult as it may be, accepting that this is your current reality can make the load of the pain much lighter. Practising acceptance daily can also help prevent you from constantly wishing and hoping that things were different (this won’t be ideal for your mental health in the long-term). Perhaps one day things will be different, but unfortunately at this moment they aren’t. Even though with acceptance comes sadness, at least you can now be prepared enough to tackle the health challenges ahead of you head-on. 2. Do the hard stuff When dealing with chronic pain, the last thing you want to do is the unpleasant, boring, mundane stuff that reminds you of just how sick you are. This can be things like making sure you keep all your doctors’ appointments, going for all the tests and scans required, and taking all your medication as prescribed. Instead of letting your health get out of control and having things spiral, it’s best to nip the necessities in the bud and just get them done. 3. Have a contingency plan A contingency plan is important to have when you’re battling chronic pain. Should the pain become extremely sharp, heightened, and unbearable at any time, such as in the middle of the night or when you are alone, do you have a plan? Some questions to think about for your contingency plan can include: ● Do you have emergency cash should you need it? ● Do you have all the medications you need in the house? ● Do you know your local ambulance number? ● Do you have all your allergies listed down? ● Do you have your next of kin’s details in your wallet? 4. Take it a day at a time ‘One day at a time.’ This could probably be the universal mantra for everyone everywhere dealing with chronic pain. With chronic pain, trying not to give up on your body and yourself can be such an enormous task by itself. You never really know how you’ll wake up, how the day will go, or how bad the pain will be, and with some illnesses, you never know when the pain will strike. A pragmatic strategy would be to not think too much about all the plans and goals you had for the month or year ahead. Even a week can be too much to think of sometimes; Friday can seem so far away. ‘A day at a time.’ Just get through this one day. And then the next. And the next. This is a better, more manageable goal. 5. Practise self-care If not proactively handled, chronic pain can easily and slowly interfere with your self-care, and before you know it you’ve forgotten all those good habits your mum taught you when you were four. It’s important to try as much as possible to take care of yourself like you did before you fell ill. Some of the simple things you can try to do, even while struggling with chronic pain, include: ● Taking a shower ● Brushing your teeth ● Drinking water regularly ● Eating balanced meals ● Exercising (even if it’s just walking indoors or using online fitness videos) ● Getting some sunlight therapy ● Sleeping well 6. Mind your mental health When suffering from chronic pain, it can be easy to put all your focus and energy into your physical body, so much so that you neglect your mental health. It’s imperative to always keep watch of your mental health since most battles are won or lost in the mind. You can help protect your mental health by: ● Practising mindfulness and being aware of what you consume on the internet, on TV, and in magazines ● Practising guided meditation ● Practising guided box breathing ● Having a health journal to help keep track of your pain, i.e. when it’s less, when it’s worse, and when it’s triggered ● Having a gratitude journal and listing down every night five things you’re grateful for, big or small 7. Find safe people to talk to Navigating the world of chronic pain can be extremely overwhelming. Talking to people you trust and letting them in on your struggle can make a world of difference. Whether it’s a parent, a friend, a colleague, or a partner, explaining to them what you’re going through can not only be cathartic for you but can also get you any help or support you may need. Opening up to a professional can also be a great option, if not the best thing you can do. Whether it’s a psychologist, therapist, or counsellor, with their professional experience they are able to hear you, guide you, and give you the tools you need to deal with your chronic pain better. The caution here, however, is to be careful of who you go to for support. You’re already vulnerable, so you don’t want to go to people who will use that against you and gossip, malign, or mock you or your pain. 8. Remember what makes you happy With all the stress that comes with chronic pain, passions can appear unnecessary and pointless; life can seem bleak. But it’s for this very reason that you should nourish yourself with your passions and remind yourself of all the things that once made you so happy. Whether it’s swimming, playing the guitar, painting, or listening to music, these hobbies can help rejuvenate you and make you feel alive again in spite of your pain. 9. Be gentle with yourself Anyone who battles a chronic illness is not only a patient but a survivor too. The fact that you wake up every day and always try to do your best and be your best despite the pain is more than enough. You are enough. Remember this, even when the bad days come. Be gentle with yourself. You got this.