Dealing with pain on a day to day basis is not only exhausting, but may also make us feel lonely. Our friends and family don’t always understand what we’re going through, and sometimes, they may even encourage us to push past the pain when we feel we should rest.
It can be a major balancing act of meeting our own physical need for rest and our emotional need for social connection. Living with pain means constantly being aware of it and that can be distracting when you are trying to be present with friends and family.
Chronic pain is a condition characterized by pain that continues for more than 12 weeks even despite treatment or medication, and it’s estimated that 20% of the world’s adults deal with chronic pain. Even though dealing with pain is so common, it can easily feel like we are navigating this journey alone, but there is hope.
Your pain is valid, and we understand how hard it can be living with chronic pain. We wanted to share what we’ve learned through our own journey of dealing with chronic pain in case it helps someone who is going through something similar.
Here are 5 tips we’ve gathered along the way for dealing with pain and maintaining a social life as a person with chronic pain.
Be Present When You Can
We know that dealing with pain on a regular basis means we won’t always feel up to participating in every event we’re invited to, and that’s okay! It’s also why it’s doubly important to choose to be mindful and mentally present when we are able to spend time with family and friends.
In order to be mentally present and engaged, we may need to set expectations with loved ones about our condition and what we’re able to do and not do. Sometimes the simple act of communicating can alleviate the stress of feeling like we have to participate in a way that doesn’t make sense given our health condition.
Once you’ve set the expectation, try to enjoy yourself and let go of your mental load if you can. Meditation is a useful tool for learning to be present despite any physical sensations or distracting thoughts we may be having as well.
Remember that you get to choose your boundaries with friends and family and doing what you feel is necessary to manage your pain is totally okay!
Make Rest and Relaxation a Priority
If you make rest and relaxation a priority, you may find that your pain is less noticeable, and if you are in less pain, you may be more likely to hang out with friends or go out to events. When you rest well, it can even help you perform better at work and be more productive each day.
If you are a person who menstruates, being aware of your energy and barriers to rest during your cycle can shed more light on times when you may need more rest than other times, depending on where you are in your cycle.
It can seem counterintuitive to rest in order to do more, but think of it as an investment in yourself and an act of love toward yourself. We think you’ll be surprised at just how much can change when you make rest and relaxation a priority.
Ask Your Friends to Visit When You’re Dealing With Pain
Seeing friends doesn’t always have to mean meeting them in a public place or traveling to see them. Ask them to visit you sometimes!
This is an example of when setting an expectation about your health condition can be useful. If friends know that you’re not always able to meet them out for lunch because you’re dealing with endometriosis pain, for instance, they may be willing to meet you at your home and chill with you on the couch instead. Having your friends’ support may help you feel good and taken care of during a hard time with your health condition.
You never know what others will be open to until you communicate and find out. Don’t be afraid to suggest less conventional options for hanging out with friends as a way to accommodate for your pain levels but still get to socialize.
This tip provides you a choice for when you want to be social which can be empowering. Remember to listen to yourself and your body!
When you’re dealing with pain, it is so tempting to lock yourself away in your room and not respond to calls, texts, or social media messages. We totally understand! Pain takes a mental toll on us as well as a physical one. However, isolating yourself socially when you’re feeling physically bad may just make you feel more alone and in pain.
Try not to isolate yourself when you’re in pain, no matter how tempting it may be. This is an opportunity to lean on loved ones and chosen family for encouragement and connection.
If you feel up to it, make the effort to call someone you love or suggest something like an online Netflix party to your friend group so that you can chat about a movie while you get the rest you need.
Technology allows for more connection than ever before if it’s used properly, so take advantage of your smartphone and computer to help you socialize and connect.
Dig into Online Communities When You’re Dealing With Pain
In the day and age of the internet, thousands of online spaces already exist for people with common interests to interact, build relationships, and meet new people. Social media has presented many people with the opportunity to share their story and hear from others who have been through the same struggles, victories, and experiences.
We recommend searching for podcasts, social media accounts, youtube channels, or websites related to your personal interest or even searching for accounts related to your diagnosis if you’re looking for support as a way to find a community to engage with. You may be surprised by the breadth and depth of these groups and the benefits of participating in those spaces.
Though we know that delving into online communities can feel overwhelming, they can be a great way to not feel alone and have our pain acknowledged.
Your Pain Is Valid
Dealing with chronic pain is not easy, and we understand that 5 simple tips can’t break down all the barriers we face to maintaining a social life while dealing with pain, but we have found these tips to be useful in our own lives and want to share them here.
Remember that your pain is valid, and you never have to socialize just because you feel like you’re “supposed to.” Be kind to yourself! Think of your situation as if it were happening to a friend. What would you say to your friend? Chances are you would be much kinder, so try to give yourself the same compassion.
We hope you’ll be empowered to set your own boundaries and speak up for your needs whenever possible.
Do you have tips for dealing with pain and maintaining a social life that we didn’t cover here? Send us a message on social media to share your tips!