Rethinking Your To-Do List When You Have Chronic Pain

Rethinking Your To-Do List When You Have Chronic Pain

If you’re like most of us, you probably keep a to-do list. It can help keep you organized and feel like you’re making progress on getting where you want to be.

But what if what you really need is a not-to-do list.

Especially if you’re living with chronic pain, it may be important to give yourself permission not to do things. Here are some things to consider not doing.

Do NOT say yes to everything. You don’t need to live up to someone else’s ideal of what a parent, a spouse, or an employee should be. If you can’t volunteer for a community event or don’t have the energy to cook more than frozen pizza, don’t push yourself to do those things. Know your limitations and respect them.

Do NOT ignore your body. If you’re having a bad day, give yourself permission to cancel your plans. If you’re in an exercise class and the move everyone else is doing easily causes you pain, stop doing it. You’re the one who will be living with the pain and exhaustion from pushing too far, so give yourself a break.

Do NOT try to go it alone. Living with chronic pain can be isolating, especially if your doctor or your friends and family don’t seem to understand what you’re going through. Through social media platforms like Facebook, it can be easy to find a support network of people who are living with the same condition you are. Simply talking with others who understand your experience can bring tremendous emotional relief.

Do NOT give up on exercise. If you aren’t able to do one type of exercise, keep working with your doctor and a physical therapist until you find something that you can do without too much pain. Exercise is critical to long-term pain management. Aerobic exercise causes your body to produce pain-relieving chemicals that can also help keep your mood stable. Exercise also keeps your muscles strong and joints flexible so that you’re able to carry out daily activities with less risk of injury and more pain. 

Do NOT ignore useful, low-risk complementary approaches. Meditation, massage, deep breathing, acupuncture, and cognitive behavioral therapy are methods that can help some people with chronic pain without the side effects of medication. But at the same time, don’t fall for unproven products. If someone suggests a miracle cure, do your own research on reputable websites like WebMd. Talk to your doctor before you try any new products.

Do NOT beat yourself up. Stop and think about how you talk to yourself. Is the chatter in your head saying things like, “Why didn’t you get more done?” or “Suck it up, it’s not that bad.” Try to replace that soundtrack with the kind of supportive language you would use when talking to a friend.

Do NOT compare yourself to others. You’re the only one living in your body with your unique life circumstances. Appreciate your strengths, make improvements where you can, and love your body despite its limitations.

If chronic pain is keeping you from doing the things you want, it’s time to schedule an appointment at Southwest Spine and Pain Center. With multiple locations across the state of Utah, the pain management specialists at Southwest Spine and Pain Center are dedicated to helping those who suffer from chronic pain live the life they want to. To schedule an appointment, visit our locations tab!

The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.