Experiencing Acute or Chronic Pain Part 1: 9 principles to support yourself
Written by Brendan Mooney Psychologist
Pain can feel uncomfortable, irritating, intense, or even overwhelming. If pain is chronic, it can leave you feeling worn down and depressed.
When it comes to pain, a number of simple principles and techniques can be applied to support ourselves.
Part 1 of this article describes principles related to addressing pain, and Part 2 outlines specific techniques you can apply to support yourself.
Principles to Support You with Acute or Chronic Pain
Living a supportive lifestyle. This involves introducing simple, self-loving lifestyle choices into your life to support your body, thereby providing the best opportunity for your pain levels to reduce. In short it means addressing emotions, thoughts and behaviours.
The quality aspect. It is not just what you do but the quality you do it in that matters. One aspect focuses on function and the other focuses on quality of life. Although many people may functionally be doing ‘all the right things’, because the quality is not there, their quality of life (and pain levels) may not significantly improve. Function is about what you do (e.g. go for a walk), whereas the quality you do it in makes all the difference (e.g. instead of going for a walk and thinking about what you have to cook for dinner or worrying about what is ahead of you in the day, try going for a walk staying present in your body and choose to move your body gently with every step).
Keeping it simple. A lot of people feel overwhelmed that life is ‘all too hard’, so simplicity can support us to keep things easy and achievable.
Keeping it practical. It is all about making practical lifestyle choices, ones that are relevant to you such as performing gentle exercise, setting up a loving and restful sleeping routine, and eating food that supports your body.
Feelings vs. emotions. We naturally feel what is happening in our bodies and around us, but emotionally reacting to these feelings will likely increase your pain levels.
Emotions lead to thoughts, which lead to behaviours. For example, a person who believes their workplace is to blame for their injury (anger, bitterness, resentment) could think they are therefore not solely responsible for their own recovery, and subsequently resist making the lifestyle choices needed to reduce their pain.
Being responsible when making choices – for every choice there is a consequence, and you have a choice whether to respond or react every moment of your day. When we respond we simply observe a situation and address it, but if we react we become emotionally invested and this results in a much bigger problem. It is possible to have physical pain and not react to it.
Importance of activity rather than avoidance. People may avoid doing certain tasks because they feel anxious or fearful that their pain levels will increase, but it is important to know your limits in a way that you don’t underdo or overdo things.
Being actively committed to your health. Being proactive by taking full responsibility for addressing your pain is very important, including not just physical pain but emotional pain also.
BIOGRAPHY Psychologist Brendan Mooney works with adults, adolescents and children. With a genuine interest in people's well-being, Brendan brings a warmth, practicality and an equality that supports clients to truly address underlying issues and blockages that are preventing them from moving forward.