I admit that I am a typical “Type A” personality, at least I was until chronic pain showed up in my life. By nature, I am not a patient person. The amount of patience I can practice DOES relate to the management of my chronic pain. Recently I encountered a situation in which I had no control. I found myself being triggered with the same frustration I felt while trying to manage life in my early days of chronic pain. It wasn’t until 10 minutes into the episode that I realized that my jaw was tense, my neck and shoulders were tight and I was holding my breath in between exasperated sighing. These are early warning signs that I get when I am starting to lose patience. We need to recognize the signs our body gives us so that we can engage our tools for coping as soon as possible. One of our pain management tools is PATIENCE. We may know of this tool, may have even used this tool, but many times we do not pick it up and use it when we need it most-in the moment.
Patience defined – Merriam-Webster has two definitions I like: “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint” and “steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity”. The word “patience” actually comes from the Latin word “pati”, which means to suffer, to endure, or to bear.
Because of our chronic pain, we know and understand that suffering on a daily basis is now a part of life. There are two main choices we have for our reaction to this daily suffering. we can choose to react to that suffering with negative thoughts, hopelessness, frustration, anger, self-pity and worry. Or we can choose to react to this daily suffering in a more positive manner. We can choose to focus on the positive rather than the negative. We can choose to be hopeful rather than hopeless. We can choose to crawl out of the cave of self-pity. We can also choose to practice patience. By practicing patience, we are one step closer to managing our pain instead of it managing us.
I’ve learned that patience is practiced and strengthened through trials and tribulations. It is more beneficial to move through a challenging situation, rather than around, under or over.
Pain Camper Plan of Action
|Be where your hands are||This first skill is based in mindfulness. When we say “be where your hands are”, we mean that literally. Make sure that your mind, thoughts, emotions and body are with you in that exact moment in time. Look around you. Are you in the kitchen? Are you in the car? Are you at the doctor’s office? Where are you?|
|Be present||Get your mind back to your task at hand. Focus on what you’re doing and move through the situation with whatever tools you need for support, starting with the body scan.|
|Body scan||Once you’ve reigned yourself back in and are present in the moment, do a quick scan of your body. Start with the top of your head and work down to your toes. Where do you notice and tightness? Where are you feeling any pain? Are you cold? Are you hot? Are you holding your breath? Once you have identified the areas in your body you are feeling tension or pain you can move onto the next step: getting some oxygen to those parts!|
|Breathe||Sounds easy enough, right? We can’t live without getting oxygen into our systems. I think more important for us Pain Campers is that it helps us to re-focus, re-energize and relax. There are many different kinds of breath work we can do. The easiest of these is belly breathing and it should do the trick to help calm you down. Start by slowly breathing in through your nose and imagine the air filling your belly up like a balloon. Use your belly muscles to push the air back out through your nose. Some of us find it useful to to count “1, 2, 3” while inhaling and exhaling. Some of us like to use words to match the breath such as “patience” on the breath in and “stress” on the breath out. Yet another option can be to use a mantra by saying something like “I am patient and relaxed” while breathing in and out.|
|Relax||When we think about relaxing, many times we might be thinking of getting a massage or laying on a beach somewhere. We can do this in our mind too! The trick is to use imagery. Close your eyes for just a couple of minutes while you’re practicing your breathing and imagine yourself in the most relaxing state that you could be in. You can keep this feeling with you when you open your eyes.|
|Gratitude||Put a smile on your face and think about ONE thing that you are in that you are grateful for in that moment. Chances are, the situation could always be worse than what we are perceiving it to be. Write this thing down if you can. Also, keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to keep things in perspective!|
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” ~ Helen Keller
“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” ~ John Quincy Adams
“A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen
Pain Camp is a safe place to share your thoughts, experience, strength and hope. What types of situations test your patience? What skills do you use to regain patience and manage your pain in these moments?