Below are a variety of activities that can be useful for managing a life with pain. The categories are general ones; some activities are useful in more than one area. You might wish to keep this list handy to remind yourself of some options to help yourself manage. Add to this list with your own ideas and solutions.

Calming self and tolerating painful episodes:

Breathe slowly and deeply

Use one personally effective relaxation technique

Focus off pain using an effective distraction or activity

Use calming self-talk when upset or in pain

For problem solving:

Set realistic goals for self, rather than taking on too much

Find solutions for problems that come up, and implement them

Bring self into the present (back from past pain or future fears)

To avoid feeling overwhelmed:

Identify one’s own thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and needs

Reframe upsetting situations to take another (more realistic) view of them

Take focus off of stressors for periods of time (i.e., not dwell on problems)

Identify appropriate responses to personal stressful events

Notice the ways that one is in control of pain

To deal with others effectively:

Express feelings and needs clearly

Listen to others in discussions

Communicate effectively and briefly with medical personnel

Ask for help when it’s needed

Interact with others without focusing overly on pain or disability issues.

To avoid getting too tired or painful:

Pace activities, breaking up tasks in to manageable pieces

Alternate rest and activity through the day

Modify how to do most tasks to make them easier or more comfortable

Structure the day to prevent pain

To prevent pain from growing:

Use good sitting and standing postures

Identify and let go of guarding

Use proper body mechanics and lifting techniques

Find and use one healthy physical position that increases comfort

Regularly use 2 or 3 stretches

Stretch and relax the painful area

To make the most of one’s abilities; to be productive:

Identify abilities as well as disabilities in given problem situations or tasks

Identify realistic work or other productive activities that let one stay involved

Persist with an activity during usual pain symptoms, don’t let fear stop you

Identify the realistic consequences on later pain symptoms of doing most activities

Identify usual versus unusual pain symptoms

Remember the difference between pain that is a new problem and pain that’s just a flare-up

Use good sleep habits to get to sleep and get back to sleep if awakened

Brian Grady, Ph.D