Facing the Challenges of 2020 with Chronic Pain

2020 has been a challenging year; with the droughts, bushfires and now, the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is understandable that many of us are experiencing feelings of anxiety and stress.  With the Australian Government enforcing heightened restrictions and social distancing; the concern of many people living with chronic pain, is how they will manage their pain in the face of increased levels of isolation, job and financial insecurity, health uncertainty and stress.  This article outlines some practical steps you can take to help cope with your stress, anxiety and pain.

 

Keep up to date

At the moment many of us are overwhelmed with the communication we are receiving from the news, social media, friends and family and the internet.  The information we receive can lead to increased levels of stress, fear and pain, which can all increase your levels of pain (learn more about this here).

Strategy #1: It is important that we keep up to date and seek out factual information from reliable sources, these include:

 

Strategy #2: It is important to limit the time you spend each day on social media, the internet and listening and watching the news.

 

 

Be proactive about precautions

There has been a lot of discussion about the importance of “flattening the curve” to ensure our health system can cope and give our scientists time to research vaccines and treatments.  The Australian Government believes the best means of achieving this is through proactive precautions.

Strategy #3:  Follow the guidance of The Australian Government:

 

 

Take care of yourself

Taking proactive steps to look after your health and wellbeing is important for managing your pain, staying as healthy as possible, and minimising stress and anxiety.

Strategy #4: Proactive steps for improving health and wellbeing include:

  • Eating a balanced diet (learn more here)
  • Getting good quality sleep (learn more here)
  • Maintaining relationships (learn more here)
  • Staying connected (learn more here)
  • Finding and using your strengths (learn more here)
  • Finding ways to relax (learn more here)

 

Strategy #5: Using the strategies of active self-management to assist with managing your pain.  These strategies include:

  • Learning about your pain (learn more here)
  • Practising the strategies of cognitive behavioural therapy (learn more here)
  • Practising mindfulness strategies (learn more here)
  • Implementing pacing strategies (learn more here)
  • Managing your energy levels (learn more here)
  • Learning ways to relax (learn more here)
  • Getting good quality sleep (learn more here)
  • Improving your diet (learn more here)
  • Learning new coping skills (learn more here)
  • Create a flare plan (learn more here)

 

 

Stay ok in today

Keeping a positive frame of mind is incredibly challenging at this time; it is near impossible to “stay ok” in the present moment with the daily changes we are all experiencing.  These changes can lead to a cascade of worries about the future, increasing levels of stress and anxiety, and flares in pain.

Strategy #6: Keeping things in perspective and focusing on what you can control are essential for managing the cascade of worries at this time.  Some practical strategies for achieving this include:

 

Strategy #7: Create a sense of normality and calm in our ever-changing world with the following strategies:

  • Creating a daily routine (learn more here)
  • Starting new rituals (learn more here)
  • Creating a daily plan (learn more here)
  • Creating new positive habits (learn more here)
  • Creating some SMART goals (learn more here)
  • Avoid social disconnection and loneliness (learn more here)
  • Use technology to help track your progress (learn more here)

 

 

Stay in contact with your healthcare team

Maintaining contact with your health care team to manage your chronic pain is an important step in reducing your stress, anxiety and pain.  Many health care facilities are looking at changes to appointments and clinic set up to ensure that people continue to be supported with their health care needs.  Please note that this situation is constantly changing, and we are adapting to these changes based on guidance from the Australian Government.

 

Strategy #8: Communicate proactively with your health care team using the following strategies:

  • Ask about what options you have for your appointments (Telehealth)
  • Ask about the precautions your health care team are using (learn more here)
  • Learn new strategies for communicating with your health care team (learn more here)
  • Discuss options for rescheduling appointments if you are not well or high-risk
  • Minimise contact with others whilst at appointments, where possible
  • Minimise duration of appointments, where possible (learn about what is deemed “close contact” here)
  • Phone the National Coronavirus Helpline 1800 020 080 if you have questions
  • Learn about what to do after you recover from COVID-19 here

 

 

Learn more

  • Visit the NSW Department of Health website here
  • Contact the National Coronavirus Health Information Line 1800 020 080
  • Refer to the COVID-19 – Advice for the NSW community
  • Visit the World Health Organisation website here
  • COVID-19 Resources here
  • Social Distancing Fact Sheet here
  • COVID-19 FAQs Fact Sheet here
  • COVID-19 What You Need To Know Fact Sheet here
  • COVID-19 Information for Public Transport Use Fact Sheet here
  • COVID-19 Information for Older Adults Fact Sheet here

 

Images courtesy of Unsplash
Written by Aimee Carter