The holidays can be both a wonderful and difficult time of the year. You might feel overwhelmed with the extra obligations and time with others, particularly if you are dealing with chronic pain. Here are a few tools to help you navigate this holiday season if chronic pain is part of your life.
Practice setting boundaries
Having a hard time setting boundaries and people-pleasing is a personality trait that can often lead to chronic pain. This happens because you suppress your own needs in favor of the needs of others. This leads the brain to experience stress, resentment, and anger towards interacting with and obligations you have with others.
Use this holiday season as a perfect opportunity to practice setting boundaries. Consider what you want to do and let others know what works best for you. No need to over-explain. Just practice communicating your needs with confidence. Setting relationship boundaries can be difficult, but guidelines guarantee that the partnership is healthy for everyone.
Reframe “obligations” as distractions
All the obligations that come along with this season can lead to more stress. And much like the practice of setting boundaries, you can practice reframing your seasonal obligations. Being with others, celebrating, and giving CAN actually be a positive distraction. You may notice that the holidays can increase this distraction and shift your brain to focus more on positive experiences.
To reframe commitments, we must reconsider what we want to do. In fact, make them intentional decisions. Remember that you always have options and if you aren’t focusing on your pain, that is a good thing!
Let go of striving for perfection
We can find ourselves trying to get things to be perfect around the holidays: meals, decorations, and family memories. But if you are able to shift your goal to showing up and being present, as opposed to trying to get things perfect, your brain will start to see this time of year differently – without as much fear or stress.
A good first step in letting go of perfection is developing a good-enough mentality free of unreasonable expectations. The rest is a process of shifting your perspective of the need to try harder for acceptance and redirecting that energy to simply being enough for yourself.
Accept that pain is temporary
Contrary to popular belief, recognizing and accepting that your pain is present is the first step toward recovery. It opens up a whole new approach to getting better, one that cuts out fighting your pain, wanting it to be gone, or worrying about it coming back. This allows the brain to rewire its connection to the sensations of chronic pain and over time, the pain will reduce.
If you do have an increase in pain around the holidays, that is likely due to an increase in stress and being busier. Know that any increase in pain is temporary. It won’t last. And suffering comes more from fear about feeling the pain and your emotional attachment to the pain. Do your best to relax even if the pain is present or higher than it normally is. Getting to the point of pain acceptance may take time, but it is worth working toward.
If you’re worried that your chronic pain is interfering with your life and mental health, you’re not alone. Feel free to contact us for more information about chronic pain therapy or to set up an appointment. It’s never too late to change and start to feel better—mentally and physically!