On Monday I posted my thoughts on why so many of us are suffering from chronic pain and illness (the answer is stress, ICYMI). Today I’m going to give you some suggestions to help you to reduce your stress level, which in turn may reduce your physical symptoms. These are all suggestions that have helped me tremendously.
A note about stress: It’s everywhere and impossible to escape completely, so it’s not so much the type or amount you’re facing that matters, rather it’s how you deal with it. The better your coping strategies, the less stress will affect you. The following are my five favourite coping strategies:
1. Look After Yourself First. You come first, no if’s, and’s or but’s. Schedule your down time, your exercise time and your “me” time before you commit to anyth
ing else. Don’t postpone or cancel your “me” plans for any reason except emergencies. I’m serious about this and I’m strict about it, because I understand the temptation to believe that what I need isn’t as important as whatever else might come up.
2. Rest more than you think you need to. If you’re anything like me, you probably like to push yourself when feel you can, and the result is usually a crash or flare. So cut down. Cut back. Relax more. Rest more. More? Yes, more! Figure out how much you can reasonably do in a day, and do half – and be ok with that.
3. Stop being a people pleaser. People pleasing seems to be a common personality trait in those of us with chronic pain and illness. Keeping other people happy is stressful and impossible because no one can make an individual happy other than themselves. It’s not your job, I promise. And people won’t suddenly dislike you or leave you if you stop working so hard to please them. You might even find that they start doing a little more to please you.
4. Say no, thank you. If there is a part of you that’s a people pleaser, you probably have a hard time saying no. When you do say no, you might include a lengthy explanation as to why you’re saying no, as well as an apology. Here’s an alternative: say “No, thank you.” Easy peasy. You don’t need to explain. Your healthy is no one’s business but your own. Be firm, and be kind. Remember, you come first!
5. Know that you are ok, there is nothing wrong with you and your emotions are totally legit. Yes, you have a health condition, but you are fundamentally just fine. It can be hard enough for people without chronic conditions to believe that, let along those with, but it’s true. Your feelings are valid (no matter what anyone else tells you), and it’s normal to experience a range of emotions on a daily basis. Suppressing them or trying to change them isn’t the answer, accepting them is.
So there you have it, a few new tools and beliefs for you to try on. If you add these techniques to your coping toolbox, and are consistent about using them (daily), you will start to notices differences in your well-being. But don’t feel pressured to implement all these suggestions at once! Start with one at a time, and enjoy the feeling of all that stress lifting from you mind and body.