Good morning! Since I posted the “I am an Open Book” post, many people have contacted me with various questions. This is a topic that can relate to everyone who has chronic pain so I wanted to write a post for those who may have the same question: “What is the daily routine you use to be able to manage pain naturally? Do you think I can do it?” The second question is a no brainer to me: YES. The first question will apply differently to different readers pending on where they are in their journey with chronic pain.
Yes, I took the dreaded “selfie” at five this morning as I practiced yoga in my pajamas (great part of exercising at home.) People tend to think one has to be in shape or flexible or strong in order to practice yoga. This is just not the case. If you are able to breathe, you are able to practice yoga. I enjoy yoga, especially during these cold November days because my practice not only raises my heart and sweats but also stretches out sore muscles. I also love listening to the instructor as I learn something different each practice. If I do not practice yoga, I do some form of exercise. I love interval training, running, dancing, you name it. One would think I have always just been this crazy athlete who loves exercising at five in the morning but it took me over a year post Mayo Clinic to actually enjoy exercise. Some days it really is the greatest part of my day. You do not need a gym to exercise or any crazy equipment. Pre-motherhood, I was found at our local gym on a daily basis. Now, I work out at home as Kayci sleeps. One can just take a walk around the block for exercise to start an exercise regiment. It does not need to be intense or scary. Your muscles and body want to move, your mind keeps you stuck. You just have to take the Nike approach and : Just Do It. You can buy cheap DVD’s on Amazon or just go to You Tube and find something that you want to watch and try. No joke, I rented Richard Simmon’s DVD’s from my local library when I first left the Mayo Clinic. You do not have to like it at first but practice does eventually just become part of your daily routine.
Another major component of managing chronic pain naturally is…..meditation. I know how scary that word can be. Relax. I was and still am one of the most anxious people I know and it is so difficult to calm my mind. I still need to use CD’s that have guided imagery or someone traveling me through space with my breath. Dedicate twenty minutes a day to some kind of meditation. When I was a social worker, I planned my first break to use for meditation and actually ended up forming a class of my elderly patients who also wanted to try it out. Win, win. If nothing else, practice breathing with your belly. If you are at work or just in a waiting room, practice deep belly breathing. Take just one hand to your abdomen and breathe out five, hold five, in five. Yes, push that belly OUT! I do not care if you are on the beach in a hot bikini, get that belly out. You need to do this!!! We were meant to breathe with our bellies not our chests!
Distractions, distractions, distractions!!!! What would I do without distractions? Probably sit around anxious and thinking about the physical pain I am in. You must find things that you enjoy: hobbies, movies, music, games, reading. Anything that brings your focus away from your body and onto something else. Real Housewives of Beverly Hills? Go for it. I actually now enjoy coloring with my two year old and singing to Frozen. One of my favorite distractions is literally driving in my car listening to my favorite music. There are things you enjoy doing. Do them! The more often you distract yourself from pain, the less often you will think about it. THIS TAKES TIME!!!!!
Practice stretching throughout the day but do not make it a non stop habit. Every hour or so just roll you shoulders, loosen up your jaw, do gentle neck rolls, stand up and move around. Staying in the same position all day is very hazardous for any body much less a body that has chronic pain. However, this can become a pain behavior (my biggest enemy!) A pain behavior is something you do constantly that draws attention to where you feel pain. For instance, I used to rub my face all day as rubbing my face make it feel better. I had no idea I was doing such a thing until a friend pointed it out. Undoing pain behaviors takes a very long time. Right now I still start rubbing my shoulders or stretching too often which brings all my attention to my pain, the opposite of what I want to do. This is one of the most difficult parts of how I manage chronic pain naturally but also one of the most important.
I know how cliché this is going to sound and obvious but: eat healthy. Drink tons of water, your body needs water. I saw a quote that said: ” You are not sick, you are just thirsty.” I will not go into all the information and ways I try and eat healthy but I will share a few things. If there is a commercial for a certain food: it is most likely not good for you. Sugar, unless found in fruit causes so many extra problems for those with chronic pain and anxiety but most of us know that. If something has sugar or fructose corn syrup within first five ingredients on a label, do yourself a favor and do not buy the product. Just be smart. Everything in moderation and try and consume good calories as opposed to empty calories. I have to have a juice in the morning. I either use my juicer or my blender. For instance, today I will make a smoothie with: spinach, strawberries, oranges, a banana, carrots, and my favorite: ginger. All you can actually taste is the fruit, you will never taste the spinach!!! I promise. Just like chronic pain, looks can be deceiving. You actually begin to enjoy coming up with different concoctions for juices and smoothies. My two year old has been drinking spinach for most of her life and has no clue. I tend to eat five to seven small meals a day as opposed to three huge meals. Keeps me going, and I hate that Thanksgiving Day feelings where all I want to do is lie down. Chronic pain causes that feeling enough in my life.
Sleeping or lack there of is a huge issue for those with chronic pain. My go to, and I will never stop mentioning this life changing phrase: yoga nidra. Yoga nidra is the meditative heart of yoga and literally puts you into a deep yogic sleep that cannot be described in words. You throw in the CD, jump in bed get cozy and drift away. All of a sudden, maybe thirty minutes later you open your eyes and at first feel confused, possibly groggy. After a few minutes, I promise you will feel as if you have slept for four or five hours. Please try yoga nidra.
There are so many other things I utilize to manage chronic pain naturally but this is a good start for you. Please, email me with any questions. And just try one of my techniques. I am here to help you. Rome was not built in a day and this like everything else is a journey. I am just here to continue my journey and help those out there who are on their own.