Caring for your mental health when you have chronic pain

Mental Health

The effect of chronic pain isn’t just physical, it can alter your mental health, too. Here, we explore the steps you can take to look after your wellbeing

The British Pain Society reported that over two-fifths of the UK population is affected by chronic pain. Although chronic pain may be eased with medication, pain can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or chronic stress. A holistic approach to living with chronic pain can be essential to reducing worry, guilt, anxiety, depression, and other associated feelings. Here, we explore the steps that you can take to take care of your wellbeing.

1. Talking therapies

Counsellors or psychologists can help to normalise your feelings by talking about them with you. If you find a practitioner you feel comfortable with, they can create a safe environment for you to talk and open up about your feelings and emotions linked to chronic pain. It can also be a place to acknowledge your feelings and try to move on instead of potentially hiding how you feel from others.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be effective in helping you to not only understand your thought patterns, but also how to address them. Focussing on, and amending, patterns of fear, anxiety, negative thinking, and low motivation can help you to cope more effectively with chronic pain. Talking therapies can also bring you relief by allowing you to talk without concealing emotions and worries. Therapists may be able to offer relaxation techniques, anxiety reduction strategies and ways to adjust to a new lifestyle.

2. The power of exercise

If you cannot do the exercise you once did, it’s important to replace it with exercise, or movement, that you can do. Whether it’s walking, yoga, or low-intensity exercise, find something that suits you – it’s an opportunity to try something new.

According to the NHS, physical exercise can also improve energy, self-esteem, create a sense of achievement, and reduce stress levels. Start slowly and assess how the exercise makes you feel, as only you know how far you can push yourself.

3. Yoga and mindfulness

Yoga is especially effective for those with chronic pain. Research shows that it has the opposite effect on the brain to chronic pain, and can reduce pain perception. Yoga can increase grey matter which in turn offsets the neuroanatomical effects of chronic pain.

Mindfulness, the practice of being aware of the present or being conscious, allows you to focus on the here and now without judgement. It promotes acceptance, self-management and a new way to deal with problems or issues. Mindfulness can help you to on difficult days and help you to breathe into your pain.

4. Support groups

It’s important that you feel supported if you have chronic pain. This support may be in the form of family and friends or medical care, but specific groups can also be a good option. The British Pain Society offers you the opportunity to speak to others with chronic pain. They hold campaigns to raise awareness of the impact of living with chronic pain and provide information and recommend self-help books. Such support may lessen a sense of isolation and give you a shared community who are also experiencing chronic pain.

5. Do what you can do

You should set your boundariesand and do what you can do, not what others expect you to do. If you want to meet a friend, but you can’t stay too long, then be honest. Adapt your lifestyle so that you can keep it exciting and interactive but that it suits you. Be strong and say no if you can’t or don’t want to do something, and don’t feel guilty about it.


Connect with a counsellor using counselling-directory.org.uk

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