3 Mental and Spiritual Ways to Cope With a Pain Flare

When you’re stuck in a pain flare, it’s hard to envision the light at the end of the tunnel. Here are some small (albeit unorthodox) ways you can keep your head above the pain for perhaps a little while.

I’m keeping this list short due to the nature of pain flares. Some of you might be frustrated with all the multitudes of things you think you have to try to get out of a pain flare. I will tell you that some of these might help for only some of you, but these are generally good practices. There are no magic wands to make pain flares go away, but there are ways to make us feel more comfortable.

Why I’m Using Spiritual and Psychological Techniques

Generally, pain flares affect your mood, and your mood affects your pain flare. It’s like a dog chasing its tail that catches it and devours itself. Without cultivating positivity, escaping your pain flare is postponed.

Using Your Mind and Spirit to Escape a Pain Flare

  1. Write down (or tell Siri) 3 things your grateful for.

Each day you’re in a pain flare, take out your journal, your phone’s notepad app, a video or voice recording app, or if you can’t move, tell Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant 3 things you’re grateful for. Pain flares are tiring, and 3 is all you need right now. No need for pages of gratitude to cultivate it.

2. Read your favorite book with a character you relate to the most. Let yourself cry.

If you relate the most to Jane Eyre and her suffering, read it. Relate to how tragic her life is. Throw a pity party and sob. You need the emotional release, but above all else, you need to relate to someone on an intimate, internal, mental level. Your friends may not understand, but you can make a fictional character understand.

3. Connect to a higher power.

This can be your version of God, the Buddha, Jesus, or the Universe. Connect with the energy around you with meditation, prayer, bed yoga (you can find videos on YouTube), coloring mandalas on your phone, or reading holy texts. Knowing there is something bigger than you gives you the peace that you are taken care of and that the pain flare will go away.

This is a little list, and I wanted to keep it small – pain flares can be overwhelming, and someone on the internet screaming at you to do 12 things might make you upset because you can’t get out of bed. You’re most likely phone surfing from your bed. But pain is cyclical, and this too will pass. Hugs to you.

On Being Loving and Kind

A few years ago, I came across a slew of articles against teaching kids the importance of self-confidence and self-worth. These articles were on reputable websites such as Huffington Post around 2011.

At the time, I felt something acute pierce my chest, a sort of pallid, sudden sadness for these authors who blamed Disney and participation trophies for their own failures. It was pathetic. Couldn’t they see that pointing fingers at children’s movies was embarrassing and only they were in control of how they reacted to their lives, not a woe-earned participation trophy in fourth grade?

As I grew older, I saw more pointed blame at elementary school gifted and talented programs. Why? Because the child was told they were special, and they didn’t have to earn it.

Let me tell you a few things I have always believed that nobody ever taught me:

  • All individuals are unique, there are no unique individuals or nonconformists because we are all born under different circumstances and think different thoughts. We are all unique nonconformists.
  • Everyone is inherently divine and has a light inside them, which makes them worthy of respect. It doesn’t matter if you’re the lawyer or the janitor in the office. Most of us have flipped a burger at least once and we all fall on hard times.
  • This means you are special, you are worthy, and you don’t have to earn it.

Thing is, I believed this for other people. I didn’t believe it for myself.

This meant these thoughts were inauthentic, because if you don’t hold these three key truths for yourself, you will never go all the way genuinely in your mind and actions for anyone else.

What you’ll end up being is a ditherer – a washout – who is a mouse of a person. People will push you around and you’ll think it’s okay because of the three principles. They are inherently special, so you have to do what they say. But because you don’t hold yourself to be inherently special, your self-esteem suffers, and you begin to think nasty thoughts about these other people. The people who “push you around” may not even be pushing you around, they might be decent, ordinary humans trying to get on with their lives. But your warped point of view has them out to be devils. Or the pushers really could be pushy – your lack of self-esteem has driven you to choose bad friends.

What’s the point here? If you see your loved ones as hecklers, you aren’t going to love them well. You will make yourself out to be a victim. Yes, you might have good reasons – a troubled past, or a Disney movie (Bambi is very traumatic) but at the end of the day, being the loving, kind self you think you are starts with being loving and kind to yourself. Maybe start with Wreck-It-Ralph and work your way up.

The Identified Patient

I attend a dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) class four days a week, and lately the teaching therapist has been tossing the term “identified patient” at me, usually in reference to my poor attitude or my history of being sick as a child.

Today she said I made somewhat of a dent in the identified patient moniker by using dialectics and seeing both sides of a situation. In all honesty, I’m pretty open minded and apt to look at things a million different ways, which makes me terrible at persuasion. However, I do think that coming to the class armed with my worst experiences to work on every day tainted her image of me.

I will admit to being a Negative Nancy and a Whiner McBabypants. From my perspective, if I perceive a problem, I will speak up in order to work on it. Unfortunately for those around me I am a verbal processor, so working things out does involve whining.

Another caveat to this therapist’s definition of the identified patient is helplessness and being pathetic. I can guarantee that if I were both or even one of those things, I would not have created this blog. This blog was created in the pursuit of empowerment for myself and others with similar experiences. Yes, do I throw pity parties? Heck yes I do. It’s part of being me. Negative Nancy O’Shea cries over spilled milk then makes a vegan avocado milkshake.

Ultimately, the takeaway is this: maybe I was erroneously taken to the doctor as a child. Perhaps I whine too much. Maybe I’m a sunshine zapper. But there’s a lot more to me than that. We all have our flaws, and I guarantee if you look hard enough, people have pinned a thousand to Jesus Christ and the Buddha.

It doesn’t matter if you were an identified patient, identified subject, whatever, it does matter if you own it and work it.

Watch the way I fake my problems for attention, yeah yeah I work it! Oh wait, I actually don’t do that…