Chronic pain and the winter months are unfortunate bedfellows – holiday stress, dropping temperatures, gray skies, overcast days, and chilling winds are just a few reasons why the winter months can be tough on people with recurring or intermittent pain conditions, all the way through the new year. Read on for tips on chronic pain coping with minimizing pain during the holidays.
Surviving the early weeks of January and the rest of the winter takes more than grit – you need a plan and plenty of support. Here are a few essential chronic pain coping tips that might help you survive the holiday season and beyond.
Consistency Remains Key
As it always has been, consistency is one of the most critical aspects of managing pain. Pain as a condition is sensitive to many factors, and adequately managing those factors is critical to avoiding a cascade of stressors that might cause another episode.
In more concrete terms, this means continuing to watch what you eat, getting plenty of sleep, maintaining a healthy and manageable exercise routine, and generally sticking to the things that have worked for you in the past regarding proper pain management.
The holidays are an especially common culprit when breaking habits and dropping routines. We overeat, oversleep, undersleep, drink too much, and move too much or not at all. For many people, the chance to break loose and be merry is important – but we each have different limits, and we must respect these limits. Understand what you can and can’t live without when managing your pain regularly and keeping up your important routines.
Get Started with Your Routine Now!
Alternatively, if you have always had trouble getting into a routine, to begin with, this is as good a time of year as any to get started. Support is key. While consistency can help manage pain symptoms, it takes time and patience for positive coping skills to play a daily role in your pain. Exercise, improved diet, better sleep hygiene, and finding ways to manage your stress at work can play an important role in minimizing pain flare-ups and sudden symptoms.
But the first few weeks can be cruelly tricky, which means you will need to ask others to hold you accountable and offer help, whether it’s doing chores around the house so you can take the time to get your steps or exercises in or taking care of the laundry because you’re trying to focus on preparing for a project you must get to at work. Help each other, one day at a time.
Manage and Reduce Stressors Effectively
Stress and pain are intrinsically correlated – releasing stress hormones and the body’s physiological response to hardship and long-term struggle can make us more susceptible to pain, illness, and low or depressed moods. It can become a vicious cycle that is very difficult to escape.
Start by asking for help from friends, family, or through a professional. Professional pain management, medication, and therapy, both physical and emotional, can manage pain – while simultaneously creating new habits to combat and address sources of stress.
Some forms of stress are more complex to address than others. There is little therapy, or medication can do about financial hardship, for example. But developing positive coping mechanisms can help, even in difficult times. Gratitude and positivity allow us to concentrate on the good and continue to live despite the bad. While pain is usually treated as a physical condition, it is also deeply psychological. Your mood and mindset can impact the severity of your pain, alleviating or exacerbating it.
Minimize Dietary Junk
We are only at the beginning of exploring the possibilities of better nutrition and individualized dietary guidelines as a chronic pain coping method, including conditions such as fibromyalgia and rheumatic arthritis.
What you eat can significantly influence how you feel; some people are more sensitive to certain foodstuffs than others. Studies have linked certain foods to certain pains. Some trained dieticians help patients manage their pain symptoms and find ways to minimize discomfort by ruling out “triggering” foods via elimination diets.
The holidays are often about food and family tradition. We typically derail our diets in favor of family feasts. But consider maintaining a few core staples from your pain diet and minimizing foods you know might be detrimental to your pain. Work with a specialist to identify recipes or alternatives for the holidays.
Set Limits and Personal Boundaries
A lot falls by the wayside in the name of celebrating the new year, and while that is a positive thing in spirit – a break from conformity and a celebration of indulgence – it can result in a flare-up in chronic pain symptoms.
To continue your routines, eat the way you eat, move the way you move, and get the rest you need, you will have to ask your family and friends for their help and cooperation with your chronic pain coping methods. It can be challenging to stay dedicated to managing your pain through lifestyle changes if you feel you are being sabotaged every few months by a new occasion or exception.
Use the Internet to Your Advantage
The holidays are also a rush period – whether it’s the shopping rush, Boxing Day, the new year and packed gyms, or congested highways and airports as people move from one end of the country to the other.
Minimize what you need to do outside by maximizing what you can do online. Order your gifts, groceries, and meal kits. Indulge in a little outside help for certain chores that are harder to do in the winter months. Ask for a registered masseuse who does home visits. Set up a personal gym space with a yoga mat, a bench, and some resistance bands or free weights to avoid the commute.
Plan Ahead (Medically)
Finally, plan ahead! Stock up on your over-the-counter medication, prepare heat packs or cooling gels, and get plenty of Epsom salts. Prepare your comfort meals with the help of friends and family! Ask for some leeway at work to help your chronic pain coping and stress level management throughout the holidays. Finally, plan a few appointments to manage your pain throughout the beginning of the year. This can be physical therapy sessions, professional massages, or acupuncture.
Take the First Step Towards Pain-Free Living Today