This week is National Invisible Awareness Week – on blog radio. There are valuable selections so check it out. I’m on a panel this Friday about working with chronic illness.
Chronic illness is typically a saga of pain, fatigue or both. For the past month, I’ve been dealing with pain from a bad fall that left me with several broken ribs and a fracture in my wrist. I’m watching as I slide into some old habits with this new “chronic pain event”. These bad habits affect work and get in my way generally. Writing helps me sort it out. If my thoughts help you, all the better.
Over the past years working with people with chronic illness, I’ve spoken with many people who live with chronic pain of one sort or another. From what I’ve seen, there are two parts to managing chronic pain:
- the emotional/cognitive state
- the actions that are typically a result of your mental state.
Most people either ignore chronic pain or become absorbed in it. Ignoring it can work for a while but pain inevitably catches up with us, when we least expect it. Taken off guard, it’s easy to slide into becoming absorbed in the pain, letting it take over.
There are many who have explored the mental sate of pain and I’ve found it helpful to read what they have to say. Here are just two that come to mind: Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and Dr. Herbert Benson of the Benson-Henry Mind Body Institute. There are cognitive behavioral techniques and dozens of others but this is a starting place. I’m trained in a technique called Focusing which has changed my relationship to my body and helps my work with my clients.
I find that there isn’t a “right” method or practice. In my case, different approaches work at different points in time. But what seems to be important is that whatever you do, it should be easy for you to put in place.
In an attempt to create a simple way to address pain , I’ve developed a 3 step path that you might try:
- Acknowledge the pain. Notice that it’s there, maybe it’s familiar, like an old shoe or it’s a new experience. But say “hello” rather than push it away.
- Remind yourself that some part of you is in pain. It’s not all of you. Put your awareness on the place of pain and notice what happens.
- Observe this place that is painful, without judgment or stories. You are letting it breathe, giving it space. It can feel lighter after this.
If you have questions, feel free to email me for more information.
Regarding action when facing chronic pain, most of us either cut back or eliminate what we had planned to do OR develop different ways to accomplish our tasks – a “work around” so to speak.
I seem to always choose the latter. I continue to plan and do the things I want to do regardless of pain and choose the “work around”. The problem, particularly with new pain events, is that I don’t always pay enough attention to see if this is sufficient. Then I have to make a quick decision to cut back or cut out and often at the last minute. It’s often hard on others who rely on me. It’s not a good plan for keeping myself in balance, I know. This is still my work in progress.
Are you or someone you know living with chronic pain and still trying to stay at work? How is it going?