May is mental health awareness month and since mental health is something I have been struggling with for the last couple of years I thought I would share with you what I am doing to improve it. Mental is just as important as your physical but sadly most people don’t take it as seriously as their physical health because they are in the mindset that depression and anxiety disorders are the result of not getting out enough. Depression and anxiety disorders should be taken as seriously as any other disorder but unfortunately, it isn’t and most people overlook it.
Depression and anxiety can be the result of not getting out enough but unfortunately for most people that is not the case and it is a little bit more complicated than that. When you have chronic pain it not only affects your physical health but your mental as well and when I started to having pain my mental health tanked. I was in a very negative mindset and didn’t care about anything really because what’s the point the pain is still there? Chronic pain and mental health go hand in hand because we have to deal with so much every day that most people don’t have to deal with. When I started taking control of my mental health I was happier and felt less stressed and that is when major changes started to happen!
Getting back into a fitness routine– Before I had chronic pain I worked out six days a week and rarely missed a day. The only time I skipped workouts is if I was injured and physically couldn’t work out or I had plans and even when I had plans often times I woke up early so I had time to squeeze a workout in. Once I started having chronic pain I started feeling sorry for myself and I stopped exercising because I convinced myself I was in too much pain and couldn’t or shouldn’t be doing it. Exercise with pain can be tricky because you never want to trigger a pain flare but avoiding all forms of exercise will only make your muscles weaker and everyday tasks harder. Some people with chronic pain cannot exercise but if you can low-intensity exercises such as Pilates can help with making you stronger and improving your self-confidence.
Stopped talking about myself negatively – When I started having chronic pain I become a very negative person. I would always call myself a failure and saying all sorts of negative things about myself whenever I couldn’t finish a task. It’s not until recently that I realized that although my pain is not going away anytime soon I was letting these thoughts control me. It is okay to feel pain and crave the life you once had but talking about yourself in a negative way is not going to make anything easier but may, in fact, kill your self-esteem. Whenever you find yourself talking in a negative way say something positive to incorporate positivity into your life.
Pacing– Never underestimate the power of pacing! Chronic pain is a mystery because you will have good days, bad days and really bad days and you never know what each day will bring. It is so easy to take advantage of the good days and overexert yourself because you want to get as much done as you possibly can. You never know when you will have a good day like that again so why not take advantage of them right? Wrong! Overexerting yourself on the good days may work at that moment but you will regret it later when you are in unbearable pain. Pacing yourself and planning what tasks you are going to do for the day can help you stay productive and keep your pain levels bearable.
Be mindful of your nutrition- Your body is not a garbage can and you should be feeding it foods that make you feel good! If it doesn’t make you feel good then why are you eating it? I used to get so depressed that I ate food just because it was there not caring if it was good for me or not. I soon realized this was not the right approach and became more mindful of my nutrition and since doing that I feel better and have less pain.
When you live with pain all you want is for the pain to stop and you will do anything to get to that point even if that means doing nothing fun! People with chronic pain can have fun and do have fun but we just may need to modify some activities or do them differently so our pain is bearable. If you live with pain, you may not realize how much your mental health can affect you but it goes hand in hand with your physical health so make sure you make it as much of a priority as you would your physical health. Don’t beat yourself up over the small things because some things are out of your control. How do you take care of your mental health?