I Choose to be Distracted! 13 Tips to Deflect Chronic Pain…
My friend, Joy Terrell, is a survivor and you will be forever blessed by her words. She lives with chronic illness and has been a lifeline for me the past few years in dealing with “issues”. I have quoted her famous line many times that she uses to encourage me when I think that MY ailments and struggles are not as BIG or important as hers: “Just because I have two broken legs and you only have one doesn’t mean that YOUR broken leg hurts any worse.” In this two part series, she is helping us to think of other things when the pain is overwhelming.
A distraction is something that makes it difficult or impossible to think about or pay attention to something else. We are all familiar with the consequences of driving while distracted. It is not possible to pay attention to our phones and our driving at the same time. Studies of the brain have debunked the idea that we can be multi-taskers. The brain can only pay attention to one conscious activity at a time. (Automatic and repetitive things like walking and eating get assigned to special networks in our brains that do not require conscious thought. Yes, it is possible to walk and chew gum!)
Even when we think we are multitasking, the brain is rapidly toggling back and forth between activities. Only one thing is toggled to the “on” position at a time. Although distractions often have a negative connotation, I want to look at them from another perspective.
Those of you who live with chronic pain can use distractions to your advantage.
I think we can agree that focusing on pain only intensifies our perception of the misery. I sometimes catch myself thinking, “I hurt sooo bad! Oh, I hurt SOOO BAD! I can’t take this! I hurt sooo bad!”. Guess what? The more I think about it, or say it, the worse it becomes. Especially on the “bad days”, I have learned that distractions are wonderful!
The ability to toggle off the pain and toggle on a distraction takes some practice and some preparation. I can promise it will be worth the effort.
A distraction from pain needs to be something that requires minimal effort.
Thinking ahead and having some options available, before the next difficult day, is important. Use a basket or a box to gather some things that will work for you. This can be a fun project. I am going to share some ideas for distractions that I find helpful.
• An activity that requires some level of creativity is great for keeping thoughts off pain. A few years ago, I rediscovered how much I enjoy coloring. Apparently, a lot of other adults did the same. There is no shortage of adult coloring books. Coloring is really relaxing. Thanks to Amazon and other online retailers, you can find what you want from the comfort of your recliner! One suggestion, if you have pain in hands or wrists, look for designs with larger patterns. The idea is not to create more pain! If coloring is not for you, try painting, knitting or whatever creative outlet you enjoy. Put the things you will need in your basket or box.
• Make a list of movies you really enjoy. Don’t go for the ones that always make you cry! Think comedy, or at least happy endings. With a list, you won’t have to try to think of something when you are hurting and your brain is in a fog. If you don’t want to mess with searching for the movie, put an actual DVD in your “bad day” box.
• Include a book of crosswords, Sudoku, word search or whatever you prefer. It is good to have options to fit that day’s mood.
• Include prints of pictures that make you feel happy. Think pets, kids, grandkids, or your favorite vacation spot.
• Who doesn’t feel better with some chocolate? Include a favorite snack.
• A fuzzy blanket, heating pad, or other things that bring you comfort can be added.
• A smartphone can put almost limitless activities at your fingertips. Social media, YouTube, or games can all pass a lot of time. Ask your online friends to send you a funny video or joke. Try it! I guarantee you, it will be entertaining.
There are other helpful activities that do not require any physical things and we will discuss those tomorrow! Be sure and join us for Part 2 of “I Choose to be Distracted”.
Joy is a graduate of Purdue University School of Pharmacy. She is a licensed pharmacist, in early retirement. She is married to her favorite guy, Doug. They are “pet parents” to Kenzi, a golden doodle. Joy has served her church family as a Sunday school teacher, church secretary/treasurer, board member, and a willing helper.
You might also like her post, Living at the Intersection of Faith and Chronic Illness, along the same subject lines. Blessings.