Those who live with chronic pain will attest to the fact that living daily with any level of pain can change many aspects of life. Your outlook on life, your self-image and your self esteem can all be affected by a battle with pain. Many people who live with pain experience gradual changes to the way they perceive themselves. They can become angry at their bodies for not functioning the way it used to. They can feel anger and guilt because of their physical limitations related to their pain. Many who live with chronic pain have can feel as if they have become a burden to their friends and family.
A chronic pain sufferer may think that if their pain were to disappear, then they could feel better about themselves. Unfortunately for some, pain may be a part of life to some degree. It is important to maintain a positive self-image in spite of the daily pain however this can be easier said than done.
A chronic condition can have a large impact on the way we carry ourselves. Physical limitations may mean difficulty getting dressed in the mornings and difficulty brushing you hair. It can make physical activities such as walking or going to the gym unpleasant. This can change the way a person perceives themselves, especially when they compare themselves to who they were before the pain.
Medications that are used to help manage the pain can also cause physical changes including fatigue, skin conditions, weight gain or loss, hair loss, trouble with memory and difficulty controlling emotions, just to name a few. This can also have a negative effect on self-esteem and self-image.
Maintaining a positive self-image and establishing your self-worth is of great importance, as the way you think of yourself will reflect how you look at the world around you, including how you perceive and experience your pain. Chronic pain can easily lead to isolation and depression if you are not making a conscious effort everyday to build your own self-esteem. This can be done through many methods which usually work best in combination. When you see yourself through positive eyes, you are not allowing the pain to determine your worth.
Take care of yourself first:
Make time everyday for you to do something that is just for you. For some people that can be 30 minutes with a good book. For others it can be a nice long walk to reflect on the day. Something as small as 10 minutes of quiet meditation can make all the difference. When we are taking the time to do something for ourselves, we are taking the attention away from the pain and refocusing it back on our own needs.
Diet and exercise are not always easy. They can even seem tedious when we think of it in terms of depriving ourselves of the foods we love and work-out plans. It doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience. Just put real and whole foods in your body to fuel it and keep moving. Walking, swimming, running and even yoga are all excellent ways to keep your body moving. Find an activity that you love and keep at it. Eating real food and staying in motion are how we thank our body for the functions that are working as opposed to just focusing on the pain.
Positive Self-Talk: We are our own biggest critics. Positive self-talk takes a lot of practice. It is easy to forget that we need to be kind to ourselves. But when positive self-talk is achieved, the benefits are outstanding. When you talk to yourself, which we all do, pay attention to how you talk to yourself. Are you doubting yourself often? Do you see more flaws than the positives in yourself? When you are in pain, do you feel worthy of the help you receive from others? If you notice that most of the thoughts you have about yourself are negative, change that. Make it a point to tell yourself that you CAN do what you set out to do. Remind yourself that the pain does not determine your value, and that it is just another aspect of life. Find something new that you love about yourself everyday, and remind yourself about it multiple times throughout the day.
Posture: Studies have shown that your posture has an impact on how you view yourself. Posture can also affect they way others view you. Chronic pain can cause us to hunch over either because of the pain, or as a subconscious reflex to protect ourselves from pain. Try stretching out your back muscles by standing in the corner of the room where two walls meet. While keeping you feet 4-5 inches away from the corner where the 2 walls meet, place one hand on the wall to your left, and one hand on the wall to your right. Without moving your feet, slowly bring your body in 2-3 inches towards the joint between the two walls. Only bring your body in as much as you can without causing any pain. You will feel a slight stretch to the muscles in your shoulders and back. Do this 2-3 times daily to stretch out those tense back muscles.
You can also practice imagining a string emerging from the top of your head as you sit or stand. Imagine that string is pulling your head, neck and spine up towards the sky. Standing tall can help to maintain a positive self image and as a bonus can also help with the tension of stiff neck and shoulder muscles.
Dress the way you want to feel: Clothes do not equal worth. But staying in your pajamas all day won’t make you feel better about yourself. Dress the way that makes you feel most confidant. Even if you are enjoying a relaxing day at home, wear the clothes that are comfortable to you, but also make you feel good about yourself.
Find something about your body that you love when you look in the mirror every morning and stop yourself from seeing any flaws. We are often toughest on ourselves. We forget that our bodies are wonderful machines that are capable of amazing things. Pain does not make your body any less magnificent.
Know your body: This means that you should understand that just like anyone else, your body has limits. These limits will be different from the limits of others, and that is okay. Learn to read yourself, and learn to listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Understand the queues of your body. When you understand your body, you can better understand the pain. Understand your body’s limits and stay within those limits. Never push yourself too far or too hard.