If you know me in real life, you wouldn't be surprised to know that I'm easily overwhelmed, especially when I'm easily upset. Years of chronic pain have left me unable to relax, sleep, or even get into a comfortable for a myriad of reasons. For a long time, and even now, I am still trying to find the best treatments for my underlying conditions, but I also ignored the emotional aspects of what chronic pain and illness have done to my life.
The long-term consequences of chronic pain... "negatively impacts multiple aspects of patient health, including sleep, cognitive processes and brain function, mood/mental health, cardiovascular health, sexual function, and overall quality of life. Furthermore, chronic pain has the capacity to become increasingly complex in its pathophysiology, and thus potentially more difficult to treat over time." -NIH Study
I started to notice things like friends abandoning me, the lack of motivation to do anything outside of my comfort zone, and how poorly I coped with stressful situations. These are serious issues that I needed addressed. And as I work on them on my own and with help, I put together a relaxation list. After reading books on chronic illness, doing workbooks, etc., and this is still a work in progress. While there are techniques to cope outside of the house, these are my favorites for at the house.
You should note that I have been through a lot of biofeedback and neurofeedback and I am backwards, so to speak. The things that they do to stress people out (like counting backwards by 7) or reading actually slows my brain down and relaxes me. I find it physically painful to try to lean back in a recliner, shut my eyes, and clear my mind. So, naps are not relaxing (or possible) for me.
- Listen to my favorite music. Before I got married, when I lived by myself, I had music playing if I wasn't watching TV. So, basically all of the time. It's pretty interesting to look back at my last.fm account and see how my music consumption dropped dramatically. Once I thought about it, even if it's not my husband's favorite band (Fireworks, Man Overboard, Fall Out Boy), I can still listen. And it really does relax and distract me, if I'm upset.
- Put on headphones while I listen to an audiobook. This prevents multitasking and encourages relaxing. My husband had an old pair of headphones that aren't noise canceling, but they block out a ton of noise, so I can recline back and focus just on the book.
- Go through my Feedly. I love to read lifestyle blogs on Bloglovin and comment, but I use Feedly to set up searches for topics that interest me and that I want to learn about. I also follow a lot of news, books, and other websites on there where I find inspiration, something funny, or just get distracted from anything upsetting and relax! Learning is fun?
- Do something for myself. Sometimes this is plucking my eyebrows (it hurts, but self care was one of the first things to go when I got sick), trying to paint my toe nails, or putting on a little make up before my husband comes home, even if he'll be the only one to see it.
- Make a special coffee drink or tea. I love London Fogs, fancy coffees, or iced coffee, depending on the season. So, if I am not full or too tired, I at least attempt to make one of these. The easiest is to have iced coffee ready to go these days, since I've had a few accidental nasty burns recently.
- Bubble bath! I use Epsom salts (unscented) and a scented bubble bath. Sometimes I turn on my favorite music or an audiobook because I have a hard time sitting still, having something for my mind to focus on helps me relax.
- Light a candle. I love florals in the spring, beachy scents for the summer, and heavier scents for the winter. I can't go wrong with a candle.
- Pet my dog(s). If I grab Josie for a hug, Rylie will definitely be part of the dog pile, but Josie plays harder to get. However, if I am really upset, Rylie runs away, and Josie is the one in my lap. Rylie is smaller and friendlier, so sometimes I just grab her. Either way, petting them or watching them play with each other relaxes me.
- Make a list. I know this stresses some people out, but if I make lists of everything that I need to do, I feel better. Even if I can't do anything like reschedule an appointment until the office opens on Monday, just having it out of my system and down on paper helps!
- Treat myself to a TV show. You would probably think that I watch a lot more TV than I do. But, between reading, filling out paperwork, and going to the doctor, I honestly don't watch much.
What do you do to relax? If you're in chronic pain, do you do anything special?
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