Many people will say that what’s worse than the pain is how pain has robbed them of their ability to engage in meaningful activities, like going to family picnics, school events, reunions, social dinners, or working outside the home—all of the things that once brought them pleasure in life. Over time, people may lose their connections, meaning, and aspects of their identity. And, without those important doses of pleasure, pain grows exponentially. As people withdraw from life because of the pain it becomes harder to focus on anything else. Empowering life beyond pain is all about reconnecting with the aspects of your life that are meaningful to you. It’s also about having compassion for where you are right now.
Maybe you were a competitive athlete and because of your chronic pain you are no longer able to compete or exercise strenuously. There may be a tremendous amount of suffering in the loss of your former life and abilities. Empowerment is about focusing on what you can do, right now, and working to expand that. Maybe you can sit outside and enjoy the peacefulness of nature. Maybe you can walk in the grass barefoot and experience movement and sensation in your body in a new way and build an appreciation for that. You can learn to work with your body and respect its limits, such that you are able to be more active on a consistent basis and avoid the “crashes” that come from trying to push beyond your physical limits.
Empowering life beyond pain is an active process. Rather than waiting for pain to get better or relying on doctors to fix pain, it’s about moving forward with what you can do, right now. Setting meaningful and achievable goals, learning and delivering good self-care practices, using skills to self-manage pain and stress, and learning to be kind to your body and yourself as life moves at a slower pace than you expected are key to effectively managing pain. The very act of engaging in active pain management shifts your energy, intention, and mental focus towards the positive.